My life with Mental Illness – Part one – Borderline Personality Disorder *Contains upsetting material*

I thought I’d blog some more about myself and my mental illness. I have been diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Psychosis.

These disorders make my life very hard.

Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder is the new title for what was formally known as Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a fairly new diagnosis to me, as I was only told I have this a couple of months ago. I don’t fully understand the diagnosis, but when looking over the diagnostic criteria it fits me to a tee.

The following paragraph I have taken from the Mind Website:

Below are the symptoms of borderline personality disorder according to government guidelines (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence [NICE] 2009). A doctor may diagnose you with borderline personality disorder if you have five or more of these symptoms and if the symptoms have a significant impact on your everyday life.

  • you have emotions that are up and down (for example, feeling confident one day and feeling despair another), with feelings of emptiness and often anger
  • you find it difficult to make and maintain relationships
  • you have an unstable sense of identity, such as thinking differently about yourself depending on who you are with
  • you take risks or do things without thinking about the consequences
  • you harm yourself or think about harming yourself (for example, cutting yourself or overdosing)
  • you fear being abandoned or rejected or being alone
  • you sometimes believe in things that are not real or true (called delusions) or see or hear things that are not really there (called hallucinations).

I thought I would break down these symptoms into each individual one and put how these are fitting for me.

  • you have emotions that are up and down (for example, feeling confident one day and feeling despair another), with feelings of emptiness and often anger

I spend my life living on a roller coaster with my emotions. One minute I can be absolutely fine, the next I am sobbing hysterically and the next laughing my head off at something funny. This could be typical for many people, but for me I go from the extremes of one emotion to the extremes of another within seconds or minutes. I get angry easily, and could be laughing along with a joke one minute and the next I am shouting or swearing because something (or sometimes nothing specific) has made me loose my temper. I often feel like I am out of control because my emotions change so rapidly. This is both scary and frustrating for me and those around me. As for feeling empty, I sometime feel like there is cotton wool in the place where my brain should be. I will feel numb when I should feel emotions and feel emotion when other people wouldn’t. It really does feel like a roller coaster ride just getting through each day

  • you find it difficult to make and maintain relationships

Well this is a huge part of my life. I find it so hard to make friends and often when I do make a new friend I lose another 3 in their place. I haven’t really had a successful romantic relationship, in fact I have put myself in many negative friendships and relationships over the years. This has lead to me being abused, bullied even raped as a result of my bad choices in relationships. I lost a very close long standing friend last year, and I put this down to my complete social ineptness. I am useless at maintaining good friendships and over the years friends have come along slowly as I am wary of making friends and left very quickly as a result of being unable to cope with my illness. I also just don’t know how to have a good friendship and as a result have hurt and been hurt by many people.

  • you have an unstable sense of identity, such as thinking differently about yourself depending on who you are with

In other words, I change depending on whose company I am keeping. This is another reason the people around me find me difficult. I mimic the behaviours of others, I am easily influenced by others behaviours and this makes me feel like I don’t have a true and real ME. I also fail to see my good points and see bad points as the be all and end all of who I am.

  • you take risks or do things without thinking about the consequences

I am always doing silly things. I am a self harmer, I have been for 13 years. I will self harm without realising I am doing it. I also do risky things like attempt suicide by overdose, hanging or cutting myself open. I don’t think about what might happen when I do these things. They just sort of happen. This is scary, and I hate this. I also scare other people when I do these things.I am not good at avoiding risks, I often forget to look when crossing the road, I go out walking on my own in the dark, I do things that are dangerous without even thinking what may happen. This can be both exhilerhating and terrifying. I have found myself in some horrible situations as a result, including being the wrong side of the railings of a motorway bridge in Sheffield, or like a few weeks ago, slumped at my door frame having impulsively taken a large amount of my medication. I know this frightens and scares people, but having had this as part of my diagnosis might explain why I do these things. I also broke my back as the result of attempting suicide by drop hanging. This was the ultimate impulsive action, where I did not consider the consequences of my actions. The rope wasn’t strong enough and snapped. As a result I broke my back and now suffer chronic pain and sciatica. Two things I didn’t even consider when I let myself drop onto a dressing gown cord trusting it would kill me.

