31 Day BPD Challenge – Day 5: Have you ever written a suicide note?

I can honestly say that I have never written a suicide note… and I don’t think that I could. Suicide is a very selfish act, I don’t think anyone can deny that. There’s actually not likely anything I can do that is more about “me” than choosing to end my own life, and leaving all my problems behind. I’m not saying this at all to be critical to those that have committed suicide, or that contemplate it. I can say right now that it is selfish, because to me, there’s not much of an argument to say otherwise. But that being said, when I’m reeling in my depression there’s nothing you can tell me that could possibly make living any less desirable. It’s not that I think dying is going to be enjoyable. It’s not that I’m excited about it. I hate it… I dread it… but it’s the lesser of two evils, so to say. In those moments, the agony of life seems greater than the cost of death. In the moment, death feels comforting.

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I don’t think that anyone “wants to die”. Like I said it yesterdays post, it’s human nature to live. We are created to “choose life“. Death is the the end, the final curtain call, the last dance. There’s no second chances once that choice is made. There is literally nothing on earth that is more final than death. I think more than “wanting to die“, it’s “not wanting to live” that plagues people. Death is less excruciating than life. I like to use the analogy of a burning building… Imagine yourself trapped on the twentieth floor of a high rise building that is on fire. The fire is growing closer and closer. The heat more and more overwhelming. You go to the window to get a gasp of fresh air. You see the firemen below, but they are so distant. The help is there, but it’s out of reach. As the flames come closer and closer, the heat gets more and more excruciating. You now are faced with a choice… do you stay in the building, bearing the the unbearable pain of the fire, or do you jump out the window, escaping the flames, but inevitably falling to your death?

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Now before you start, I’ll let you know that this is not a completely fair comparison, but it is an accurate analogy. Life, when you battle with severe depression or anxiety, burns… it hurts. Bad. The flames can feel unbearable. The fire dies down, but it always comes back roaring. The burn of the flames, or the pain of this life that is playing out in our heads can be too much to bear. And yes, I very deliberately said the pain of this life that is “playing out in our heads”, because thats what it is. I know that depression and anxiety are battles in my mind. I know that seeing my psychiatrist, going to my therapy, taking my meds… they all help. And they help a lot. But I’m far from being fixed. And when I’m depressed or anxious, that is the only reality that I know. It’s no longer just in my head. It’s no longer a “me” thing. It is now engulfing my entire life, my entire being. Everything is fuel to those flames. My thoughts are stoking the fire. Nothing feels like it is for me, and everything is against me. I feel as helpless as a man trapped in a burning building holding a glass of water. It’s get swallowed up by the flames of the cruelest of lives… or jump.

I know that sounds like an extreme analogy, but the unfortunate thing is that it is, in many cases, very accurate. Think about it again for a minute. He/she chose death over life. You know that there’s some pretty drastic happenings playing out in their head for that choice to be made. And speaking from my own experiences… you can feel incredibly helpless and alone. It’s a painful place to be. It’s a scary place to be. And its the loneliest of lonely places to be. Suicide is an escape from life. Is it selfish? It’s hard to argue otherwise. But I think it’s important to look past the surface. That last act carried out might not have been a last “selfish” act… it was likely more accurately a last “helpless, hopeless” act. Because that’s what living with depression/anxiety and feel like… a helpless and hopeless life.

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As far as suicide notes go, for me, and this is 100% my opinion, but for me a suicide note would be selfish, or a cry for attention. I know that everyone is different. I’m not saying that everyone who writes a suicide note is crying for attention. But, that’s not the way I am. It’s not the way I do things. For me, a suicide note would be a way of pointing blame at someone other than myself. Or wanting someone to feel guilty for not doing enough. People don’t need a note…they’re going to feel guilty. They don’t need me to inform them of that.

I’ll conclude the same way I always like to… with some incredibly important, life changing advice. For those of you that are suicidal, please-please-please get professional help. Have your doctor refer you to a psychiatrist. Counselling makes such a huge difference, and this is coming from someone who up until this summer was anti-therapy. Come up with a safety plan, and have the people close to you familiar with that plan. Find a network where you can safely and comfortably share and learn. It’s a long, difficult journey… so make it worth it. Suicidal is what I am… but it’s not who I am, and it’s not how it has to end.

