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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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* 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* Old Faithful

Today I had reached a breaking point. I couldn’t hold out any longer. So I went for my usual. Cake. I had been thinking about it all day. For several days in fact. Just imagining how good it would be. Imagining how great it would taste. Imagining how it would make me forget everything but the cake. Imagining how it would numb me out. Imagining every little piece right down to the last bit of it, the last detail, and the last bite.

I even tried to placate the urge with several substitutions since eating a whole cake is not the best idea. I tried donuts. And I have to laugh at this attempt because in no universe is a donut as good as a cake. And not just any cake. But a Sobeys cake. A creamy, soft, sweet Sobeys cake with their icing that tastes like whipped cream. (For those of you who are vanilla cake fans I highly recommend their cakes and cupcakes.) And I had tried to trick myself with donuts. Idiot. Unless they are Sobeys cake in the shape of a donut with Sobeys creamy icing on top then it’s a sad effort, although that would be a great donut. Donuts for cake? Please. Don’t even try.

I looked at the bakery shelves again. Nothing. It wasn’t there. None of them were. There was nothing. And something inside me not only panicked but cried.

How could there be none? How could they be all gone? How could there not be one cake here for me? Not one cupcake? And don’t even try to pawn off those custard or raspberry or rich hazelnut cakes on me. As far as I’m concerned they aren’t cakes to begin with. So as far as I was concerned Sobeys had no cakes out. But that can’t be? There had to be some somewhere, right? In the back, maybe? But no. They couldn’t be out of cakes? I asked. And they said, what they had out was it and it was gone.

No. No, no, no, no. It can’t be. None? What do I do? Okay, what do I do? I’m a little unsettled. I look around wildly, trying to figure out my next move but I’m lost. What do I do? What can I do? I’m stuck.

I feel my heart racing and my cheeks are starting to get warm. What do I do? I feel close to tears by now because I really am lost. I really don’t know what to do. I hadn’t considered this. I didn’t have a ‘plan b’.

Some people might call that a sign. They might say that that is the universe’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t binge. Pfft. Please. I call it poor planning on the part of the Baked Goods department manager. If I were feeling in a more optimistic, philosophical place I might agree but I’m not. As far as I am concerned the universe is telling me that he sucks at his job. That’s what I’m getting from the universe.

Baked Goods guy had one job. And he failed. And now I am stuck. I felt a fear creep over me because I felt so lost. I hadn’t made any backup plan. It hadn’t once occurred to me that they would be sold out. Every other time I was there they had cakes. Even the cupcakes were good enough to suffice but they were all gone too. There was nothing.

I looked around at the people nonchalantly shopping and tried to at least look calm. But inside I was freaking out. I wanted to grab the girl behind the bakery counter and shake her, find me a cake woman! Go bake it right now if you have to, I’ll wait. Ooh fresh Sobeys cake. Sigh. But I couldn’t do that anyway because I already knew from past visits that they don’t bake their goods on site at this location. What kind of a bakery does this?

You’re telling me out of this whole store you don’t have one oven? I looked around again at the other shoppers and the bakery girl, trying not to lose it. It wasn’t her fault. Well it kind of was because she sold them. Her and the Bakery Department manager guy. Together they had thrown a big wrench into my plans.

I started to roam the store like I was looking around and shopping but I registered none of it. I didn’t even realize how far I had wandered trying to figure out my next step until I found myself three aisles over in the frozen foods. Oh look, frozen pies. I don’t even like pies.

I knew I should just leave and try to figure something else out. How far was it to another Sobeys? I calculated where I was and how I would get to the other location but it wasn’t close, and would require a few transit transfers. And I felt stupid to go all that way, and out of my way, just for cake. But this isn’t normal cake. It’s Sobeys delicious, soft, and creamy, make-everything-better cake. Didn’t that deserve some travel effort?

But I knew it didn’t. Deep down I knew that as much as it felt like it was worth it, it really wasn’t.

I found myself circling the store and ended up back at the bakery again staring down the empty spots where the cakes and cupcakes had been, willing a package or a small cake to suddenly materialize. Hoping against hope that maybe they would get a fresh shipment in and I would get my cake. But no. Nothing.

Now what? I knew I had to leave, and soon, because I was starting to feel the panic really grip me, and it would only be so long where I could hide it from other people. And the only thing worse for me than no cakes or cupcakes was passing out in the grocery store because there were no cakes or cupcakes. Sure they wouldn’t know but I would. And I couldn’t live with that. I had passed out or collapsed or freaked out because there was no vanilla cakes or cupcakes? No thank you. That really would be a new low for me. And frankly I was already low enough.

In the end I numbly walked from the store to the nearest bus stop and somehow made my way home, although I don’t remember any of it. I know I tried to think of what other baked good I could substitute in the meantime but nothing measured up to what the cake was going to give me. I actually felt disinterested in all my other go-to goods that I finally went home empty-handed.

I felt so lost and alone and disappointed. I felt like crying. I felt like I had lost my armour and my safety net. I felt like a friend had a stood me up. I tried to talk myself into taking it slower and trying to work through the pain of being exposed and vulnerable but it just left me more anxious.

It was then that I turned to my other outlet, and I self-harmed. It was the only thing I knew would work. It was the only way I felt I could cope. No cake? Then it’s time to self-harm. I couldn’t help it. It was a bad night. I wish I could have made it through somehow without resorting to self-destruction but I just couldn’t do it.

I feel ashamed and like a giant failure. I am learning skills that should help me with this and yet my mind blanked and all I could see was the cake and then the self-harm. I’m hoping that the next time, and there will be a next time, I will be able to draw on the skills, even if only for a moment, and try to get through it without hurting myself.

