Thought Catalog
February 17, 2017

What Life Is Like Living With A Mental Illness

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Cameron Stow
Cameron Stow

About two years ago, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I have been suffering with mental illness my whole life. My BPD was from when I was little. My behavior in my childhood years make much more sense since my diagnosis. BPD is hard to diagnose because the symptoms of it are related to Bi-polar Disorder, severe depression and anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), and mania. The symptoms of BPD are: severe depression and anxiety, extreme changes in mood, intense explosive anger for no reason, fear of abandonment, a pattern of unstable relationships, impulsive dangerous behavior, disassociation, and feelings of emptiness and loss. The way of thinking is different as well. There is only black or white in situations, no gray area. People with BPD also tend to put someone they just met high up on a pedestal then drops them once that person says or does something they do not agree with or like.

Every single symptom of BPD fit me perfectly. I was so relieved once I found out my diagnosis. Prior to it, I was only diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and PTSD. Now that I knew what mental illnesses I had I could begin the appropriate treatment and start on my road to recovery. Only, BPD does not work that way.

BPD does not go away after a certain age/experience. Treatment includes medication and a specific type of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). In DBT, you learn coping mechanisms, skills necessary to live a stable life, how to maintain stable relationships, and to think differently so each situation does not seem so overwhelming. It also involves group therapy sessions to teach you how to communicate your feelings with others and to work together. It is an intense form of therapy and about a year or longer, depending on your progress. Having BPD means taking medication and going to psychotherapy for the rest of your life.

Living with BPD is difficult. I remember as a child I exhibited the symptoms of BPD. I would cry every morning before and during school from pre-school to elementary because I did not want to be separated from my mother. I realize that stemmed from fear of abandonment and separation anxiety. I was always “different” from my peers, as well. I isolated myself, cried easily, and had trouble following through with things because I would get so overwhelmed, even if the task was simple. I also threw random fits of rage for no reason. Growing up, I became suicidal. Hell, I’m STILL suicidal and unstable.

90% of people who commit suicide have a mental illness. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-18. That’s too high of a statistic. I promised myself that I will never give in and kill myself. I know that I am here, alive, for a reason. I am a college graduate and if I can survive four years in college, I can survive anything. In the words of Bob Marley, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”

Living with a mental illness makes me strong, not weak.

I made it this far, so why not keep going?

BPD is unpredictable. ANYTHING can trigger the symptoms. It does not matter how small or big it is. For me, it usually happens when I am stressed out or whenever something good happens in my life. I begin to think that it’s too good to be true and allow myself to sink further into depression, I have been in and out of the psychiatric ward at the hospital because of my depression, suicide attempts, and my explosive angry behavior. I have grown to love and hate the psychiatric ward. I feel safe and content there, but I also feel frustrated because it’s as if I took one step back. But, every time I leave the psychiatric ward, I feel hopeful that I can make it the next time around without having to go back.

I admit I used to be ashamed of my mental illness because of the stigma and stereotypes society has about it. They do not understand that mental illness is real and cannot be fixed by thinking more positively, finding a hobby, or venting. It is not some dramatic situation that happened and can be solved by a simple solution, like an apology or something. It is a disease. It does not define who I am nor is it a part of me. I am not a drug addict because I am taking medication. I am not “crazy”, just emotional. I am not lazy, just depressed. I am not rude, I just have anxiety. I am not seeking attention, I am suicidal and in need of help.

It is okay to not feel okay. I am not an inconvenience or a burden simply because I do not feel 100% happy.

There is nothing wrong with me. I am worth it. I am enough.

To those out there who are suffering from mental illness, please get help. I am begging you to stay alive. There is a reason why you are still here. You have made it this far, keep going. Trust me, you can do it. It won’t be easy. It will hurt. In fact, it may be one of the hardest things you have to do in life, but once you get into a groove, everything will fall into place. Go at your own pace. There is no need to rush. Take it moment by moment. Keep in mind that help can come from all sorts of places – it does not necessarily need to be a therapist/psychiatrist; just someone who you trust. You were given the gift of life so why not make the most of it? TC mark

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