The Borderline Battle

I’m stable but I’m struggling, if that makes any sense. My bipolar disorder is stable, but now my borderline personality disorder is raging. I’m battling with myself constantly, trying to stay level but it’s getting harder to do so. At the moment, I am level. I feel logical and rational, but that won’t last for long. One part of my BPD will rear its ugly little head, and say “Oh hey, I heard you thought you were fine. Let me reassure you that you aren’t, because I’m here.” There are nine symptoms of BPD, and lately I’ve been experiencing all of the symptoms. I’m going to try to explain these nine symptoms, and how they manifest within me.

  1. Fear of Abandonment. Real or imagined, people with BPD have a fear of abandonment and will make frantic efforts to avoid it. I have this intense fear that my husband will leave me, even though he reassures me on a daily basis that he isn’t going anywhere. Why can’t I accept what he says? I don’t have an answer for that. I believe him, so why does my brain keep insisting that one day he will get fed up with me and decide to leave? It’s an irrational thought and I know that, but I can’t stop being afraid of him leaving. I’ve been with my husband over 10 years now, and they’ve been the best 10 years of my life. You’d think I would feel secure in my relationship by now. I’m not, though and it sucks because my insecurities cause a ripple effect in my relationship, which makes it unstable at times. And that brings me to the next symptom…
  2. Unstable Relationships. My relationship with my husband is relatively stable. Our relationship seems perfect, we rarely ever fight. My friendships are pretty stable as well. I have a history of rocky relationships, both platonic and romantic. Lately my BPD has been acting up, and it is causing arguments between me and my husband. I’ll split (switching between idealization and devaluation) on myself or him, my moods will flip, and I’ll start fights. For no good reason. I can only imagine what he’s thinking and feeling when this happens, it must be like an emotional whiplash. Not just for him, but also for me. I usually end up splitting on myself, because I feel I am a bad person for starting an argument and taking it out on my husband. Splitting is a common occurrence with me, and I’m not alone as it’s fairly common in people with BPD. I’ll explain more about splitting later.
  3. Unclear or Shifting Self Image. I’ve struggled with knowing who I am for most of my life. My sense of self has typically been unstable. For the most part, I think of myself as a loving, supportive, good person. However, I tend to experience splitting on myself and all it takes is making a simple mistake for me to split and all of a sudden I hate myself. I will think that I’m a horrible person who doesn’t deserve love. I don’t have a clear picture of my career goals, some days I don’t know who I am or what I want to do with my life. I’m a stay at home mom, and I struggle with it sometimes. I feel like I should have an education and career by my age and I don’t, and it gets to me. I’ll mentally beat myself up over being a housewife and stay at home mom, and it just makes the splitting worse. How do I deal with splitting? I do something impulsive.
  4. Impulsive, Self Destructive Behaviours. Oh boy, where do I begin… I tend to engage in behaviours that are both sensation seeking and harmful, especially when I’m upset or feeling any emotion strongly. I spend money we can’t afford to spend, I have binge eating problems, I text people impulsively. I don’t drink or do drugs, I don’t gamble, I don’t engage in promiscuous sex, I don’t drive recklessly, though many people with BPD tend to struggle with these things on a regular basis. Sometimes I impulsively harm myself, which I’ll get to in just a moment. My impulsiveness has gotten me into trouble more than a few times. There are consequences to my impulsive, self destructive ways. Maxed out credit cards, overdraft and NSF fees, weight gain, self esteem issues, the list goes on. I don’t have many self destructive behaviours but the ones I do have wreak havoc on my life.
  5. Self-harm, Suicidal Behaviour. Deliberate self-harm and suicidal behaviour are common in people with BPD, and I am certainly no exception. I am a survivor of two suicide attempts. Cutting is one form of self harm, and it’s an addiction of mine. I’ve relapsed numerous times over the years, I managed to go 6 years without cutting once. Currently, I’m working towards 10 months clean from cutting. I still get urges to cut, especially when I’m feeling numb, empty, or stressed. Burning is another form of self-harm, though I don’t engage in it. I have been plagued by intrusive suicidal thoughts in the past, and I go through periods of having a preoccupation with suicide and death. I’ve planned my suicide more than once, as a teenager I honestly believed I wouldn’t live past the age of 23. I have a tattoo on my forearm, a semi colon with “This Too Shall Pass” written underneath. It gives me inner strength, and reminds me that no matter how bad life gets, the bad times don’t last forever. Good times will come. They often come sooner than later, as the good and bad times are dictated by my moods.
  6. Extreme Emotional Swings. Volatile mood swings are common with BPD. I can be elated one minute and raging the next, it doesn’t take much to trigger the mood swings. It could be a joke or an innocent remark that triggers my moods to flip and send me into a tailspin. Trying to manage my mood swings is like trying to drive down a twisting and winding road while blindfolded. Though these mood swings are quite intense, they tend to pass fairly quickly. Unlike bipolar disorder, these mood swings last maybe a few minutes or hours. I experience these rapid shifts in mood multiple times in a day, it’s exhausting sometimes. One of the emotions I struggle to manage is my anger.
  7. Explosive Anger. Most people with BPD struggle with having a short temper and inappropriate, intense anger. While my temper is pretty mild, my anger is intense and it isn’t pretty. It takes a lot for my fuse to get lit but once it is, I have trouble controlling myself. I don’t think before talking, I shoot from the hip so to speak. I have a sharp tongue, and I’m also hurtfully blunt. I become severely sarcastic, and snappy. Some people yell, others throw things. Anger isn’t always directed outwards, though. My anger tends to be directed inwards, at myself. I’ll have intrusive thoughts and get extremely angry with myself for having those thoughts. I’ll get upset with myself for procrastinating, or for having fibromyalgia pain which I can’t control. I do have the occasional angry outburst, and it scares me when it does happen. I feel cornered and out of control, it’s a horrible thing to experience. Often times when I experience explosive anger, a switch inside of me flips and all of a sudden I feel nothing, just like an empty shell.
  8. Chronic Feelings of Emptiness. Many people with BPD report feeling empty inside, like there is a void or hole inside them. Some people report feeling frequently bored or numb. I go through periods where I feel empty, like I’m nothing. When I experience drastic mood swings, the aftermath is usually feeling numb. Some people try to fill the void with drugs, alcohol, food, or sex. For me, it’s food. I LOVE FOOD. I binge eat. When I feel empty, I eat as if filling my stomach will make me feel whole again. I’ve really struggled with feeling numb and empty inside since my Mother passed away last October. I tend to dissociate when I feel empty or numb, I think it’s my brain’s way of protecting me.
  9. Paranoia And Dissociation. I’ve read that paranoia is quite common in people with BPD, though I don’t have much experience with it myself. I have lots of experience with dissociation, on the other hand. I space out often, to be honest. I feel out of touch with reality, like I’m not real and what is happening isn’t really happening. It happened when my Mother died, I was dissociating throughout my time in the hospital. I dissociate whenever rape is brought up in conversation, or domestic violence. Sometimes I feel as though I’m outside of my body, it’s really hard to describe the feeling. Whenever I get a piercing, or attend a doctor’s appointment where a physical exam will be happening, I hyper-focus on something in the room and it helps me cope with whatever is happening. I didn’t know this until recently but this is also dissociating, and a self defense mechanism.