31 Day BPD Challenge – Day 4: Have you ever attempted suicide?

“In the depths of hell, I learned who I was. It takes a strong soul to endure so much pain and heartache and still make it out alive; to not get stuck in the deep burning pit of misery. It takes a resilient creature to claw their way back up out of the darkness and back into a reality where your nightmarescan finally turn into dreams.

-Jordan Sarah Weatherhead

This is another post that for me has me completely unsure as to what I’m even going to say. I try and at least have an idea what I’m wanting to say before I start writing, but this entry is going to be 100% written as I go. I apologize in advance if my ramblings don’t make sense…but I’l do my best. So, here goes…

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Suicide…is there a darker place in all of existence than standing at the doors of death, feeling so much hurt and pain and conflict and confusion that you’re not fighting to get away from those doors, but you are actually pushing those doors open and willingly walking through. Avoiding death is the most natural aspect of human nature. Our bodies are literally designed to avoid dying. Just try and stop breathing… your body won’t let you. We are wired to fight death, everything in us longs to live. So how can anyone possibly get to the point where not only do they willingly die, but they take the course of action to carry out that will. Mental Health is an uncomfortable topic to discuss. Self-harm takes that discomfort to the next level. Suicide… well that takes discomfort to a level few are willing to tread. I don’t care who you are, there is no easy conversation on suicide… there never has been, and there never will be. It’s another one of those “if you’ve never been there, you just won’t get it” things. And you can’t get it. But, what I am going to try and do is help you understand, from my experience, what the attraction of suicide is. Again, this is my opinions based on my experience…

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I read a book on suicide that referred to it as “an illicit lover“. And that, at least for me, is about the most accurate description. Suicide… thinking of it as a forbidden love affair is actually very accurate. I am suicidal. I would even say I’m very suicidal. I’m not ready to share publicly yet details, but I have had two extremely close calls over the past six months. “How can someone in they’re right mind commit suicide?” To me, that’s an easy answer. They can’t. For someone to stand on a stool, putting their head through a noose for the sole intent of ending their life… the only thing for certain is that they’re not in their right mind. Instead of asking “why?” or “how could they?”, focus more on “what is hurting this person so much, that DEATH is more desirable than life?” Just think about it for a second. Life, in the mind of someone contemplating suicide, is so bad that cutting it off seems and feels desirable. Not seeing another day is actually seen as a relief. It’s awful. It’s sad. It’s true.

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With my BPD, I suffer both extreme anxiety and depression. When I get depressed, the thoughts of suicide come in. Every. Single. Time. And I’m depressed a lot. I literally contemplate, rationalize, and justify ending my life every day. Sometimes multiple times. I beat myself up when I’m depressed. I carve into my mind how worthless I am. How I do nothing but hurt and destroy peoples lives. That every single person would be better off if I no longer was here. I know that this isn’t true, of course. My family loves me. My kids idolize me. For sure I’d be missed… I get that. But when I get down, none of that matters. I think of dying. I dream of dying. I pray to die. But the depression, and my thoughts and desires when I’m depressed are not what scares me. When I’m depressed, I know I’m not going to kill myself, no matter how much I want to. When I’m depressed I’m definitely not thinking straight… but I am rational. “What if it doesn’t work?” for me is usually more than enough to prevent thoughts from “going into action”. “What if it hurts?” or “what if my kids find me?” Basically, when I’m depressed I’m having a big, massive, “my life sucks – poor me” pity-party. It’s my anxiety that scares the shit out of me… especially when it piggybacks my depression. My anxiety is not rational… not at all, not even a little, not even close. My brain operates in split-second reactions. I described yesterday the “noise” in my head that often leads to cutting. That absolute inability to focus on anything…anything at all. Then when I finally grab something to focus on it’s something extremely negative. I beat myself up over it… feel the need to punish myself. This is where the anxiety ramps up again, only this time it has a focus… and that focus is me!! How bad a father I am, how selfish I am, how terrible I treat my wife, how incompetent I am at my job, how my friends only are my friends because they’re my wife’s friends, how I can do absolutely nothing right. This often leads to me texting Sherry and going off to her about how much I suck… getting angry at her for anything she says… being a complete asshole. I’ve gone off on friends before. I’ve gotten so worked up at work I can do nothing but sit in the corner pulling my hair and sobbing (Note: the me sobbing part is strictly between me and you). This is when I cut to punish, rather than cut to relieve chaos. This is the deserved cutting, the angry cutting. And this is when I’m at extreme high risk for suicide. I’m seeing red… It’s fight or Flight.

