My Cup Overfloweth. Living with an Emotionally Full “Cup”.

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So, I finally decided I might talk about my experience with a Mental Health Diagnoses. I preach breaking stigma and am the VP of the Board of Directors of my local chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness)…I need to be able to practice what I preach. Awareness is everything. If we are not aware of what we need to change, change will never occur. I am, however, going to talk about this a bit differently than I pictured. I’m not telling you what I’ve been diagnosed with until the end. Mwahaha!

When talking about mental health I like to talk about each person having their own cup of what they can “handle”. Everyone’s level in the cup is different–some are mostly empty while others are very full. Adding stress (good or bad) fills the cup. Personal growth and positive coping skills can help lower the baseline level so we can handle a bit more being poured in, or perhaps a trauma occurs raising the level allowing less. What happens when the cup overflows?

My cup tends to be quite full from the get-go. It has been since I can remember. It does not take much to fill it full and, while I do my best to try to level it off, sometimes it overflows. A new name for what I deal with attempting to replace the old diagnoses is: Emotional Intensity Disorder (EID). I very much prefer this as it reflects my world more realistically. With EID I experience the world a bit differently than most. I experience relationships differently and experience my self differently. The best way to describe the “difference” is adding intensity to whatever emotional connection one has with the world and people around them. Granted all pathologies exist on a spectrum (and I tend to be on the higher functioning end of the spectrum) those afflicted with EID don’t just dislike, they hate. They don’t just like, they deeply love, they don’t get disappointed, they get devastated, not angry, they rage. Black and white. No gray.

I tend to keep my cup quite full because I have a lot of interpersonal issues I’m working through. Though the last two years has emptied much cup a bit, I am still doing enough self-work to maintain a more than half full emotional load. And, unfortunately, I’m also someone who tends to be very motivated…which means I love to fill that cup, too much…and then crash. Hard. I’m learning balance. I’m learning balance within myself and with the world around me. This has led to me dropping a lot of things I used to very much enjoy. I quit the kennel club, I quit therapy dog, I stepped far back with my Beachbody business…because I just couldn’t anymore. Between work, NAMI, and school (yes, I took another class…I’m a masochist)…I just didn’t have room…and still don’t…for anything beyond. Not to mention the whole “trying to have a baby, but can’t” thing.

My cup is full. And this hurts. I love to love. I love my friends and family and love to spend time with you, but often I keep finding when I allow myself to take in another I drain myself…well…fill I guess. And I’m an extrovert. It’s so hard to learn boundaries and limitations, and enforce them, where they never used to be. I have tear down my past view of my relationships and create new ones based on my understanding of myself and the other souls–which is still being developed. I don’t have a strong sense of personal identity. I never did. It’s developing, but until it’s there I’m still navigating what this new world of mine will look like.

Now here comes the hard part. Telling you the truth. I have lived most of my life with substantial self-depreciating, devaluing, and defeating mind. I hated myself. Hated. I could look myself in the mirror and rage would swell inside as the face of the person looking back at me was the very person that was my worst enemy. I never understood “love your neighbor as yourself” growing up. It was a very perplexing idea…I never knew most people didn’t hate themselves until I was much older…I always thought it should be the other way around. Through two years of intense therapy, medication, two hospitalizations (resulting from incidents I should not have survived), and group Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, I can finally say I don’t hate myself. The love part is coming…I love parts of myself. But I don’t really know who I am to be able to love all of myself…not yet. But I know this will come. I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. For those of you who are familiar…please know it is not what you think. The stigma against BPD is disgusting. The stigma WITHIN the mental health field is disgusting.

For those of you unfamiliar: BPD is a personality disorder caused by nature and nurture. The perfect concoction to create a hell inside your own mind. I struggle with debilitating depression and anxiety. There are days I cannot get out of bed and there are days I have a full blown panic attack in public. There are days I feel like I’d rather die than live with myself one more minute, and there are days where I feel fine. BPD tends to be like bipolar, anxiety, and depression all wrapped in one nasty little package. Healthcare practitioners look at people afflicted with BPD as manipulative and attention seeking. While this can be, it is not simply for the sake of “look at me! I want attention!” It’s more like “Please help me! I want to die, and I know there’s supposed to be a way out of this!”. Again, there’s a spectrum.

