A few years ago I was diagnosed as Bi-Polar… it wasn’t a great moment in my life. It confused me. I understood what the term meant but I didn’t understand how it applied to me. Of course I knew it was a name to try and describe the debilitating lows that would render me incapable for weeks and sometimes months at a time, but it was the ‘high’ part of it that I couldn’t quite get my head around. It caused me to question my reality.
I have a fairly effervescent if not annoyingly loud personality at times- when I feel well, I am one of life’s go-getters. I move from project to project get easily bored but I thought that was just the way I am… but now I had to think about whether it was not actually part of the so-called ‘illness’. When I was ‘well’ was I infact, ‘unwell’? Was my grasping hold of life with 2 hands attitude actually a symptom of mania? I didn’t like it.
The other problem was that I wasn’t happy with the concept that I had an ‘illness’- it felt a little bit too convenient. In my self-loathing state, it actually felt to difficult to show myself any compassion and ‘accept’ that maybe things were going on in my brain that weren’t entirely my fault. I didn’t like that… there had to be someone to blame and that person had to be me. I didn’t like it.
It also brought up the dilemma of medication. I have never been terribly compliant with any medications I’ve needed for a whole host of complaints. But like many other psychiatric patients, I was spectacularly uncompliant with these meds! I’d take them for a while, normally everything would break down when I had to get a repeat prescription and then the whole thing would start again. And then of course, if I actually felt ‘well’ I had no intentions of taking the blooming things. I didn’t like them!
However, I muddled on with bi-polar, having moments of being ‘well’ and continued to see my very supportive psychiatrist. I didn’t like having bi-polar but most people didn’t know, when I was well I functioned very competently and it didn’t massively interfere with life. However, things were not to last. The CRASH happened. That awful moment when fellow sufferers will understand- I crossed the line. I knew in my heart and mind that I had slipped over into the darkness and rocky times lay ahead.
This was in July of last year. I was away with my church at a conference thingy- I sat by myself at the end of a meeting and knew that I had stepped over the line into what I knew was going to be a debilitating and possibly life-threatening time- and like trying to catch water in your hands, life was slipping away and there was not one thing I could do to arrest it going down the drain. It was a very sobering moment.
8 months later I entered the psychiatric ward. It had been 6 years since my last admission. It wasn’t a good moment. It felt like every thing I had tried to build in those 6 years had just disintegrated. All I could, and still can only see is sheer hard work, swimming against the flow- trying to make something out of nothing. Hope out of despair, peace out of torment.
I’m reminded of the phrase, be careful what you wish for… I didn’t want bi-polar, I came out of hospital with something that feels a lot worse! Bi-polar come back- all if forgiven. The new consultant changed the diagnosis from BP to BPD and when I thought it wasn’t possible, life felt a little darker. Borderline Personality Disorder- oh the shame… no-one knows what it means, so I get every cliche thrown at me… Disorder seems so much more punitive than ‘illness’… my fault… the very thing that I always accused myself of, in that name I felt that others were agreeing that it was my fault. I live with a fairly high level of self-accusation and self-contempt- but it is fine for me to blame myself, but for others to blame me as well, felt overwhelmingly crushing. Thankfully the diagnosis has been slightly modified to Mixed Personality Disorder- but still not something that I will mention at dinner parties…. or CV’s… or dating agency websites!!!! Not great is it!
However, the diagnosis does open up the potential of new treatment. Hurrah. Relief… deep breath. Except it’s not available on the NHS in my trust. It wasn’t a good moment! The consultant lets off a hand-grenade of BPD and then in the same paragraph tells me the treatment, but that it’s not available. It really wasn’t a great moment! So where do I go from here.
I move forward thanks to the generosity of friends, the help of google in finding a private DBT therapist and a slither of determination to feel better again. Ultimately, I know in my head that it doesn’t matter if I have BP, BPD, CSI or DIY… however, I also know that in some ways it matters hugely to me and what I perceive as my future. On the positive, BPD, may have opened up a new path of treatment that could really help. Initial signs are clearly endorsing that view, and for that enduring a traumatic admission may have been worth it in the end.