She listened attentively and when I had finished reading it to her, she told me not to change a word. She politely stated that I needed to submit the story for two main reasons; one, it would be helpful in building my self-esteem if they chose to publish, and second, if it was published, it would help someone who read it. In my opinion, she had just paid me a huge compliment. It took me until three in the afternoon to get up the nerve to actually send it in. When I submitted it, I got an email saying that it would be close to a month before their editors would have a chance to preview it. The deciding factor for submitting it was the idea of helping someone else. I like helping and taking care of other people, it helps in distracting myself from thinking or feeling whatever is bothering me. That made me a little anxious about having my story out there with no way of knowing if it was going to help anyone.
In looking for feedback, fellow sufferers, and anyone else I can help, I have decided that for my first post that I am going to put my article up. Please don’t feel shy about commenting. I would love to hear what other people think, even if it’s criticism. So, here it is folks!
January 23, 2019
My Journey to Recovery from BPD and bipolar disorder
2017 was a very hard year for me, but in order to explain why, I have to back up a few years. December 27, 2012, I woke up with my whole left arm swollen three times its size. I went to several facilities and specialists until I could find out what was wrong with me. I found out in August of 2013. The doctor told me that all my veins and nerves were being squished in between a bone and a tendon in my shoulder. He said that there was nothing that could be done and that I would be in chronic pain for the rest of my life. He had me on three different major pain medications along with others. In June of 2017, he was arrested for overmedicating patients to earn some extra money.
This blew my mind. I immediately started questioning myself. Was I one of these patients? Was I really feeling pain or was I imagining it because I was addicted to the pills? And this last question changed me instantly. Growing up I had a stepfather, who was abusive, was a drunk (and possibly a drug addict); and also my first husband, who was abusive, was a drunk and was definitely a drug addict warped my view of the world to stay away from those two labels. So, the next question I asked myself, “Was I just like them?” Kicked me down hard. I instantly labeled myself a drug addict and hated myself that much more. To my relief my stubborn self-will said, “I refuse to subject my children to that kind of life,” and then I flushed every medication I had.
I won’t go into detail about the next few weeks; the withdrawal process is a demon that nobody likes to hear about. But when I came out the other side, I had completely changed. I was still in pain, but I didn’t fully trust myself. I found a pain clinic that uses psychology and Christianity along with medications to deal with pain in their patients. They use low dose pain medication and they only give one to two weeks worth until you finish the psychology classes. The psychology classes are what helped me to see that I needed some real help with my mind. Ever since my detox, I had been struggling with my moods more than ever. My thoughts, moods, and struggles have been hard throughout my life, but I had a hard time that summer that turned my world, life, self, emotions, and thoughts upside down. So, I sought out a psychiatrist and ended up with Lauren in July of 2017. The very first session she said that she suspected I had bipolar disorder and put me on some new medicines. I was still at the pain clinic, and even though it had been confirmed (by three different doctors) that I had some issues in my neck (instead of my shoulder) and should be on these pain pills, I could not make myself believe that I needed them. Since the medications from Lauren were not controlled or abusable, I was okay with taking them.
I was confused, irritated, and distrustful of everything and everyone around me. My husband, kids, mother, sister, and friends didn’t understand or know how to handle me. I started isolating myself and pushing people away until one by one everybody just stopped trying and backed away out of my life. I really didn’t want that. I was just so lonely, but so afraid to apologize at the same time. I found myself at a crossroad. I could stay at the pain clinic and get the pills, or I could stop going and get the help I needed. My will to be a good mom and a good person came out at that moment. I told the doctors that until I got my head right, I couldn’t honestly go through their program.
That is when I found my therapist, Heather at the same facility as Lauren. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t really want the at this point. I was just severely lonely and needed someone to talk to. The loneliness and abandonment that I felt were too much for me, even though it was my fault I was in this situation. I started going out at night, drinking, and doing my drug of choice, dxm, until one day, I accidentally scraped my forearm. As I watched the blood ooze out from it, I noticed that all my feelings and all my racing, chaotic thoughts were gone. That’s all I had been searching for. So I stopped going out, stopped drinking, and gave in to the blissfully, numbing nothingness of cutting.