  • you harm yourself or think about harming yourself (for example, cutting yourself or overdosing)

I spoke about these two things in my previous paragraph. I started self-harming at 14 as a result of childhood trauma and bullying in school. I remember the first time I ever self harmed like it was yesterday – I fell into a rose bush and scratched my arm. I sat fascinated by the blood running down my arm, feeling like it was so how making me clean. I liked the feeling it gave me, the pain of the scratch made me stop thinking about the horrible bullying I was facing in school. So I grabbed a thorn from the bush and cut myself with it a few more times. It hurt, but I felt like I deserved to feel the pain. I have now been a self-harmer for almost 13 years. I am covered in horrible scars and injuries. Most recently I burnt myself quite badly. It still hurts alot, requires daily medical attention and looks hideous, but for some reason it comforts me. It makes me stop thinking about the pain in my heart and mind for a few moments. I also self harm as punishment. I feel like I deserve to be punished for all the bad things I have done in my life. It also gives me a sense of release. When words fail me, I turn to a blade or something to burn with. This behaviour has become very extreme. As a result of this, and another self-harm method of overdosing, I have been hospitalised for most of the last 4 and a bit months. I am addicted to self harming. Sometimes I will self harm for no reason. Sometimes I self harm because I have no other way of releasing how I feel. Sometimes I self harm just because nothing else helps. Other times I self harm to prevent myself from attempting suicide. I also hear voices or have “command hallucinations” that tell me to self harm. Every day I go without self harming is a challenge. I hate it. I have ruined my arms and scarred the tops of my thighs quite badly too. It’s not about trying to kill myself. It is not for attention. If it was, half of you reading this would not be suprised to hear I do this. The other people reading this will only know I have told them because I had to, or because I needed help. It is a secretive behaviour, not something I am proud of. In fact I feel very ashamed. I hope one day I will learn other way to cope but for now, every time an emotion overwhelms me I will most likely self harm.

  • you fear being abandoned or rejected or being alone

This is a huge thing for me this year. I have pushed away alot of friends and others have walked away. Since 2011 7 people I have known have commited suicide. Other friends have just dissapeared. I am lucky to have the friends I do have, but I constantly fear the are going to reject me or leave me. So I cling tightly to the people I call friends. This sometimes makes it too intense to be my friend. I have had several friends say to me “sorry Sarah, I can’t do this anymore” and I haven’t seen them since. I often feel like my parents have abandoned me too. They haven’t they speak to me at least once a day. I just find it hard since they have moved away to feel like they haven’t abandoned me. I also getting extreme paranoia about my friends and family dying. I feel like everyone leaves me in the end. I also feel very alone. I can be in a room full of people and feel very lonely. It is a horrible feeling. I feel like nobody understands me. As a result of this symptom of my illness I also push people away. I do this out of fear they are going to abandon me one day anyway, so it feels easier if I push them away. This is a very hard part of my illness to cope with. It makes me feel like no-one cares about me. Even my best friends sometimes get badly treated out of my fear of being abandoned. I don’t mean to push people away, but it is truly out of fear of rejection.

  • you sometimes believe in things that are not real or true (called delusions) or see or hear things that are not really there (called hallucinations).

This is another huge part of my illness. I mentioned earlier I hear voices. I also can sometimes smell things others can’t. I sometimes see things that frighten me and even though when I am well I know they are not real it often feels like they are really truly there. It scares me to death. It can also be quite amusing. Some of the things I have hallucinated have been so strange it’s funny when I look back. At the time though it is terrifying. The voices I hear are all bad voices bar one. Even he is not pleasant to hear. But this voice protects me from the others. I call and visualise him as a rock. He looks and sounds a little like my Granddad who died when I was 7. The only thing that separates him from Granddad is the fact that he is horrible. My granddad was a very kind caring man. I know these hallucinations aren’t real things, and that nobody else can hear or see them. Sometimes it would be reassuring if they could. These voices have damaged my self esteem tremendously. I feel like no-one likes me, that no-one trusts me or believes what I say. This is the hardest part of my illness. Especially as my voices intend to do me serious harm.

I have written more than enough for this post. I intend my next post to be about PTSD, where I shall share more about my past with my readers. I know this post is long and deep. I know that some of what I have written may upset some people. If I have upset you I am sorry. That was never my intention. I intend through these blogs to help people to understand me more. I also intend for people who are suffering like me to read this and know they are not alone.

Thanks for having the patience to read this post. It is quite long.

As BPD is a new diagnosis for me I am sure I will return to the topic in future. I just felt like this post would help people understand me better, and hope that it may help fellow sufferers of BPD to realise they are not alone in their struggles.

Thanks again for reading. I hope I haven’t traumatised you in the process.

Advertisements

Stigma…

They say the beginning is a good place to start (the sound of music song was going to be my title) however I keep on trying to start this blog at the beginning of my life, working chronologically through my experiences and building my story as I go on. However this is proving a huge challenge and I’ve almost started writing an autobiography in the process, soon deleting it straight after. So I’ve decided to start with the here and now.

As I am writing this I am sat on my bed in my room in a psychiatric hospital, where I have been staying for the majority of the past 4 months, I became unwell in September and was admitted first to a psychiatric ward in Bridgend and soon after being discharged from there I was admitted to this hospital, Cefn Coed.

Locals joke as the words Cefn Coed in Welsh apparently (i don’t speak Welsh) means back of the woods, which is somewhat amusing,if not a little politically incorrect, as people who come here are said to be backwards,

I know I certainly feel like my mind works in reverse to many other people’s.

