…battle wounds

“I think scars are like battle wounds – beautiful in a way. They show what you’ve been through & how strong you are for coming out of it.”

– Demi Lovato

I Instagram’d this quote earlier today. It’s a quote that i read quite regularly…I’ve got it saved on my phone, it’s shared often on Mental Health sites, and you google “mental health quotes” and it’s sure to pop up. But as much as I love the quote…I love the triumphant overtone amidst the soft and subtle almost romantic undertone. It’s a beautiful quote by an equally beautiful advocate for mental health. But where I get hung up…I’m not there. I’ve got scars… I’ve got hundreds of them. And they are most definitely battle wounds. But there’s nothing beautiful about them. I haven’t been ‘through’ anything. I am stuck in the midst of a battle that has no beginning and no foreseeable end. There’s no ‘through’ on the horizon, no matter how distant I strain to see. The idea of strength and perseverance is what I have, and the hope of coming out is what I cling to. Persistence. Perseverance. Hope.

I have a love/hate relationship with my scars. I don’t hide them. I want to hide them. I want more than anything to just cover them up and pretend they’re not there. But I’ve made a point to not hide them. You see, I did an amazing job of keeping things together. I’ve really struggled with depression/anxiety for as long as I can remember. It got really bad when I went away to boarding school for grade twelve. But I was always able to keep things under wraps. I made it through all my years of high school, two years of college, and ten plus years beyond that keeping everything bottled in. I found my ways to cope. To blow off energy. But mostly I hid. Sleeping in as long as possible became routine. I stayed up late at night because thats when I could most easily be alone. I had friends, but no close friends. I never allowed anyone to get close…that might result in me having to open up. I learned early how to appear social. Extremely social even. If you look at your story as a book, I had a theory. Say your book is twelve chapters long. I very easily opened myself up to say chapter five without any prompting. This usually was more than enough to satisfy any questions people had. I opened up quicker and easier than most, to that point, then the book closed. I let very few people read beyond chapter five. Like count on your fingers few. You got it…it’s depressing, but I’ve had single digit close friends. Everyone else I kept at a safe distance. I do it to this day. It’s something I’m working on, but I have ridiculous trust issues that I’m just unwilling to get past. Hopefully in time…you know, when I “see how strong I am for coming out”.

But I consciously decided that I wasn’t going to hide my scars. As much as I was able to bottle things up and cope, the thought of suicide has always been there. It actually goes beyond that…I’ve dreamed of suicide many times. It scares the shit out of my wife every time I say this, but I am 99% confident that that is how I’m going to die. I don’t know why…it’s not that I’m wanting to go off myself tomorrow or anything. This isn’t my “note” or farewell or anything like that. It’s just that’s where my belief has always been. It’s a seed planted deep, I guess. Last spring was when the thoughts started becoming more and more prominent. My dreams were getting darker, and it was getting harder and harder to manage and block out the chaos in my mind. I made many late night drives out to the bridge. Some with intention, others just to scream. (screaming does help, by the way). I ended up spending some time in the mental health centre after I had gone a little excessive with the self harm. It was coming out of the hospital that I decided that I wasn’t going to hide my scars. My kids were aware of them, and I didn’t want them to feel they needed to hide or lie to people about their dad because I was trying to keep private. The scars aren’t going anywhere. It’s live with them, or spend my life continuing to hide.

So I bare my arms. I don’t do it proudly…quite the opposite. I am very much embarrassed and ashamed of my arms. I hate the fact that my daughter is already having to explain to her friends that her dad cuts himself when he’s “sad”. I’m terrified that she’s going to see this as an acceptable way to deal with pain. But at the same time, what do I do. I feel like people are staring at me all the time. I go crazy trying to figure out what they are thinking. Just today I got asked to look at my tattoos. I turned around to show, and her eyes locked on what are five not yet healed cuts. She didn’t know what to say…I didn’t know what to say. SCARS SUCK!! I hate them so bad.

