Dark times

Out of nowhere I’ve hit another dark time. I don’t know if it’s stress induced, med related, or just a season of my brain. But my monster has come out to play and it is effecting everything. 

I want to curl up in a ball and sleep for a month. I want to release the pressure in my arms. I want to cry and scream and hit things. But I’ve been practicing DBT and self care exactly for these moments. So I still meditate, still tell myself “it’s temporary” whether I believe it or not, and I still try to adjust my judgemental thoughts as much as possible. 

The lack of sleep and the monster marathon running through my head are making this hard. But I’ll get through. I’m a stubborn bitch like that. I hope.

Like a mime in a box

Most of the week I have felt trapped. Not like trapped at home, but like stuck in the outside world without escape. Coming home each night feels like freedom. Leaving in the morning is near terrifying. At work I feel the walls closing in and I begin to panic as I worry if I still have my escape route, if I can actually get out if I go into full panic mode. 

I was trying to explain this to my husband and the best I could describe is that I’m like a mime in a box. I’m trapped and the box is so close around me. You can’t see the box though, in fact the box doesn’t even exsist outside of my own mind. But you can see my fear and my stress. While I work so hard to hide my panic, some bits creep out and are visible, which makes the fear all the more real and intense. 

I hope to be the mime leaning on the table and eating grapes soon, but for now I will hide in the safety of my home as much as possible until the walls of the outside world stop closing in.

That’s what copiers are for right?

So I forgot my pills this morning. And felt continuously more wonky as the day went on. About 2pm I was ready to curl up into fetal position behind the office copier and have a full blown panic attack. That’s not really considered “professional” though, so I hid in the bathroom for 10 minutes instead and spent the rest of the work day with my earbuds in. Most people assume earbuds means I have a lot of paperwork and need music to keep me going, so it’s not questioned. I made it through the day… mostly… but got home dizzy and with 16 rubber bands on my right wrist to remind me of my failures. Or at least my perceived failures. But it’s temporary, right? The dizzy, the panic, the fear, the anger, the judgement of myself, it’s all temporary. Please remind me that it is temporary. I’m not sure I can trust my brain today, but I’m certain I can trust yours. 

Not a success, not a failure, just a day

I finished my day Saturday with only one rubber band on my right wrist. I was so proud of the proof that I am successfully changing my brain! Then on Sunday morning I had 4 rubber bands on the right wrist before 10am, and as I noticed this fact I was distraught at how I am clearly a failure who can’t change. And then I proceeded to move over the 5th rubber band.

If you didn’t read Saturday’s post then you are probably very confused right now. Don’t worry, we’re all confused about something right now. But to lower your confusion, I am doing an exercise from DBT where you tally your judgmental thoughts through the day. To tally, I am keeping a number of rubber bands on my left wrist, and when my brain goes all judgy I move one to the right wrist. Not only does this open my eyes to frequency of judgement, it also causes a natural pause. As I pause to move the rubber band I begin to rethink and rephrase the statement to be less assuming and more fact based.

As I moved the new rubber band on Sunday I rephrased that I am not a failure. I will have good days and bad. I am taking steps in the right direction and need to be patient. Something that occurred to me later on was that my excitement the previous night was also a judgement. I didn’t realize it at the time because I don’t usually judge myself positively, but it was. It could have been rethought as something like “I had a good day mentally. I am so glad I am taking these steps to become more mindful and honest.” Excitement would still have played a part in that, emotions are not the enemy, but it would have been more rational excitement that wouldn’t have made me feel quite so let down the following morning.

So today was a new day, and I continued to practice non-judgement. I worked hard to be mindful of the day itself and not dwell on yesterday or worry about tomorrow. I am proud that I am making progress regardless of my rubber band count at the end of each day, and I plan to continue my hard work towards better stability.