Whenever I fight with my husband, I try to remind myself that it isn’t me vs. him, it’s me and him vs. the problem. But then I start to think that I’M the problem, which leads to splitting. Splitting means having difficulty holding opposing thoughts. I’m unable to weigh out the positive and negative attributes of a person or event, I don’t recognize that both good and bad traits can exist at the same time. It’s black and white thinking, all or nothing. Kinda like the Sith in Star Wars. You’re either with me or against me. You put a person, even yourself, on such a high pedestal (idealization). They can do no wrong, everything they say and do is admirable. Then the legs get kicked out and they fall into devaluation, where they’re wrong and bad, and looked at with disdain. Splitting sounds horrible, but it’s actually a way of coping, like a self defense mechanism that people with BPD use as a means to prevent being hurt, or avoiding rejection. I’ll push you away before you can do it to me, sort of thing.

My borderline has been quite active lately, and it is exhausting to manage. I’m a very sensitive person, and normally I can take a joke or teasing. Lately, I’ve been taking everything as a personal attack, which isn’t like me at all. I feel like I’m losing control of myself and I don’t like it. Typically I relate to only 2 or 3 BPD characteristics at a time but this past year I’ve experienced all 9 symptoms, sometimes in the same day or week.

Living with borderline can be nightmarish, because it’s like a never ending cycle of self destruction. All of my symptoms have an overlap, they all work together, against me. My moods will flip, I’ll get intense anger that spirals out of control, I’ll feel ashamed and guilt ridden from losing control, I’ll dissociate and reach for a knife then struggle with myself because I want to cut but don’t want to relapse, and then the emptiness takes over. One symptom triggers another, and so on. When I do relapse, I become terrified that my husband will leave me because I’m crazy and too much for him to handle. I’ll feel ashamed and guilty for giving in, for being weak when I should have been strong. I regret cutting myself every time, it feels great in the moment but that’s short lived. I can’t relapse again. I won’t, I refuse to give in to my addictions.