I wanted to post yesterday about stigma surrounding having a mental illness or poor mental health, and I have already given a good example of how unkind people can be about people struggling with mental illness.

We all use phrase like ‘I’m going nuts’ and ‘she’s a psycho’ in our day-to-day speech. However these terms can actually seem quite cruel to some people with mental ill-health.

If I could change the world one little bit, my first step would be to eradicate stigma surrounding mental illness. In my time in this hospital I have heard one to many times people say terms jokingly such as the above or similar and wanted to shout and scream, ‘I’m one of ‘them”, another expression I’ve heard used about people, who under the surface are just wounded and broken people like any other person you might meet on the street, however because mental illness is most often unseen people misunderstand and get scared.

You wouldn’t look at me and guess I suffer from mental health issues. I in fact have had mental health problems for years, during which time I have worked, been in education, volunteered and even presented at large meetings and an international conference.

I try not to let my mental health issues rule my life. This is made harder by ignorance and abuse from people who just purely don’t understand.

During my stay in hospital I have met many different people, all very kind and polite, a few a bit angry with the world, a few very scared people, but every single individual I have met has one thing in common, we are all human with feelings that are easily hurt by words used out of line.

The education I received in school taught me little about mental illness, and I have to admit I am as guilty as the next person for incorrectly labelling people as crazy or insane. In fact until I was diagnosed with a mental illness at 15 I hadn’t got a clue what it meant to be mentally unwell, let alone that labels and words stick firmly when considering mental illness.

The is the now for me a big and very difficult prospect as I have recently been given the diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder which was formally known as Borderline Personality Disorder. This label instantly filled me with fear. not because it was a new symptom or set of symptoms, but because of the stigma that automatically pops into peoples head when they hear that label used.

I am sure some of you might have to double take when reading this. How did you not know? This is because of my fear of stigma. Also because I don’t feel the need to introduce myself with ‘hi, I’m Sarah, I have BPD.’ Why should I?

If someone had a tangible illness or injury such as a broken leg, they don’t have to introduce themselves as being unwell. They would gain automatic sympathy from people, people would reach out to help and encourage that person in their recovery. This doesn’t often happen with mental illness. Why? Because people are afraid, don’t understand or know enough about how to help.

This can easily be a problem solved in my eyes. People with mental ill health need to be more willing to be open about their illness, be prepared to face the stigma to fight the stigma and more education is required around mental illness.

I am sure I will come back to speaking about Stigma in a later blog, but now I wish to link you to a previous blog I wrote for the Mental health Charity Hafal, (Hafal in welsh means equal)

I was going to post it as a blog here but though leaving it in context and linking you to it would be more helpful

http://www.mentalhealthwales.net/mhw/documents/mhw_winter11.pdf  (My piece is on page 7)

I hope this post has helped open your eyes to the struggles people with mental health issues face on a daily basis surrounding stigma. I’m sure I’ll return to the topic many more times on later dates as there is so much more to say.

My one request is this, Please think before you speak. Most negative comments can be avoided if we all stop to think before we let words fall out of our mouths…

Thanks for reading!!

So for the new year I shall start a blog… I shall start with a bit about me

I am Sarah Rachel Stanyon.

I’m 26.

I grew up in a Christian home first living in Hampshire, then Warrington, Cheshire and we moved to Swansea when I was 13. I would say I had a good childhood all in all, saw some amazing things whilst on holidays and met some fantastic people. However throughout my childhood I went through some traumatic experiences in the outside world that have shaped who I am today.

At the age of 15 I was taken under Mental health services and diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I have been under mental health services ever since. I have recently been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder with Psychosis. In this blog I intend on helping myself and the people around me to understand who I am. This will hopefully be therapeutic in my road to recovery from my mental illness and also informative for people around me.

I also hope me sharing my life with you through this blog means I have impacted on people’s lives, even if just very slightly. You see for me, the stigma attached to having a mental illness is unbearable, unfair and if I’m totally honest, downright unnecessary. so the third aim to this blog is to educate people about mental illness, to make people aware that it isn’t the end of the world being mentally ill and my ultimate aim is to contribute to the eradication of stigma towards mental illness. So that is why I wish to write and share this blog.

I have the best intentions of blogging on a daily basis and have already started writing a few posts to come in recent days or weeks. I cannot promise that I will stick to blogging, but my aim for the year is to be as expressive as I can and so writing is one way of doing that.

If you have read this far I am pleased. I hope to keep you interested a little while longer.

The other things I intend to blog about is my day-to-day thoughts and feelings. These may hurt or offend certain sensitive people, and I know I cant always be popular, but it is vital to my recovery I express these thoughts and feelings, I just hope I don’t offend anyone in the process.

This has been a long first post, but hopefully I have captured your eye and you will be willing to read more tomorrow.