It Turns Out I Have Limits

It wasn’t that long ago that I was able to put in a full day at work. I was able to work 5 days a week, every week for a number of years. And after work and on weekends, I ran errands, hung out with friends, went shopping, went to the movies, and basically just went on with life. I’m not sure if life was moving forward or not but it was moving.

I struggled a lot outside of work in my personal life, but I chalked it up to anything and everything that wasn’t mental health or well-being. I gave excuses that it was something wrong or broken with me that I needed to somehow fix. I figured there was some flaw in how I was living life and only “righting” myself would I be able to fully function without issues.

For the most part I was silent about what I was struggling with, unless it got very bad, which it did once or twice. I even took a few months of leave of absence from work at one point. But overall I kept what was going on to myself. I didn’t want to burden anyone. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a freak or look at me differently. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was so bad at life I was struggling with even wanting to live. I assumed that no one could really help me and that no one would understand even if they wanted to help. Whatever was wrong with me, I would have to fix, and I would have to do it quickly and quietly.

Overall though, I kept functioning, and for the most part, I was able to cope. At least I told myself I was coping and that things were under control. My coping methods however were not at all healthy, and led to extremely destructive habits. I turned to eating, suppressing, avoiding, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and several suicide attempts. But I told myself I was coping. I believed I was handling everything.

I wasn’t stupid or blind. I knew that how I was coping was not the best way but it got me out of bed and to work and doing things that constituted “living life”, so as far as I was concerned things were handled. At first I just went about my day, doing the best that I could with what I knew. It took years, decades, for me to realize that I wasn’t really handling things at all. I was coping in ways that were slowly killing me, and if I kept it up, one way or another, I would end up dead.

I don’t remember when I realized things were not going well. I just know that over time I found myself in a very dark place more and more and more often. I was avoiding, suppressing, eating, and self-harming all the time. Suicidal thoughts were like a nagging memory that I couldn’t shake and kept playing over and over in my mind as an idea I should really look into. The darkness that enveloped me was keeping me down longer and longer with each passing year. Until finally I was only in darkness.

I no longer remembered what the light looked like or felt like. I wasn’t even sure if I could go back to the light. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to. The trajectory of my path was all over the place and most of the time I had no idea what was going to happen next. The only thing I clearly saw happening was that things were not getting better. They only got worse. And worse. And worse. And for every step forward I felt like I took ten steps back.

The last year or so has been challenging to say the least. After reaching out for help, and fortunately getting it, I have had some of the darkness peeled away. Things are looking towards getting better, and being more manageable. It’s been hard. Very, very hard. There are some days where I’m not sure things will really get better. Some days I feel like it will always suck and every day will just be a battle that I may or may not win. Some days I feel more optimistic about things, and am successful at keeping things relatively managed.

As time goes on and I learn how to manage my thoughts and emotions, I am also learning how to manage myself too. It may seem like a no-brainer that with one thing managed the others would follow suit and start to be managed as well, but not really. Not for me anyway.

I thought I could just go about things as I always had. I thought I could continue to function at almost full capacity. I thought I could work on myself and rebuild things on the inside and still go about my day like nothing had changed. I thought I could put all my mental capacity towards rebuilding things and also put all my mental capacity towards going about my day too without interruption. I thought I could put my efforts to myself and to the rest of life, including working, and everything would be fine. I assumed that I could handle it. I had no doubts that I could handle it. I had no reason to believe otherwise. After all, I had worked for years with keeping work and everything else separate.

Turns out, I was wrong.

I was very wrong, in fact. And I was genuinely shocked to discover that I was wrong.

Functioning at full capacity is hard. Functioning at half-capacity is hard. Going to work and trying to rebuild my life, at the same time, was so hard for me, that I failed at it. Actually, failed is the wrong word. I’m going to say that it was so hard for me it wasn’t effective. Going to work and trying to figure things out with my mental health at the same time was so hard that work slowly fell off the radar because I just couldn’t handle both. No matter how much I thought I could, and how much I expected myself to, I just couldn’t do it. Not both, and not at the same time.