I need to be strong and fight my BPD, not only for my own sake but for my family’s sake as well. I can’t let my disorder control me. I have three kids, and they’re watching me. They will think that what they’re growing up with is normal, and I have to be mindful of that. I don’t want my kids growing up and having to recover from their childhood. They deserve a mother who is stable, and my husband deserves a stable wife. I’m trying my best to give them that. I’m trying my best for me too, because I deserve stability. I don’t like feeling this way, when my BPD gets the best of me.

Around 80% of people with BPD report a history of suicide attempts. 8-10% of people with BPD die by suicide. I refuse to become part of the latter statistic. I am literally fighting for my life. I want to live. I need to protect myself, from myself. I need to fight on in the never-ending borderline battle.

Living With Multiple Illnesses

Life is hard. It’s difficult to navigate without directions and instructions, you have to figure it out on your own. You can’t follow other’s paths, for their journey is their own. You have your own path to follow, carved by the decisions you make every day. What happens when you’re living with a mental illness? It makes life that much harder. What if you’re living with multiple illnesses? Then things really get interesting. You have to learn to distinguish the differences between your illnesses, and manage them appropriately on top of just existing. Many times, mental illnesses and physical illnesses overlap, exacerbating everyday life.

I live with many physical and psychiatric illnesses. Bipolar disorder 2 rapid cycling with mixed features, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, ADHD, high functioning autism, generalized anxiety, fibromyalgia, early onset psoriatic arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome. That’s to name a few. They make my life hell sometimes. Other times, some of them are like a blessing. It’s a double edged sword to handle, really. Over the years, I’ve noticed and recognized when my illnesses are working together against me. My bipolar and borderline are besties, as are my fibromyalgia and IBS. They hang out a lot, and when they stick around my other conditions come out to play. My ADHD runs rampant when I’m manic, and it makes an appearance during my depressive episodes. It’s always there, it just becomes prominent during episodes. My PTSD is a trickster, it likes to surprise me when I least expect it. My autism is always there, it’s my operating system. I like to say that autism is just a different operating system for the brain, I’m just like everyone else only my wavelength of thought is on a different frequency.

Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. Two illnesses that are commonly diagnosed together and also commonly mistaken for each other. I was diagnosed with both on January 9th, 2012. I knew quite a bit about bipolar disorder but the BPD diagnosis threw me through a loop. I researched my illnesses and read as much as I could about them. Research is one of my obsessions, it’s an autism thing. I felt such relief when I received my diagnoses, it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. For so many years I asked myself “What is wrong with me?”, I had mental illnesses that were unchecked and didn’t know it. No wonder I felt like I was off all the time. I have been on and off medications for over 20 years now (I’m 34 years old), and I feel most like myself when I am on medications. Without meds I feel like Jekyll and Hyde. I can’t control myself, at all. I don’t like how I am without medications and when I saw how it was affecting my marriage and my family, I made the decision to stick with meds. It has taken me a few years to learn the differences between my bipolar and borderline, some days I am left mystified as to which one is causing chaos in my life. It really sucks when both are actively messing with me. At times I can be extremely impulsive, which can be caused by both disorders. Something will set me off, and my moods will flip on me causing me to split on myself, then I become terrified that my husband will leave me because I’m unstable (thanks a lot BPD). The hypomania, I have to admit I love being manic for the most part. I love feeling hyper and happy, and productive. I feel grateful for not being depressed. There is a downside to mania, though and it isn’t pretty. The impulsive out of character behaviour, the rapid mood swings and irritability, the racing thoughts and discombobulation. Not to mention the manic spending sprees, I’m so bad for that. Also there is the inevitable crash into depression that brings anxiety. I never know when the crash will happen so I get anxiety over waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m not a big fan of mixed episodes, which is too bad because I get them on the regular. Mixed episodes are where you get symptoms of both depression and mania at the same time or as part of a single episode. My episodes vary, where I will have mental symptoms of mania and physical symptoms of depression, and vice versa. My depressive episodes are influenced by my fibromyalgia, which is a whole other basket of not so goodies.

My fibromyalgia affects me on a daily basis. I never know how I will feel when I wake up, much like my BPD and bipolar. Some days are worse than others. I can go to sleep feeling happy and fine, and wake up with strong pains radiating throughout my body. The weather seems to influence my fibromyalgia, severe and sudden temperature fluctuations in particular. Flare ups are no walk in the park, they can last for days if not weeks. I noticed over the years that a fibro flare up will almost always cause a bipolar depressive episode. It’s depressing when the weather is nice and you want to go out and enjoy it but your body has other plans. The worst days are when I’m bedridden. During a flare up I’ll have great difficulty walking, getting dressed, and feeding myself. Forget about regular housework. It’s a huge blow to my productivity when a flare up occurs. I’m a housewife and stay at home mom; I keep the household running and when I can’t do it that falls onto my husband’s shoulders, and he already works full time. I feel useless and worthless during flare ups, like I’m a burden to my family and friends. I don’t want my husband to have to come home and do all of my work too, that isn’t fair to him. Then the depression creeps in, and boom. Depressive episode. Some days it gets so bad that my husband has to come home from work and take care of me, which means taking care of our three kids as well since I’m bedridden. It breaks my heart when I am physically unable to pick up my baby and hold him because the arthritis and fibromyalgia in my hands and arms render them useless.