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A comment I hear quite regularly is how well I present myself. I am very smart. I definitely know how to manipulate situations. I am a liar, although my wife and my mother-in-law hate me describing myself that way. When I got admitted into the Dubé Centre, I told the psych nurse “I’m going to lie my way out of here…” and I did. I warned my counsellors and psychiatrist that I lie and manipulate situations to avoid discomfort. But the reality is that life is full of discomfort. All the lying and manipulating I can throw at the world will not change that. Life hurts… for me, the easiest way to describe it is that emotionally, life simply hurts. I’m used to it. I’ve had years of living with it. Putting on a smile and pretending it’s ok. Now don’t get me wrong… I do this very willingly. Pretending things are good and that I’m happy makes the people around me happy, which is far more enjoyable, even for a depressed guy like me. But it is EXHAUSTING!! When I come home after spending a day in social settings, I just want to lay down and be left alone… for the rest of my life. And after a couple days of this, that exhaustion puts me into a state of complete shut down.

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How many times have you heard, after a suicide, “I had know idea… he/she seemed so happy.” or “I just don’t get it… they had so much going for them.” Here are my responses to those comments. “Seeming happy” is not hard to do. I’m sure you’ve gone to a work meeting, or a dinner party you didn’t want to be at, but “acted happy”. We all have. I put so much hate and guilt on myself for “ruining peoples lives”, that I make pretty damn sure to be happy most places I go. And lots of times I am. But aside from my wife, I can pretty much guarantee that no one knows when I’m not. And hey… I’m suicidal. “They had so much going for them” Hello… I’m just going to base this on me again. I’m a blessed man. I have an amazing, hot and sexy wife… the two best kids on planet earth. A job that I love, more supportive family than you can imagine. I’ve got more than I need. But guess what? I’m suicidal.

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Suicide does not make sense. If it did, we could likely do a lot better at preventing it from happening. For those of you that are suicidal, please-please-please get professional help. Counselling makes such a huge difference, and this is coming from someone who up until this summer was anti-therapy. Come up with a safety plan, and have the people close to you familiar with that plan. Find a network where you can safely and comfortably share and learn. It’s a long, difficult journey… so make it worth it. Suicidal is what I am… but it’s not who I am, and it’s not how it has to end.

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31 Day BPD Challenge – Day 3: Do you self-harm? If yes, how?

This is one of the days that right away lit up for me when I was reading through the challenges. It’s such a touchy topic, and when it hit’s close to home it pierces straight through you like a bullet. Anyone who knows someone who self-harms knows the emotional hurt that it carries. It can be utterly devastating to see someone that you know, love and want to protect not only hurting… emotionally reeling. And to really give you that unfathomable blow…you see that they are taking all this hurt out on themselves. They are physically hurting themselves. For real… read that again. “they are physically hurting…themselves” WTF!! How can someone do this. We’ve all stuck ourselves by accident with a pin or needle; nicked ourselves cutting an apple; or at very least gotten a paper-cut or broken a nail. I think we would all agree, pain is not fun. It is the furthest thing from comforting, it’s not even the least bit calming, and it’s mind boggling to think that anyone would feel otherwise. Most of us can not even begin to wrap our heads around the idea of self-harm…it just does not make any sense. None. At all.