With my mental capacity taken up by trying to sort things out, tease things apart, rethink, relearn, rebuild, recuperate, and retry, there really isn’t a lot left for almost anything else. Even living day-to-day stuff like cooking, eating, and showering, can feel like monumental tasks that don’t always make the cut on the to-do list for the day. Keeping up with myself and what needs to be done is a crap shoot every day. Some days I can take care of the basics and then work on other stuff too. Some days I have to trade off what basics I can handle and what can wait especially if I want to take care of other stuff too. And then there are days where there are no basics, it is only about taking care of things mentally, and the basics will just have to wait until tomorrow when they may be able to get taken care of then.

All of my efforts nowadays go towards my mental illness.

It has taken me a while to realize that there are limits to what I can handle. It has taken me a lot longer than I thought it would to realize this. I knew this before, sort of. I knew of having limits, and that others might need to recognize them, and to work within them. I was well aware that other people had limits and I respected that. It made total sense that others might need to recognize their own limits. I, however, was able to handle everything, and believed that I didn’t really have limits. And any limits I did have were high enough that I could work with and push past them if I needed to.

Despite evidence to the contrary, I believed I could handle things, and that I was handling things. No problem.

Every time I reached my limit I would try to push past it, conveniently forgetting or ignoring that it was a limit. I would lie to myself, that it wasn’t really a limit. I would lie to myself, that even if it was a limit it’s not set in stone and I can totally do this. I would tell myself I hadn’t reached my limit, I was just not trying hard enough. I wasn’t giving the effort that I should be giving to the situation. I was being lazy or I was going about it wrong. I was totally ignoring the signals, or I was attributing the signals to something else, instead of realizing that I was hitting my limit.

I was wrong.

There is only so much I can do each day. As much as I hate to admit it to myself, every day, I have limits to what I can accomplish, and no matter how hard I try to ignore them, they are there. They change as to how far I can go and how far I can push myself, but they are there, and they are limits. I need to realize that. I need to realize that do I have limits. I need to realize that whatever my limits are, they are there for a reason, and they serve a purpose. They help me to keep myself balanced and manageable. They help to take rest when I need to. They help me to recuperate when I need to. They help me to address when something is pushing against my best interests and I need to take action. I need to respect my limits. I need to honour myself and what I can and cannot do. I need to accept that I have limits.

There is a point at which I can no longer function. There is a limit. There is a point at which I will hit my limit and trying to push past it is probably not a good idea, if I am even able to push past it at all.

And those limits are typically not flexible. They are limits for a reason.

I may need a break. I may need an hour. I may need a day. Or four days. I may need to stop much earlier than I had originally planned. I may need to not even start what I had planned. I may need to ease up on what I want to accomplish and realize instead what I can accomplish. And what I can do today, may or may not be what I can do tomorrow.

Every day is different. The factors that come into play as to what I can and cannot do change every day too. The factors change, the limits change, the accomplishments vary, but the acknowledgement and adhering to remains the same. It’s a lot to track but it’s important to realize and take whatever action I need to, even if that means no action at all.

My limits before may have been higher, or maybe I always ignored them. Maybe I was able to push past them easier before. Who knows. All I know is that I do have limits and I need to respect that. As hard as it is for me to accept, I may do less because of my limits but that does not make me less. I have to remember that.

 

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When Thoughts Become the Enemy

I have always been a thinker. Not in a philosophical, “let-me-contemplate-life” kind of way but more in a “I-don’t-want-to-sound-like-an-idiot-and-what-is-wrong-with-me” kind of way. At times this has been a blessing; fueling fantastic ideas, helping me better understand situations or emotions by thinking before I speak, and giving me better perspectives and patience for others as well as for myself. But sometimes it can be a curse. Sometimes it can be a life-threatening, violent curse.

