Lets Talk About Borderline Personality Disorder

Welcome to the third post of the 9-part series! (You can find the first two by clicking on the links below)

1 – Childhood and School

2 – Becoming a Parent

The intention of this post is to talk about my diagnosis. I think I’m mainly going to discuss my thoughts and feelings surrounding the reality of being diagnosed with “Borderline Personality Disorder” (BPD), especially the ones I felt when I was first diagnosed but we’ll see how it goes. This post has been the hardest to write so far. I’m not sure which aspects to focus on or what message I want to get across but anyway, I hope it is still insightful.

I use the “” when I write the diagnosis because I don’t quite agree with the name of it. What I feel the name says to those who know nothing about it, is that the person suffering has a ‘disordered personality’; there’s something ‘wrong’ with it and therefore with them as a person. Your personality is pretty much who you are and to have a label attached to it which basically calls it ‘disordered’ is a bit shitty to be honest. It’s not really surprising that there’s still a huge stigma attached to the “personality disorder” illnesses and I feel the name contributes to a large part of it.  I do NOT have a disordered personality, I am NOT flawed and my diagnosis does NOT define me as a person; it is NOT who I am.

Things have, however, changed slightly! BPD is now also known as “Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder” (EUPD) which admittedly does get shot of the outdated ‘borderline’ part of the name but, the ‘personality disorder’ is still present, therefore not changing much in my opinion. I believe that the connotations of the phrase ’emotionally unstable’ are still mostly negative and further contribute to the stigma. It is often debated that the ‘PD’ should be dropped completely. I’ve mentioned it in a previous post that BPD is thought to stem from trauma in childhood and therefore should be named something which reflects the trauma it is caused by. I tend to agree.

Anyhow, the name of the illness doesn’t make a difference to the symptoms of the illness, they’re still the same.

There are 9 main symptoms of BPD (although, I feel there’s a lot more to it than these 9). In order to be diagnosed with it you need to be showing signs of at least 5 of these to a point where they affect your life;

  • Fear of abandonment and doing anything to prevent that from happening
  • Intense emotions that can change extremely quickly
  • Unstable relationships and difficulty making/maintaining relationships
  • Unclear or unstable self-image which can change depending on who you’re with
  • Impulsive, self-destructive behaviours including doing things that could harm you such as binge eating, reckless driving, promiscuity, gambling or getting into debt
  • Frequent self-harm or suicidal thoughts
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Explosive anger which is often difficult to control and can be triggered by seemingly ‘trivial’ things
  • Feeling suspicious or out of touch with reality also known as paranoia and dissociation

If you would like to read further about the symptoms and the illness itself, I have attached a link here (Mind Borderline Personality Disorder booklet) which can be downloaded as a PDF and printed or read online. I find it extremely helpful and insightful, and I often direct those who aren’t familiar with the illness to it.

I experience every single one of the 9 symptoms listed above. Thankfully not all at the same time and a handful of them are currently more under control than others, but it’s not an easy mental illness to live with. The aspects I seem to be struggling with most at the minute are my emotions and unstable relationships. I think they can both be a result of each other. My emotions are so intense and can go from one extreme to the other in minutes and it’s exhausting. However, it is also understandable that this is exhausting for others to be around too and I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my friends because of it lately but, shit happens, I’ll get over it and move on I suppose.

I was diagnosed with BPD (I’ll call it this throughout for the sake of consistency) around 6 months ago (I’m lying, I’ve just checked and I have been diagnosed with it a whole year now come September 21st and that has surprised me so much, wow). Along with the diagnosis of BPD I was also told that I have depressive and paranoid traits and I didn’t agree with the paranoid traits at first but, the more I become self-aware the more I can see this.

It’s a funny one being diagnosed. There’s a lot of mixed feelings, well, there was for me. In some ways, I felt relieved. There was finally an explanation for my thoughts and behaviours. I always felt there was more to my mental illness than depression and anxiety (not that having any of those is easier or less simple, it’s not. I understand everyone has their own battle). But, it always felt more complicated in my mind, and now I knew why. The diagnosis also meant I could now receive the correct treatment and work towards improving my life. Apparently, there isn’t a cure for BPD but with the right therapy and treatment it can be controlled.