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I think that through all the things I go through, the self harm is what causes the most question, concern, and confusion. Actually, let me reword that…I KNOW that self-harm is the kicker. I do self-harm. I am a cutter. I have roughly a hundred scars on my forearms, shoulders and neck. For the most part, my cutting has been fairly superficial, but I have had some cuts go a little deeper causing trips to ER for some repairs. It’s not something I’m proud of doing. Not even a little. But I also know that one day I’ll look down at my arms and see my stripes, and see an illness that I have harnessed, reigned in, and penned up under control. But for now it’s one of my biggest struggles. It’s my go-to coping method, and the sad and scary reality is…it’s the only coping method that, for me, works 100% of the time. It does the job. I know it does, I know I can count on it when things get to be too much. I know that that option is always there. The safety net. The crutch.

“But how can you cut yourself? I mean, you’re cutting…yourself?!?!” There is really only one answer I can give you, and that is this. Until you’ve been there…until you’ve been at that place where cutting yourself is the absolute greatest source of relief, you won’t get it. If you’ve never been there, I don’t care how hard you try to understand…how much you believe you understand; If you’ve never been sitting there, knife in hand, you do NOT understand! Sorry, I don’t mean to discourage you at all. I’ve told Sherry it’s kind of like child birth. I can think of all kinds of unpleasant things to say child birth might feel like, but I’ll never know. I’ll never really understand. BUT…I’m still there every step of the way to support her. And in the same way, Sherry is there every step of the way to support me.

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How can I cut myself? For me, and again, I can only speak for myself. But for me it’s the anxiety that is the culprit when it comes to cutting. My BPD causes both extreme Anxiety and extreme Depression, and everything in between. It’s different from bi-polar, where the “mood-swings” are more lengthy,  Depression can last days, weeks even, and the “manic state” the same. On the other hand, with BPD the Depression/Anxiety spikes are not near as drawn out. Anxiety, for me, comes in basically two forms. A very ‘focused’ anxiety, and ‘noise’. The focused anxiety is pretty much how it sounds. Something will get into my head that gets me anxious…work, money, a meeting. Whatever it might be, I just can’t stop focussing on that. The more I focus on it, the more anxious I get, and eventually the focus becomes negative and “self-punishing”, and the anxiety actually swings into depression. It works the other way too, where I’ll be depressed thinking about something, and that will shift into me being anxious, and the mood swings the other way. You can see how it is frustrating for people who are trying to support.

The “noise” is the anxiety that I haven’t really learned an effective way to cope with. And it’s the anxiety that leads to 90% of my cutting. It’s so hard to explain. People who know what I’m talking about know, and everyone else just looks at you, jaw slightly dropped with a wrinkled nose and ruffled brow. I’ll take my best shot at describing noise…bare with me. Imagine your thoughts as a tv show that you are watching in your head. Now imagine someone standing behind you with the remote and flipping through the channels. All of a sudden you have all these different tv shows, or “thoughts” flipping through your head. Faster, and faster, and faster. but…you’re still trying to focus on your show you were watching. You have to block out what’s on all the other stations, and whenever your show comes around quickly try and focus on it and follow what’s going on. This, for me, is what it’s like trying to perform tasks when my anxiety spikes. It is impossible. I have been practicing different coping methods, but the sad truth is that right now, cutting is the only thing that works. And here’s how it works. It hurts!! It doesn’t feel that good. But, the pain is a distraction. When you’re cutting yourself, it is very very hard to focus on anything else. It draws your attention to the task at hand. If the first cut doesn’t work, you keep on going. I also do a lot of self blame. Self hate. Self punishment. It’s very easy for me to justify the pain I bring on myself as being deserved. So even after the cutting does it’s job and takes away the anxiety, I don’t look at my arms and think “what have I done?”. Not at all. It’s much more of a “you got what you deserve, you piece of shit!”