And thinking is the last thing I should be doing. Thinking is the first step for me towards things spiraling out of control. Because sometimes my thoughts have turned against me, and have now become my enemy.

I understand that thoughts don’t necessarily mean anything. I understand that thoughts are usually not factual, and are most often influenced by the mood of the moment and/or the current environment I’m in. I understand that thoughts are not made of cement and are subject to change at a moment’s notice. I understand that just because a thought pops into my head doesn’t mean I have to entertain it, or believe it, and the thoughts don’t have to turn bad. I understand that I am not my thoughts.

I understand all of that, logically. But emotionally… emotionally, I’m not so on board with this theory. And as much as I know logically that my thoughts can be harmless and don’t have to make or break who I am, sometimes they do. Sometimes they really, really do.

In DBT, one of the things that is taught (I really should get back to my weekly progress on that here too by the way) is that our thoughts are not who we are. They are just thoughts. They don’t need to take over everything, and they don’t need to even be entertained for a moment. Because they are just thoughts.

A practice to help realize this is to think of our thoughts like they are leaves on a river. Each leaf on the river is one thought, and they just float on down the river as leaves, doing nothing, going wherever. They don’t have to be addressed or picked up. They don’t have to be noted or talked about. They just float down the river and away.

Now, I am actually a fan of this idea. I really like the leaf and river theory because first of all, I like watching leaves on a river and leaving them to just float, but the bigger reason I like this idea is because it allows me to see the thoughts as something separate from myself. It helps me to see that the thoughts are just thoughts, and don’t have to have any power. They kind of lose their power when they are made into something harmless and benign like a leaf can be.

There have been times where I am successful at doing this, but unfortunately not as often as I’d like, and not nearly as often as it would help me. A lot of the time my thoughts take me over and take me down so fast that I feel like I don’t even get the chance to turn them into something else, let alone to turn them into leaves on a river and just watch them float by.

A thought comes into my head and before I realize that my thinking has turned to a dark place, I am already caught up in the race of thoughts now taking place in my mind. Like a speeding roller coaster with a broken control lever, I am taken for a ride that picks me up and pulls me down, throws me all over the place, and is getting very close to making me feel sick.

My thoughts can determine whether I end up having a bad day or a good day. They can start out so innocent and passive and within moments they can keep me paralyzed to going anywhere or doing anything. My thoughts can come pretty close to killing me.

My thoughts can go from compassionate and kind to degrading and insulting in a heartbeat. I’ll think that I am okay, I’ll believe that I’m okay, and that I can handle things without resorting to more negative thinking and destructive coping methods. I’ll think that my thoughts are manageable and won’t hurt my feelings or leave me feeling suicidal. And then BOOM! just like that, I am thinking that I am the worst person in the world. I am a horrible person who no one likes and that I will always be hopeless and worthless. I am useless and don’t deserve to be alive. My thoughts will become harsh, mean, degrading, and abusive.

I’ll try to stop the negative thinking by challenging if the negative thoughts are true (another thing I learned from DBT and “Checking the Facts”). And I’ll ask myself if it’s really true that I am a horrible person, and if so, then where is the proof? I’ll challenge if I should really be dead, or if that’s just my thinking being a bully. And depending on whether I am able to divert the thoughts back to something positive, or at the very least, less negative and abusive, and change the thoughts, I will again fall prey to all the bad stuff I think of myself. This may or may not lead to anxiety, depression, and/or suicide, or all of the above. Sometimes I am able to change the tide and save myself from spinning into darkness. But a lot of the time, I can’t. A lot of the time the thoughts are more powerful than I am. A lot of the time I am able to find all the proof I need to show how horrible I am. I can find all the proof I need to prove that I should be dead. And I can prove with the best of them my worthlessness and the millions of reasons that no one likes me. And no one ever will.

I used to fall prey to these bad thoughts so easily that it could take weeks or months for me to come back from how much I would hurt and insult myself. And even then, it would take almost constant reinforcement from others for me to believe that what I think of myself is not true. It would take almost constant reassurance from others (because there’s no point in me saying it because it’s only true if others say it), that I am not worthless, that I am not hopeless, and that I am not unlikeable, and that I shouldn’t be dead.