However I was not mindful enough to stop freaking out over a meeting I have next month that I am not prepared for in any way. But hey, mindfulness is hard and apparently I totally suck at it *moves rubber band*…. and I will continue to practice because these things take time. 😉

Even when stable

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. As per usual I parked in my normal row, the correct distance from a cart drop off spot, walked next to the same crosswalk I always do, through the same door and to the left as always. With my compulsive requirements met I was able to grab the two items I needed. Then half way to check out I began to panic. I was very suddenly concerned that the cash option of self checkout would be down and, as I was using cash, I would need to go speak to a person to pay. I wasn’t prepared for that.

So what happened? I’ve been doing so well, feeling stable, what changed? Well, nothing changed. The fact is “stable” doesn’t mean symptom free, or at least for me it doesn’t. It means my symptoms are dulled, and my mind more clear. The combination of the two make it easier to cope with what comes my way. A moment of panic over something random is fine. I felt it, acknowledged it, and worked through it. 

This is a normal thing for me. And I felt the need to explain. I don’t want to put out the mistaken belief that by “stable” I’m magically better. That feeling a sense of peace removes all non-peaceful symptoms. That by feeling less overwhelmed by emotion means that they aren’t still intense. That less impactful symptoms make my urge to self harm disappear. Because that’s not the case. What it means is that I can work through them easier, I can cope, I can fight urges with better success, and I also have more energy to do these things. 
I would compare this to taking cold medicine. Taking cold medicine doesn’t make all symptoms of the cold disappear, it simply makes the symptoms easier to deal with. I have more clarity of mind right now, and that clarity helps me more than anything. I don’t need to be symptom free as long as I have the ability to fight the symptoms successfully. 

Letters to myself

I realized something in therapy today. Technically something I’ve realized many times before and always understood about myself, but today it seemed more logically visible (those are the best words I can find to describe the feeling, sorry it doesn’t quite make sense).

One of the reasons I write this blog, and why I journaled before that, is because I don’t listen to myself. The logic in my brain tells me smart things and the rest of my brain looks at the logic part and says “screw you”. I speak to coping with mental illness and then fall into the same traps I warned about. I tell myself the right honest and realistic things and yet allow my emotions to completely warp the situation in my mind. For a long time I felt alone in this, but I no longer do.

In DBT you learn about the wise mind, which is like the middle ground where the rational mind and emotional mind meet. In CBT there is a part in one of the learning exercises that asks “what would you say to a close friend if they were feeling that way?” Just the fact that these are in well received and effective treatments tells me that I am not alone. That others struggle with this and succeed in their fight. So I can to.

When I am struggling I look back at some of my posts to see how I coped before, what I told myself before. And I look at your comments and see that you understand. And I rest in the fact that maybe I make you feel less alone just as you do for me. So I am writing myself this letter. But if it speaks to you you can adopt the letter as your own, or perhaps right a similar one more personalized to your path and your struggles.

Dear B.B.,

You are worthy. Though you often feel that you’re not, and you may believe the emotional mind more than the rational one, you are. Don’t forget that.

When you feel like you are failing, look at yourself through the eyes of your loved ones. See the success through them when you can’t see it through yourself. It is there.

Be kind to yourself, love yourself, forgive yourself. Show your children what it is to show yourself compassion even when the self confidence may not be there. Tell yourself what you would tell others. Show yourself the respect that you show those you care about. 

Remind yourself that everything is temporary. Good times are temporary, cherish them. Bad times are temporary, wait them out. You can make it through, you can succeed. Believe in that. And when your emotional mind gets in the way of that belief, say it anyway. Claim your success over and over again until the words are ingrained in you. You don’t have to believe it at that moment for it to still be true.

I believe in you, please believe in you too. You are worth it.

With Love,

Yourself

My chicken and egg conundrum 

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, I’m going with egg cause DNA mutations happen during cell division, right? But that’s beside the point, cause I don’t think I’m supposed to answer an unanswerable question. 

Oh, but answer to another “unanswerable” question… if the glass was less than the half way point and filled to the half way point then it is half full. If it was above the half way point and emptied to the half way point then it is half empty. Guess I’m not negative or positive, sorry.

