What a Difference a Year Makes

It occurred to me yesterday that it had been exactly one year since I had been hospitalized. One year since I had felt the bottom drop out and sought help. And it got me thinking of how far I had come, how far I still had to go, and the journey thus far.

At first, I thought I haven’t come far enough. I’m still struggling. I still have some very bad days, and I still have some emotions and thoughts that overwhelm me.

And then I realized that I was being really unfair to myself, and negating what progress I have made. When I actually compare where I was and how I felt last year this time to where I am and how I feel this year, I couldn’t ignore that I had made way more progress than I gave myself credit for.

Last year I was teetering on the edge, and was thisclose to standing on a ledge. I was inconsolable and suicidal. I was self-harming and doing anything I could think of to ignore and suppress all the pain. I was sleeping fewer than four hours a night and eating everything in sight. My dreams were killing me, with images and ideas that left me disturbed and scared so bad that they would wake me almost every night. I was afraid, hopeless, helpless, and I felt more alone than ever. I couldn’t even imagine seeing the next day, let alone a year later.

So I asked for help. I took myself, in my pj’s, crying my eyes out, down to CAMH 24-hour emergency down at College, and I asked them for help. I told them that I was afraid for myself and that I wouldn’t make it if I was left alone any longer. And just like that, they took me in. They said they could help and they wanted to. That floored me. They wanted to help me?! Why? Well I still don’t know why, and frankly I don’t need to know anymore. All I know is they did.

I spent six weeks in their care, and the team that was built around me, saved my life.

To be clear, they had saved my life, but I still wasn’t totally sure that life was worth living. And I was pretty sure that I would end up right back where I had started. It was only a matter of time.

I had very few illusions about my prognosis. I had been low before and somehow managed to claw my way back. Several times. Granted it wasn’t really ever a recovery so to speak, it was more just getting to a point where I could function. Enough to work and pay bills and keep a home, but just enough.

My relationships were stressed, at best, my health was on a downward spiral that I’m still working to manage, my work was a joke with no purpose or enjoyment on any level, and my thoughts were slowly deteriorating my will and my sanity. I wholly assumed that this time would be no different.

But…it was.

I don’t know exactly why this time turned out differently. I just know that it did. Maybe it was the team I had behind me, maybe it was the medication, maybe it was me, or maybe all of the above. Whatever it was I had somehow found a path towards living a life worth living. I was able to get into, not one, but three different programs that would help me work through my destructive coping methods, address my overwhelming thoughts and emotions, and teach me how to build a life worth living.

Every day poses an obstacle that can still stump me, and there are days where I am filled with uncertainty and anxiety, but I am learning, and despite the uncertainty and anxiety, I am making changes that are positive. I am learning better ways to cope that are not destructive.

It is by no means, an easy journey, and there are no guarantees that everything will turn out okay, but it’s farther than I’ve ever come before. It’s far more progress than I’ve ever made before. And the changes, so far, have stuck around. I can only hope that this is a turn towards a better life that will last.

And hopefully, this time next year, things will have improved from today, and I can tell of all the latest progress I will have made. At least, that’s the hope.

Until next time… 🙂

*TW* Thinking About Suicide

Ever since last Friday and hearing about the tragic suicide of Chester Bennington I’ve been thinking about suicide. It has sadly already been a week since the news first broke and my thoughts are still heavily on him and suicide.

When I first heard the news I was just truly shocked and speechless. Chester Bennington had died? That couldn’t be right. That can’t be. Please don’t let that be true. I sincerely hope this is not true. But it was. He had died. And he had killed himself.

That was a heavy blow I am still unable to get past.

I couldn’t help but wonder how such a talented and insightful singer/songwriter could take his own life. Just weeks after a new album release, and practically days to the start of a North American tour. He was the frontman to a wildly successful group, and had millions of adoring fans who looked up to him and listened to his beautiful words with a ferocity that few can claim. And he had killed himself?

I just can’t understand it. I can’t understand how it could be possible. I can’t understand how he decided to make the choice that he did. I can’t understand it. I question this as if I myself have never struggled with suicidal thoughts before. But I can’t help it. I can’t help but feel confused. How could someone seemingly doing so well would commit suicide? Why? Why did he do it? Why would he feel that this was the end? Why would he feel that life was no longer worth living? What was it that broke him?