BUT…ready for this? I love my scars!! Confusion…but you just went on for 915 words (according to my word counter in the corner of my screen) about how much you hated your scars… Yes. Yes I did. But many of those cuts came when I wanted nothing more than to end my life. I fought and wrestled with my demons to not take that drive. To put away that rope. To lower the blade from my throat, and to turn over that wrist. Cutting has literally saved my life on multiple occasions. That’s not to say I don’t need to find better ways to cope… I most definitely do. But when I look at my arms I can remember the moments that drove me to cut. I remember the battles being waged in my mind. And I remember how that cut made all those thoughts go away.

I hope that one day I can look at my scars romantically beautifully. A testimony of what I’ve been through and come out of. But for now they are just battle wounds. Affirmation of the mental hell I’m trapped in. A reminder of my minds desires which my heart and my will have to this point prevailed. Yes, my scars are battle wounds…but they are a far cry from beautiful.

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Please, please read me… I want to Thank-You!!

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat here illuminated by the obnoxious glow of Mr MacBook Pro… entirely too long. Truth is, I’ve been torn. I’ve been torn between writing a blog about what I believe, and writing a blog about what will be most ‘politically correct’ and acceptable. And because of this stupid battle being waged in my mind, I’ve written nothing. I’ve had ideas… many wonderful ideas that I will most definitely be sharing, but as far as what approach to take to these ideas…mental gridlock. A stalemate. We’re getting nowhere. So what’s the problem? I’ve got ideas. I know how to write. Just get on with it already. Figure out your approach, and get on with it. So to do this, in many ways, we have to go back and start at square one. Re-lay the foundation that I’m building this blog on. Be honest both with myself, and with you reading this. So what do I need from you? Just let me reintroduce myself to you. Myself. My Blog. My Motive.

Mental Health Awareness, I guess you could say, is the purpose of this blog. Specifically Borderline Personality Disorder. My official diagnosis is Adult Male Narcissistic Borderline Personality Disorder, with severe Social Anxiety and Depression. There’s blog after blog out there about ‘Stigma’, and ‘labels’, and how ‘nobody understands’. I know this. I’ve seen them. And at different times my blog was becoming one of them. I’m not saying that those blogs are bad, or wrong. They’re informative. They’re eye-opening. They’re raw. They’re authentic. They make my heart ache for the ones sitting in front of the keyboards. But over the last 9 months or so there’s one thing that has become more and more apparent to me. Yes, it’s very true, people don’t understand. They don’t get it. And it’s really frustrating that they don’t. But there’s another side to that coin. Of the people that matter… they want to get it. They want to understand. They don’t want to be ignorant. It kills them that they hurt unintentionally. I 100% without a question of doubt in my mind guarantee you that out of those people that matter…the family, the friends, the supporters…every single one of them wants to understand and support you the best way possible, more than you just want them to understand. I live with BPD. I’ve lived with it for years. I have years of experience. But my wife, my kids, my family and friends. This is new to them. It blind-sided many of them. Yes, I can sit here and complain that they don’t get it when I can’t go to something because my anxieties making my brain feel like a kaleidoscope. I can get mad when they don’t get it that I just want to be alone for a while because it’s taking every ounce of strength I have to hold in tears, and no…I really don’t know what over. It’s frustrating. It hurts. And we convince ourselves that we’re all alone and nobody cares. Poor eff’n Me…

These things are frustrating, for sure, and I’m not at all trying to say that I’m past that…because I’m not. But I do have a wife that reads book after book on BPD, DBT, CBT…you name it. Sits in my Psych sessions. Drives with me to therapy to keep me calm. Goes to couples counselling with me. Keeps the kids downstairs when I’m shutting down in my room. Holds me when my minds convinced me that there’s not a soul on earth that cares about me. She’s wiped tears off of both our faces countless times. She’s been on the receiving end of an embarrassing amount of tantrums over some of the most nothing things ever. She’s always put our kids first, which is why she’s the most amazing mother ever. She’s never belittled me. She’s never said a single negative thing about our life and what we’re dealing with. She’s always treated me like a King and protected me like a true Queen. If there is anything in this world that she could have…it would be to “understand”. But yet we ‘mentally ill’ throw around the terms like #stopthestigma like the world is covered by an all-encumbacing blanket of ignorance. That not only does nobody understand me, but nobody even gives a shit to try and understand me. Yes…there are people out there like that. Many of them. Millions of them. That is why there’s such a HUGE need for #stopthestigma, #timetotalk, #suicideawareness. Mental Illness is very misunderstood and unknown. I’m not trying to cover up or make less of that. But I guess what I’m saying is that I want to acknowledge those people that don’t fit in that group. That aren’t ignorant, and that do want to ‘understand’. You are heroes, for real. You are the ones that make us feel loved. That give us self-value. That keep us alive. Thank-you.