If I have hurt myself deeply enough I may not even believe what others say. If I have insulted myself enough into a deep, dark, desperate, weeping puddle on the ground, then there are few people who could make things better, and even fewer people that I would believe if they try to make me feel better. If they try to tell me that I am worthwhile and likeable I would scoff and tell them that they have obviously missed the memo that I am a horrible, unlikeable person. They obviously are lying to me and to themselves, and they are wasting their time with me. And because people have jobs and families and lives, it is very rare for me to get the constant reassurance I need in order to turn the tide of negative thoughts in my mind. This a fraction of how powerful my thoughts can be.

I am working as hard as I can to challenge all of this, and keep my thoughts from taking me over. It’s hard. It’s not always successful. It’s a work in progress.

The power of our thoughts can be debilitating and hold enough force that we believe them to be true. Why would I think it, if it wasn’t true? How can it not be true, it’s such a frequent and powerful thought? All of my thoughts are telling me this, so why wouldn’t it be true? Would my thoughts lie to me? Why would my own thoughts lie to me?

Our thinking can lead us to personal beliefs, of ourselves, and others, that may or not be true. They can lead us to behaviours that can reinforce our thoughts and strengthen our beliefs. To the point that everywhere we look we find proof that what we thought was true. What we thought was a fact. Even when it isn’t.

Our thinking can spawn any number of scripts that run through our minds at any given moment, particularly when we need it the least, and despite knowledge that contradicts the information, can leave us a complete and total mess. Our self-esteem a puddle on the floor, and our beliefs stronger than ever of things that aren’t true.

The scripts tell us how everything we are is wrong, and everything we do is wrong. It tells us how much we deserve all of our flaws and tribulations because we are that awful. It tells us that we will never change and shouldn’t even try. It tells us that we will only have bad things happen to us, and proves it by providing the thoughts of all the bad things we have endured so far, conveniently omitting any of the positive things, because the script knows how to break us. The script knows what to say and what not to say. The script will run so often and so loud we feel we are forever stuck with it.

The scripts may change over the years, growing or shrinking as we add new thoughts and take away old ones, but the lies will remain the same. The lies become bigger and brighter with each run of the script. Until finally it is so ingrained in us that we lose sight that we even have the script, and we could possibly think any differently. We feel it becomes us because its automatic for us now. We barely need the prompt before the thoughts are up and running. It’s as close to automatic as breathing, and just as difficult to change. So we resign ourselves to our thoughts and the script it plays, and hope that maybe this time will be different.

For many, many years I have hated my thoughts. I have hated thinking and was convinced that it could only, ever be bad and mean. I was convinced that my thoughts would never be able to change and one day they would definitely kill me. I was convinced my thoughts were me. My thoughts were absolutely who I was. I was convinced that everyone and everything else outside me, contradicting or challenging my thoughts, were the ones who were wrong. All my thoughts were true and factual. Everyone and everything else was false. I was convinced that my thoughts would never lie to me. That they couldn’t.

The scripts that I run have been hard and I hate that, until recently, I have believed them so fiercely for so long. My scripts have reinforced my anxiety, depression, and several disorders. I considered them as gospel, to me and to my life. I considered them as everything I was.

It is only recently that I have finally realized that my thoughts are not me. And A LOT of the time, they are in fact, untrue and misleading. My scripts are not written in stone, and not only can they be changed, they can be removed. And they should be. I still sometimes forget that my thoughts are not me, and they don’t have to be my enemy. They might not necessarily be my friend either, and that’s okay. Thoughts are just thoughts. That’s all. Not bad. Not good. Just thoughts. If they are anything, they are either useful or not. They don’t have to be followed, entertained, believed, repeated, hated, liked, ignored, or accepted. They are just thoughts.

