When ANXIETY & DEPRESSION Collide…

For months now my wife has been trying to get me to write down my dreams. To write down how/what I feel during my anxiety attacks, or when I get locked into depression. For her, she wants to know… she wants to understand so that she knows how to best support me. For months I have refused. Partially because for literally 15plus years I have put all my efforts into hiding my hardships. Presenting myself as normal, and avoiding anything that may possibly provoke questions. I’ve allowed myself to be socially outgoing enough to avoid questions, but also private enough to not allow people to get to know me. But the longer I go writing this blog and sharing my story, the more I realize that it’s my being authentic that is having the impact on people. Anyone can search “Borderline Personality Disorder” and learn about ‘the illness’, but my goal is to present that ‘illness’ in the most intimate and authentic way I can. Understand that this blog is MY story on life and BPD. It’s not by any means a guide-book… but simply my life in my own words.

“Anyone can search “Borderline Personality Disorder”” and learn about the ‘illness’, but my goal is to present that ‘illness’ in the most intimate and authentic way I can”

 I wrote this while I was still in a state of severe depression. The anxiety/depression that I’ll be describing took place over the course of about an hour. I’m going to write it directly from my notebook, so there are parts that may not make sense… but you’ll get the just of it all. Here’s an example of when my Anxiety and Depression collide.

My chest feels heavy… like my lungs are having to operate at 300% capacity to just breathe. My heart is pounding… pounding so hard it actually, physically hurts. My throat is tight, feels like a towel being wrung out of water. I can’t tell if I’m having a hard time swallowing, or if my brain has just given up on telling me how to function properly for the time being. There is so much noise and chaos in my head and mind. It’s a strenuous chore to track down even a hint of an actual thought. It’s a mentally painful process. It literally hurts like a headache… it comes, then it goes as quickly as it came, then before you know it it’s back again. It’s driving me crazy!! I don’t know how to stop it! I barely know how to slow it. The room spins. My stomach turns as the room spins. I focus on a picture on the wall, but I can’t stay focused. My eyes and mind drift to the left. I have the sensation of falling…a vertigo of sorts, slowly to the side. Then my eyes and my focus return again and again to the picture. My perception of reality is slowed down… life is happening in slow-motion, but then a thought will grab me and grip me, and take me off for a ride with or without my approval, or my knowledge for that matter. My head is now throbbing, not in pain, but literal pounding. Like there’s a party going on in the apartment next door… the music is loud and the beat dictates the pace of you thoughts to an unbearable level of disturbed frustration. Only you can’t bang on the wall or call the police. I can only live with it. Bare down and tough it out. My hands are numb and tingly, alms as if my arms are no longer attached to my body.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a switch is flipped…

I’m now EXTREMELY aware of EVERYTHING. My senses are all simultaneously firing. The fan running outside my bedroom window is obnoxious. The pilled lint on the comforter is a huge annoyance. I can smell the day old essential oils in the defuser. The shadow of my hand trying to write down thoughts frustrates me to the point of throwing in the towel. My heart is no longer pounding, but is now racing. My breathing accelerates. My focus now is there, but is shuffling from thought to thought faster than I can make sense of it all. But I do see each and every thought in a barrage of mental images. But I see them. The negative thoughts stick. They sink in. They hurt me. Tell me how desperate I am. Pathetic I am. Un-needed. Un-wanted. A waste. An embarrassment. Now the thoughts start slowing. The breathing, the heartbeat, the mind. Everything slowing to allow mw to give 100% of my attention to how terrible a person I am. How I don’t deserve the good in my life, and the bad that I do deserve is coming. I need to be held accountable for all the hurt I have caused. That I need to pay for it, and I need to face my punishment head on. This now has full power and control of my mind. I hate myself. I really, REALLY HATE myself. And for good reason. The same reason I lose everyone I care about in my life. I am unlovable. I am unlikable. It’s just a matter of time before everyone I love realizes this and leaves. I hate myself. I HATE myself. I want to hurt myself. I want to kill myself.