I guess where I want to shift the attention of my blog is to help give more insight to those that aren’t in the dark, but are looking to continually better understand mental illness. Not a finger-pointing, the world hates me rhetoric that is not at all helpful to any of us. By no means am I claiming to be all-knowing or superior to anyone. My blog is 100% from my experiences in my life. I’m not going to turn this into a ‘religious blog’, but I’m also not going to shy away from the role that my faith plays in my life, and in how I view my life unfolding. Mostly, I want to help. Help support and encourage those that are battling in the trenches of mental illness. Help encourage and praise those that are trying to help rebuild the lives of us complex human beings. And to shed some light of understanding on those that are still wet behind the ears as far as mental health/mental illness goes.

So Please…follow my blog. If it’s helpful and encouraging, let me know. Share it with everyone you know, especially those that are loving on and trying desperately to understand you. If it can’t get out there, it can’t be effective. I’m also on Instagram @inkeddadBPD, on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/toomuchtodreamlastnight, and on Twitter @InkedDadBPD. Please follow any and all of these social media outlets.

Thanks again for taking the time and interest,

Dave

#mentalhealthawareness… Please share.

Some of you likely read my Instagram rant today… I’m not even going to apologize, it’s something that really eats at me and pisses me off. I’m actually going to run with that a bit and see where we go. I usually mention at the end of my posts to share with anyone you feel could benefit. The response I’ve received has been amazing. I am constantly blown away by the amount of people that are affected by mental illness and are bravely living life ‘flying under the radar’. It is because of this that I’m going to flat out ask you to share this blog post, or the link to my Facebook page. (you can click on the word ‘Facebook’ to directly link to my page.) I know theres so many people out there that are getting by undetected. I did this for 20+ years. Stepping out was the hardest thing I ever did, but I was at the point I really felt that if I wanted to live… if I wanted to be a father and a husband, it’s what I had to do. I’ve been blogging some of my thoughts as I’m working through my life with Narcissistic Borderline Personality Disorder with clinical depression and severe social anxiety. I’m hoping in doing so I can help some of you that are fighting your own demons, and for the rest of you I hope to maybe help you understand what it is we go through that makes life so challenging. Again, please share. And please respond, whether by comment or direct message. I want to hear from you.

#BorderlinePersonalityDisorder. It’s actually kind of relieving to have a ‘label’. As much as I HATE being labeled, I at least now know what I am. I’ve known I’ve been depressed. I’ve known that social settings make me anxious and uncomfortable. I’ve known I’m moody and emotional. I just didn’t know why. Yes I’ve hurt myself in different ways… it’s always replaced the more unbearable hurt that is the demons in my head. But I was a hockey player. I wasn’t weak… and only the weak hurt themselves when the can’t handle it. So I handled it. I bottled things in. I swallowed the pain. I recluses. I dissociated. I lied to myself each and every day that hey, you’re alright. This is normal. This is what everyones going through. And do you know what? I believed myself. Right up until the day I imploded. Looking back, I don’t know how I was so stupid. So gullible. But then, I do know. I wanted so badly for it to be true. I wanted so badly for those words, “You’re normal. Everyone’s going through the same thing. Everything’s going to be okay” to be true. I gripped that false sense of hope with every fibre in me. I beat myself blind of such glaring truths… truths I just couldn’t figure out. It just didn’t add up…

Why the hell is everyone so happy all the time? Seriously?!? Does no one ever have a bad day??? This is still how I feel… some people are just so damn happy it makes me uncomfortable. Like seriously, if you don’t stop laughing you’re going to wear your pumpkin-spice-latte (I detest that drink, by the way.) I don’t want you all to think I’m just miserable. But what I do want you to know is that there are many times that I am being extremely brave, extremely courageous. Putting myself out of my comfort zone and into complete vulnerability. It’s exhausting. It’s terrifying. Yet I willingly do it day in and day out, for you. For the ones I love. For the ones I care about. For the ones whose faces I want to see donning smiles, and enjoying their non-pumpkin-spice-latte beverages. Seeing you happy makes me happy, and it really does give me a feeling of normality. I enjoy time spent with friends. Very much. Close friends become a comfort zone. A safe place that I can let down my guards. And oh, I have guards… I have guards that have guards I’m sure.