However, I also immediately felt like everything was going to change now I had been given this horrifically stigmatised label. I felt people were going to suddenly start judging me when they found out and I would be treated badly or differently because of it. Even though BPD had been suspected by myself and my therapist for a while, it still came as a shock and I still had to process it all. What did this mean for my future? Would it prevent me from getting a job? Is it something I’m going to have to hide from everyone? Am I going to be like this forever? All of these questions were buzzing around my head and in the end, I felt like everything was going wrong.

I became quite ill as I couldn’t process it all, but I’m now finally starting to realise that it’s not all that bad. Things haven’t change that much since my diagnosis, it hasn’t been a catastrophe and the world is still revolving. It was just inside my head, being the massive over-thinker that I am. I have now realised I am still me. I’ve lived with BPD for years anyway, just without knowing what it was, so if anything I have more clarity now and that’s not a bad thing, however shitty a diagnosis of BPD may seem.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that a mental health diagnosis or label does not change who you are as a person, it does not make you any less of a person and it should never define you. People who care will still care, whether or not you have something to call the bunch of symptoms you experience or not. Because at the end of the day, thats all it is, a bunch of symptoms and because of the society we live in, they have to be labelled and we all have to fit nice and neatly into little square boxes, when in reality, everyone is different. No two mental health illnesses are the same, every individual has their own experience of it and that’s okay.

So, no matter how much stigma I may face or how unworthy BPD can make me feel, I am going to keep talking about it. Talking about it helps me and hopefully helps others. Talking about it will normalise it and will hopefully help reduce the stigma and that’s what I’m here to do.

I might have BPD but I won’t let it define me.

As always, thank you for reading and I hope it was in some way valuable to you. I’d love to know your thoughts on the BPD label, do you feel the name of it fits? What should it be instead? Also, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Caitlin

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Becoming a Parent

I hope everyone that read the first blog post of the series found it interesting and insightful. It was a bit of a tough subject to talk about.

I’m looking forward to writing this blog post as it is going to be a lot more positive! I will be focusing on my experience of becoming a parent, and also what that’s like being a parent with a mental illness.

I became a parent in 2014, I was just 18 years old. I found out I was pregnant 3 days after my 18th birthday, I was shit scared and didn’t have a clue what I was going to do. I kept it to myself (bar a few trusted people) for a while before I plucked up the courage to tell my Nana and Mam.

As you may have gathered from the last post, I was going “off the rails” when I was 16/17. I was reckless and drunk most of the time. I ended up falling pregnant and it wasn’t planned. Regardless of that, I now have a beautiful daughter who has almost certainly changed my life for the better. She may not have been planned but she was never unwanted, and she is my absolute treasure.

My family and a handful of my close friends were unsure about me having a baby, they tried to persuade me to have an abortion as it would ‘ruin my future and my education’, I was ‘too young for a baby’, it would ‘tie me down’ etc. All I can say is I’m glad I had a few trusted people who I could talk to, who were impartial about the situation and wanted to help me make the choice that was right for ME, no-one else. It’s safe to say now that there are no regrets about deciding to keep my daughter. Despite the advice they tried to give me, my family love her to bits and wouldn’t have her any other way now.

After I eventually decided to keep my baby, things changed completely. I felt better, I now had something to live for. My body was working hard to grow this tiny human and it needed me to be the best I could be. I immediately stopped the drinking and smoking etc and I was happy. My baby was all I could think about.

Ava Grace was born on the 1st of July 2014. I chose the middle name Grace as she was (and still is) my saving grace, if it weren’t for her, I am almost certain I wouldn’t be alive today. I am thankful for her every single day of my life and she is still the reason I continue to fight and try to be the best parent I can be for her.

I’ve been a single parent her whole life. I lived with my Nana until she was 1 and I am eternally grateful for the support I received and continue to receive from her, she’s one in a million. Aged 19 I moved into my first home, at the same time I went back to college to complete an access course so that I could go to Uni the following year. Here I am now ready to start my final year in a few weeks, with the hope of doing a masters degree the year after. Ava starts ‘big school’ on Wednesday and we’re moving to a beautiful new home again very soon. When I put it like that, I can see that I have come one hell of a long way from where I was 4/5 years ago.