This is my life. This is what I live with every day. Some days are worse than others. Some days are a whole day and sleepless night of episode after episode. Others are less, but what I’ve described is very much routine. I’ve grown used to it. I can hide it very well, and I allow it to have minimal effect on my life. But I’m guessing others that struggle with anxiety/depression would suffer similar “episodes”.

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Emptiness

Tonight I’m feeling emptiness. Tonight I wanted very badly to describe the way I felt, but with each failed attempt I always came back to the same blank page… which in all honesty is the absolute best description for how I feel tonight. Complete… Emptiness.

I love very passionately; at the most inopportune times.

“A person who never learned to TRUST confuses intensity with intimacy, obsession with care, and control with security. “

-Patrick Carnes, psychiatrist

I remember reading a story about a young girl whose family ran a harbour eatery on the maritime coast of Canada. Her father was a fisherman who spent long stretches at sea. When she became old enough she would go on the fishing trips with her father… she loved the sea. Her parents died young in an accident, and while going through some of her mom’s old journals she realized that her mother never met her father until she was 2 years old, and that her actual father was a sailor. Through the story she tracks her father down, and spends time with him on the water sailing. She found a new love with a side of the sea she never knew before… the intimacy of the ocean on a sailing vessel, as apposed to the harsh, demanding lifestyle of a fisherman.

When I first read this quote on trust it tugged a string inside of me. I saved it on my phone, and went in to buy my coffee and carry on with my day. But every time I read it, it kind of worm-holed its way more and more into the centre of my mind. It made sense. I desperately didn’t want it to make sense. But it did. Could my trust issues have impacted my life in such a way without me even realizing it? Could this “Patrick Carnes” be onto something? Then I got into ‘Dr Phil mode’, and began analyzing what I am the way I am. I broke it down section by section, and it sadly made sense.

“A person who never learned to TRUST” …ok. This has been established already. I have trust issues. I like looking at it as you have 3 rings of trust in your life. You have those outside of the rings, the people you really don’t even know. Then you have the third ring. Good acquaintances. Soccer moms. Your kids might go to school together. You might go to the same gym. You might work together. You’re comfortable talking, you likely even get together socially. Then there’s the second “close friends” ring. The people you make plans with. You do things with regularly. Your kids have sleep overs. They’re your good friends. And then there’s that centre ring… the core. Your best friends. The people you can tell anything and everything. You trust them in all aspects of your life.

Normally, you kind of look at the rings as a target… progressively getting smaller as they get to the centre. For me, that third ring and the second ring are a lot closer in size to each other. I either don’t know you, or I do. And if I do, I very easily allow you into that second ring that is normally for just close friends. That second ring still has layers… but you’re there. But then there’s that centre ring, The core. The intimate “TRUST” zone. No one gets in there. No one. It’s like a vault. It’s off-limits.

Everybody has an internal emotional barometer. It’s your brain telling your body what emotions are coming so that the body can react. For myself, the barometer isn’t broken… it’s just no longer very sensitive. I rely a lot on other peoples emotion. When I do feel emotions it’s in extremes. I have a hard time regulating emotions, so I have a hard time showing emotion. I don’t want this to sound the least bit derogatory, but I in many ways rely on people emotionally the same way a blind person visually relies on a seeing eye dog. Without the dog, it’s hard for the blind person to physically navigate, and without that person, it’s hard to emotionally navigate. Life is so much easier with that person around.

“confuses intensity with intimacy“. This is a tough one for me to try and explain or describe without sounding predatory, but it definitely goes both ways. I don’t recognize “small gestures” as easily. The subtlety can be easily missed, or when I try and be subtle I feel it’s being missed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I pick fights, but I definitely feel the ‘intensity’ in someone I love ‘defending their feelings for me’. “OF COURSE I LOVE YOU …IF I DIDN’T I WOULDN’T BE HERE FIGHTING FOR YOU!” I get. I feel that. I understand that. But the cute little text might go unnoticed. The small gestures, though appreciated, don’t have the same impact. And it’s the same the other way. The emotion’s there. My barometer is detecting it, and Im feeling it. Now Brace yourself… Brace yourself to feel that love!!