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For all the cutters that read this, I feel your pain. I know all too well how it feels to have no other option that has any sort of relief for you. It doesn’t have to be this way though. If you are cutting, and haven’t done this already, seek professional help. There are ways to overcome this. It’s hard work, but I am plugging away at it and trusting the day will come when I can tattoo over all my scars knowing I’ll never have to cut again. For everyone else…please-please-please…don’t be quick to judge someone you care about for cutting. Don’t alienate them. Don’t try to understand where they’re coming from. Remember, you will never understand. It’s like me and child birth. All I can do is be as supportive and comforting as I can. Be there for whatever she needs. And that’s the best thing you can do to. Comfort them…Support them…Listen to their needs, and do what you can to help out.

31 Day BPD Challenge – Day 2: Why did your last friendship end?

Rather than focus on how my last friendship ended specifically, I’m going to open up more generally to how relationships have played out their tenure in the past. I know that I can only speak for myself, but I know that a lot of BPD, sufferers of Depression/Anxiety, and many others have similar social ‘obstacles’ or boundaries that come into play in handling social settings. It can be an extremely daunting challenge…one that many choose to avoid and recluse from. But, I’m hoping that by opening for you a small window of understanding, you may be able to see things a little more through the eyes of someone who lives with social fears.

First off, there are some things I’m going to have to tell you about myself. Social interaction is the cause of far and away the most influenced anxiety in my life…that is, anxiety caused by some outward thing, not just caused by “clutter and chaos” in my head. It’s really hard for me to explain, and I’m sure even harder for you to understand, but…relationships scare the shit out of me. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Even the most basic of relationships for me are difficult, uncomfortable, and entirely intimidating. I have huge trust issues which prevent people from getting at all close, and I enter relationships with so many guards up I literally refuse to allow myself to become even the least bit vulnerable. Most people upon hearing this are surprised because I’m such a social person. And that’s true…I am an extremely social person. “But you just said you hate social interaction” you’re likely thinking to yourself. Well, I don’t hate it, but yes…it’s extremely difficult. But the thing is, I also have a fear that is far greater than that of social interaction, and that is what right now is an near uncontrollable fear of abandonment. This is a common trait in people with BPD…you likely only need to read the opening paragraph of any book on the topic to find that out. But it’s very true. This fear, at times, has overwhelming control of my life. One specific piece of this fear that I have been focusing on is working through the fear of losing my family, and trusting that my wife is not going to abandon me. (I want to make a very clear side note here…Sherry has never done anything that has been the cause of this fear. I have an amazing committed and supportive wife. These fears are rooted so deep, and Sherry just has the unfortunate privilege of working through the rubble with me) I know that for Sherry, it’s been extremely difficult that I have so strongly gripped to that fear that she is going to leave me, that I’ve actually done things to push her away. I have very literally done things over the years to sabotage our relationship. It’s like I’m so paranoid of what I fear will happen, that in turn I do something to actually push things towards making it happen. You see, I build my walls very high. I keep them well guarded, and I defensively attack anyone who gets near. I’m humiliated and even ashamed to admit it, but I can literally count on one hand the number of people I have ever allowed inside those walls.

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So back to the question of friendships ending. Most friendships that I have had over the years, like most people, just kind of slowly fade away. Without even realizing it you just kind of drift out of each others lives. There’s also friends that I have pushed away. My method of doing this, although not always, is most often complete avoidance. I stop returning calls. I stay clear of places or events where I might run into them. I do everything I can to make them think I may have just walked off the earth. It’s sad. It’s pathetic. It’s true. But then there’s those friends that I have lost. That in my mind have either abandoned me, or been taken from me. They’re the daggers…the relationships that are pure gasoline on the fire that is my greatest fears. I have had a few of these over the years, and they have had monumental lasting influence on my life. They’ve fuelled those fears of being left…abandoned. They’ve provided the bricks and mortar for building my walls…my inability to trust. All of these things anchored in my mind like concrete. And now I have the task before me of chipping away all that concrete, and brick by brick disassembling those walls.

