I’ve decided it’s time that I came clean.
According to my psychiatrist, I’m not well. And I tend to agree with him.
We believe that for most of my life I have lived with a chronic and severe mental illness known as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), an illness for which it has taken me more than twenty years to finally get a diagnosis despite the fact that it has had a significant impact on my life and the lives of those closest to me It’s also called Emotionally Intense Personality Disorder.
It has played a large part in most of my many losses in life….my first marriage, a successful career, relationships, savings, homes, and health….not to mention confidence in my own ability to simply live life.
If I had cancer or heart disease, or had suffered a stroke, you’d probably have at least some idea of how such an illness would affect me. But I sense that unless you or someone you’re close to has suffered from a mental illness, then chances are you won’t understand what BPD entails.
So let me explain.
There are nine key symptoms that I deal with at differing intensities depending on how well I am and what’s happening in my life.
Firstly I have a paralysing fear of being abandoned, which means I really struggle when left alone. Then I experience relationships intensely…..intensely good or intensely bad. I have rapid changes in my sense of self which means I often question who I am. And I find it almost impossible to trust.
In the past I have engaged in self destructive behaviours which have harmed me, like binge drinking, over spending, working excessively and generally failing to care for myself. Thankfully my faith has guided me more as I’ve aged.
And my mind is sometimes filled with suicidal thoughts, wide mood swings, and ongoing feelings of emptiness.
Why do I want to share my journey?
Because sadly there is still a great deal of ignorance of, and stigma attached to, what it means to live with a serious mental illness. And in that ignorance it’s easier to develop a stereotypical view of what mental illness looks like rather than gain an understanding of a life lived with the challenge of being emotionally unwell. I also want to offer experience, strength and hope to others walking this same path.
Being labelled as crazy, mental or even possessed, as many people living with severe mental illnesses are, is a corrosive and harmful attitude to what, in most cases, is an illness for which the sufferer has little choice over.
Only by sharing our inner thoughts, feelings and experiences can those of us who live with the daily struggles that a mental illness brings with it begin to break down the barriers and turn suspicion and fear into compassion and understanding.
What keeps me going?
Living with a severe mental illness is one of the greatest challenges you can face. To live each day either in emotional turmoil or fearing it’s return, feeling at odds with yourself and the world around you, believing that you could literally fall apart at any moment is tough.
The only things that keep me going, and able to love myself in spite of the way I might feel, are my relationships.
Firstly with Jesus. I am not a saint (although at times when I’m over elated I might begin to believe this!) but a frail human being who needs to know what it is to be loved. That no matter who I am and what I’ve done God loves me unconditionally and comforts me in my suffering. Jesus shows me this again and again.
That’s why I called this blog God, Me and BPD.
And then with a loving, supportive wife and family, loving friends, and a church where I find the love of God in the present.
Living with a mental illness is tough, but love is greater than anything we might face.
Love always wins.