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obsession with care“. I’m not sure if any of you can relate, but I need to be reassured of my wife’s love for me. It’s not that I question her love… I just really need to hear it… be reminded of it. I’ll text just to have her say ‘I love you’. I’ll call to hear the same thing. I’ll wake her up at night to hear those words. There’s times where I want to spend every waking second with her… cause that’s what people in love do. To me it’s crucial that she knows and sees how I feel, and that I know and see how she feels. I do it because I care. I need it because I care. I want it because I care. And it can easily be obsessive without realizing it, because I care.

And this ties right into “and control with security.” This is huge for me. I’ve been working at this since long before i had any diagnosis. Like many BPD, fear of abandonment is far and away my greatest fear. It’s not a matter of if, but when people are going to leave. It’s 100% the reason why my inner core ring is so extremely exclusive. I believe with everything in me that anyone who gets in that circle will hurt me and leave me. (it’s times like right now that I have to just sit back and thank God that he put the amazing wife in my life that he did). I require constant reassurance that I’m still loved. I get needing to know what’s going on, solely so there’s no surprises. It’s not even that I am looking to be in control, I’m just preparing myself for what might come. If she leaves me, I can justify it because of this, this, and this. My life is constantly preparing myself for being alone. And that part is uncontrollable. And by fighting for security through control, it triggers one viscous circle. I have an uncontrollable sense of insecurity that i try to compensate with a false sense of security through trying to maintain control. (And yes, I read that last sentence over 15 times to make sure it’s saying what i want it to say.)

I’ve always been really torn. I know I’m an emotional person, but there’s times I feel so emotionally dead. Emotionally cold. But I’m a kind person. I love deeply. I know that I’m not a heartless person. I feel very strongly about a great deal of things. I’ve kind of just come to the conclusion that I love very passionately; at the most inopportune times. But the bottom line is I love… and am loved back by the ones that I love. And last time I checked, that makes me a fortunate man.

Scars…

Mothers… it’s in our nature to love them, and they more than deserve it. Years of night time tuck-ins, morning wake-ups, uncountable meals and snacks and more snacks. They drive you all over the country for hockey. They help you with your homework. They pick you up when you fall. They kiss and bandage the boo-boos. And most importantly… they love you. Unconditionally. You can do all kinds of heinous acts, and mom will always be there to welcome you back… to make you that snack… to kiss that boo-boo. But there’s something that many mothers try and instil in the minds of there children, and I don’t really know why. Maybe they are trying to raise “non-confrontational” children. Maybe it’s hopeful thinking. Maybe it’s ignorance to social reality.
To all you moms that read my blog, I promise you this is the only negative I have to say about you. Does this sound familiar? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve all heard it, and many of you (and most kindergarten to grade 4 teachers) have done the preaching of it. But it’s a lie. I would rather take a physical beating than some of the verbal and emotional beatings I’ve received over the years. Words do hurt. Badly. And that hurt is long-term, even permanent. A beating you heal from. You can’t say the same about cutting words.

Whatever doesn’t kill me

is going to leave a scar

Whatever doesn’t kill me will make me stronger” is one that I like… and it makes sense, especially now. There’s no flowery false hope in the statement. It’s acknowledging that times will be tough… or at least that to me is what “whatever doesn’t kill you” means. It might feel like you can’t do it. It might make you want to just give up. Give up on your job. Give up on relationships. Give up on family. Give up on yourself. But pushing through and coming out alive (figuratively and literally) will make you stronger. You learn from the school of hard-knocks. Now you know a little better how to avoid the situation. Handle the situation. Rise above the situation. Be a stronger [wo]man all around. But it comes at a cost… and costs suck.

You don’t forget. You never forget. You try to forget… but you don’t forget.