Social anxiety and depression are the two main avenues my BPD chooses to occupy. And they completely feed off each other. My anxious spikes turn into bouts of depression. They often travel back and forth multiple times a day. My depression reminds me of laying in a pitch dark room with a smoke detector. All you can see is the smoke detector light. You know it’s the smoke detector light. There’s no surprises. Nothing to worry about. But you can’t stop thinking about the smoke detector light. You can’t stop looking at it. It’s occupying 100% of your thinking. But the light hates you. And it tells you it hates you. It won’t let you believe anything else other than it hates you, and you should hate yourself too. That’s the difference between depression and a smoke detector light… a whole lot of hate. Likely a stupid comparison. Anxiety is like the most difficult game of mental wack-a-mole. Thoughts pop and before you can hit them their gone. You try desperately to find some focus, to reign in those thoughts. To make sense of everything. But the thoughts keep popping up and down. It literally physically drives you mad. And then it’s like your thoughts are dumped and scattered like a spilled cereal box. Thoughts everywhere. No idea where to start. And now you’re depressed. This is the emotional yo-yo that is my life. That I’m supposed to just suck it up and get over.

The thing with labels is that on the flip-side there’s often ‘product information’. What we are made of. Dreams, hopes, ambitions. Hurts and struggles. Warnings and Advisories. Stats and figures. The stat that scares me, and actually is a major driving force behind me working my ass off in therapy is this. One in ten people with BPD will successfully commit suicide. Let me say that again. If you have ten people standing in front of you with BPD, one of them will commit suicide. Still not getting it? I come from a small town of about 1500 people. If all 1500 of us had BPD, 150 of us would SUCCESSFULLY commit suicide. Who knows how many others would fail at trying. Those stats are staggering. STAGGERING. But you know, stop seeking attention. Stop milking it. I never really understood stigma. I always kind of thought of it as a marketing gimmick. A way of raising awareness. #stopthestigma. Yes, it’s a way of raising awareness, but stigma is also a very real thing. And the thing is, it 100% of the time comes from the uneducated and the ignorant. So many people have told me they were unaware of the complexity of mental illness. That they simply had no idea. Most still don’t get it, but are making efforts to understand. Some simply have no idea or desire to know. It doesn’t affect them. They have their bubble, and until mental illness penetrates that bubble, they have no desire to walk that path. And that I can respect. It’s foolish, but I get it. It’s the ignorant people that I have literally absolutely zero respect for. Those that belittle the fact that your ‘illness’ is anything more than a gimmick. A gimmick for attention. A gimmick to avoid taking accountability for action. A gimmick to manipulate and persuade for a more favourable position or outcome. Those are the ones that aren’t worth the time it takes to even curse them. I, fortunately, haven’t had to deal directly with stigma that often, but I have had to. And I’ve also had to on fairly personal levels. And because of this I have gained a whole new understanding of the hurt. The pain. The literal suffering that many of us trudge through. The murky hate-infested waters we find ourselves drowning in. It sucks. And it’s so avoidable. SO AVOIDABLE!! Please pass this on. Follow my blog either directly through my WordPress blog (<-click ‘wordpress’ for link), ‘Like’ and follow my Facebook page (<-click ‘Facebook’ for link) Follow me on Instagram (<-click ‘instagram’ for link). The unknown, the unsure, the confusion and the misunderstanding of mental health is where lies the problem. We have to start looking past the labels. Seeing whats inside the package. Learning how to properly handle the product. If we can help clear the confusion. Make known what we deal with, and give understanding to those wanting to help, then we can go a long way in breaking the stigma that surrounds mental health.