*TW* Old Faithful

Today I had reached a breaking point. I couldn’t hold out any longer. So I went for my usual. Cake. I had been thinking about it all day. For several days in fact. Just imagining how good it would be. Imagining how great it would taste. Imagining how it would make me forget everything but the cake. Imagining how it would numb me out. Imagining every little piece right down to the last bit of it, the last detail, and the last bite. I even tried to placate the urge with several substitutions. I tried donuts. And I have to laugh at this attempt because in no universe is a donut as good as a cake. And not just any cake. But a Sobeys cake. A creamy, soft, sweet Sobeys cake with their icing that tastes like whipped cream. (For those of you who are vanilla cake fans I highly recommend their cakes and cupcakes.) And I had tried to trick myself with donuts. Idiot. Unless they are Sobeys cake in the shape of a donut with Sobeys creamy icing on top then it’s a sad effort, although that would be a great donut. Donuts for cake? Please. Don’t even try.

I looked at the bakery shelves again. Nothing. It wasn’t there. None of them were. There was nothing. And something inside me not only panicked but cried.

How could there be none? How could they be all gone? How could there not be one cake here for me? Not one cupcake? And don’t even try to pawn off those custard or raspberry or rich hazelnut cakes on me. As far as I’m concerned they aren’t cakes to begin with. So as far as I was concerned Sobeys had no cakes out. But that can’t be? There had to be some somewhere, right? In the back, maybe? But no. They couldn’t be out of cakes? I asked. And they said, what they had out was it and it was gone.

No.No, no, no, no. It can’t be. None? What do I do? Okay, what do I do? I’m a little unsettled. I look around wildly, trying to figure out my next move but I’m lost. What do I do? What can I do? I’m stuck.

I feel my heart racing and my cheeks are starting to get warm. What do I do? I feel close to tears by now because I really am lost. I really don’t know what to do. I hadn’t considered this. I didn’t have a ‘plan b’.

Some people might call that a sign. They might say that that is the universe’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t binge. Pfft. I call it poor planning on the part of the Baked Goods department manager. If I were feeling in a more optimistic, philosophical place I might agree but I’m not. As far as I am concerned the universe is telling me that he sucks at his job. That’s what I’m getting from the universe.

Baked Goods Department Manager has one job. And he failed. And now I am stuck. I felt a fear creep over me because I felt so lost. I hadn’t made any backup plan. It hadn’t once occurred to me that they would be sold out. Every other time I was there they had cakes. Even the cupcakes were good enough to suffice but they were all gone too. There was nothing.

I looked around at the people nonchalantly shopping and tried to at least look calm. But inside I was freaking out. I wanted to grab the girl behind the bakery counter and shake her, find me a cake woman! Go bake it right now if you have to, I’ll wait. Ooh fresh Sobeys cake. Sigh. But I couldn’t do that anyway because I already knew from past visits that they don’t bake their goods on site. What kind of a bakery does this?

You’re telling me out of this whole store you don’t have one oven? I looked around again at the other shoppers and the bakery girl trying not to lose it. It wasn’t her fault. Well it kind of was. She sold them. Her and the Bakery Department manager. Together they had thrown a big wrench into my plans.

I started to roam the store like I was looking around and shopping but I registered none of it. I didn’t even realize how far I had wandered trying to figure out my next step until I found myself three aisles over in the frozen foods. Oh look, frozen pies.

I knew I should just leave and try to figure something else out. How far was it to another Sobeys? I calculated where I was and how I would get to the other location but it wasn’t close, and would require a few transit transfers. And somehow I felt stupid to go all that way, and out of my way, just for cake. But this isn’t normal cake. It’s Sobeys delicious, soft, and creamy, make-everything-better cake.

I found myself circling the store and ended up back at the bakery again staring down the empty spots where the cakes and cupcakes had been, willing a package or a small cake to suddenly materialize. Hoping against hope that maybe they would get a fresh shipment in and I would get my cake. But no. Nothing.

Now what? I knew I had to leave, and soon, because I was starting to feel the panic really grip me, and it would only be so long where I could hide it from other people. And the only thing worse for me than no cakes or cupcakes was passing out in the grocery store because there were no cakes or cupcakes. Sure they wouldn’t know but I would. And I couldn’t live with that. I had passed out or collapsed or freaked out because there was no vanilla cakes or cupcakes? No thank you. That really would be a new low for me. And frankly I was already low enough.

In the end I numbly walked from the store to the nearest bus stop and somehow made my way home, although I don’t remember any of it. I know I tried to think of what other baked good I could substitute in the meantime but nothing measured up to what the cake was going to give me. I actually felt disinterested in all my other go-to goods that I finally went home empty-handed.

I felt so lost and alone and disappointed. I felt like crying. I felt like I had lost my armour and my safety net. I tried to talk myself into taking it slower and trying to work through the pain of being exposed and vulnerable but it just left me more anxious.

It was then that I turned to my other outlet, and I self-harmed. It was the only thing I knew would work. It was the only way I felt I could cope. No cake? Then it’s time to self-harm. I couldn’t help it. It was a bad night. I wish I could have made it through somehow without resorting to self-destruction but I just couldn’t do it.

I feel ashamed and like a giant failure. I am learning skills that should help me with this and yet my mind blanked and all I could see was the cake and then the self-harm. I’m hoping that the next time, and there will be a next time, I will be able to draw on the skills, even if only for a moment, and try to get through it without hurting myself.