Written By: Amy Bennett
I am 21 years old and I have a mental illness. I will probably struggle with this mental illness for the rest of my life. It will always be there, lurking in the shadows, watching me and waiting for the perfect time for it to creep back into my life when I least expect it.
I have a mental illness, but it is one nobody talks about. It is the one that is barely ever mentioned in the news.
I am 21 years old and I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Borderline personality disorder is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses out there. Throughout the media, it is portrayed in such a negative light, linking it to criminals. However, this is far from the truth. Those diagnosed with BPD just want to feel happy, loved and safe. They want to be treated like an everyday person, and not somebody who is a danger to others.
I have BPD, and I am not dangerous. The only person I would ever hurt is myself.
I got diagnosed with BPD in hospital, and honestly, when I walked out of that hospital with that diagnosis stuck to me, I had never felt so lonely. I suddenly felt like there was this fence around me and nobody would even try to get over it to help me. I felt like a lost cause. I had not heard of BPD all that often before, so the diagnosis came as a complete shock. It was like my world had crashed down in front of me, and all I could do was stare blankly at my whole life in pieces on the floor. I had no clue what to do, and I will be honest: I did contemplate suicide that day. I just felt so lost.
I had been diagnosed with an illness I had barely any knowledge about, and to make things worse, my psychiatrist told me there is, unfortunately, no specific treatment for BPD. Instead, it was all about managing the symptoms of it, such as depression and anxiety, as well as anger management. I had been struggling with depression and anxiety for years before this day, and I must admit, having depression was difficult but at least there were treatment options available. When I found out I had BPD, I had just lost all hope of ever getting better.
BPD presents the constant feeling that reality blends into your dreams and nightmares. You are not always sure what is the truth and what lies your head is twisting you.
It turns your life into a paradox. You want to die, but you also don’t want to destroy the family unit you are a part of. You want to eat, but you also don’t want to put any excess weight on. You want to harm yourself, but you don’t want the everlasting scars covering your body. There is no grey area. You sleep for hours on end, or not at all. I could be having the most wonderful day and then one tiny thing, like a comment from someone, or even a post on social media, can send my world crashing down. I suddenly have all these thoughts of harming myself I can’t seem to shake off easily. I find myself isolated a lot of the time.
Even when I find myself happy, I have the constant fear of something going wrong and destroying my happiness that I send myself spiraling back down into a deep, dark depression. Everything is either sunny and bright, or pitch black.
I wake up each day wishing I hadn’t. I get dressed, I do my makeup and I get on with my day. I go to university, I watch movies, I go shopping and I visit family. Everybody talks to their friends about what they are doing at the weekend, and I talk to my demons about how I wish the world would swallow me up in one.
I laugh with my friends, but it is the type of laughter that is forced. I will sit in a room full of people and feel like I am the only person in there, because regardless of how many people are around me, I will always feel alone. And the unfortunate truth is, I am alone. Having a mental illness makes you feel so lonely and isolated from the “real” world, because you feel you cannot tell anyone in fear of being judged. It’s not like a broken arm where everybody rushes to sign your cast and you know you will be back to your “normal” self in 6-8 weeks. It’s an everlasting numbness and overwhelming rush of negative thoughts that control your every move.
That loneliness is what mental illness thrives off. It wants you to be isolated, it wants you to cut everybody who ever loved you out of your life, because it wants to destroy you. But you cannot let it win.
Recovery isn’t all smiles and laughing and eating loads of food and feeling happy after you’ve eaten it; it’s about the small achievements like getting out of bed on a day you don’t really feel up to it, or going into a busy shopping center on your own, or even just getting a shower for the first time in a week because you didn’t really feel up to showering beforehand.
It is only recently I have come to terms with my life and the way it is. I have accepted the fact I do have a mental illness, and I do have scars from self-harm, but that is what makes me the person I am.
Without my mental illness, I wouldn’t be as brave as I am today. I wouldn’t have met so many wonderful people in university, or those I have met online through support groups. I wouldn’t have realized what a wonderful job the NHS does in the UK, and I wouldn’t have had the pleasure to meet such fantastic doctors and nurses who have helped care for me over the years. I wouldn’t be studying the course I am at university; I probably wouldn’t even be at the same university I am at. Without my mental illness, I probably wouldn’t see my family as much as I do. My mental illness has taught me that although life is difficult at times, it is worth fighting for, and it is worth living, not just surviving. Through mental illness, I have learned some very harsh lessons in life: you should live every day like it is your last, you should treasure every moment you get to spend with your loved ones, and you should be proud of the person you are.
From the outside looking in I may look and act OK, but in fact, I am not OK. I am fighting with a mind that wants to die, and I am dealing with an illness that controls every piece of me, and chokes me on the bad days, but keeps me comforted on the good days. It keeps me grounded and makes me a stronger person.
And that is what it is like to be me.