I was fortunate to see Linkin Park in concert with one of my best friends a few years ago, and it was one of the best nights. Their concert still resonates with me today when I hear their music, and I was hoping I would one day see them in concert again. They were just so good. But alas it is not meant to be. The one concert I was fortunate enough to see will have to be my single concert memory. Fortunately it’s a good enough memory it should last. But it certainly doesn’t make that we will never see Mr. Bennington in concert again any easier. In fact, it makes it harder.

His death is truly heartbreaking. He was so talented and his lyrics were beautiful poems. Listening to some of their music was like coming home. It felt like not only did he understand what you were feeling but he knew how to articulate it. He knew how to weave the words together so well that he could make the hardest emotion seem poetic and lovely.

I know that fame and success, no matter how much you have, doesn’t guarantee anyone anything when it comes to struggling with mental Illness. Having family and friends around you doesn’t guarantee anyone anything. If anyone understands the fragmented, disjointed, scary thoughts that can accompany mental illness it’s someone else (like me) who is also struggling with mental Illness. And for those of us who do struggle with mental illness, and have had suicidal thoughts, we know all too well how quickly things can go south, and how close many of us have come to dying by our own hands.

Those who struggle with mental illness tend to take solace in each other’s struggles. There is something about knowing that we are not alone, and that what we are feeling or struggling with is not just us. That others have scary thoughts like we do. That others have overwhelming emotions and urges that we try so hard to manage makes it seem a little less daunting. We hold onto each other and our respective struggles or demons or disorders and feel just a little bit less hopeless and alone. We hold fast that we will make it out alive. That we will all make it out alive. We hold fast that if others can make it then maybe we have a chance too. And when we lose one it can set us back. It can put a stop on any progress we’ve made thus far, and it can relegate us back to old habits and patterns, and the belief that we won’t be able to beat this. It can throw us into a tailspin that leaves us wondering and scared that we might be next.

We sometimes can’t help but think, if he can’t make it then what hope do I have?

It is always difficult to hear about the loss of a fellow sufferer. When the light of one of us is darkened by their own hand I think we all take it a little personally. Whether you knew the person or not. Because it means one more of us who didn’t make it. It means one of us didn’t make it out alive. It means the darkness took another light. It means that there is one less of us to hold onto and hope for better things. It means there is one less of us hoping to pull through. And we need all the hope we can get.

As anyone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts can tell you that often the thoughts are not on a linear path. In fact, they rarely go in any kind “logical” order. Feeling blue to sad. Sad to depressed. Depressed to severely depressed. Severely depressed to suicidal. It would be great to track it from phase to phase but it just doesn’t work that way. The path of mental health and mental Illness almost never goes the way of order. It is chaos personified.

It is sporadic and temperamental. It is tenuous and fragile. It is scary and dangerous. It is subject to change without a moment’s notice, and can leave you feeling like you’ve just been hit by a truck. You can wake up feeling okay and on a good path, and mere hours later you could be feeling like suicide is the only way out. Certain behaviours and moods can certainly help to identify and intervene before it gets that bad but as many signs that can be seen there are double the amount that can come out of nowhere. And the scariest part is that you can be feeling better and doing better and still have suicidal thoughts come on. You can be in recovery and moving forward and still find yourself falling backwards.

For myself there was something truly terrifying and so very fragile about moving away from depression. I was feeling better and I was seeing things clearer but there was still this nagging darkness behind me. In some ways it comforted me that my old familiar darkness was there, but it also scared me because it could creep up over and take me down again at any moment. And in fact, it did.

I remember the night I walked the floors of my hallway holding a knife and feeling like there was just no other way out. I was so terrified that night that blood would spill on the hardwood floors in my bedroom that it still shocks me I somehow managed to survive that night. I am still not sure what got me through to morning but whatever it was it stayed my hand long enough to call for help.

What really shook me about that night was that I had been doing so well. I had been seeing a therapist and making great strides in finally understanding a lot of my past and my trauma. I only recently discovered that back then I was really just scratching the surface, but I digress. I was working full-time, I was in a relationship that I loved, and I was doing stuff that interested me. I was generally feeling okay about things overall. It was by no means a complete recovery but it was certainly better than it had been.