31 Day BPD Challenge – Day 1: Think of the last time you were really angry. Why was that?

Anger, unfortunately, is such a natural and common thing in my life. I hate that that is the way it is…but it is. Having BPD, one of the challenges I face is the continual “back and forth” between Anxiety and Depression. Most of the time, there is more of a subtle curve or wave back and forth between the two. When I start getting “worked up”, the anxiety increases. I get the shakes, I get claustrophobic, my muscles tense and my jaw clenches. (these are signs my wife tells me tip her off to my anxiety building). When I get depressed though, I start shutting down. I feel anger towards my self…I self blame, and beat myself up over even the slightest of things. Usually the more people try to cheer me up, I receive it as patronizing, and it puts me lower in my depression. (You can see here where being the supporter of someone suffering from depression can be a losing battle. I’ve told Sherry many times…”don’t take it personally, there is literally nothing you can do or say that’s not going to make this worse.” She ends up feeling helpless, and can begin blaming herself. It’s a terrible position to be in when the person you love shuts down and is completely unwilling to give you even the slightest form of cooperation.) Both anxiety and depression, for me, when they hit that “10/10” point (1/10 being slight anxiety/depression, 10/10 being severe) they manifest themselves as anger. I’m just speaking for myself, as I know everyone is different in how they are influenced and affected, but anger, unfortunately, is far too often my landing strip.

It can be such an extremely vicious circle…and this is an area that I know most people just “don’t get it”. It sucks, it’s frustrating, and it can completely take over. This is the days where being my wife…or anyone around me, SUCKS!! I’ll give you an example. I’m a finishing carpenter, and with that I am often times working alone. There are times at work where I’ll start getting anxious, wether it’s triggered by something as simple as not getting a mitre to fit, something I’m thinking about, or just “clutter and noise” in my head. (I’ll explain “clutter and noise” some other time) If I can’t get myself calmed down, the anxiety grows and grows until I have to have some kind of release…and this often comes in the form of anger. Then whatever it is that I’m angry about, I start obsessing over it…and as I do that my anger gets directed towards myself. I beat myself up and hate on myself, and as this happens, I shift into depression. The more I dwell on how awful I feel that I am at the time…the more I beat myself down, the deeper I get into depression. As a result I shut down…I don’t care about anything. It is in this shut-down mode where I don’t care about anything at all, that my depression and focusing on “what a terrible person I am” often leads to guilt. That guilt then turns into self anger, which then builds up anxiety…and you can see the cycle.

There are exercises that I do to try and “self-regulate” and shift my focus as a way of coping with the anxiety/depression, but for now, unfortunately, it’s a demon I battle every day. The sad truth is that I’m really angry far too often, and the “trigger” is usually something far to fickle to be making fuss over. It’s embarrassing, it’s humbling, it’s so far beyond frustrating… but its true. No matter how hard I work, and how much help and support I receive, when it comes my ongoing battle with BPD… my mind is my own worst enemy. It’s hard to not feel like giving up…but hearing your nine year old daughter say “It’s ok, daddy. You’ll get better” sure helps.

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31 Days of BPD.

I saw this challenge on another blog, and thought it was such a great idea. There’s so many topics and issues that I try like everything to avoid thinking about, never mind talking about. I know some of the questions will be much harder to tackle than others, and I already know the questions that might sit for days being avoided.

2015/01/img_0696.png Please click on the links to take you to each day as they’re posted. I’m thinking it will take more than 31 days to do, but I will get to them all…eventually.

Day 1: Think of the last time you were really angry. Why was that?

Day 2: Why did your last friendship end?

Day 3: Do you self-harm? If yes, how?

Day 4: Have you ever attempted suicide?

Day 5: Have you ever written a suicide note?

Day 6: How’s your love life?

Day 7: Have you ever dissociated? If so, how often?

Day 8: Do you have any other diagnoses? Which ones?

Day 9: Do you get mood swings?

Day 10: What kind of impulsive decisions have you made?

Day 11: Is there anything you do that helps keep you grounded?

Day 12: What’s your relationship with your family?

Day 13: Are you a perfectionist?

Day 14: Do you ever become obsessive?

Day 15: Have you ever changed your opinions, depending on the people you are with?

Day 16: Does your style (clothing, hair, etc.) change a lot?

Day 17: What are five of your biggest fears?

Day 18: Do you worry what people think of you?

Day 19: What are some lyrics that describe what you’re going through right now?