physical in presence – absent in mind

Life with Borderline Personality Disorder is an extremely frustrating existence. Anyone living with the ‘illness’, or living with someone with the ‘illness’ will be able to support that statement completely. It’s literally a cycle where everyday you gain a little more confidence in being able to handle yourself in a safe manner, but also everyday you become more and more aware of just how extensively BPD controls you. I know, I know… BPD doesn’t ‘control’ me, right?!? Well, to that I must honestly say… yes, yes it does. I spend two days a week in therapy to try and resolve that, but as for now that’s the way it is. Only because of my increased awareness of just how my ‘illness’ effects my life, it literally feels like I can’t escape it. It’s like the blinders are off, and now my demons aren’t hiding in shadows as much any more. No, now they’re in plain sight. Pouring my coffee and holding the door as I head out for the day. It sucks. I mean it… it really, really sucks!! Why do things so often seem to get harder before they get easier. Whoever wrote that proverb, wherever you are, I dislike you. #yousuck

I did an anxiety screening a couple weeks ago… and guess what? I scored extremely high in the area of ‘social anxiety’. Well, that’s just awesome. It seems every week my resume gets longer. I mean, I’m starting Somatic Trauma Therapy in addition to the modified DBT & CBT I’m already doing. And now I get to go in tomorrow to meet with another counsellor that I’ll be doing weekly social anxiety ‘group’ therapy with. I now will be spending 10+days a month in therapy of some sort. And that, my friends, is depressing. But back to the social anxiety… I knew I had it. I know I’ve hidden it. I know it effects me likely more than anything, as far as mental exhaustion goes. But I think it’s one of those things where as long as it was hidden from everyone else, I could play naive and ignore that it’s there. But the bottom line… it’s there. And it really does have a strangle hold on me. A sneaky unsuspecting bystander strangle hold. I mean, I don’t even know where it’s coming from half the time. But it’s there. It’s always there.

It’s frustrating. When I’m with people I disappear. I zone out. Mentally, I’m gone. It often takes all my mental strength to stay engaged in simple conversation. My mind is trying desperately to leave. To hi-tail it to that oh-too-familiar rendezvous which is the eerie confines of my mind. It’s almost like that person temporarily ceases to exist. But then, when I’m on my own and trying to stay task-oriented, that person is in my mind. In my head. I can’t stop thinking about them. What they’re doing. What they’re feeling. What they’re thinking of me. This is now haunting me. I’m either physically present and absent minded, or physically alone but reeling in emotion in that persons absence. It hurts. It’s exhausting. It’s tormenting. The seeming inability I have over controlling my presence of mind is terrifying. It really is. I long to be able to think about what I want, when I want. Not what they want, when they want. I want to be in control of my mind and not them. I’m working at it, and some days it feels like I’ve got it figured out. But then the days come when I’m very accurately in the passenger seat, holding on for the ride. R.M.Drake words it better than I ever could…

when i was with people i would doze off and look at the sky, and when i was alone looking at the sky i would think about people. i was never in both places at one time. maybe i was crazy or maybe i was like everybody else. i wasn’t happy in my own reality, i wanted more.

r.m.drake

I AM… a tangled mess;

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.”

-C.S.Lewis

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder is the human equivalent to a box full of Christmas lights. There’s so much beauty and brightness and colour in that box, if you’re willing to untangle the strings. How many times has Christmas come around… you go to the closet on a mission. This year you are going to have the best decorated house on the block. You pull the big bin of lights off the shelf, and remove the lid. And every time the same thing happens. You find an end to a string of lights, you begin pulling it out of the box, and suddenly you have the mess of who-knows-how-many strings of lights tangled and hanging from that single strand in your hand. Annoyance. Frustration. And usually anger to a boiling point where the lid is put back on and the bin is heaved back up on the shelf.

That annoyance. That anger. That frustration. That is life with BPD. We try countless times to remove the lights from the box in a tidy and untangled manor, but the reality is our lives…our minds are a tangled mess. We can’t make sense of it all. We try. We make progress. and then there’s another tangle. Always more tangles. And no matter how many lights we remove and untangle, when we look in the bin it’s always full. Always tangled. Always overwhelming. This is what I like to call the journey of therapy. It’s hugely beneficial. HUGELY!! But it’s one of those things that just when you start feeling like you’re getting it…like you’re understanding a bit of whats going on, a relapse happens. No matter how far you’ve come you look in the box and see a mess of lights and wires. It’s overwhelming. The weight of the world gets dropped squarely on your shoulders. You retreat. You recluse. You shut down.