Back when I was crying every day and feeling like the world was crushing me. When I felt so alone and lonely and that no matter how many words I used no one would ever understand me or be able to help me. When I felt so weighed down by life I could barely make it out of bed. Comparatively-speaking I was doing really well.

And then that night happened.

As the sky darkened outside my windows I suddenly felt this crushing weight on me that literally pushed me to the floor. Where I remained for a few hours crying until my tears ran dry and I was totally numb. I suddenly felt so hopeless and helpless that I was forever doomed to pain and suffering no matter what I did. I felt as if life was just not something that I was meant to have. I was never meant to be happy or have good things. I was forever destined to darkness. And it crushed me. I mean it broke me right down. As depressed as I had felt before, this weight that came over me literally left me breathless. I remember sitting just outside my bathroom gasping for air because something was breaking me down. Something was suffocating me. And it wasn’t long before I suddenly found myself with a knife in my hand and the will to live just fell away.

I didn’t care that I could die. I didn’t care if anyone might miss me. I didn’t care who found me or how. I didn’t care about anything. Literally. I lost my connection to the world so profoundly that it wasn’t until I saw the blood running down my leg that I realized where this was going. I frantically searched the apartment for bigger knives and drugs that I could take and things I could use to end it all. Anything was fair game. Jumping out the window, slicing my body to pieces, taking every drug in the apartment, or all of the above. I was on a mission and the completion was death.

Whatever carried me to morning did so without my knowledge.

I remember seeing the sun peak through the window and as I lay on the floor staring at the ceiling I was amazed that I was still alive. I laid there on the floor for most of the day after, as if I had run a marathon the night before, and at some point I fell asleep as the adrenalin dissipated. And it wasn’t until the following night before I finally moved off the floor. I slept most of the next few days away and spoke to no one. I’d like to say that what happened that night was cathartic and that it was a breakthrough for me, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close. It had terrified me. It had set me back to a place where I couldn’t even trust myself. It had literally almost killed me. It had not left me unscathed and I did not feel any better about life. It took months and serious therapy to bring me back to where I could function again.

One thing I did learn from that night was that even someone on the recovery can still be broken. I learned that being in therapy and coming back from depression did not mean that everything was okay, or that I was fully functioning again. It did not mean that the darkness couldn’t take me again. And that’s not to say that therapy and recovery are a lost cause because they aren’t. And it doesn’t mean that recovery will be negated in one fell swoop. Yes, that night blindsided me but that might not be true for others. And when I look back I can see in some parts why I turned to suicide that night.

That night almost killed me AND I still believe in recovery and I still believe in hope.

I wrote earlier that the path to suicide is not linear, or constant, and it often makes no logical sense, which is true. However, it is still a path. Suicidal thoughts rarely just spring out of nowhere for no reason. There are usually some signs that show where things are headed. Sometimes we see the path, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes others see the path before we do. And sometimes we don’t care what path we are on, or where it will end up, as long as it ends the pain and suffering.

What I want to really be clear about here is that suicide is something that should always be taken seriously. Whether the person is asking for help or whether they fully intend to end their life, the threat should be treated as real and true. I want people to understand that suicide is scary at times, even for the person who is attempting or committing suicide.

I want people to understand that suicide is rarely about not having a great life or great success. It is rarely about the people around us and in our lives. It is often about us, and our own pain and suffering. It is something that can happen to anyone and there may be times where it seems to come out of the blue. It can hide and spring on you when you least expect it. It is something that can happen when you’re in the darkness or trying to come out of the darkness.

There are as many reasons to commit suicide as there are people in the world. And what is enough reason for one may not be reason for another. So that is a lot of reasons and a lot of chances for the path to turn dark. And it’s important to keep in mind that feeling suicidal is not a weakness nor does it mean failure. It means that you need help. You are struggling, out of ideas, and out of options, and need help. You are boxed in, overwhelmed, stuck, lost, and need help. You feel helpless, hopeless and worthless, and need help.

The bottom line is that you need help. And you are entitled to it as much as anyone else is. You are NOT worthless. And even if you’re hope has diminished then let someone else hope for you, until yours comes back.

I am going to close this by saying that I hope anyone who feels suicidal, please reach out for help. Or if you know someone who is suicidal, please try to offer them support, whether it’s making the call for help for them, or just sitting with them to let them know they aren’t alone. Please take all suicidal threats seriously because it could cost a life.

