It seems obvious that I write about this. I have wrote about Christmas in relation to my experiences of Anorexia, and surrounding the family side of the festive period, so it only makes sense to write about what is my main current diagnosis; yet this post is not coming very naturally.
The thing with having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is that I can only prepare and preempt things to an extent. Really, I have no idea. I have no idea what mood I will be in that day because I can never predict that, although it is likely to be very up and down, and mixed up.
I have no idea what kind of thoughts I will battle with the most; Will it be self-destructive thoughts? Will it be past memories? Will it be anxious thoughts about the day(s) ahead? Will it be paranoid-like thoughts? Will I be able to put certain things into a box for the day and ignore them? Or will they, at times, knock me to the ground?
What physical state will I be in? Will I have been sleeping well, or not? Will I be over sleeping? Will I wake up drained? Will I be agitated? Or so anxious that I cannot sit still and before long my body becomes exhausted? Will my brain be going at a million miles per hour but my body lagging behind? Will I feel bad for sitting around all day? Will I need to take PRN medication that will make everything calmer, and yet feel fuzzy? Will I need to go out for a walk to get some space? Will I manage the food side as good as I expect? If I do have some ‘freak outs’ will I be able to manage them?
Will someone say something that triggers me off? Will I misinterpret something? Will I think someone is making a negative comment when they are not? Will someone say something that reminds me of something I cannot manage to think about? Will I think everything people say is a hidden version of ‘I do not like you’, or, ‘you are not good enough’, or perhaps even, ‘you are too much’?
And how will everyone else be? Will my sister be struggling badly? Will my Mum make comments about my Dad and his family? Will I cope seeing my Dad and his wife for the first time in two years? Will it be awkward? Should I ring my Grandparents on Christmas day? Do they want me to? Will I be able to recover enough from Christmas, to survive my biggest fear of New Year?
It is really hard to know. When I was unwell with Anorexia, I knew what was going to be hard and I knew what to expect. With this side of things, while I can imagine what might become difficult, there is also a high chance that something will swing out of nowhere. Or that I will be fine, or great, or fine and then not fine, a million times over.
Christmas with BPD is a lot like life with BPD, except the environment is different and it adds a whole new level of unpredictability.
I am very rigid in terms of a lot of things surrounding time and routine. I like familiarity. So, going away for Christmas is not ideal. Christmas is not ideal. And in writing this, I have for the first time realised that what others describe as me being rigid and inflexible, is actually me trying to find some way to have control over things around me so that I can reduce the risk of something around me sending my head into a whirlwhind. Looking at it now, it makes perfect sense.
So, how do you cope? You try and keep some things the same as normal; take your medication like you usually would, try not to change your sleep pattern too much, drink and eat properly (and regularly) and incorporate the things that usually help you cope. For me, a big one is getting some air, going for a walk. If Mum has forgotten something for Christmas dinner (which is basically every single year), when the shop opens for two hours, I go. If Mum has not forgotten something, perhaps I will conveniently run out of tobacco, or heck, I will just be honest and say I am going for a quick walk around the block. On Boxing Day I will force everyone on a walk with me.
If you live with BPD you know how unpredictable it is. Some things are reasonably predictable, other things hit you out of nowhere. I was sat somewhere a few weeks ago in the middle of the night, and I broke into tears thinking about the fact my parents separated eight years ago. I have never cried over that before.
My other big tip is to walk away from any family related chaos or conversations that you just cannot handle. My Mum is bound to make some comments about my Dad and I will be implementing the bite my lip, count to ten method.
I will remember it is OK not to be OK at Christmas because your struggles do not suddenly vanish; in fact many get magnified. I will remind myself nothing is all good or all bad. I will remind myself I can come back to Leicester and rant my head off at the mental health team I am under. I will focus on the things I love; giving presents, sitting around the table forcing everyone to wear their hats out of their crackers, being able to finally let myself eat multiple chocolates out of the tin, and inflicting my Christmas quiz on the entire family.
I will be silly and hyper, and keep the mood up, because that is what I do. And I will find the child within me because I never want to lose that (and to be honest, there is not much chance I ever will). And I will be glad we are all together, because every year there are a million points where the year could have ended differently and so I will hug my little sister tightly because time and time again we prove that we can get through anything.