The one question I truly cannot come up with an answer to: If Pinocchio said “my nose is about to grow” what would happen?

Wait, how did I get on this topic? I blame the cold medicine (I’m sick by the way). So back to the whole don’t answer chicken and egg stuff… what came first, my mental illness or my symtpoms? 

This is something I have struggled with for 15 years now. Do I truly have this disorder? Or did I unconsciously decide I did and therefore create my own symptoms? My recent post about misconceptions of BPD spoke to a statement that “we’re all a little borderline” (we’re not FYI). And Rainicorn posted a comment that the same is said of Bipolar Disorder. This reminded me of a coworker who said he gets frustrated when people claim to be OCD simply because they like something to be clean. So I struggle sometimes to even claim to have a diagnosis because what if I’m wrong? What if I am taking away from someone else’s struggle by claiming something untrue?

I’m like 99% sure of my BPD. Reason being, I read a definition in a book about 10 years before being diagnosed when I had never even heard of it before. And the second I read it I sat there in shock because it perfectly described me. I didn’t hear it and then gain the symptoms, I saw the symptoms suddenly defined by something I knew nothing about.

My ability to believe I have Bipolar Disorder is about 75% on average. My BPD overshadows any Bipolar symptoms, so I denied it for a long time despite the “official” diagnosis I had. It wasn’t until about a year ago when I started to respond well to a new med that I realized when a medication lowers my Borderline symptoms, I become completely manic or depressive for a significant period of time. So I have the symptoms, I meet the checklist (I won’t go through the whole diagnosis checklist, it’s easy to look up), it just seems to be overshadowed rather than misdiagnosed. I think. Again, 75%

OCD I’m at a 67% certainty. This is where my chicken/egg/Pinocchio question really comes into play. Did I think I was OCD and then get symptoms? Or did I get symptoms and then get diagnosed? This is something where I have seen the symptoms increase over time, and I honestly don’t know if that is normal or not. I can physically feel something that is considered “off” to me, and I have to compulsively fix it. But I wonder if it isn’t just a symptom of trying to control my other disorders. If perhaps I have subconsciously made it worse over time. 

Agoraphobia is like that too. And this is one I truly hate to say because it’s not severe for me. And I wonder quite frequently if it truly is there and I’m high functioning, or if I’m stupidly going by the “we’re all a little…” argument that I hate. The definition for agoraphobia is “Fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment.” I match that, I really do. And I try to remind myself of that, not because I want it but because I want to not lie about it. In general I don’t go new places without my husband. I only go to stores I’m already familiar with. I claim food poisoning or flu to get out of wedding receptions because they give me panic attacks. I haven’t been to a concert since I was 15 (I first developed the symptoms at 18) and will never go to one again if I can help it. I have multiple hiding places at work if I start to feel panicky or overwhelmed. I have days that I won’t leave my room, though they have become less frequent lately. But are these truly symptoms of agoraphobia? Or are they random aspects of my other disorders? I honestly don’t know.

I don’t even know why I’m going into all this. Maybe “talking” it out will clear it up a bit. Maybe you all can provide insight about my chicken and egg dilemma. Maybe I just need to go to sleep cause the cold medicine made me a bit weird. 

This chickens expression totally just made my day by the way.

Misconceptions about Borderline Personality Disorder 

My last post mentioned the fact of constant misconceptions of people with Borderline Personality Disorder. I mentioned a number of articles, but I want to speak to one in general that was extremely upsetting to me. This article appears on Forbes, a site I love to check out for business topics. It hits so many common misconceptions of BPD. And it is one of the first things Google recommends when you’re trying to research Borderline Personality Disorder in an office environment or leadership role.

Here’s part 1 of the article https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2016/03/26/bullies-borderline-bosses-and-narcissists-how-to-survive-then-thrive-part-1/#5bf52b127c9b

Here’s part 2 of the article https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2016/04/02/bullies-borderline-bosses-and-narcissists-how-to-thrive/2/#390559bc18fd 

Want to know the truth of BPD in the office? Here we go….


