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.