I hope of all the thoughts I have, that’s the one I remember.

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… 🙂

A Lesson in Fairness

I have always believed in fairness. As naive as it will sound I have always thought that life should be fair. I know that is a utopian dream that unfortunately will never come true but I still can’t help but hope that life will be fair. That life should be fair. Life should respect the efforts people make to lead healthy, uncluttered lives. Life should respect those who prepare and plan. Life should not be able to shatter all efforts and plans as if they never existed. To me, that is not only unfair, it’s wrong. Life, however, disagrees with me. Strongly and loudly. 

This past week has been extremely stressful and if I have learned anything from it, it’s that you can do everything right and still have things go very wrong. You can follow all the rules and guidelines; you can do everything the textbook said to do; you can do everything the doctor told you to do; you can prepare yourself, and have all the necessities at the ready; you can do everything perfect to the letter…and then…you may still fail, you may still miss something; you may still get sick, you may still get crapped on, your world may still shatter and completely fall apart. You can do everything right and still have things go wrong. 

That, my friends, is the humility that life bestows on us every chance it gets. 

Nothing in this life is guaranteed. Nothing. 

No matter how much you plan, how much you prepare, how much you brace yourself against the worst, the worst can still happen. 

Good people have bad things happen, bad people have good things happen, the undeserving get promoted while the deserving are skipped over, the healthy are inflicted with disease and the unhealthy live to a hundred, the list of contradictory, illogical things that can happen is endless. And most likely, someone will be hurt at the end of it. Life is incredibly unfair. It craps all over your well-laid plans. It rips the rug right out from under you without warning. It seems to take more than it gives, and when it gives it’s usually much less than expected, wanted, or needed. 

This is heartbreaking for me, and it’s something I have to learn to accept. Life is unfair.

Life is filled with disappointment, betrayal, deception, corruption, heartbreak, loneliness, pain, and death. It doesn’t matter who you are, life, at times, will not be fair to you. Life will rip you apart like it has never even heard of the word “fair”.  Life will eat you up and spit you out. And, to an extent, there is absolutely NOTHING you can do about it. 

That, to me, is so unfair that it should not be allowed to happen. Life should not be allowed to ruin plans, or throw curveballs at you. Life should not be allowed to do whatever it wants for no reason. I know that sounds absurd but that’s how I feel. I know that life is unfair. I get it, that’s just how life goes. Believe me, I know. Yet I still find it so hard when life deals this blow. I have a hard time accepting it. And I try very hard to find a justifiable reason that this bad thing happened. 

Something to explain why me? Something to help me understand. Something to show me where I failed, where I didn’t plan or prepare enough. Something to justify why I was chosen. Why me and not someone else? What did I do to deserve this? Did I make a mistake? Did I miss something? How can I do everything right and still have things go wrong? I did everything right. So what is it? Well, unfortunately, that’s just how life goes. 

Sometimes you can do everything right and still have things go wrong. 

I feel somewhat groundless that life can just crap all over me, for no reason, at any time, in any way, and even if I do everything I can to prevent this stuff from happening, life can just waltz in, smash things around, and waltz back out, leaving me to deal with the cleanup and the aftermath. If life can be so unfair then why try to prepare? Why make the effort to be healthy? Why set everything up to be braced at the point of impact, only to have it shattered to pieces? Why should I follow the rules and the guidelines if life doesn’t? 

I know I should find a way to accept that life is unfair. I know by not accepting it I only suffer more. I know that some things I will never have an answer for. That’s just the way life goes. 

And yet…I still can’t help but feel that life should be fair. Good things should happen to good people. Bad things should happen to bad people. And when you do things right they should stay right. I really don’t think that’s asking too much. I think it’s fair that life should be fair. But it’s not. 

I know it isn’t all bad, and sometimes you can do everything right and things turn out right, but the fact that it can just as easily go wrong, well, it scares me. Actually, it terrifies me. That life can give and life can take it away. Just. Like. That. Makes me want to crawl into a padded bunker and lock the door behind me, and stay there until life plays fair. Sadly, that would be a long wait. 