Misconception #1 – “we’re all a little bit borderline” 

Wait, what? No, it doesn’t work that way. This is actually stated in both parts of the article, so let me clear this up. According to the National Allince on Mental Illness (NAMI), to be diagnosed with BPD you must have at least 5 of the following 9 symptoms:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid being abandoned by friends and family.
  • Unstable personal relationships that alternate between idealization—“I’m so in love!”—and devaluation—“I hate her.” This is also sometimes known as “splitting.”
  • Distorted and unstable self-image, which affects moods, values, opinions, goals and relationships.
  • Impulsive behaviors that can have dangerous outcomes, such as excessive spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse or reckless driving.
  • Suicidal and self-harming behavior.
  • Periods of intense depressed mood, irritability or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days.
  • Chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness.
  • Inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable anger—often followed by shame and guilt.
  • Dissociative feelings—disconnecting from your thoughts or sense of identity, or “out of body” type of feelings—and stress-related paranoid thoughts. Severe cases of stress can also lead to brief psychotic episodes.

– See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Borderline-Personality-Disorder#sthash.4eN5Me3a.dpuf

If you do not have at least 5 of these symptoms, you are not Borderline, not even a little. If you have some of these symptoms and they are of concern, then you may want to speak with your doctor or therapist about the possibility of a different mental illness. If you have none of them but have extreme moods during difficult times, then guess what, you’re human and alive. Congratulations. 

Misconception #2 – Categorizing people with BPD

Comaford actually pulls these 4 categories from the book “Understanding the Borderline Mother” by Christine Lawson. I have not read the book so cannot speak to it. But the Forbes article describes the same categories. The Waif, the Hermit, the Queen/King, and the Witch/Warlock. 

Yes, I took the quiz at the end, no I do not fit a single category. Everyone has their own path, their own personality, there own knowledge and experience, and therefore their own reaction to mental illness. My borderline is not the same as yours. People with any form of mental illness, or even physical illness for that matter, do not fit into a nice little category. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Misconception #3 – “true borderlines are not capable of deep long-term relationships and cannot be present during intense emotion”

That is a direct quote from the article. The entire sentence is wrong on so many levels. First, I am a person WITH borderline, not a “borderline”. My diagnosis doesn’t define me. Second, eliminate the word “true”. As established earlier, you either do or do not have BPD, there is no middle ground.

Third, why are relationships being completely ruled out here? I have been married for 10 years. I have had my best friend in my life for 29 years. I am close to both of my children, neither of whom notice my mental illness. Does that mean I’m not “true borderline” despite having 8 of the 9 symptoms listed above?

Fourth, yes someone with BPD can be present during intense emotion. In fact our whole brain is essentially intense emotion. So not even sure what that means.

Misconception #4 – Narcissism and BPD are the same thing

This is the most common misconception I hear. So let me set this straight. According to the Mayo Clinic, most experts diagnos Narcissistic Personality Disorder using the DSM-5 which lists the following qualities:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20025568

Now compare this to the diagnostic list above for BPD and tell me how many traits match between the two…I’ll give you a hint, the answer is 0. 

Misconception #5 – A “borderline” is just someone to be dealt with

Having BPD does not magically make me an issue in your life that must be dealt with. I can understand where this comes from as BPD is difficult to diagnose and treat. It can therefore become more visible and disruptive than some other disorders. However this is changing. The American Psychology Association discusses how the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has gone a long way to helping people with BPD seek treatment, and stick with treatment. More and more people are succeeding because they have worked hard to stay high functioning despite their illness.

http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar04/treatment.aspx

I have spoken to the concept of “dealing” with a boss with BPD before as that has always been the most common search term that brings people to this blog. But the fact is there are so many people with Borderline getting treatment. There are so many whom you would never know have this diagnosis. And you are not just “dealing” with them. They are your friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and you enjoy time with them having no idea the daily internal battle of their mind.