I can’t remember if it was before or after the cutting started, that Heather diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder. When she read me the symptoms out of the DSM, and I either had or agreed with eight out of the nine symptoms for BPD, my view of myself, my life, and everything shifted again. For a short while, I was harder on myself and the cutting got really bad. I believed the stigma that surrounds any personality disorder, so I continued to cut, all while faking happy and normal around my kids. I was miserable and I dissociated as much and as often as I could. In the few rational moments that I had, I could see that I barely existed and what it was doing to my children, family, and myself. All of it made me want to die.
I had a major psychotic episode that landed me in the hospital after a suicide attempt. I had sent my kids to my mother’s house, packed up what I could fit in my car, and left. I did call Heather’s messaging service freaking out that I had just left my husband and that I was staying in my car. Before she could call me back though, I had gotten in touch with an old high school friend that let me spend the night at her house. I wish I had never gone. I saw her life and irrational jealousy ran hot and heavy through me. She had a wonderful husband that took care of her, two lovely well-behaved children, a nice house, car, and all the worldly possessions that you could need in this life. I realized that I wanted this kind of life to give to my children, and I realized that I was never going to be able to give this to them. They deserved a great life.
When I was hospitalized, on the first day, I felt claustrophobic. The staff treated me like a child and made me feel like I was insane. So at the first opportunity to talk to the doctor, I pleaded for them to let me go home. After some debate and against medical advice, they let me go. I was barely okay for a while. I had decided that no matter the cost to me, I was going to be there for my kids. I continued to cut and continued to see Heather and Lauren. My medications were never a top priority, partly because of the detox I went through, it had made me scared of pills; and partly because I didn’t fully take my diagnosis and therapy seriously. It was easy to take my morning medications, but I rarely remembered to take my evening medications. Which included the antipsychotic that would have helped me, and probably prevented a lot of episodes.
I went through at least three different medication changes by this point to see what worked best for me. I never gave them a real chance because I couldn’t remember to take them, or I decided not to take them. Then something called GeneSight came out. It’s a test where they take a cheek swab and check your DNA against all kinds of medications, and figure out which ones will work out best with your system. In my confirmation to do the test, I was at a confusing point. I wanted to be cured of my illnesses, I wanted to not take medications, to not be in therapy, to have real loving relationships with family and friends, but most of all, I wanted to be that great mother that my children deserved to have. On the flip side, I still hadn’t done the research on my illnesses, I didn’t want to put the work and effort into therapy, and I definitely didn’t want to take those pills.
The results of the test would take two weeks to come in, so I decided not to take any of my medications, which was stupid and dangerous, until I could get on the right medicines. On June 15, 2018, my emotions were high. I remember being lonely, and after looking back on the day, everything else is just a fog. Until I was making a large deep cut, and then my eldest daughter walked in on me. In that one moment, I have never been so devastated or so sober in my life. I immediately put myself in her shoes and thought, “What would I do if I walked in on my 15-year-old cutting herself?” It was like being drenched with a bucket of ice cold water. I started apologizing and she told me that she wanted her mom back and that I needed help. In that instant, looking into her tearful eyes, I vowed to myself first that I would do the work or whatever it took to get better. Then I told and vowed to her the same thing. I called my mom, dropped the kids off, drove to the hospital, and checked myself in.
I was wary at first because of my first experience, but I kept my vow at the forefront of my mind. I can break a vow or promise to myself any time, but I taught my kids that if you make a promise, then you don’t break it, no matter what. So, I went in there determined to do or take whatever was needed to get me straightened out. I mentioned to the staff that I hadn’t been taking my medicine in two weeks, because I was waiting on the results from the GeneSight test. The nurse practitioner found the results, consulted with Lauren, and they put me on all new medications. Just so happens, the different medicines that I had tried over the last year had turned out to be either bad for me or just okay.
I can say that when I went into the hospital I felt hopeless but determined. It’s harder to explain fully how I felt from Day 1 to the day I got out. On day one and two I kept to myself, didn’t talk to anybody, and I attended the group therapy but didn’t participate. Day three is when things started to shift and change for me once more. The nurses all told me that they noticed a huge difference in me after just the two days of starting the medicines. I started smiling and making conversations. In my meeting with the doctor and staff, I didn’t mess with my fidget cube, which up until that point I had done regularly. By this time, I had been taking all the medications they gave me, was doing all the group therapy, and was talking to my husband and kids everyday. Day 4 is when something amazing happened, and a time that will always stick out in my mind.