And no doubt someone might say that living in a padded bunker is no way to live, I would respectfully disagree with that. I believe I can stay in this here bunker and wait out life. A pointless endeavour that will end with my death, and life winning? Absolutely. Totally pointless. And life will take me down in the end anyway. It’s a vicious belief that I need to change. And no matter how much I know I will ultimately lose against life doesn’t make me want to crawl into that bunker any less. It should. But it doesn’t. 

I guess…I guess I just hate that it scares me. I hate how helpless it makes me feel. And I hate that it’s so random and precarious. So much of life is already random and precarious, and there is so much we have no control over, and never will, I can’t help but hope that maybe life will cut us a break. 

I already know that it just doesn’t go that way. Sadly. I hope that one day I find a way to accept that. 

There Is Nothing Wrong With Having Mental Health Issues

This past weekend brought up the conversation of mental health issues in a number of ways for me; from hearing about Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna speaking publicly about struggling with anxiety, and not feeling himself, to conversations I’ve had with family and friends. I feel like it needs to be said again, and again, that there is nothing wrong with having mental health issues. I’m going to be repeating this often throughout this post, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HAVING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

I think Roberto Osuna’s decision for opening up about what he is struggling with, which is no doubt much more common in baseball, and sports in general, than is reported, was exceptionally brave. It isn’t easy to open up about something so personal and something that can be subject to judgement, criticism, and misinterpretation.

Mental health is absolutely vital to our well-being. Without it, we are open to literally falling apart. Mental health is just as important to our being able to function and cope as physical health is. In fact, there are a number of situations where mental health may be even more important than physical health.

The dozens of disorders and diagnosis that encompass mental health are never something to be taken lightly, no matter how, where, when, or why, a person finds themselves struggling with them. Whether it’s a disorder that has been a part of your life since childhood, or whether it’s something that pops into your life in later years, it is always, repeat always, something to be taken seriously. And at no time is it ever a reflection on what kind of person you are, nor does it ever mean that something is wrong with you.

Admittedly, you may need treatment, you may even need medication, but that does not mean you are broken, or flawed, or weak, or a bad person. It doesn’t mean you should be treated differently nor does it mean you should be shunned, judged, ostracized, or criticized. It means that you need help and support, encouragement and compassion, and understanding and patience for a difficult situation or period in your life. That’s really all it means, that you need help. And there is nothing, NOTHING, wrong with that.

I can understand that there are people who have not struggled with mental health issues and may not be able to fully grasp what it means but that is no excuse to treat someone with mental health issues any differently than had they been struggling with something physical that can be seen or quantified. People struggling with mental health issues are still people.

You don’t have to have mental health issues to be compassionate.

I think it’s great that the conversation of mental health is fast becoming more mainstream, and less a “closeted” discussion, saved only for professionals. With places like CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), here in Canada, CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association), also here in Canada, the annual Bell Let’s Talk campaign, and several sports and television personalities opening up about their own mental health struggles has made a HUGE impact in people starting to realize and understand that mental health is something that can affect anyone, in any capacity, or social standing, and that it is NOT something to be ashamed of.

I firmly believe that places like CAMH and CMHA are leading the fight in bringing awareness to mental health, bringing the discussion to the masses, and especially with bringing help to those in need. Addressing mental health openly has come a long way in starting to lose the stigma that has been attached to it for so long. But there is still more work to do. And it starts with us, talking to someone when we need help, and not feeling ashamed about what we are going through.

I’m not saying that you need to speak about what you might be struggling with to everyone you know and everyone you meet. It may mean only sharing it with one person, it may mean sharing it with a group of strangers at a support group, it may mean sharing it only with a professional. It isn’t about who you choose to share it with, it’s about owning that you are struggling right now with mental health issues, and that is nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I’m going to repeat that, “struggling with mental health issues is NOTHING to be ashamed of.

