Second Chances

About a month ago I was arrested on a Section 136 by the police for my own safety (or whatever they say it is for), taken to a ‘Place of Safety Assessment Unit (PSAU) at the local mental health unit, and then placed onto a Section 2.

The idea of a voluntary admission had been raised that morning, but I was absolutely done with hospital, or to be frank, believing anything was going to change how I felt. I just remember feeling like it was it. That nothing was going to help. That whether I wanted it to be the case or not, I was done.

Fast forward to now and there are two sentences in my mind, and while they contradict each other completely, they are both as true as each other.

  1. Everything has changed since that day
  2. Nothing has changed since that day

I scraped my way out of a Section 3 in less than 24 hours after my discharge, when the police once again put me on a Section 136. I felt not a lot different on leaving the ward, and in many ways I still don’t.

But then… in some ways I do. I have moments where I feel so much better, it is almost unbelievable. And other moments where I feel the same, or perhaps even worse – and this is an extremely confusing place to be in; especially when sometimes I feel better and worse at the same time.

The biggest thing I have noticed in terms of positive changes, is that I have applied for two jobs, and been offered an interview for one. I just would not have applied a month ago, and irrespective of my chances of actually getting said job, it feels like such a huge step forward to even be trying.

But of course, my brain is my brain and it is doing it’s usual brain stuff. I am torn between two people, two lives. The ‘I want it all’ person, the determined, happy, positive me. The me that believes in everything, who wants to thrive. Who sits and cries because I am just so overwhelmed by the support I receive, and the journey I have taken (gosh, that is awfully cheesy for me!) The me where I just want to spread happiness. Where I enjoy the simplest of things and appreciate even just breathing.

And then there’s the other side; I don’t want anything. I want to give up. There is no point, no hope. I am done.

Writing about what that part feels like is difficult. It makes me feel vulnerable. All I can manage to say is that I end up taking extra medication to keep me asleep, or I lay on my bedroom  floor for hours. I have hours that disappear, like I have been laid there and left my body. Then hours where I am flicking between crying, frustration at myself, and sudden plans in my head that I think are solutions, but involve things I do not really want to do (things which will not really help). Sometimes I do the things I do not want to do.

Like I said, sometimes I feel just one way or the other, other times I feel like both of these people at once. Sometimes I cry because I think I am about to give up, and I am upset because of everything I stand to lose in doing so. I cry at the life I wouldn’t get to live, the people I would hurt, and the hope I would shatter. I cry for all of the things I won’t get to do; and yet feel like no matter how much I want to fight, I cannot.

This is very honest for me – but it feels important for people to know that they are not alone in battling between two selves. I know many times professionals may state that the “real” you is the one who is positive. I would not say that (and neither would other professionals). Both are real. Both are very real. But that is the point – as real as the part of you is that wants to give up, so is the part of you that wants to fight.

I guess while we still have both parts of us there, we have to continue and see where our journeys lead. You can always give up; giving up is not something that is a one time only offer. But, when you do truly give up once and for all, fighting will never be an option again.

My friend died after years upon years of fighting with BPD and Anorexia Nervosa. I wish so badly that I could rewind to that day, and do something to give her another chance to try again. I am not keen on using the word ‘chance’, because chances are generally given when we have done something wrong, but I am sure you will get what I mean.

I was dragged to a morning meeting once in hospital last year. I missed them every day, but on this one day a nurse bribed me into it, saying she would only let me go out for my walk if I attended, so I did. They went around in the circle and asked everyone what they were grateful for today. I said “second chances”. The context was different – I had done something the day before that would have given the staff reason to take my leave off me, but they had taken the time to understand the situation, and not just used a blanket rule of automatically taking away said leave; I got my walk.

I have had lots of what you could call “second chances”. Sometimes I have given them to myself, and sometimes by the amazing friends and professionals in my life who have helped me when I could not help myself.

I do not know that if I went back in time, and helped my friend survive that day…I do not know if she would have still ended up in the situation she did. But, I do know that if she had the right support to get through to another day, things may have changed for her; she may be sat here right now glad to be alive. She did not get that chance.

I really hope that for as long as I truly want them, I keep getting chances to try. To try, and try, and try again. But I also understand the realities of mental illness, and that all we can do is fight, make the most of the time we do have, and really… our destiny is in our hands, and what we want to do, or not do, is fundamentally our choice; our right.

And all you can do is take things a day at a time.

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Christmas and Mental Illness: Borderline Personality Disorder

 

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.