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.

 

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*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.

If Wishes Came True

When I was a little girl I used to pretend that I was an actress. I gave myself a stage name and I even had an imaginary manager, and secretary. I drew posters for my movies, and I even released some albums as a singer. And I would draw the album covers too. I would play for hours by myself as an actress slash singer in my room until it was time for bed. I didn’t even like stopping for dinner, or anything else. It was all about me and all the great things I could do. I would have loved to continue playing after it was time for bed but at the time I had to share a room with my brother and he really crimped my style.

But during the day, when my brother would go out, and my mom would be busy or sleeping, I spent hours, days, weeks, and months just playing my imaginary role. Sometimes I would bring in other imaginary people to play secondary roles, like friends, or boyfriends. It was very elaborate. Everyone had a role and a background. Not that I knew what to do with a boyfriend at that age. I imagined that basically he was just the guy there, and that eventually we would end up married and have kids. He played a really small role. Mostly I just had lots of friends, and lots of admirers, and lots of fans. In my imaginary world, everyone loved me. And everyone wanted to be friends with me.

I believed that I was special. I believed that there was just something about me that everyone liked, and people would gravitate towards me, and they would all want to be in my life. I was like this shining force that people loved. I was the person they turned to when they needed a friend, and I was a great friend. I was the one they would always want to call. I was the one they all wanted to spend time with. My time was so valuable to everyone that it was like being mobbed by fans to find time for all my imaginary friends.

It was a great feeling, to be loved, and admired. I felt like I was this great, special person. I was this important person to all these other people. I was one person they thought of often. whatever party, or event, birthday, or celebration, it didn’t matter, my “friends” always made sure to invite me. It wasn’t a party without me. My imaginary friends would be heartbroken when I had to say no to their invitations. They would beg and plead for me to be there. Me being there was what would make it great. And that feeling, it was so nice. I never wanted that feeling to end.

But then, one day, it did. Because I grew up. We moved, and I got my own room, which was great for helping to build the imaginary world, but slowly my imaginary world started to change. Real life filtered in a lot and it was getting harder and harder to maintain my magnificent world.

And then one day I stopped believing that I was special.

I don’t remember what happened, or the moment it changed, but around the age of 13 or 14 my world turned from sparkly to dark. It went from full of friends to no one. I went from being the important one, to being the forgotten one. It went from everyone likes me, to people not seeing me at all. Not only did I not see myself as special anymore, but now I was starting to believe I was never special in the first place at all, and that I wasn’t worthy of living.

I wish I could pinpoint where it crashed. Or why. Maybe then I could re-trace my way back to feeling special. Maybe then I could have some friends back. Maybe then I would be seen and I would be important, to someone. But I have a sinking feeling that path is long gone, never to be found again. I miss the days when I felt special, and that everyone liked me, and everyone wanted to be my friend.

Now I believe the total opposite of every person I know. Whether they are already in my life or not. That no one likes me. No one thinks of me as important. I am not special. Sometimes I feel like a fool for ever having believed it in the first place. I am not special.

I wish I was though.

*TW* Should I Stay, or Should I Go?

Dealing with suicidal thoughts and feelings are overwhelming and frustrating and it’s only made further confusing and frustrating by not necessarily actually wanting to die. At least not right now.

When the idea of wanting to die starts to float through my mind, I sort of let it drift in and out, testing the waters to see how serious I am about it, and if it will stick around or was it just a passing thought. Most of the time it just goes away on its own and nothing else happens.

But sometimes it doesn’t go away. Sometimes it sticks around and becomes more than just a floating thought, it becomes an idea, which is one step away from planning, and that is one small step from attempting. It starts to grow inside my mind and slowly I start to notice and consider all the passive ways that I could die, all of the ways that I wouldn’t be responsible for my life ending so I wouldn’t have to worry about how to do it, and I wouldn’t have to worry about hurting anyone left behind. I wouldn’t have to worry beforehand about people wondering what happened and why I did what I did, nor would any of my family or friends. It would be taken care of by fate and no one would be the wiser that it was what I wanted to happen all along. Of course this passive plan has its faults because there’s also a very good chance it might not happen, and if I’m feeling really low and looking for an out this can be kind of an inconvenience because I want things to end but I’m not yet willing to be the cause of it. In this case any attempts at dying would have to be by my hand so there are pluses and minuses to the passive route.

When I start to imagine the passive ways that my life could end, I know that this is a crossroads for me; I’ll either go down the one road to a much darker place where the passive route of death moves from a wish to a want and then it gets even darker and I actually move into planning or attempting, the other road I decide it’s not really what I want and look for help and ways to come out of the dark place.

Leaving the decision to fate always starts out so tempting, like when I’m standing on the sidewalk at the bus stop wondering if I tripped and fell into the street, would I be hit by a bus and killed? Or if someone knocked me into the street into the path of any oncoming vehicle, would I be killed? What if there was any kind of accident and I was killed? The ideas and fantasies, if you will, become quite fantastical. And in my defense, none of them are totally out of the realm of happening because weird things and accidents happen every day in every country in the world, and whose to say one of them won’t happen to me.

I also consider at this time the even more passive ways my life could end, like if I don’t take care of myself maybe nature will decide for me. I could have a heart attack, or a stroke, or I could get sick. This way however could potentially take months, or even years to happen, if they happen at all, so this route, though it’s relatively easy, is not the most effective way of them all.

