This is an introduction to the illnesses I’m officially diagnosed with, in my own words. Maybe you found this blog because you have these conditions yourself, or maybe you suspect you do. This is what PTSD and BPD is about for me……..
First there is PTSD me. When I look in the mirror there is no stereotypical male soldier looking back at me. I’m a woman (some would say a pretty one). At first glance no one would know I actually had post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unless I was to get triggered, there is nothing remarkable about me that you’d notice. You may not even notice an obvious change in me if I’d got triggered either. Maybe my eyes would have that faraway look. Maybe you’d notice my eyes darting around a little, scanning my environment for people and exits and safety. Maybe you might notice, though probably not.
I don’t tend to clamber up onto tables or run out of rooms to flee either, despite often wanting to). The PTSD part of me is characterised by helpless overwhelm, by sensory overload, fight or flight adrenaline and cortisol coursing through my veins and destroying my peace of mind without ever making a sound. The parts of the brain that register and respond to danger are lit up like the high wattage set of lights stringing around the branches of a department store christmas tree just after a power surge.
I’m as nervous as a rabbit in headlights but as calm in appearance on the outside as a dignified panther (Note to self- what the fuck?! Since when did panthers personify dignity?! I was just short of metaphors there for a moment :P)
The thing about PTSD is it’s invisible. I hide it so well. I mask the internal chaos and smile sweetly through it all as I don’t want to draw attention to myself-that only makes it ten times worse. It’s one thing for me to be ill, but to show you how ill I am would hurt and expose me too much. So I smile.
And then there’s BPD, short for Borderline Personality Disorder (other names for this are EUPD emotionally unstable personality disorder, emotional dysregulation disorder or emotional intensity disorder). The names all sound HORRIFIC if you ask me, but the diagnostic names are there in the first place because there are enough people out there with the same clusters of psychological issues to warrant the psychiatrists in power creating a
highly coveted deeply humiliating and stigmatising diagnostic category for us!
Newsflash. I HATE this BPD label that’s been stuck on me. Originally I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2. Weirdly, I was kinda OK with that one- maybe I could be a female equivalent of Stephen Fry I thought- a high achieving uber creative and intelligent success story…….nods but then came the recovered memories of my ritual abuse history (the source of my PTSD), and I then had to deal with the secondary trauma of being labelled with this truly horrible description of who I was.
Personality disordered Dr? Are you sure? This person who has a wide circle of friends? This person who has maintained a loving partnership with my man of 19 years? This person who is a loving caring mum to my two well-adjusted children who are securely attached to me and me to them? This person who got good grades all through school and studied for and passed two degrees? This person who is valued for my volunteering and what kind of a friend I am to people and the previous paid work I did before I had kids and this whole breakdown phase started to unfold. A personality disordered person did all that?? Wow-she sounds cool….doesn’t she? Not particularly disordered I’d say.
I’m a high functioning example of BPD. I think what that means in English is I am good at hiding my mad, and good at doing well and functioning shiny and brightly in spite of my mad.
I do know why I have the label though. She had her reasons…..it’s because of my sensitivity and the fluidity of my identity and my ability to swing in mood and suffer so often in a state of deep pain. That is why I have BPD. I’m an emotional burns victim who needs outside help to tend to my emotional wounds. That’s where the meds and therapy come in. I see my clinical psychologist weekly and she helps me keep walking on the sane and shiny end of the street.
I do need other people to help me stay emotionally afloat. Maybe my emotional sensitivity and need for others to be close to me in order to function optimally is what is the disordered aspect. But is it any wonder I need a bit of extra reassurance and soothing from kind humans when my entire personality disorder and the traits associated with it are borne from extended trauma?
BPD to me is a disorder that sad people get- it’s exclusive to people who feel things deep and hurt with extreme intensity, because invariably we’ve all been repeated scorched by the fiery destructive actions of significant others who said they loved us and failed miserably to prove it.
So how am I to conceptualise my illnesses and learn to live in relative harmony with them? Me and my psychiatrist eventually parted company. I grew weary of her limiting attitudes and stigmatised attitudes towards me. I got frustrated at the predictability of having my weaknesses amplified and my strengths ignored. I got sick of being treated like a messed up person with no prospects who needed wrapping up in NHS cotton wool. I’m not that person. No psychiatrist gets to decide who I am. I do.
I DO have prospects that exist outside of my illnesses. There IS a me that occupies the space beneath my bones and flesh that is independent of my diagnostic labels.
That all said, I write A LOT on summer starts to shine about the illnesses and symptoms I have, because when I’m not writing, I’m doing that thing called “living life”. I write about the challenges of finding a way forward on here because life with mental illness is bloody hard and I need my therapy. Writing gives me that relief and release and that freedom to express myself as I am, for me. If it helps you to read this too- then brilliant!
Regardless of whether I am happy or unhappy with the BPD & PTSD labels bestowed on me, I have issues, and my life is experienced as though I am some warrioress on the battle ground. Truth be told, I’d rather not be here on the frontline. I’d rather be somewhere cosy, making my life hygge, indulging in painting or reading or music or drawing or dreaming- planning my future on a blank piece of paper. I’d far rather be spending time in a secluded spot in nature all day long, with no sound other than the tweet of the birds and the rustle of wind beating it’s pathway through feathery fronds of greenery in it’s path.
I’d far rather be getting lost in a sunset, instead of getting lost inside my own head. But learning how not to be ill, when you’re ill, is tough, so maybe summer starting to shine is mainly just a blog about learning how to be ill as well as I possibly can- learning how to live well when your mind is a maze. Blogging allows me to inhale breaths of goodness to restore me while I’m stuck here in the mental health recovery labyrinth.
“Being ill well.” I think that’s pretty much what I’m aiming for, and what summer starts to shine is all about.
This is PTSD and BPD me, in my own words.