My ADHD is always around, but during episodes it likes to mess with me. It puts a kibosh on my hyperproductivity during manic episodes, it makes me wander around my house aimlessly. I daydream when I should be working, my thoughts race so fast in my head it’s dizzying. As much as I try to stay organized, I horribly fail. It stresses me out when my forgetfulness takes its toll on my household. I’ll get caught up in housework and forget to start dinner. I’ll make shopping lists and forget them at home. I try to multitask and get distracted by something and then forget what I was doing. I get confused between my ADHD and my mania at times, the symptoms are very much alike and it’s hard to differentiate between the two. I’m still learning to do so.

As I mentioned earlier, my PTSD is a trickster. It always catches me off guard, which sucks because I am hyper vigilant. I’ve learned most of my triggers but maybe not all of them. Rape is a big trigger for me, the word itself I find triggering. Rape jokes cause me to dissociate, and give me flashbacks. Domestic violence is another big trigger. It could be brought up in conversation, or I might have come across it on social media, it doesn’t matter. It will trigger flashbacks and nightmares, and panic attacks. It sends me right back to where I was during the sexual abuse in my teens and abusive relationship in my twenties. Usually my PTSD will trigger a bipolar episode, mainly depressive. I never knew how to deal with my trauma, I always just shoved it back to the recesses of my brain and pretend it never happened. But that only worked for so many years, then I started having flashbacks and recurring nightmares. It wasn’t until I told my psychiatrist about them that I was diagnosed with PTSD, and that was just over three years ago. I’ve come a long way since then, I did a lot of research and bought some self help books. I like to think I’m in recovery, and I’m doing well. I have PTSD episodes once in a while but only when I’m triggered.

I fight through my episodes and flare ups, I have to in order to keep my sanity. I can’t give in to the intrusive negative thoughts, it’s too easy to fall into that trap. I keep reminding myself that this too shall pass; I won’t feel this way forever. I will feel better soon. Better days are coming. I remind myself of everything I am grateful for, I keep a gratefulness journal and read through it often for motivation and strength. I distract myself with various activities, depending on my fibro and arthritis and how they affect me. If my hands aren’t hurting I crochet, paint, colour, bake, play World of Warcraft, and type on my laptop. If my hands are useless, I tend to read and watch TV. My children and husband help cheer me up, just by being themselves. My husband is my main support, I would be totally lost without him. He is extremely understanding and sympathetic, and compassionate. He’s there for me through it all whether it’s to hold me through my panic attacks and flashbacks, dress me and feed me when I can’t do it myself, or keep me in check when I’m spending too much. He’s been there for the good, the bad, and the ugly, and still loves me for who I am. He is my hero. My husband is an amazing partner and father to our children. My two oldest children know and understand that sometimes Momma has bad pain days and bad brain days. They will help with the housework (on top of the chores they already do daily) during bad pain/brain days, without argument. They know that I have medical conditions that are debilitating at times, they know what bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia are, as well as ADHD and autism. They also have ADHD and autism, both of them. We’re all high functioning. They are aware that they have those conditions as well. I think it’s important for them to be aware of medical conditions and how they affect people. I believe that their knowledge about my conditions and their own has helped them, in matters of empathy and compassion. My family is close knit, and when one of us is hurting it affects all of us. We all work together, as a unit. My family gives me strength to keep going every day.

Living with multiple illnesses is rough but manageable. I don’t sit and dwell on why I have all of these conditions, I don’t much see a point in doing so. The fact is I have them, and they aren’t going anywhere. There are no cures for my illnesses, I have them for life. I might as well make the best of things and live positively. I can sit and ride on the pity train, stopping at the “Woe Is Me” station, but I would much rather buckle up and enjoy the ride on this roller coaster I call my life. It has its ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes there is a fire, but somehow I always manage to stay on track. If I ever derail, I will pick up the pieces and get myself back on track. I only have one life to live, and this is it.

So Long, And Thanks For All The Licks

Grief is a strange thing to experience. It comes in waves, it ebbs and flows. I was riding out my grief and just when I thought I was doing a good job of managing it and getting better, I got hit with a tsunami of grief. It’s a thing.