I know that there will be some suicides that won’t be able to be stopped. There will be some who will not see the next day. There will be some who you won’t know are struggling. There will be some who will go out of their way to not tell you they are struggling. There will be some of us that won’t make it out alive. But if you see it, or they ever do tell you, please try to help.

For those who find themselves in the darkness and are unable to find your way back to the light, I sincerely hope you find peace, no matter where it lays.

Hope and hugs for everyone out there 🙂

SUICIDE LINES – CANADA:
Call 911
https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
https://thelifelinecanada.ca/help/
http://www.yourlifecounts.org/need-help/crisis-lines
http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/international/canada-suicide-hotlines.html

*TW* Like Ripping Off a Bandage

I just want start this off with a disclaimer here because I am well aware that how BPD manifests for any borderliner could be very different than how it manifests for me. As a rule Borderliners tend to be very high functioning for day-to-day activities however we aren’t always able to maintain that functionality for extended periods of time. It’s our personal lives behind closed doors that are a chaotic mess. And it is only a matter of time before one spills into the other and we are not so functioning anymore. This might not be how another person struggles with BPD, is this is how I struggle with BPD.

For me, I sometimes have to work to get to functioning. It’s not easy, and it can take me weeks or months to finally get to a baseline of just doing the best that I can. Which is a minimal level.

This usually involves a lot of meds having to be administered in order to get myself functioning. If I’m lucky it will involve therapy of some kind at the same time as taking the meds but until recently it was either one or the other. There was no balance. There was no equilibrium. I either could take the meds and just do my best not to fall backwards. There was no support, not the way I needed it. Or I had the support and the meds weren’t really doing it for me.

Doing the meds cocktail, for anyone struggling with mental health issues, or mental health disorders, knows that it can be an exhausting, tiring, and frustrating journey. And it is a journey. It can take months and years; dozens of medicines and dosages, mixing anti-psychotic with anti-depressant, uppers with downers, meds to get you to sleep, meds to keep you asleep, meds to allow you to think, meds that stop you from thinking. Finally finding the mix that works is daunting. It took me three decades and finally a diagnosis of BPD to get the mix that is currently working for me. Although because I’m still struggling, I am still developing the right mix for me. It’s a work in progress.

So I have to choose therapy or meds, if I’m lucky, I’ll get at least one. And it will help me. Because I usually end up back at the bottom of life, I also feel abandoned, rejected, alone, and angry.

Except the anger would be directed at myself. I was a failure for not being able to magically fix myself when I was broken. I was to blame for not having the support I needed. I was to blame that the drugs didn’t work. I was to blame that therapy didn’t work. I was to blame for everything in my life going so wrong that I would end up feeling suicidal. And suicidal was where I stayed until I either tried, or I was able to find my way out.

Having BPD is tough. Every day feels like a battle. Every interaction feels like a wound that starts out bandaged but within moments can be ripped off by either telling me I’m too sensitive, that I need to get over it, that I am being difficult, that I am causing trouble by not letting anything go, that I am making matters worse for myself, or if I feel abandoned or rejected, and just that fast the bandage would be ripped off and my wounds would be exposed, and I would be open to pain and hurt and suffering. Again.

I want to be able to keep the bandage on long enough so that I can heal. I want to be healed enough that it won’t feel like I’m exposed and vulnerable. I want to feel like I can take what someone says or does to me that doesn’t send me spiralling out of control into bad and dark places.

I am fighting to keep my bandage on right now because I’m terrified of having my wounds exposed.

Dear life, please give me time to heal.

*TW* Using Destructive Methods

…If I am a binger then anything that gives me fulfillment, a sense of peace or comfort, I will have to have. I buy and eat food to comfort me for any and every reason you can think of. There are some days when I plan to buy things in preparation for a binge. I may not actually even be feeling to binge but just knowing that the food is there if I need it makes me feel better.