It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” I hate this quote and love it at the same time. I hate it, because it’s a difficult concept to accept. I like to think that my problems are “out of my control”. I like to feel that I’m the victim to the wrath of mental illness. I like to believe I’m helpless and hopeless. But why? Because it’s easy. It’s not an easy life… not by any means. But it’s easier to just live with it. Live in misery. Live tormented. Or maybe not even live at all… maybe taking the route of ending everything is appealing. The fact of the matter is that any of these is easier than the gruelling challenge of actually dealing with your illness. Of taking the steps of getting help. Of changing that course and shifting that weight around. But as much as I hate that quote, I love and take comfort in it as well. “It’s not the load that breaks us down.” It’s not the illness. It’s not the anxiety. It’s not the depression. It’s not the anger. It’s not the self-hate. “It’s the way you carry it.” That you can change. That you can adjust. That you can alter.

BPD is maladaptive, or learned behaviours. We have the power and the ability to relearn, to alter the way we carry the stresses and the effects of our illness. We can keep carrying it the way we have been, letting it beat and bury us into the ground. Or we can chose a different course of action. Adjust the load. Sometimes it helps, other times it’ll make it worse. But the key is that “I” have the ability. The power. The authority to change the course of my life. I can either throw those strings of lights back into the bin on the shelf, or I can slowly, painstakingly, ad seemingly impossibly sort through the chaos and the mess in hopes that the end result will be a continuous strand. That is the question. That is the challenge. That is Borderline Personality Disorder.

that unexpected curve…ABANDONMENT!!

i love the mountains. Everything about them. The shear magnitude of the towering peaks. The smell of air so fresh you cane help but close your eyes and breath it all in. The wildlife. It’s all… perfection! My dream is to live in the mountains. My Shangri-La . But for now I’ll just have to settle for getaway camping trips… a very acceptable compromise. But last time we went camping was a little different. There was a bit of an unexpected curve… and that curve would not leave us alone.

Being “flat-landers”, it’s always exciting entering the mountains. From the time we leave Calgary we are watching this mountain peaks get bigger and bigger as we get closer and closer. For the kids that one hour drive seems endless. But ten we get there. We are swallowed up by nature at it’s purest. Faces are pressed against the windows trying to take in all the mountains have to offer. Once in Banff we go to the campground to set up camp. We pull up to the registration window and pay for our site. Just as we’re about to pull away, the curve is throw,,,

“I almost forgot to tell you, there’s a bear in the area, so keep your site clean and your food locked up.”

Then come the questions. Is the bear in OUR campsite? What do bears eat? Do bears eat people? Can I sleep in the truck? and on and on. You don’t want to scare them, so you make sure all of your answers reinstate comfort and safety. We get the campsite all set up and head in for an early night after a long day of driving. So we all crawl into bed. We do a little visiting… ok, truth is we spent about an hour just to convince our kids to stop talking, and the only way to do that was to tell them the bear would hear. So there we were. Four of us all cozied up in the tent. Beautiful silence. The smell of fresh air. My happy place. And that’s when it happens. You hear a noise. Was it a branch snapping? What snapped the branch? Is that breathing I hear? I think I can hear its claws scratching a tree. I’m going to die!!

After finally convincing myself that those noises were nothing more than the trees blowing in the wind. It seems so simple when you look at it in daylight. The darkness truly hides a lot.