You are left with scars. Emotional scars. Deep emotional scars. But these wounds you can’t just walk in to your local ER and get sewn back up. No, these wounds you are stuck leaving open until over time they heal on their own. And some of those gaping wounds will never heal. Never… not ever. Yes’ you can mask them and cover them with proverbial sleeves, you can bottle the hurt. I think the most common ‘sleeve’ that we mask our internal wounds with is the smile. A smile can go such a long way in appearing “normal“. I’ve been in public with short sleeves. I’ve felt the reactions of some to arms full of scars. And if that’s the reaction I get to the physical scars, I can only imagine the reaction I’d get to the wounds you can’t see.

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So if we can’t go to a doctor and get sewn up, then how to we treat these wounds? How do we keep them free from infection? What are we supposed to do? Many cope with the pain and anguish by drowning it out… drinking and drugs are two great medicines for coping with the pain. Some take a more holistic approach. Positive meditation, calming exercises, yoga, running, swimming. But most do nothing. They just sit and let it sting. At times others will come by and rub salt in the wound… or we might even do the salting ourselves.

Healing those wounds is a ‘uphill battle‘, a ‘slippery slope‘, a ‘tall task‘. But it is doable. It has to be doable.. Doesn’t it??

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But, the thing you don’t understand is that at the end of the day you’ve got to come home and take off your shirt. You have no choice but to take a look in the mirror and see them glaring back at you. Those scars. They refuse to go away. And no matter what momma’said… They Hurt!!

Me, Myself… and Social Awkwardness?!?

Social settings are about as difficult an environment for me that there is. It’s not that I don’t like people… I really love people, actually. But it’s hard. I was trying to think of the best way to describe, or “name” the situation. “Social Retardation” seemed to drastic, and seemed like it may also cross some lines of political correctness… possibly. “Social Recluse” is not really accurate. There are many times I want nothing more than to be a recluse… but I know myself enough to know that that could get ugly (I’ll get to this more later). “Social-phobia” is actually fairly accurate, but I don’t like how ‘psychological’ it sounds. So, I went with “Social Awkwardness”. Kind of like a high school freshman at his first dance with acne and braces… only I’m far from being a high school freshman, and my acne and braces are battles of the mind.

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Those that know me are likely thinking to themselves “huh??” right about now. And for those that don’t know me, I AM a very social person. I like being around people. I love crowds… sporting events, fairs, concerts. I interact with people well. I am a social person.

But wait a minute… you said social settings were as difficult as they come?

And with that every one of you is likely thinking “huh???

I am a very smart person. I’m not saying that to brag, and I don’t mean book smarts, but when it comes to bottling up feelings and emotions, I know as well as anyone how to do it. I can remember having extreme depression/anxiety right back to high school. Initially my reaction was to pull back. Not be involved with people. School was difficult, attendance was spotty, and outside of school I did little. But it was through my late high school years and college that I began consciously “coping” in my own way.

Social settings, like I said earlier, are very difficult. But the alternative, Depression, is tougher. I can handle the social setting. I can maintain control of the social setting. I can swallow fear, and force conversation if I need to. And if all else fails I can sit back and be a spectator. But when depression sinks in, I’m done for. It’s just sit and hate myself and hope I fall asleep. I’ve spent countless nights awake just angry at myself. And if my depression shifts to anxiety, then I’m in real trouble. Red Alert. Good… Bad… now, UGLY. I refer to this as “freaking out“, really because… well, there’s no other way to describe it. The chaos takes over and I just want to make it stop. To do anything to make it stop. And that anything is often to hurt myself. Whether I’m wanting to punish myself, implement justice for my actions, or simply wanting to stop my mind from racing. That’s when it happens. The gloves drop, the helmet comes off, and the blade comes out.