However, it hasn’t always been an easy ride. It was difficult right from the very beginning. After Ava’s birth, I was rushed straight to theatre and missed the first few hours of her life, I felt as though I didn’t have that ‘instant bond’ with her because of this, (however I know now that this can be totally normal). I needed two blood transfusions and I was in hospital for 3/4 days. I was connected to drips and bed-bound. This made it hard for me to care for Ava properly, half of the time it was my Nana or the midwives who tended to her, I already felt like a failure.

As the weeks went on and the ‘baby blues’ period passed, I found I was still crying a lot and thinking about how I wasn’t a good enough parent to Ava. I’d put on a smile and tell people I was loving being a parent when they asked. However, due to already having depression before I was pregnant, I knew deep down that there was a high chance of having post-natal depression, but I tried to ignore it. Surely, I had no reason to be depressed now? I had a gorgeous baby and was doing well, becoming a parent is meant to be a happy time, right? I’m afraid this is not true in every instance.

Unfortunately, mental illness can affect anyone at any time, whether there is a ‘reason’ or not. Sometimes the chemicals in our brains are just imbalanced, or there isn’t enough serotonin being produced and so on. I eventually went to the doctors as I figured crying myself to sleep every single night wasn’t healthy. I was given anti-depressants which did help but I always felt there was something more complicated. I was recently diagnosed with BPD which explains why I had those feelings.

Being a parent is hard to begin with, being a parent with a complex mental health illness is harder still. I constantly worry that my mental health is going to have an impact on Ava and I still worry I’m not good enough for her. Trying to not let my illness affect my parenting is tough and recently, because I know Ava is a smart little kid, I’ve started being more open with her about it. I’ll tell her things like “Mammy isn’t feeling very well today, she’s a little bit sad” and she is amazing with it. She’ll give me a hug to ‘make me feel better’ and come up to me throughout the day to ask me if I’m okay. She is so understanding and fabulous, I just love her.

Some people may frown upon being open with their kids about their mental health from such a young age, but I believe that doing so will normalise it all for Ava. She’ll know that it’s okay to talk about this kind of thing and if, in the future she ever feels depressed or anxious or anything else, then she will know she can talk to me about it openly. Too many kids are hiding mental health issues from their parents in fear of how they might react and leaving it until they hit breaking point before telling anyone, I don’t want it to be that way for Ava.

So yeah, being a young, single parent, as well as being a student to try and better myself for Ava, might be difficult but, it is 1000% worth it. I may still have my struggles but I’m trying my best to work through them, and battle against my demons, all so I can be the best possible parent to my daughter. It’s hard but it’s so rewarding, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Thank you for reading this post. As always, I’d love to hear what you think of it and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Caitlin

Childhood and School

Here is it, the first of the 9 blog posts talking about my experiences. I’m slightly nervous as I’ve not really shared anything this personal before but let’s give it a go.

I suspect I’m starting with one of the heaviest of them all; my childhood and school experiences. I’m going to give some detail of how I believe they contributed towards my mental illnesses.

Firstly, for those who don’t know, I’m diagnosed with ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ (BPD), also more recently recognised as ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’ (EUPD), the names of the illness alone are enough to stir up mixed feelings, especially in those who have never heard of them before but, more on that in a later post in this series! Alongside BPD, I’m also diagnosed with paranoid and depressive traits. So, there you have it, I’ve finally written it down.

Before I begin, I just want to place a trigger warning here and say that this post may contain mentions of self-harm and other upsetting content such as emotional abuse, bullying and suicidal thoughts. Yes, it’s one of those ones, sorry. (Nothing too deep or descriptive though).

I grew up living with my mam, step-dad, and two younger siblings. We lived a mundane life and for some weird reason, when I think about it, I see it in a kind of dull, grey colour. This probably represents how I feel about my childhood; it was bleak and miserable. I was emotionally abused by my step-dad, he was controlling, and I was scared of him. It was a confusing time for me; my mam would sometimes be there to defend me but most of the time, not.  In the end I moved in with my Nana when I was 12 to get away from it all which was better, but then my uncle, who was an alcoholic, moved in with us. I don’t want to go into detail because it stirs a lot up for me, but I do want to try and give you an idea.

One cause of BPD is thought to be experiencing a traumatic childhood, for example, emotional neglect (abandonment) or abuse, conflict and sadly more often than not, sexual assault. These experiences can cause a child to develop ways of coping, for example, frantic efforts to avoid being abandoned (one of the main symptoms of BPD), even if it means displaying negative behaviours to reach that desired outcome. (E.g. acting out and getting into trouble so a parent/caregiver would take notice). As a child, it is necessary to develop these coping strategies to survive and receive attention and care from parents/caregivers, however, as an adult, these mechanisms are viewed as unhealthy, but since they are developed in childhood, they’re difficult to change.