Life is hard. Very hard. This is not new information for anyone. Sometimes trying to handle all that life throws at us, and coping with difficult situations, emotions, and difficult people can be more than just a challenge at times. It can be something that permeates your whole being, and for some, it may also mean using more destructive than constructive methods to cope. It can be something that filters down into your relationships, your work, your interests, your family and friends, and even your ability to function at a basic level. Mental illness can grip you like a vise and twist itself around you so that you feel like you can’t breathe. It doesn’t care if you have the time, or the space, or whether you’re ready or not, it can come on without warning and take you over, or take you down. Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, where you work etc, you could be someone who finds themselves struggling with mental health issues just as easily as anyone else.

Mental health isn’t selective in who it affects. No exemptions or discrimination here. Mental health is an equal opportunity assailant.

I don’t want to compare mental health to physical health because I don’t think they really can be compared. The each have their own struggles, symptoms, treatments, and perspectives. But I will say that with as many differences that lie between physical/medical issues and mental health issues, there are also a number of similarities between them too. There a lot of physical illnesses or disorders that can often strike at will to whomever, whenever, without warning or cause, and mental health issues can be just as arbitrary and random in who becomes affected too. There are a number of physical/medical issues that cannot be seen just by looking at someone, and that cannot be measured with a blood test or x-ray, just like not being able to tell just by looking that someone is struggling with mental health issues.

Someone struggling with a physical/medical issue is as important to address as someone struggling with a mental health issue. One issue is not necessarily any more urgent to address than the other. Of course I understand that there are some serious medical issues that can be life-threatening and are important to treat as soon as possible, and that there are some mental health issues that are not as urgent in the moment to treat, but they are still important enough to treat, regardless.

Someone struggling with mental health issues may be able to wait a few more days for help than someone requiring urgent medical assistance, but it doesn’t mean that the person struggling with mental health issues should be dismissed or indefinitely delayed in getting treatment.

All issues that can befall us, whether physical, emotional, or mental, each have their own urgencies or not, in how and when they are addressed, but the important thing to remember is that they ALL deserve addressing.

Repeat: THEY ALL DESERVE TO BE ADDRESSED.

I would like to close this by saying to all those struggling with mental health issues, please seek help if you need it, don’t wait. And please don’t be ashamed or feel less than because you need help. Talk to someone. Share with those you trust in your own time. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, nor do you owe anyone an explanation. You are struggling and you need help. Please remember that. You are struggling and you need help.

For those who have a loved one struggling with mental health issues I would encourage and hope that you give as much time and space to your loved one as you can for them to deal with things as they need. Be compassionate and patient. You don’t need to understand someone to be kind to them. You don’t need to have experienced it to have patience for it.

Your loved one may be struggling to live at some point, and this is NOT a weakness, nor is this something to be taken lightly. Anyone feeling like life isn’t worth living anymore should ALWAYS be taken seriously and at their word. They need help. Please do what you can to help them get help.

Most importantly, for all, please remember that there is nothing wrong with having mental health issues.

 

*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.

Trying to Understand Myself

I am trying to work towards a better day for myself. It’s on a daily basis that I work for this because to be able to just wake up and face the world, or meet the world, is not something that I can just wake up to. It has to be worked for.

Today for example I am aiming to try and be out for as long as possible, to be out of the house, functioning, and just not cocooned on my couch where everything would surely get worse.

Except I am sitting here, unable to be productive, and thinking of turning to destructive behaviours. I’m not sure why. I feel very restless and very chaotic in my mind. I feel like I won’t be able to accomplish anything.

*TW* So all that I can think of right now is walking over to the store, and knowing they have Easter candy on sale, getting me a bagful of goodies and going home and stuffing myself until I feel sick.

I’m not hungry. But I am frustrated and feeling restless so I know that my thinking of food is all emotion mind. I can’t even really afford to buy anything since I’m broke but I’m moving money around in my head and finding ways that I can get what I want.

I wish I knew why I was falling to this…