I had a Psychiatrist tell me: “What do you have to be sad about? You have so much going for you! There are ways around infertility, you shouldn’t be upset about that”. I will never forget what he said, because it stung. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be “sad”. Which just made me hate myself more. When one hates oneself, and constantly hears how worthless they are ringing inside their head…there’s no reason to live. The pain is so intense, all you can think about is getting out.

It’s like being on fire. No one would ever say to someone on fire “Don’t be upset, it won’t last forever!” The person on fire doesn’t care how long…all they know is they’re burning alive and they want out. 

Please be gentle. You don’t know who is fighting a battle, you don’t know who is on fire, you don’t know another’s story. Instead, just hold them. Just meet them where they are and be there with them without judgement and without expectation. My brain doesn’t work like most…an no one’s brain works the same. Our experience and understanding of the world around us is unique to each individual…and beautifully fluid.

There. I said it. I’m normal, successful, smart, happily married, and I also have a Mental Health Diagnoses. So what.

I am stigma free.

I Just want my Foot Back!! (Why I Run)

Several years ago I was diagnosed (officially) with freaking plantar fasciitis. The fancy word for “crazy sore feet for no reason”. Well there is a reason…for me comes down to body mechanics and muscling that ultimately proves I’m a horrible specimen for furthering our species. I can’t even walk right, and it’s not because of a condition, it’s just because when I learned how to walk I did it wrong…and now my feet are paying for it. Normally when I have a flare up I just take some time off from running, stretch, ice, and all the crap they tell you to do…and it gets well enough to begin running again. (I have done everything I’m supposed to except cortisone shots…if anyone has any other ideas please, by all means). My problem now is I’m a nurse. I don’t get to rest my feet until I can correct the problem…I have to keep walking. So I pop ibuprofen like candy when working my 12hr shifts on my feet and then hobble around at home after my shift tormenting my husband with my whining about my throbbing feet.

This post isn’t about my feet though. It’s about running, and connecting with the world around me. I started running in my early twenties because I felt it was probably something I should be doing. I started with 2 miles and normally ran between 3 and 6 miles several times a week. As I’ve grown as a person so has my experience with running. It had become a massive coping skill for me and has been a huge comfort in times of stress.

When I ran I could let my mind do what it needed to do…whether it be working through issues I was having, thinking about mundane somethings of the day, or just being an empty slate for the interactions around me. It became prayer. And a fantastic practice for discipline (HILLS). I would often experience “a-ha” moments during runs as well as times I was called to pause and just take in the scenery. My heart always smiled when running our nature trails as I ran in to many animals and the river it shadows was oh so comforting. I used to walk down the street to where the trail began and sit by the river and just…sit. I’d meditate. I’d feel connected to everything and everyone around me, I could feel God within and around me and my heart would be at complete peace.

Now, when I walk to that place I end up limping back wishing there was shortcut home. I tried forcing myself to run and a half mile in deeply regretted it. But ok…don’t run, just go for walks. Nope. Can’t walk either. Walking around the house to clean is enough to put me off my feet for the rest of the evening. I want so badly to take my dogs for our walks and go on evening walks with my husband. These things I’ve treasured and leaned on have been taken away from me.

I’m trying to learn to ride a bike so maybe I can at least do that. I can ride…just not well and there’s a lot of hills around where I live and I’m not very good at the whole “gears” thing yet. That and I need to train my dogs to run with my bike. Even still I can only take a couple of them (the others are out of shape). So while I’m perfecting my bike skills I’ve also begun to swim. Another wonderful thing to do and I enjoy swimming very much, but it’s not the same. I want to be outside. I want to walk to the park and sit under my favorite tree. I want to run. I miss it so much.

I love my job. I love love love being a nurse, but the shifts are causing me to fall apart…physically and mentally (swing shifts). Maybe I’ll get used to it. Being a DNP with different hours and physical demands will also help…motivation to hurry up with that grad school thing. Either that or I need some “go-go Gadget Legs”.

Who would have thought that being able to run is motivation for higher education?