With less than one hour left of #worldmentalhealthday I have managed to finish what I was writing.
For this world mental health day, I wanted to write about something very important to me.
I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder some 10 years or so ago. This is a mood disorder typically characterised by unstable relationships with others, cognitive distortions, impulsive behaviour and emotional instability.
There is no known specific cause for BPD, however, it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is typically associated with traumatic events during childhood.
Many, such as myself, who have been diagnosed with BPD also suffer with drug/alcohol misuse, generalised anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, suicide attempts and self harm. Other personality disorders and eating disorders are also linked to BPD but are not presently issues that affect me personally.
The general population have an image in their heads of those of us with mental health issues. We are supposed to look and behave a certain way. We have no friends, we don't take care of our appearance, we can't hold down a job and we are unable to pay our bills. Furthermore, there appears to be a belief that we are of lesser intelligence. Whilst this may well be true of many sufferers, it is not the only truth.
I am a high functioning individual despite my illnesses. I am able to work a highly stressful job, I maintain my appearance outside of my safe space and am generally held in high regard amongst my peers. This makes my illness very difficult to believe in.
Truth be told, I am not 100% high functioning but very few people see the low functioning side of my disorder. Because of my personality and the way I was brought up, it is very difficult for me to allow others to see me struggling. It is ugly. It is dangerous. It is frankly, quite terrifying! My illness and behaviour can and will have a negative impact on those who spend a lot of time with me. Because of this, I try to limit my social circle. I have lost more people than I care to count from my life as they only really knew me with the mask in place and they couldn't cope when they saw it slip. Because I am aware of how negatively my behaviour can impact on those around me, I make a very conscious effort to not show my true self when I am struggling. I will always be there for others, I will take on more than I can handle in both my work and personal life and I will do it all with a smile and a twinkle in my eyes.
People often ask why I do this. They accuse me of lying to those who care about me and of exaggerating my illness when the mask inevitably slips at the wrong time. Yes, I will hold up my hands and admit that I lie on a daily basis to those who care about me. I tell them that I'm fine or that I just haven't slept too well or I have a cold coming on. These are not outright lies but for me and for them, it is just easier. My pain and suffering is difficult to comprehend. For anyone.
How would one explain to a loved one that often you go to bed wishing you won't wake up in the morning? How does one explain to a loved one that sometimes, the only way to redress the balance in your life is by dragging a blade across your skin? How does one explain to a loved one that your drug/alcohol usage is to numb the pain you feel to your very core? The words would hurt. They wouldn't understand the pain. No one can. Everyone suffers in their own ways. Even those close to me who suffer similar struggles will never understand my pain and I will never understand theirs.
I love my life. I really do. I'm happier now than I have been in a very long time. But I still suffer greatly. Every day. And it's so much harder when I'm also high functioning. People don't seem to be able to take my suffering seriously. Besides the psychological turmoil, I also suffer physical pain daily owing to fibromyalgia and hyper mobility syndrome. Yet because I am so used to the pain I carry on. I push through that wall of pain and continue with my job, my social life, my relationship. There are days when I wake for work and I don't want to get up. I don't want to have to smile for the kids and be happy but I do. Truth be told, the kids give me strength. They help me a lot. They believe in me and they love me. That's not to say that other people in my life don't feel the same way but love from a child is pure and untainted. Their belief in me is based purely on their interactions with me. They haven't been indoctrinated yet by the media. Brainwashed by TV.
People seem to only believe I have a mental health condition when I have a crisis. That is not the case. It is something I live with every single day. I just happen to hide it well. Being go functioning does not lessen my pain and anguish. If anything, sometimes it's greater.