I hope this article cleared up some of the misconceptions. I also ask that you please share this article. When someone with BPD does a google search similar to mine, I want what they see to be truth and hope, not Forbes articles spreading lies and confusion.

I have spent a great deal of time crying because I “can’t” be successful because of statements like those above. To anyone out there who has shed those same tears, I want you to know you are not alone, you are not hopeless, you are not just someone to be dealt with. You are an amazing human being who is incredibly strong as you have to fight your own brain every day. You are treatable, and have every chance to be successful. You can have stable relationships and good jobs. You are worth that success and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Having BPD does NOT make you a bully, narcissist, or psychopath 

I love to read and happen to be going through a great leadership book right now. It dawned on me though that there are no leadership books (that I’m aware of) specific to success in business for people with mental illness. There are great books for coping with mental illness, and great books on success in business. Why haven’t the two been merged? 

Of course I mentioned this to my therapist who said “you don’t have to read everything in a book” YES I DO. Well ok, I guess I can succeed without it, point to you Mrs Therapist. However, I’m likely not the only one looking for this, so point to me too. 

Of course I made the mistake of google searching BPD and office type keywords to see if maybe there was something. Boy was that a mistake. I found articles and blog posts galore about “dealing with the borderlines in your office”. Every single one mentioned borderlines as narcissistic, most called borderlines “bullies”. One even went so far as to use Borderline Personality Disorder and Psychopath interchangeably.

I think what upset me more than anything was that it wasn’t just random opinions and blog posts, but some of these were on well respected sites. Here’s one from psych central talking about a book that groups anyone with a personality disorder together and calls them vampires https://psychcentral.com/lib/emotional-vampires-at-work-dealing-with-bosses-coworkers-who-drain-you-dry/ notice the constant lack of the word “some”. Apparently we’re all the same.

Here’s one from Forbes, one of my go to websites for business information https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2016/04/02/bullies-borderline-bosses-and-narcissists-how-to-thrive/2/#390559bc18fd this is actually part 2, there’s a part one that is almost as sickening.

What gets me is that these articles classify people with BPD as “Borderlines”. I did the same throughout this post because that is what I was reading. But the truth is, the disorder does not define you. There is also a consistent lack of “some” throughout. Sorry I didn’t realize all us “borderlines” are the same. And then of course the constant misconceptions of the disorder dripping from all sides. 

So in the style of Forbes contributor Christine Comaford, there will be a part 2 to this. And I will speak to the misconceptions that I continue to see and hear.

I’m a liar and manipulater… apparently

My husband likes to listen to a podcasts when he struggling to sleep. He was listening to one this afternoon while we tried to nap and a chick was interviewing some dude who is a lie expert. Like one of the people who’s job is to detect if you’re lying I guess? I missed the beginning where she introduced him, sorry. 

Anyhoo, she was asking questions about situations where it might make it harder to detect. She asked at one point “what about people with mental illness like Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder who are constant liars and manipulators. Wouldn’t it be harder to tell as they lie so frequently and easily?” My husband and I got a good chuckle and some snarky comments in before hearing the dudes answer. “Well, there are a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration…” and listed off numerous things. He obviously didn’t see mental illness the same way she did, to him it was no different than looking at differences between left handed and right handed people (which apparently is a real thing in lie detection, weird). He also refused to categorize Bipolar and BPD with pathological liars. 

I learned a few things today as I heard that. One, my husband is wonderful and trusts me despite being both bipolar and borderline. Two, there are highly intelligent and vocal people in this world that still proceed to spread misinformation on mental illness. And three, there are highly intelligent people who know better than that.

Guess what y’all, I’m not a constant liar and manipulater. The closest I am to that description is a mask wearer. I wear a mask to hide my mental disorders because of the people like this women who speak to the horrors of my illness and spread the idea that I am not to be trusted.