I lost my mother just over eight months ago. I am still reeling from her death. Just recently, I lost my beloved Chug (Chihuahua Pug) dog, Captain Malcolm. He crossed the rainbow bridge on May 24th. His death was very unexpected, our whole family was caught off guard. I was in Toronto with my three children to attend my sister’s wedding, my husband was traveling due to volunteer firefighter training. My poor puppy, we weren’t there for him when he needed us the most. My best friend and close family friend was there, thank the Gods. She was there for me when Momma died; she was with me when I got the message about Momma and she drove me down that day to see her. She took such good care of Mal, she rushed him to the vet which is roughly a 300km drive down a horrid gravel road. The vets did all they could for Malcolm, but it wasn’t enough. He was paralyzed from the waist down, due to a spinal rupture. The vet said there was nothing we could have done to prevent or anticipate this, it is a genetic abnormality found in both Chihuahuas and Pugs and is not uncommon in Chugs. A decision was made to have him euthanized, and he went to sleep.

Captain Malcolm’s death hit us all hard, even the fur babies are out of sorts. We all feel so lost without Mal. He was my furever baby. My hubby adopted him for me, as at the time I was told by my specialist that I could not carry another baby to term. I was severely depressed about that, I always wanted three or four kids. Malcolm was the baby that I couldn’t have, that would never get bigger than me. My children will grow up and eventually be taller than me. That won’t take much, I’m only 5’0 tall. But Mal, he would stay puppy sized. My furever baby.

Mal was named after the main character on the TV show Firefly, Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He aimed to misbehave. He was always there, following us around the house. He was a stealthy thief, whether it was stealing someone’s spot on the couch, stealing someone’s leftovers off the plate in the dining room, or stealing socks and left shoes to hide under the bed. He snorted and shnarfed, sort of like a pig. We called him “Piggly” sometimes. He loved to snuggle. I have a king sized bed, my hubby and I snuggle and take up less than half of the bed. The rest of the bed was Mal’s, and he insisted on sleeping up against me. He was a gentle puppy, as much as he tore around the house yipping and growling, he was ever so careful. He adored my children, he loved to play fetch and snuggle them. He loved giving kisses, I used to call him cat-like because he’d lick my whole arm just like my cats do. You could walk into my living room and find Mal perched on top of the couch, much like a cat.

It hurts me to the core how I couldn’t be there for him in the end. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gone to my sister’s wedding. I would have stayed home to be with him. But that’s the thing, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” There was no way to know this was going to happen. But it happened, and we have to deal with it. There is no point in blaming myself, that is a waste of time and energy. Finding blame won’t bring back Captain Malcolm, and it’s no way to honour his memory. I choose to remember him fondly, and think happy memories of him. Mal never liked me being sad, he loved when I was happy. So I’m going to be happy for him. Just like Momma, she wouldn’t want me to grieve and be sad, she would want me to be happy and remember the good times. I do my best to honour their memories every day, it helps keep me going. My children and I will tell each other stories about Momma and Mal, it brings us comfort. Sure, the tears flow and we all bear hug, but it makes us feel better.

My hubby, one of our best friends, and his father built a coffin for Captain Malcolm. I bawled when I saw it. It’s beautiful, very fitting for the Captain’s final resting quarters.

Some days are harder than others. I’m still struggling with losing my mother, and now I lost my furever baby. Grief compounding grief. It’s heavy to carry around, literally. Most days I feel so exhausted, despite having a good night’s sleep. Coffee sometimes helps. I tend to stare off into space, getting caught up in my memories. My mind is all over the place, as is my focus. I’m usually scatterbrained but this is just ridiculous.

I have to fight this. I have to combat the grief and keep going. How do I fight this? How do I keep going? I remind myself of all the good things in my life. I keep a gratefulness journal. I use my DBT and CBT skills daily, and try to meditate at least once a day. I take my meds faithfully, I listen to my alarms and follow my routines. I use various methods of self care every day, lately it’s been hot baths and putting on makeup. I find my motivation to get up every morning and give’r. My husband, my children, my family. They are my motivation. I snuggle and play with my baby throughout the day, I try to read to him but he’s more interested in eating the book than reading it. I spend time with my kids and play with them. I have my daily alone time with my hubby, he’s my best friend and my favourite person. I crave my daily time with him. I have a good life, I’m happy with my life. I have so many reasons to smile. I can’t focus on the reasons to cry and frown. I focus on the positives. It keeps me going.