Day 20: How do you usually express yourself?

Day 21: How many people know about your diagnosis?

Day 22: What’s a random story from your childhood?

Day 23: How do you think other people see you?

Day 24: If you could pick one year of your life to give back and start over, which one would it be?

Day 25: What’s one thing you wish non-borderlines could understand?

Day 26: Name three fictional characters you relate to.

Day 27: Do you have any bad habits?

Day 28: Do you consider yourself high-functioning or low-functioning?

Day 29: If your mind was a house, what would the house look like?

Day 30: What is your “safe place” when you are upset? (This can also be a person.)

Day 31: Post a picture of yourself and tell us your story.

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Stepping Out

I recently celebrated my 34th birthday, and with that I did the regular coming to terms with the reality that I’m not as young as my mind likes to convince myself that I am. Having an end of January birthday also gives you a ‘do-over’ for all my failed New Years resolutions…and this year was no different. So here they are: (1) Eat Healthy/Get in Shape/Feel Good (so simple, yet so required to be made…Every. Single. Year.) (2) Do more with family (and friends) My wife got me camping gear for Christmas, so I’m already looking forward to putting that to use this summer. (3) Build stuff!! I know this is very broad, and leaves lots of room for variety…but I want to build stuff. Accomplish things. Let my creativity unfold. (4) To write…which is what brings me to starting this blog today.

I find that birthdays also bring on a time of reflection…looking back on the year that was. Analyzing, evaluating, and critiquing. And let me tell you, this year was something else!! From start to finish, the best way that I can describe it is that 33 was that unexpected punch in the chest that completely knocks the wind right out of you. It started out slow, built up into an absolute whirlwind in the middle, and in many ways both extreme hurt and numbness to end things off. This last year was one for the books. I wish I could say it was forgettable…but it’s not. It’s all too memorable.

I told my wife, Sherry, that I wanted to start a blog. I’ve wanted to start writing. She’s wanted me to write. It seemed like perfect timing to get on that. Seemed, being the key word. “What do you want to blog about?” she asked. Especially after this last year I had no doubt in my mind what I wanted to share. “My Life…a window into my life. A little bit of what I go through, how I see things, and what it’s like to live with someone like me.” For those of you that know Sherry, and to those of you that don’t, my wife is an extremely private person. She hates attention, avoids surprises, and is completely content just blending in. I threw a “30 and Fabulous” surprise party for Sherry, and my biggest fear was that she was going to HATE the surprise. To soften the blow, I told her there was going to be a party, when that party was going to be, and what to wear. To her I don’t know what would have been worse…the surprise, or the anticipation of the unknown. Bottom line is it was a great party. She’s now 32, and still absolutely fabulous!! But the thought of putting our private life on display in any way struck literal fear in my wife. At first she very much resisted, but over time that resistance lessoned, and here I am today…writing my first blog entry with the support of the most beautiful ‘proof-reader’ I could ask for.

I don’t know what my expectations are with this. I don’t even know who or how many people will even read it. But what I do know is that I want it to be real…a passage into my life. To make myself vulnerable, and break down walls I have spent years building up. It’s putting my life on display in hopes that I can maybe give a little encouragement to ‘people like me’. And to shed some light for those who have to live with, or simply don’t understand what makes us tick. Why we are the way we are, think the way we think…my life, my reality, and my future.

My name is David Stone, and I live with Mental Illness. There, I said it. And with hearing those words, most are struck with awkward discomfort. Lost on how to respond. How to react. And most importantly…how to change the subject, close that door, and put a lid on that box. No one wants to know or hear anything about a grown man who’s ‘off his rocker’. That’s a book that’s best left closed on the top shelf…out of reach. Out of sight. Out of mind. There’s a stigma that comes with mental illness, and my opinion is that stigma is rooted deep in misunderstanding, misinformation, and in many cases complete ignorance. That’s what my approach is hoping to influence…I want you to get to know me. My challenges, my struggles. Accomplishments and failures. A taste of life both as a person living with mental illness, and those having to go through life with that person. I don’t intend to put myself or my family on display. I’m not looking for accolades or sympathy. Not to sound cliché, I hope to in some way be a voice to those who read this… Family. Friends. And you who somehow stumble across this. To shed some light on what it’s like living under the label of ‘mental health’, and in some way… #stopthestigma(<cliche overload)

