Once,several months ago, Soldier wrote that he felt his mind was broken. I have thought of that phrase often since Friday afternoon when my psychologist alluded to the fact that we might have discovered my core problem. She suggested I read, I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me and to assess if I agreed with her diagnosis. She did not name my condition. An hour later, as I scanned Amazon for the book, I was chagrined when I saw that it was the first, and best-known, book about borderline personality disorder. As I told her in her office, I felt so damaged.I sat at the computer in Kinko’s, feeling my face get red, that lump in my throat get bigger, and tears spring into my eyes. I took a few deep breaths, ordered my books, and drove home, stunned.
In the past few days, I have begun the process of acceptance. After all, I have lived with these symptoms for all of my life but never recognized it. Now, I can bring it out of the far reaches of that vast continent of my mind, understand and befriend it. Now I know I am not manipulative or cruel or faking for evil’s sake. Now I can start to love myself completely because the missing piece is in my hands.
This morning, I started reading Stop Walking on Eggshells, which is a guide for people who know and love people with borderline personality. I only read one chapter but I did have to take two crying breaks. For the first time in my life, I know what I am dealing with and that there is a name for my pervasive sense of fear. It is a relief but it is not without pain, shame, and sorrow. I have reflected on all my loved ones I have hurt over the years, simply because I fear abandonment. I take responsibility for the poor choices I have made, for my negative thoughts and actions. I am taking responsibility for making changes in myself.
On Thursday night, before my diagnosis, my mother and I were delving into the roots of my insecurity. At one point, she became defensive and was ready to walk out of my house and out of my life. I began to cry, “No, please, Mommy. Please don’t leave me. Not that. Anything but that.” The signature cry of a borderline .
I am reminded of a blog I wrote on March 2 about my fear of abandonment, titled “The Anguish, 2007 Remix” which included an anecdote about waiting at a bus stop when I was in kindergarten and my irrational fear that my mother would not come for me. I wrote,” I was five years old and already my mind was convincing me that the love anyone could be feeling for me wasn’t all that strong.
I cry now as I remember that feeling because it’s the feeling that always returns. It is the feeling that I allow to take over my entire being whenever I am scared or anxious. My doctor says it is my extreme stress reaction and she is right. It’s like a reverse game of possum. I start to die even before the threat arrives. I tell myself to stop living because I am afraid of abandonment. I am afraid I am not lovable.” So yes, I am recognizing myself as I begin my research into this condition.
As with any description of mental illness, some traits fit and others don’t. Five traits are required for a diagnosis. Diagnosis should only be made by a trained professional after months of observation and therapy. Some clinicians are comfortable naming BPD at diagnosis whereas others, like my doctor, are vague, perhaps in fear of the emotional effects on the person with BPD. While my doctor’s vagueness scared me, I am glad I was the one to name it. It empowered me to complete the diagnosis. Over the next few months, I will continue the process.
So what now? My doctor has recommended that I pursue intensive therapy through an outside source as my insurance plan won’t cover this kind of work(according to my research, many health plans do not cover BPD). She recommended I continue the work I have done to diminish and heal my depression: cognitive behavioral therapy exercises, my support group, continued self-treatment for depression and anxiety, sessions with my psychologist. Yesterday, I spoke with my former therapist, the one who helped me during my last severe bout of depression 8 years ago(also the most severe acting out of my BPD though I did not realize that until these last few days.) As before, she was compassionate, helpful, and wonderfully familiar. We worked together for two years so it is fitting and comforting that we should do so again.
And my loved ones, those I cherish, perhaps too desperately at times? I am speaking to them one by one. So far, they have been what they have always been, the most loyal and loving friends a woman can have. I am truly blessed. Unlike many people who have BPD, I have a strong support network. They will continue to hold my hand as I begin this new journey. I will make amends with Soldier and hope that he too will be with me.
And me? I am giving up alcohol. I recognize that I can use alcohol in efforts to hurt myself and others. Until I get a handle on this situation, I will not drink.
My mind is not broken. Just unexplored and misunderstood. It is still beautiful and good. I am still beautiful and good.