Earlier, I said that grief comes in waves. I should elaborate on that. Let’s say I’m washing bottles in the kitchen and dancing to music. I’ll look behind me to make sure I’m not going to step on Malcolm (he was always underfoot), and then it hits me. Mal’s not here anymore. I start crying, and it’s like I lost him all over again. Another example, when I remind my children to do their chores. They each take turns feeding the fur babies. I’ve been so used to saying “Feed the puppies” that I still catch myself saying it, which leads me to correcting myself. My children will reminisce about Mal, then we’ll all start crying and hugging.

Grief hits me even when there is nothing to trigger it. I could be in a great mood, listening to music and putting on makeup, and the tears will start flowing. I can’t stop them. It will happen spontaneously. While I’m doing laundry, or playing World of Warcraft. I just cry, uncontrollably. I don’t know if this is a common physical symptom of grief, but it’s something I experience. When it does happen, I try my best to stop crying. I’ll mindfully keep doing whatever task, or I’ll think of happy things like seeing my Hubby, or if my baby is awake I will hug him and play with him. I think and do things that bring me joy. Sometimes I just let it out, and have a good cry. It feels good to let it out. It’s ok to grieve, it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to cry. Everyone handles grief differently, and that’s ok. Depending on my mood, I handle it differently.

I’m currently in the midst of a depressive episode, but I am coping and managing it well. I’ve made some changes to my daily routine to help me through this episode, time will tell if it works or not. For the most part, I’m ok. I don’t have intrusive thoughts, I’m not suicidal, or having thoughts of harming myself or others. I’m pretty stable, I’m just depressed. I am still functioning, maybe not at 100% but hey I’m not giving up. I will get better, I won’t feel this way forever.

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.– – Dr. Seuss

I miss my fur baby, every day. As much as I carry guilt for not being home when tragedy struck, I can’t focus on that. It doesn’t help. What I can do, is take solace in knowing that my beloved dog is not suffering. He’s with my Momma now. I like to think that he’s in dog heaven, chasing all the bunnies and eating all the bacon and table scraps. It brings me comfort. I’m grateful for the time I had with Mal, and will cherish the memories I have of him. Rest easy, Captain. May you aim to misbehave beyond the rainbow bridge.

Dissociation Blues

I feel lost and disconnected. I find myself dissociating frequently, on a daily basis. I don’t want to feel this way, I want to feel happy but I know I can’t be happy all the time. I have to let myself feel the full spectrum of emotions, even the painful and negative ones. At the very least, acknowledge them and wait for them to pass. “This too shall pass.” It doesn’t take long for my moods to shift, between my bipolar and my borderline I have frequent episodes. If I were to plot out my ups and downs on paper, it would resemble the heartbeat of a squirrel stuck in traffic. This is what I’m like without medications. That being said, I’m on medications so I know it isn’t that. This is grief. This is depression. This is anxiety.

I live with depression and anxiety, I’m no stranger to them. This grief thing though, it’s really messing with me. Normally I am scatterbrained but now it’s just ridiculous. I spent ten minutes of my suppertime the other evening walking back and forth repeatedly from the dining room to the kitchen, all because I kept forgetting what I got up for and remembering what I needed once I got back to my chair. You wouldn’t believe how much time I waste in a day by being forgetful. I can pace around my house for hours, aimlessly looking in each room and wondering where to start and what to do. This is what I mean by feeling lost. It’s both frustrating and depressing to live like this.

I lose myself in almost anything lately. It’s like I’m mindfully avoiding the emptiness by distracting myself. I spend all hours with my baby during the day, exploring with him and playing. I tend to shirk my housewifely duties altogether, sadly. I don’t want or mean to, it just happens. There are countless days where my husband will come home from work to find me playing with baby, the house is a mess, and dinner hasn’t even been started. Thankfully, my husband is extremely understanding and helps me get back on track.

Last week was rough. I felt detached from my body, as if I were floating above myself like a balloon. I was there, but not all there. I went through the motions of cooking and cleaning without a thought process, and made the silliest mistakes. I kept telling my family and friends that I wasn’t feeling like myself and that I was dissociating, and while they sympathized I don’t think they fully understood. I stirred soup with a ladle instead of a whisk, I zoned out during conversations, I went speechless when I should have used my words, I stood around watching everyone else go about their day with a blank stare on my face. I drifted around my house and had urges to clean the bathroom when I should have been making pizza dough. I would confuse myself trying to be productive, which is actually counter productive. I felt myself slipping into dissociation and nothing I did could stop it. I noticed the signs but was helpless to help myself.