What if I stop eating and moving, will my heart give out? What if I find something toxic and it “accidentally” gets ingested? What if I self-harm, will I strike the wrong spot and die? The ways to be killed and die are endless, and it’s amazing at what I start to imagine and hope for that will cause my life to end, yet will be little to no work on my part. It’s skewed thinking I know, but it’s hard not to entertain the thoughts when it feels like it’s the only way out.

I do have to question how much of these thoughts, particularly when they remain as thoughts and don’t move into planning or attempting, is about control. When I feel a lack of control about life in general, and my emotions and thoughts are all over the place, one way to take back that control is to know I have the authority to say when it all ends, even if it means taking my own life. It’s extreme but it gives me some sense that I have a say in what’s happening. When everything else feels like it is being done to me, and I am just stuck on the roller coaster forced to endure the constant ups and downs that wrench me from state to state, taking the reins on whether I live or not feels like I finally have a say. Suddenly the roller coaster ride, though still hard and frustrating, becomes a little less violent and overwhelming, knowing I can just stand up and jump out of my seat and end the ride permanently.

There are times when I wonder if my solitude is a means for me to slowly extract myself from other people’s lives so if something were to happen to me, and I were to die, whether by accident, nature or by my hand, it will hurt less. For them and for me. I can convince myself that because I haven’t talked to people in a while it will be easier to leave them, and I can believe that they feel the same. I can push people away, or keep them at arm’s length because it will be easier to leave if I have no one close to me. And I can tell myself that no one cares because they aren’t around. So I may as well be gone.

All of the things I would distance myself from; friends, family, work, interests, hobbies, and dreams, and then I will have nothing left to stay for. I can leave without feeling anything because everything I cared about is either gone or taken away. I would convince myself of all of this in order to make it easier.

It’s in this state of mind that the passive ways to die aren’t good enough or fast enough for me, and I actually start looking and considering how I want to end it. This is when I am in the darkest of places and this time it might be the last.

The uncertainty of life terrifies me enough that it paralyzes me. And the farther I am from all that I care about and love, the easier it becomes to end it for good. My reasons for living will be gone and there will be nothing to hold me here. Why would I stay here if no one is looking for me? Why would I stay if no one is seeing me? Why would I stay if no one is paying attention to me? Why would I stay if everyone else has better things to do? Why would I stay if my dreams are dead? Why would I stay if I have no interests or purpose? Why would I stay if I am alone?

I am not yet sure what will happen.

*TW* When It Feels Like the Only Way Out

One of the hardest things about BPD is the suicide ideation. It can come out of nowhere and for seemingly no good reason. But when it does happen it feels like it’s the only way out. It feels like all options have been eliminated and the list of choices has shrunk to one.

And it can turn on a dime. In the morning things might not be so bad but by the end of the day the feelings and thoughts become so loud and mean and they just get louder and louder until it feels like suicide is the only way out.

I always think something is wrong with me. I always feel broken when I start to think suicidal thoughts. I hate the bombardment that comes over me because it’s a torturous cycle.

My thoughts race through my mind at a million miles a minute, and they are relentless. My mind feels like it’s on overdrive and my emotions feel like they’re on a high speed roller coaster that won’t stop. It leaves me paralyzed, scared, and tired. The thoughts come at me…and I start to believe that I am unworthy and unloved…I start to believe that I am hopeless and helpless and alone…It feels like things will never get better and my life will be plagued by these evil thoughts forever. There is no respite from them.

My mind says…you are unloved…you are unlovable…you are unworthy…you will be left behind…you are a failure…there is nothing redeemable about you…you are flawed…you are broken…you are nothing.

And I wonder…What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do better? Why can’t I be better? Why do I try if all I will achieve is failure? Why do I constantly try to fit in and belong when I should know better, that I am not worthy of better, and I don’t deserve it.

I am manipulative. I am a bitch. I am undeserving and I am alone and that is one thing that I do deserve.

The thoughts pour over me like a waterfall and my emotions are along for the ride on this violent roller coaster trying not to cry or fall off but also wanting desperately for it to stop. My anxiety climbs to its limit pushing me into dissociation and numbness because it’s the only way I can cope with the bombardment.

I am to blame for all that is wrong with me and for all that I fall short on. I am a disgrace and a disappointment.

As these thoughts get louder and meaner I start to spiral down and it could be days or weeks, sometimes months, before it eventually lands me in a dark place of solitude where I start to build walls around me so I can try to keep all the pain away.

But somehow the thoughts and the pain find their way in and now I am in a dark enclosed space with them where they become deafening and I can’t stop crying but I feel powerless to stop them. I try to plug my ears but they work their way into my mind where I have no peace from it all.

And so I think of the only way out and the only way to silence all the mean thoughts and derogatory comments is to die. That dying is the only way to finally have some peace and quiet. Dying is the only way to stop hearing all the mean things, and it’s the only way to get rid of the pain, it’s the only way I can finally get ahead of the thoughts and shut them down for good.

Sometimes it’s not that I want to die as much as it’s about wanting all the thoughts and emotions that overwhelm me to stop, and death feels like that’s the only way it will happen.

Desperate thoughts lead to desperate actions and as much as I wish it didn’t need to go that far, I can’t help that it does. The pain is too great. The thoughts are too mean. The emotions are too much. There is only so much I can take. I hope to get past it without extreme measures but I can’t promise it won’t.