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,