How do I stop myself from dissociating? That is a very good question. First, I have to recognize that I am indeed dissociating. Sometimes I don’t and it will continue for hours. When I do recognize it, I take note of what I am thinking and feeling. I use grounding techniques, mindfulness, music, and meditation. I go barefoot to feel my feet touching the ground. I wash my hands to feel the water and soap bubbles. I hug my children and feel their warmth. Lots of feels. Feeling things helps put me back together, so to speak. Music helps keep me from floating away in my mind, I have music playing for at least a few hours during the day. Usually I end up dancing, which lightens my mood and keeps me grounded. Mindfulness helps me a lot too. I get so lost trying to multitask around the house, mindfully doing one thing at a time is both relaxing and grounding. I’ll talk to myself and describe what I see, hear, feel, touch, smell or taste. Sometimes none of the above works, and that’s okay too. This too shall pass. I won’t feel this way forever, it will go away soon enough. I don’t give up when my techniques fail, I endure and persevere. I will keep reminding myself of where I am, what I see and what I’m doing. I will never give up on myself.

My husband is a huge help, he’s always there for me. He will walk with me through the fog with gentle reminders and supportive words. He helped me make myself a routine so I don’t wander around aimlessly during the day. I have to keep busy or else my mind wanders outside my body. It’s difficult to stick to my routine but I am trying my best and that’s what matters. I have alarms on my phone to help me too, and I am mindfully not dismissing them. Alarms for waking up, taking my meds, waking up the kids, doing my morning routine, making supper, etc. Every one of them has a purpose, and that is to keep me on track. I even have alarms to go to bed. It’s important for me to have a regular sleep cycle, because I have chronic insomnia and my insomnia affects my bipolar disorder. Insomnia and hypomania go hand in hand, for me anyways. I have to manage my illnesses so I can be stable for myself and my family. They depend on me, and I can’t let them down. I have to keep going, and to do that I need to fight the dissociation blues. I can do anything if I put my mind to it, if I believe in myself. I can do this. If I can weather the storms in my mind, I can enjoy the rainbow that eventually follows. If I can I will, and if I can’t, I’ll keep on trying.

2016 in Review

Oh, hello! *waves* I know, it’s been forever! Too long, in my opinion. Where the hell have I been for the past year and a bit?! Nowhere extravagant or foreign, just the old and familiar setting of the caverns that is my brain. Mentally speaking, that is. Physically, I have been a hermit. I’ve stayed home all these months with the exception of a week or two during Spring Break last year and this year, and all of July 2016. Those times were spent at my in-laws’ farm which is about an eleven hour drive south of my remote northern Canadian bush town. It’s a patch of paradise, I say. I love the farm!

Let’s just say that 2016 was not my year. I know, apparently it wasn’t many people’s year. For me, it was a non-stop roller coaster ride of hypomanic, depressive, and mixed bipolar episodes with spurts of fibromyalgia flare ups and BPD episodes sprinkled in for good measure. I’m going to break it down, here’s my 2016 in review.

  1.  I started out the year with a close friend leaving town to move eleven hours south.
  2.  I picked up extra bartending shifts at my local Royal Canadian Legion until I was slammed with a major Fibromyalgia flare up, it sent me spiraling into a major depressive episode which eventually dissipated a few months later.
  3.  I put my back out pushing my mattress towards the wall, resulting in a mechanical injury to my spine, L5 area to be exact.
  4.  I suffered flashbacks and nightmares stemming from my sexual abuse and rape many years ago. I didn’t realize until a while later that my flashbacks coincided with the anniversary (HA! more like date of misery) of my rape.
  5.  I relapsed with cutting, so many times I can’t count. The scars are still quite visible for some odd reason. I have been clean since October 20, 2016.
  6.  I fought off intrusive suicidal thoughts and urges while maintaining composure during my time taking care of children. Unfortunately I had to stop taking care of said children due to my deteriorating mental health, which basically ruined the friendship my family had with this other family.
  7.  I’ve stayed strong and supportive while members of my family are struggling with debilitating illnesses. I’m still keeping it together, in order to support them and help them stay positive.
  8.  I took a month leave with my kids to stay at our camper on my in-law’s farm. It was amazing and definitely helped me come out of my black depression. I love the outdoors, and seeing my kids and dogs run freely around the farm without a worry was such a relief.
  9.  We came home earlier than anticipated, as my daughter fell ill with hand foot and mouth disease. Within the week my husband and I fell ill as well. We stayed in our home all of August, in a self-quarantine. My son was lucky, as he was only a carrier of the virus. I wound up developing viral meningitis, when I went to my local hospital I was humiliated and not taken seriously because “She’s Borderline, so…”, it took me over a month to recover from the meningitis. I will delve into more detail on this in a future post.
  10. I got into some of the worst fights with my Hubby ever, thankfully our arguments always get resolved and it only made us closer as a couple. Looking back, I think I inadvertently started every fight. I am so sorry, my beloved.