But you see, the “freaking out” only happens when I’m alone. With the exception of my wife, I’ve never gotten 10/10, fight or flight freaking out around anyone. Whether it’s fear of making a fool of myself… fear of hurting (emotionally) my family/friends… Or having the presence of mind to see it coming and stop it, I really don’t know. All I know is that when I’m in a social setting I can regulate my “limits”. Don’t get me wrong… there’s times I am freaking out on the inside… and my reality of loneliness blankets over me, but I am very strong. Those that know me well can tell I’m worked up, but for whatever reason I’m able to harness it. Reign it in. But when I’m on my own, I let the floodgates open and all hell breaks loose.

and every once in a while it would hit me, the horrifying truth of being alone. and it did not matter if I was with good company or not. i would slowly feel the violent pull of loneliness; shaking inside of me like a wild beast in the night

r.m. drake

Me, Myself… and Social Awkwardness… By choice. It’s a safety net, a security blanket. No matter how difficult it can get, speaking as someone who is admittedly suicidal, it ranks head and shoulders above the potential alternative. And that’s the way I want it to stay. That’s the choice I hope to make every time.

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(I need to insert a *NOTE* here. I don’t want you to get the impression that I hate social settings. I still find them emotionally exhausting, but I do enjoy them… especially when it involves friends/family. This is more to show the “other side” of the coin)

**Vent Alert** Just something that’s been eating at me lately.

There’s a word that I hate. I hate the sound of it. I hate the way it gets thrown around. I hate how it gets used as a guilty accusation. But more than anything, over the last few months, I hate how accurate it is. How relevant it is. And how much it hurts. That word… “Stigma”. You’ve likely heard it a million times, especially if you’re at all familiar with mental health. “Stop the Stigma” “Stand up to Stigma” or #stigma #stopthestigma. But now that I’m more involved in mental health, I’m more attentive to the “stigma” that really actually is present. It’s there. In our day to day life, and without us even knowing, in a huge way. And the sad part is, the greatest accusations and opinions so often come from either those that have no idea what they are talking about, those speaking out of fear, or defensiveness. Any which way, the defences are up, and if there’s anyway they can pass blame, ownership, or responsibility on someone else, they will. They love “pawning” off responsibility wherever they can. They watch out for number one without worrying about havoc left in their wake.

There are a couple things that I’m pretty sure we all have. We all have demons, and we all have skeletons. Demons are those things that we are in outright war with. We battle with them every day. They haunt us in our sleep and torment us when we’re awake. We fight tooth and nail to resist them, and we do all we can to not be overcome by them. Those are Demons.

Then there’s skeletons. Those are the things that we keep tucked back in the closet. No one needs to know about them. Out of sight. Out of mind. Sometimes the demons from those skeletons haunt us, but there’s just one rule when it comes to skeletons… They do not, under any circumstance come out of the closet. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

But what happens when skeletons share closets? What is the ‘code of conduct’ when dealing with the “non-exclusive skeleton”… Those skeletons that aren’t just yours? How do we handle the situation… or more specifically, how do we react to mishandling? I mean, don’t we have enough on our plates as it is, but then we have to worry about things out of our control? I’ve got skeletons, and I’ve got more than my share of demons… believe me. They figuratively and emotionally eat me alive. But the one thing that you will never hear me do, and that is use my “illness” as an excuse or justification for anything. And there’s literally nothing that angers me more than others pawning things off on my “illness”. If you are not my doctor, psychiatrist or my counsellor, I don’t want to hear the word “illness” in reference to me come out of your mouth. It’s as easy as that. I’m not going to let myself off easy under the shroud of BPD, and I’m most definitely not going to take responsibility for others actions under the ‘tag’ and stigma of “my illness”.

This past year has been a mess. So much has happened in my world that I wouldn’t even have the slightest clue as to where to start. But through the fall and winter I began hearing that “my illness” was being very easily offered up as the reason and the blame for different things in my life. Am I trying to say that it had nothing to do with it? I have no idea… it very well could have. But I’m 100% positive that me having BPD had nothing to do with many of the choices and events that took place over the past year. It’s easy to point the finger in that direction… you can make sense of it. “It’s the sick guy’s fault. He should know better. This is a pattern of his illness. Me… I don’t know what happened… I just got ‘used’ and ‘manipulated'”

I speak both out of hurt and from experience. I have been blamed for and accused of different things, “because of my illness”. Some things, yeah… I’m sure my BPD may have something to do with. But other peoples actions I have no control over. And I’m not willing to take that blame either. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve made poor decisions. And I’ve felt hurt in ways I never saw coming. But I’m a big boy. I take responsibility for all of my decisions and actions… and  unfortunately, apparently more.