Anyway, I digress. My point is, I feel that my difficult childhood experiences contributed towards my diagnosis hugely. I look back and remember it as a very stressful and confusing time, I felt neglected by my Mam and like she didn’t love me or care about me. When I finally received my diagnosis and researched it online, things started to click into place, things are less confusing now and I think it is important for me to understand where it comes from. I don’t blame my mam or stepdad for my mental illnesses, neither do I hold it against them, but I do think it is obvious that it did play a part. It’s a subject which we tend to avoid nowadays.

(Side note: despite it all, my Mam, stepdad and I do all get along now, in fact, I was out getting rather drunk with them and my brother on Sunday… but let’s talk about school now)

I never had many friends at school, so I was alone a lot of the time, I was one of those kids who didn’t really fit in with any group, I always felt different. I used to ‘tag along’ with whoever would have me but always feel left out. I was an anxious kid, probably not helped by the situation at home. I used to time my walk to school on a morning so that I would arrive just as the buzzer was going off so I could go straight to class and not have to stand in the yard alone. The thought of school still makes me cringe now. It was awful and definitely contributed further towards my issues.

Towards the later years of secondary school, I became more aware of the anxiety and difficult thoughts I was having. I started self-harming. It was a release. I also started to feel suicidal. I remember trying to talk to a few teachers about it, but they would ring my Mam and invite her into school. I felt I couldn’t speak openly about the situation in front of her, so I would pass it off as the teachers just being ‘overly concerned’. So, I went through the whole of secondary school holding onto all of my thoughts and feelings and it was hard, especially when you throw GCSE exams into the mix.

There’s so much pressure on kids these days. I saw so many kids crying last week because they didn’t get the grades they wanted. The focus needs to be shifted away from the numbers and percentages. I don’t care if 99% of your pupils received A*-C grades, I’d much rather they were in an environment with less pressure to perform academically and more focus on wellbeing. The amount of stress and anxiety academic performance causes is completely unnecessary. What makes it worse is the fact that mental health still isn’t on the curriculum at most schools.

Despite my struggles, I managed to succeed with my GCSEs and move on to sixth form. There I was to study five AS levels but within the first month or so, I had dropped two of them because I just couldn’t handle the stress. I’d carried all of my worries with me to sixth form and they weren’t about to just disappear. Things got worse, I was self-harming almost every day, sometimes more than once a day. I would drink alcohol before I left for the school bus and I would abuse opiates, all just to help get me through the day. I was spiralling, and I didn’t think I was going to get out of this battle alive. However, here’s the positive bit…

I was fortunate enough to have a bloody amazing form tutor and I eventually opened up to him about everything. That’s when things started to change, it was out in the open now, I wasn’t keeping it all to myself and that alone was enough to make a difference. It still wasn’t easy, but I honestly can’t thank that teacher (and a few others) enough. If all schools could care about their pupils as much as this one did, I know for a fact that pupils would have a less stressful school experience. I never got to finish my A levels but that didn’t matter to them, I was more important to them as a person than my grades were and that was the most precious thing.

I feel like this post is just full of me rambling on but, you now know a little bit more about me (hopefully).

If anyone has any questions about absolutely anything then please, ask me.

Thanks for reading!

Caitlin

9 Blog Posts – The Plan

I posted a tweet a few days ago explaining that I was going to write a blog post about “my story”. I tried writing that. I figured it would end up being waaaaay too long. So instead, I have an idea!

I’m going to be publishing a series of blog posts based on different topics important to me, which are all a part of ‘my story’. Doing it this way will allow me to write in more depth about my personal experiences with each of the topics and it will (hopefully) raise some awareness of what others may also be going through and give you an insight.

I’m not entirely sure how this will all go as I’m a fairly new blogger so it will probably end as a disaster but, I’m going to give it a go!

I’ve decided on 9 blog posts in total and I will aim to write one a week, possibly publishing them on a Monday morning (I know, I know).