That’s pretty much it in a small nutshell. There are also factors that have benefited me this year. I made sure to try my best in all of the above events. I’ve been quite the bookworm, thank goodness. I certainly missed that hobby! Now that my children are past the toddler and preschooler ages, I’m able to sit and read for longer than two minutes. I should really stick to just one book and read it through before starting the next one, but that’s why I have bookmarks. I am reading various self help books, and holy therapy Batman are they helping me!

I’ve learned a few things from my ups and downs during 2016, and while they are things I already knew (well, knew OF is more like it), I finally understand why these lessons are repeated ad nauseum throughout the mental health community.

  1.  MEDICATION COMPLIANCE IS A MUST. Yes, I know. We’ve all heard it before, from doctors, nurses, our parents (or maybe just mine), therapists. You seriously have to stay on top of that shit. I’ve always half assed my medication routine, regularly forgetting doses on a weekly basis. Well, I smartened up and set alarms on my phone without the choice of a snooze button. Unfortunately, we had a snag in our prescription coverage and I wound up simultaneously going off three psych meds cold turkey. FOR FOUR BLOODY WEEKS. It was horrendous. My withdrawal was starting to die down when our coverage was reinstated, so I could start taking my meds again. Going off meds cold turkey and then restarting those same meds after going through withdrawal is no pony ride. I’ve had a few missed doses here and there since the coverage fiasco, and I noticed a major difference in my moods and energy whenever it has happened, and I can feel those effects for about three days. I now keep track off all my meds and my son’s in one weekly pill case. The alarm goes off, I do my med rounds. I will not subject myself to missed doses again. Not if I can help it.
  2. UNRESOLVED TRAUMA WILL COME BACK TO HAUNT YOU. You can run, but you can’t hide from your own memories and history. I know, because I tried. I’m 32 now; I was raped by Abuser #1 when I was 16. That was half a lifetime ago for me. The rape was a culmination of 5 years of sexual abuse. I tried to pretend it didn’t happen, but when I was 17 my parents found out, Child and Family Services got involved along with the municipal sex crimes unit, and I couldn’t pretend anymore. Once I turned 18, I had the file closed and did my best to put it behind me by ignoring what happened. I shoved all the traumatic memories into the deepest, darkest crawlspace in the recesses of my brain. I was good until I began a relationship with my ex (Abuser #2) in the winter of 2003. I was just shy of 19. That relationship lasted 5 years and 3 months, and left me with a lifetime of emotional baggage and trauma. It also left me with my beloved son, who gave me a reason to wake up and smile every day. It was in his best interest that I left my ex in March 2009, and I’m so glad I finally gathered the courage to leave him. I was recently diagnosed with PTSD, to be honest I identify more with Complex PTSD but I’m not the expert. These two abusers are largely responsible for me having PTSD.  I am finally on the path of recovery, all these years later. Hey, better late than never.
  3. SELF CARE IS VITAL TO YOUR MENTAL HEALTH. Seriously. Self care is key. On the days where I am at my lowest, getting out of bed is exhausting. That’s why on my worst days, I don’t leave my bed. I will do nothing but lay there in my hermit cave of furry covers and snuggle with my cats and dogs, existing. And it’s exhausting, but sometimes it has to be done. Think of it as mental self-preservation. If it’s too painful for me to move around, I am pretty much bed ridden. So I make the most of that time by doing activities that I find soothing. Colouring and reading are my big ones, along with painting. Only issue with that is I have early onset psoriatic arthritis in my hands, and when they flare up with my fibromyalgia I can’t even hold a spoon to feed myself, let alone grip a pencil crayon to colour. Sometimes self care manifests as Netflix and whatever comfort foods you can find, or devoting some time to a favourite hobby. Either way… when you are down and out, you need to take care of yourself. Self care doesn’t have to be extravagant manicures and spa days. Self care can be as simple as making sure you brushed your teeth that day, avoiding social media for the day, or simply just giving yourself credit for making it this far in life. Self care is identifying your own needs and taking the steps to meet those needs. It’s about being kind to yourself, and treating yourself the way you want others to treat you.

Learning these important lessons was not fun, as I learned them the hard way. Repeatedly. Now that the information has finally sank in and absorbed into my grey matter, hopefully I will never have to relearn why medication compliance is a must. Ever hear of Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome? Take it from me, it’s no picnic in the park. I would say it’s worse than quitting Ziprasidone (Geodon/Zeldox) cold turkey.

2016 has come and gone, along with half of 2017 already. Holy geeze, time flies. I’m still here, so I will take that as a blessing and be grateful I am alive.

***Edited to add that today is July 9, 2017. The date listed is actually when I started the original draft of this post. That’s right, I am a newbie blogger and don’t know how to edit the dates. I am the Queen of procrastination.***