31 Day BPD Challenge – Day 10: What kind of impulsive decisions have you made?

Me: “Hey Sherry, do I make any impulse decisions?”

Sherry: “Bwaaaahahahahah… oh, you’re being serious?”

That’s all the conversation that I needed to remove any doubt there might have been in my mind. To me, most of these “impulse decisions” are merely just “decisions”, but looking more closely at them from the outside perspective, they may have been a bit (or very) impulsive. Actually, when I really think about it, my life is a entourage of impulse decision after impulse decision. After thinking about it and discussing it with my wife, the first thought to run through my head was “… Do I ever think before I make decisions?”

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I’ve made countless small everyday decisions on a whim, I think we all have. But the big decisions… surely I’ve thought those out, haven’t I? I’ve bought 7 vehicles in my life… 2 trucks, 2 Jeeps, Sherry’s BMW and Range Rover, and a motorcycle. I think my current truck and my first Jeep (which was my first vehicle bought with the assistance of my parents) are the only ones that weren’t impulsive. And my current truck was totally impulsive as well… it was just a bit more “necessary” because my other one broke down.

How about houses? When we lived in Calgary we decided to “go look at show homes” one day. We had talked about wanting to look into buying a house, so decided to go see what was out there. We looked at a few show homes, then looked at the sales office for a condo project that was a few months from completion. I wanted it. We needed a $1000 dollar hold deposit, so I wrote the cheque for the deposit (which I didn’t have money in my account to cover). But a few months later we were proud owners of a 1100sqft loft in the trendiest area of Calgary.

Notice I said “when” we lived in Calgary. We now live in small town rural Saskatchewan, and the move here was pretty much impulsive as well. We got a phone call from a realtor that had a client interested in buying in our building. I told Sherry that if it sold we’d move. It sold immediately, with a 14 day possession. I went in the next day to give my 2 weeks notice, we quickly finished the small reno we had started, and we packed up and left our entire life behind… all on 2 weeks notice. No jobs lined up, moved into our parents house, and the rest, as they say, is history.

It seems crazy now to look back at decisions that were made, really, with next to no thought put into them at all. And there’s many more daily examples. “Why is it that I make these impulsive decisions?” Honestly, I have no idea. To me they aren’t impulsive… they’re just decisions. I don’t think about them. That, I guess, is where lies the problem. I DON’T think about them. There have been countless small projects stated. We’ve had so many ‘coffee dates’ in the city, spur of the moment. (Note: living half an hour out of the city, our coffee including price of gas is roughly $17 per cup… but oh, do we enjoy it.) My impulsiveness is so second nature that I don’t notice it at all. Even my wife, I’m pretty sure has grown so used to my quick decisions that she just sort of “rolls with the punches” most of the time.

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But how do you stop impulsive behaviour if you are completely unaware of your impulsiveness? I mean, I literally have no idea when I’m being impulsive and when I’m being more rational. “Sleep on it” is one approach I’ve heard. Write down on paper a “decision” you are needing to make, and put it on the fridge. Don’t make your decision until the next day, after you’ve thought the choices and effects out. If spending is a problem, keep a spending log, or journal. Write down everything you spend so you visibly “see” your financial choices. This along with “sleeping on it” should prevent some of the new vehicles in the driveway, which is not a bad thing.

There are so many areas of my life that, as I work through DBT and counselling, I realize are interconnected with each other, and are all branching out from the core of BPD. It’s hard, as these habits and patterns have been formed over years and years. But on the flip side, they are habits and patterns that have been created, and therefore are habits and patterns that can be altered. Impulsiveness has played a surprisingly major role in my life from how I interact with peers and friends to how I handle business, how I run my home. To answer the question… Yes. I have made countless impulsive decisions in all different areas of my life. Just one more area that has lasting effects on relationships as well as regular day-to-day life living with BPD.

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