You know I actually have anxiety about statutory holidays? Because most stat holidays the grocery stores are closed. And if I need to binge and I have nothing then I will feel panic. I worry that I will feel lost or that I won’t be able to handle it. So what I will do is the day before the holiday I’ll sometimes go to the store so I can stock up on binge foods. I try to talk myself out of the anxiety by telling myself there are other places I can go if I really need to and that if I can just make it to the next day when the store will be open then I can have any food I want. I can get the “extra treat” foods that are only for once and awhile, like cake. I actually justify those foods that I have earned the treat. That it will make up for not having what I needed when I needed it. and it actually helps the anxiety. I can tell you though, that not ONE time did I ever really fall apart. I stock up nonetheless. Day to day I regularly take stock of what I have at home if I do need to binge. I can go days without bingeing but then that one day I need it, it will mean everything to have the stuff there. I feel better knowing I have those binge foods nearby for when I need them. it’s frustrating as hell to live on the edge like this.

…I don’t know what a singular need for a treat means. To me all treat foods, almost any sweet, are part of my binge foods. They all take part in it. it’s either the tail-end of it, the middle of it, the trigger, or the precursor. There is no such thing as just wanting a chocolate bar and eating it. not all in the same moment. There are always reasons, excuses, catalysts, and triggers, always.

I never know where my mood will take me…What I want today, I may not want tomorrow. My moods and my feelings are constantly changing…I feel like a slave to my moods and emotions…And all that I don’t feel like or want to do gets lost.

…So much of how I behave and who I believe in is because of fear. What if I need it and it’s not there? What if I need them and they are not there? What if I am forced to do it alone? To decide alone? To think alone? To feel alone? And what if I make a mistake or fall apart?…Guess what is there? Every time, all the time, any reason, every reason, no reason, no questions asked, no judgement, no hesitation, no baggage of their own, food.

I know that food has never offered advice or sympathy but it does distract me.

Food has never given me support that tells me I’ve made the right decision or that things will work out, that everything will be okay but it has blocked me from remembering that I was looking for support.
Food has never empathized with me but it has made me feel so full that I don’t care.
Food has never sympathized with me but it has never made me feel alone or stupid.
Food has never encouraged me but it has successfully suppressed the intentions and wants I was aiming for in the first place.

Even though it has never helped figure out what to do, or listened, or told me everything would be okay, but it has always, without fail, always been there.

Food has single-handedly done more for me than any one person in my life… Everyone has their own problems, everyone has stress and people have their own lives to lead. How fair is it of me to expect people to understand my own problems and how important they are to me? How fair is it of me to ask of themselves when they may have nothing to give? How fair is it of me to expect them to drop their own lives, if only for a moment, to help me deal with mine?

As I write I think and my mind is whirring away. Do I behave this way because of this reason? Do I believe this because of this conditioning? Does one thing exacerbate the other? Is this worse because of this? How do I know what to fix?

You know of all the books I own, a good amount of them are self-help books. Thankfully the self-help don’t outnumber the regular non-fiction and fiction but when I look at them all and think of how much money I have spent and how little time I spent on them it saddens and baffles me.

A handful of them have truly helped me, even if only to help me move past a moment or belief, and those I have really come to treasure.

I bought them all with good intentions and high hopes and less than half of them made any impact at all. I try to rationalize that there could be a nugget in any or all of them that could help; two-, three-, or four-hundred page books for a single nugget. And of course there may be no nugget at all. Most of them failed to deliver it…. Thankfully I have learned a bit in how to not shop for a book and what not to buy. So I have at least succeeding in avoiding the pitfall now, most of the time anyway… Sometimes to figure out what you do need and want you have to first figure out what you don’t need or want.

I worry that I spend so much time in preparation that my life will be over and I will have missed the chance to enjoy it.

I spend all this time preparing, expecting, and researching, that when the moment to enjoy comes along I either miss it or watch it go by worried that it will trigger a new want or feeling that I won’t be prepared or researched for.

I buy the self-help books with the intent of reading them, using them, working with them, and learning from them but I know what emotions and wants that can be triggered by them too. So I wait until I have the time and space to accommodate the new emotion or want.

I may need that time and space to process the emotion.

And if it sparks a new emotion that I don’t know how to deal with then I’ll need more help, another book, and I’ll need time to go get it.

If it triggers a new need or awakens a dormant one then I’ll need to be prepared to have that need met too.

And what if I don’t have the time and space? What if I can’t deal with the emotion? Or what if the need can’t be met?

So I eat and do nothing.