I’m not that shy, but I was raised to not speak unless spoken to. So, quiet and observant had been my normal for thirty years. At day 4, I hardly recognized myself. I was fully smiling, laughing, starting conversations, sarcastically joking with people (my favorite and what I’m known for), leading group activities, and actively participating in all of the group therapies. Most shockingly of all, was that I didn’t feel ashamed, guilty, or stupid for anything I was saying or doing.
At my meeting with the doctor and staff on day five they all complimented me on showing almost no anxiety, my strength, my participation, and my general attitude that they had observed since I had been there. We had a brief conversation about the differences, which were night and day, between what I was like when I first got there and what I was like that day. I remember telling them that for the first time in a year I felt hope, I felt rational, present in the moment, and since being there I hadn’t thought about cutting or any other destructive behavior, which to me was a big deal. They told me that they all agreed that I was being open and honest. Then said that as long as I stayed on my medicine and continued to see Heather, that I could go home. That was on June 20th.
When I got back home, I made a lot of changes. I started doing research on all things BPD or bipolar related. There isn’t anything, that I have found, on the dual diagnosis of BPD and bipolar disorder. I kept every appointment with Heather and started to really open up to her. I put as much effort and work into therapy as I was capable of.
I still had major problems remembering my evening medications though. I was listening to music one day, just staring at the wall and desk in front of my desk, when I had an idea. I look at that desk and wall probably a hundred times a day, why don’t I put a sign up there to remind me to take my medications. All I could find was a small white cardboard box, so I took the idea one step further. I decorated the front of the box with big letters asking, “Have you taken your AM and PM meds?” then in small letters at the very bottom I wrote, ”If not then look inside.” The next weekend that we were at my mom’s house, and my sister, her kids, and my nephew were there, I gave them a sheet of paper and their favorite colored pen. I then asked them to write one or anything that they love about me, or draw me a picture. I asked my mom and sister to write me a letter reminding me why they think I should always take my medicines. Later, when I was at home and alone, I also wrote myself a letter about the differences in me with or off of my medications and what I want for myself. Then we folded them up and put them in the box.
Today is January 23, 2019, and I haven’t seen what is written on those papers. Which means that for over six months, I have taken all of my medications on a regular basis. I still see Heather at least twice a month, and even though I still have bad days where I get over emotional, because of therapy and my motivation, the worst I think about doing dxm. Which nine times out of ten, I won’t do. I’m slowly crawling my way out of this hole that I’ve dug for myself. I say all the time that I want to get back to who I was. Heather says that I’ll never be the same person that I was, that I can have some of the old me by finding and keeping the healthy real traits, and then becoming who I really am underneath whatever I’m hiding from. I’m still working on that.
I feel that my therapy and my journey to recovery started when I got out of the hospital. The best day towards progress is the day when my youngest daughter exclaimed that she was so happy to have her mom back. This was after a massive nerf gun war between the four of us across our neighborhood. My daughter told me that she said that, because for the first time in “forever” I was happy and playing with them the way I used to. The old me hated to see anyone down or depressed. I had always strived, no matter the cost to me, to bring smiles, laughs, and fun out of everyone. That day of our nerf war was filled, not just from my children but everybody that happened to be home, with smiles, laughs, and fun. This memory will always stick with me, because “I” made my kids happy, “I” got out and acted like a kid with them, and I knew that this was the first trait of the old me that was part of the “real” me.
I’m about to graduate from college, something I’ve been working on since before all this even started. It will mean more to me now considering what I’ve been through, what I have had to overcome just enough to finish, and for once make me proud of myself when it’s done. On the side, I’ve got a few online support communities for mental illnesses. I have forums for BPD and then for bipolar disorder. I have just found, but have not attended yet, a real-life support group in my small town for people with mental illnesses. I include all of these groups in my treatment plan to recovery. My reason for that is that I’m still trying to get my mom and sister back fully into my life. As much as I love them, love talking to them, and love hanging out with them, they can’t completely understand me, what I go through on a daily basis, or what I’ve been through since that June in 2017. I need to find people, and potential friends, to talk and share with that understand what it’s like in some way and won’t judge me for anything I do, say, or think. I have my bad days just like anybody, where everything I’ve learned just goes out the window. Between my medications, Heather, and my support groups I’m learning to cope, and that helps make my episodes shorter.
On my personal road to recovery, I would not be anywhere if I didn’t say yes to help. That help, my children, family, friends, and a little of myself keep me motivated, determined, and present so I can move one step closer to being fully recovered, happy, and the best me I can possibly be. To me, that is exciting.