In light of Depression Awareness Week and the launch of the hashtag #WhatYouDontSee, I would like to share my struggle with mental health with you. I’ve had this post ready for a while (it was the first one I ever wrote), but wasn’t ready to share it. I feel I am now, if only to support others going through this.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Life has always been confusing for me. At 5, I lost my dad to cancer. At 8, my stepdad moved in. I was so used to it just being my mum and me. Even before my dad died (of which I really have no recollection), he travelled a lot for work and so it used to always be just us 2. But now there was this third person. Someone I didn’t know came into my house. And no way I was gonna put up with that.
Looking back on it, it must not have been easy on my stepdad, coming into this “scarred” family and having to deal with this pubescent kid that wasn’t intent on taking orders from someone who “wasn’t her father”.
Puberty: we’ve all been there and we’ve survived it. But for me, it felt like puberty just wouldn’t stop.
I wasn’t like the other kids my age. I didn’t like the same music, didn’t wear the right clothes, behaved like a child when all my peers were trying be young adults. I never fit in, never felt accepted.
My behaviour didn’t change when I got older though. In my twenties, I still reacted like a 15-year-old in difficult situations. My friends thought I was being childish. But I had no other way of dealing. Everything was black and white in my world. You either loved me or you hated me, there was no inbetween, no grey area.
After visiting many a therapist during my youth and never making any progress, I hit my first major depression at 23. At first, I tried coping with it on my own, but when it escalated, I sought the help of a psychiatrist. I needed to know why I was hurting myself (mentally and physically), why I was pushing people away and then trying to pull them back in over and over again.
First diagnosis: separation anxiety brought on by early childhood trauma. Seemed plausible, but there was no real treatment. Basically, I just had to get over it.
Then I saw a movie that changed my life: Girl, Interrupted.
Susanna Kaysen’s struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder seemed so familiar. Intense and uncontrollable emotions, impulsivity, eternal doubt, extreme low self-esteem, panic attacks, self-harming, all or nothing, … I could relate to most of the symptoms portrayed in the film. So I self-diagnosed: Border Personality Disorder it was.
I went to see another psychiatrist (by now I was on my 3rd, after quitting at least 5 therapists who I didn’t click with). She did some tests and yes … it was BPD! I felt so relieved to finally have proof that there was actually something wrong with me!
I no longer had to be ashamed of my behaviour, I could explain it all with a simple mental disorder which was brought on by low levels of serotonin, the happy hormone, and the fact that I’d lost my dad at a young age. Not my fault, not anyone’s fault.
At 25 I was finally guilt-free…or at least I thought so.
I was prescribed Fluoxetine (or Prozac), after having taken many anti-depressants which gave me horrible headaches, dizziness and mood swings. Prozac worked. I felt so much better, for a while.
But some habits of my “former” self were still manifesting: separation anxiety, chaotic relationships, low self-esteem. Prozac wasn’t the magical drug I thought it would be. It didn’t change me. It just made me more numb to bad situations. Or as therapists called it: more stable.
Then I met someone. Someone who seemed more stable than all the others I’d met before. And apparently that was the magic potion. To become stable you have to find stability in your surroundings. And I did. I’m sure I almost scared him off many times. But he stayed. And I tried my hardest to chase him away, to test him over and over again. But he stayed. This was new. I had no idea how to deal with this. All of a sudden life was different. Stability, slightly more self-esteem, no more separation anxiety.
And that was the first day of the rest of my life.
Sadly, I did have a major relapse a year ago, after being “depression free” for over 10 years, but more about that later.
If you would like to know more about BPD, Wikipedia explains it pretty well.
Also, this blog Life after BPD is very enlightening. She gives a clear perspective of what it’s like living with BPD.
And last, but definitely not least, the reason that I decided to post this: Blurt. They are the ones who started the #WhatYouDontSee campaign for Depression Awareness Week, for which I am very grateful.
I will touch more on this subject later on, with my own personal experiences, but if you have any questions, concerns or feelings you don’t know how to deal with, please consult a professional. It took me a while but in the end, they were able to help me understand myself a lot better.
And remember: Always Keep Fighting.