They will be focused on the following areas:

1. Childhood and School Experiences

2. My Experience with Becoming a Parent

3. My Diagnosis

4. Relationships and Friendships

5. How Extreme Moods Affect Me

6. My Self Image and Sexuality

7. Addiction

8. My Experience With Stigma

9. My Achievements Despite My Struggles

I hope these topics sound interesting and will be beneficial to read about. If you have any other suggestions of topics you would find interesting to read about then please let me know!

I’m excited but also slightly nervous about sharing my experiences in not just one blog post but a series of them(!). I feel this is a huge step for me to take within the blogging area so soon, fingers crossed it works out!

See you on Monday!

Caitlin

Time To Train!

I haven’t used my blog in a while but last weekend I was inspired by some lovely people to start writing again, so here I am!

I’ll be using my blog to speak openly and honestly about my mental health in order to help reduce the stigma surrounding it, and if doing so changes even something as small as one person’s negative attitudes, or helps others feel like they are less alone, then it will be worth it!

I recently applied to become a Time To Change Young Champion and to my surprise, I was one of 28 people (who are all incredible and inspiring) to be picked. I’ll therefore be campaigning with Time To Change and the Children and Young People’s Programme over the next 18 months, speaking out about mental health, reducing the stigma surrounding it and challenging (and hopefully changing) negative attitudes and beliefs regarding it.

All of the Young Champions were invited to Manchester last weekend to meet up with the TTC/CYP team and participate in a two day training event in preparation for our future campaigning, as well as getting to know one and other. I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say we had a blast!

For someone who thought about not going to the training and giving up before I had even started, I thoroughly enjoyed it and already can’t wait for further training and events to take place. After having some wonderful conversations with my fellow champions and listening to some lovely talks from some inspiring people, I’m starting to realise just how much I also have to offer. I am so glad I gave myself that little push, bit the bullet and got on that train because it was one of the best experiences I’ve had.

There’s just something so refreshing and beautiful about being in a room where not one teeny, tiny bit of stigma or judgement exists; it’s precious. So much so that leaving on Sunday was a little bit emotional! However, the experience has inspired me to campaign in the hope that one day, everywhere will be stigma free and people can talk openly about their mental health without anyone passing judgement; after all, this is Time To Change’s purpose!

I am quite a shy and nervous person and the expectations I had for the weekend were full of anxiety and awkwardness on my behalf, but I can honestly say it was the absolute opposite! Everyone was so welcoming, kind and understanding and I can’t seem to express just how much of a brilliant feeling that was, I feel privileged to have met all of these amazing people and now have the opportunity to work with them in the future.

Although the weekend was amazing and left me on quite a high, it was also physically and mentally draining. It took some time to readjust back to the ‘normal’ world but that’s where the helpful self-care tips we received really came into practice. So I’ve spent the week relaxing with my daughter and just generally taking the time I needed to unwind.

If I’ve learned one thing about the weekend, it’s that I need to be feeling at my best in order to give my best to others. I remember someone from the weekend saying something along the lines of ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup, you must fill your cup first and allow others to benefit from the overflow’ and it’s so true!

I’m so looking forward to getting my blog up and running again and also seeing what the future holds for me as a Young Champion!

Caitlin

Strong.

Depression has this funny way of catching you out.
It takes a back seat for a short time and tricks you into thinking that you can actually enjoy life without it bothering you.

Then suddenly, out of no where, it’s back.

And this is when it hits you hardest.

When it catches you off-guard.

It was the last thing you were thinking about and then all of a sudden there it is.

It’s looming over you like a great big, black cloud, ready to burst open at any minute.

You realise you cannot contain it and it all comes pouring down at once, like the heaviest rain you have ever felt.

It hits you hard.

You’re not sure what you’re going to do.

Where will you go from this point?

You realise you’re back down, at the bottom, and you’ve got to start again.

It’s a battle that you’re tired of fighting and you’re ready to throw in the towel and quit.

You can’t do this, not again.

Then you start to think about the good days.

You force yourself to think about the happiness your heart has felt.

The aches you feel in your stomach from laughing too hard.

It makes you smile through the tears which are currently filling your eyes.

You think about the good things in life and how much you have to look forward to.

The books you are yet to read.

The songs you are yet to hear.

The laughs you are yet to have.

The memories you are yet to make with your loved ones.

You realise that the battle to get back up there is worth it.

One hundred percent.

You know it will be hard but you have done it so many times before.

Depression will not win.

You are strong.