The fear of that bear, however, is a very accurate analogy of my fear of abandonment. And I mean very accurate. My wife, like the mountains, is magnificent. She is my happy place. I love living with her. But one day I got thrown a curve. My mind gave me a word of caution. Not “There’s a bear in the area”, but rather “She’s going to leave you”. I fight it every day. I come to the ‘camp ground’ and the park ranger that is my mind warns me of my possible abandonment. I try desperately not to worry and stress over it, but like snapping branches and noises in the woods, fear takes the drivers seat. It’s unbelievable the panic and the fear that blankets you in these times. I can’t even function…literally. I crash. I recluse. I think too much. I panic. I think of ways to avoid the inevitable truth. But until you have proof that the bear is gone, the bear will continue to haunt and torment you

Labels…

Labels…oh how we’ve grown to rely heavily on them. We quite literally no longer base our decisions and choices on product quality, but base it 100% on the labels. I’m totally guilty of this. I love fashion. It’s a weakness of mine for sure. And I love brand name clothing. I’ll go to Value Village and go through the racks of clothes looking at tags. “Robert Graham”, “Barney’s NY” “Bugatchi”, “Armani”, “Versace”, “Robert Sherman”… the list goes on and on. One of my proudest shopping moments was the day I hit up both VV thrift stores in Saskatoon and cashed in on over $5000.00 retail worth of brand “label” clothing for $150.00. And some still had tags! I was on ‘cloud 9’. Did it all fit? Heck no… but for $30 a shirt I can get them tailored downtown, and I’m still ahead $4500.00. I win. My wife laughs at me. “No one but you is going to know or care what kind of shirt you have on…” To that I say “B.S. I’m going to know, and that matters. People who know clothes are going to know, and there opinion matters. And to those that don’t… they’ll just know I have a damn nice shirt on, and that matters.” But does it? Does it even a little?

I never paid much attention to ‘status labels’ before. Even as a kid there was the awareness that so-and-so lived in a shabby house and wore hand-me-downs two sizes to small. But did it matter? Not at all. But wait… did it matter? Come to think of it, he was the first one to not ‘make the cut’ for birthday parties, because you knew you weren’t going to get the coolest gift. As you got older, you wanted less and less to be associated with him. But why? Because he didn’t have a ‘designer label’ tattooed to the back of his neck? Because he never acquired enough ‘return-value’ to be worth your investment? I can honestly say that I’m fairly non-biased when it comes to human-labeling. I know I do it to an extent, but I think I let ‘labels’ play a very small role in how I see people. I would say I quite simply played little attention to the labels that were out there. That is, until I got my label sewn on me. When you are all of a sudden extremely aware and self conscious of your own label, you tend to start seeing those that everyone else is wearing as well. You feel for them, because you now know that there are labels you choose, or earn for yourself… but there are others that are simply stamped on you. You’re stuck with them. Good Luck my friend.

I find I am once again label shopping, but in a whole new way. I’m sitting in the familiar retail change room… but I’m not able to go choose the clothes myself. They are being brought over, one item at a time, and draped over the door to try on. Many of them don’t fit at all. Some are a style I like, but the wrong colour. Some too big, some too small. But when I walk out the door, they’re all waiting for me, in a bag, charged to my account. “I didn’t pick these… most of these don’t even fit!” I walk toward the store again, receipt in hand. But when I hold it out I see in big bold letters. FINAL SALE – NO RETURNS/NO REFUNDS. How is this fair? It’s like they said to themselves “Oh, Dave likes clothes” and then gave me anything and everything that fit the category of”clothing”.  It’s an outrage. Well, yes, in a retail world it is unfair. It is an outrage. But when it comes to society and ‘social labelling’, it’s par for the course. You have some say in your labels. You earn many of your labels. But many of them are just ‘thrown over the door’ to you. They may sort of fit, but not really. Some you can’t even get into. Some you have no idea where they came from. It’s like they just heard you suffer a mental illness, so you must be completely off your rocker and unstable. It’s, an outrage.

I remember the first time I felt the sting of a label being sewn on. First off, it was from someone I wasn’t even aware knew what my diagnosis was, but they were informing that “because of my illness…”. Because of my illness, nothing. I’m making a effort to not use my having BPD as an excuse for anything, so don’t you go and do it. Dump on me all you want in your mind, whatever makes you feel better. But don’t come out and use ‘labels’ of my “illness” as a way to give you peace of mind.

We all have wardrobes full of clothing of all kinds of labels. Some we’ve hand-picked and tailored, some have just been thrown over the change room door. It’s not at all fair. But we’ve all got to live with it. Wear the clothes you like. Wear them often. And those other ones… stuff them in the back somewhere and hope they don’t get dragged out.