We all know someone who suffers from some form of mental illness. Wether it be anxiety, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, or any others. We’ve seen the impacts it has on their lives, and the lives of those close to them. It’s difficult, it’s challenging, and in many ways it’s overwhelming. But…it doesn’t have to be defeating. Life is most definitely different, but I’m slowly learning that that doesn’t mean it has to be worse. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. I never once thought of it as an illness, but just the way I was. It came and it went. Many days were better than others, and I grew accustomed to it. Not knowing any differently, it all just seemed normal. Looking back, the area that had the biggest effect on my life, and still continues to this day, is in the area of trust. I’m not a completely untrusting person…not even close. But to trust someone to the point of making myself vulnerable to them is nearly non-existent. I’ve had many friends over the years, but I’ve only allowed a few to get close. I’ve never been one to have ‘best friends’, to have people to confide in…or people to confide in me. Closeness and intimacy scares me to the core. This is a fear I fight daily, and I expect to fight for as long as I live. It’s just one of the realities that is my life.

This past spring/summer there were a series of events that ultimately led to my diagnosis as having ‘Narcissistic Borderline Personality Disorder’, or BPD. My depression and anxiety were spiking more than they ever had before, and I was becoming increasingly erratic and irritable. Sherry finally convinced me to see a doctor about antidepressants and mood stabilizers. This was just the beginning of what is proving to be the most challenging phase of my life. I got hit very hard by the Robyn Williams suicide. That really carved into me the reality that this depression/anxiety is not something that’s just going to go away. I began to self-harm, which until this point is something I was able to keep hidden and under control. The self-harm led to a trip to RUH emergency, which resulted in getting admitted to the Dube Centre for Mental Health. It was during my stay here that I was diagnosed with having BPD. My life since then has been, and continues to be a time of major adjustment, both for myself and my family. I work only 80% now because of my new reality, which is counselling once or twice a week, as well as regular appointments with my psychiatrist.

I guess to end off this first entry I’d like to leave you with who I am: Yes, I’m BPD. Yes, I’m suicidal (yet so far not successful. <-(captain obvious)) Yes, I’m medicated. Yes, I have a life filled with therapy and psychiatrists. Yes, I self harm…as I write this I’m looking at my most recent stitches on my arm. But that’s not all that I am. I am a caring father, a loving husband, and a considerate friend. And also very importantly, I’m working my ass off to learn how to take control back of my life. I know BPD will never go away, but I also know that through hard work I can become in control OF it, and not suffer being controlled BY it. Here is a quote that I love. I share it quite regularly with Sherry, as I feel it describes quite accurately the person she has been strong enough to live with for the last 15 years of our lives.

“I’m not an easy person to be with. I know that. I probably won’t even try to make it easy for you. I’ll be real difficult at times. It may seem, at times, I don’t want you, and I don’t like you, but I do. I’ll be a challenge, because I’m not the type of person who people walk all over. I’m not the person who puts up with bullshit. I’m not the person who will give you sympathy comments. When I say something, I mean it. If people are assholes to me, I cut them out of my life. I’m annoying, I’m hilarious, and I’m the worlds biggest jerk. I’ll make you want to scream and punch walls; I’ll ruin your day and then save it at the very last minute. I’ll drive you crazy and, sometimes, you’ll hate my guts. But even though all that’s going to happen, and I swear it will, I have an amazing side to me. I do. I have a giant heart. I’ll always be there when you need me. Even if my life is impossibly knotted, I’ll try and untangle yours by listening and loving. I won’t sop caring about you, not even if you push me away. You’re different from everyone else, and I like that. It’s refreshing to find someone different in the world because way too many people are all the same.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Feel free to comment, and please…if you know anyone who might be interested in or be of benefit to what I have to say, please pass this on. Until next time,
Thanks again.
Dave

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