**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.

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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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31 Day BPD Challenge – Day 9: Do you get mood swings?

Do I get mood swings? Sometimes it feels like my mood is a revolving door. There are good days, and there are bad days… and I know I’m not even aware of how often it occurs, but if you were to ask either my wife or my kids, they would tell you that this definitely makes living with me a “challenge”. Most of the time, I really don’t think I’m aware of the “shift” until it’s far too late. But the frustrating thing is that there are times I’m fully aware of it, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it… the train has left the station, get off the tracks. I think that for me, this might be the most frustrating part of having BPD. I refuse to use my “illness” as a reason or excuse for anything, but it is nice to be able to see and know that these are “common behaviour traits”. This makes anticipating and understanding actions and reactions a possibility.

“A borderline suffers a kind of emotional hemophilia; [s]he lacks the clotting mechanism needed to moderate [her] spurts of feeling. Stimulate a passion, and the borderline emotionally bleeds to death.”                                             –                        -Jerold Kreisman and Hal Straus, I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me: UnderstandingBorderline Personality Disorder

For those of you that follow me on twitter (@davestoner03) or on Facebook (hadtoomuchtodreamlastnight) you may have seen a article I shared called “Why BPD relationships are so complicated“. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend that you do… especially if you live with someone who has BPD. There is a section on ‘Rejection Sensitivity’ which for me, I think, is my achilles heel.

In addition to fearing abandonment, people with BPD are overly sensitive to rejection. They anxiously await it, see it when it isn’t there, and overreact to it whether it’s there or not. This is why small slights—or perceived small slights—can cause major messes.

There have been countless times where there’s been nothing there, but in my head there is fear. It’s so frustrating, because I can sit and tell my wife, tell my friends, tell my psychiatrist or my counsellor… I can even sit here and tell you, there’s nothing there. There’s no reason to worry. No reason to panic. And most definitely no reason to start freaking out. But as the saying goes, easier said than done. I will make something out of nothing. I do it all the time. And it’s the god’s honest truth… I can’t help it. I don’t know if you’ve ever opened the door in a strong wind. You open it a little crack, and feel that cold air coming in. You try and open it in a “controlled manor”, but it get’s part ways open and the wind catches it. It rips the door right out of your grips and whips it violently in the wind. IMG_0873 For myself, this is an extremely accurate analogy for the process of emotional, or “mood swings” in my life. Something will happen, whether it’s something that happens, something that is said, or often times a thought that is completely fabricated in my mind. I crack the door that little bit, usually cautiously and often times unknowingly. That cold air comes in… or the thoughts. The thoughts like that cold draft creep their way into my mind. The panic begins to start… my brain starts firing in defence mode. It doesn’t matter how ‘controlled’ I try to open that door, the wind catches it an rips it out of my hands. All hell breaks loose in my mind, and it gets ugly. As I said before, I don’t intend to blame anything on having BPD or other mental illnesses. Everything is choices that I can make, and I need to learn how to react, anticipate, and reroute that train before it leaves the station. But, that being said, knowing that these are common traits of BPD, makes it a lot easier to predict, understand, and even give a starting point and outline of where to start with learning to change those traits. Those reactions. But until then… mood swings are going to be a very difficult part of my life. IMG_0868

31 Day BPD Challenge – Day 8: Do you have any other diagnosis? Which ones?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is almost always accompanied by an additional mental illness or illnesses, and in my case it’s no different. Before I was officially diagnosed BPD, I had both severe depression and anxiety. Psych Central describes BPD as:

“… a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. People with BPD are also usually very impulsive, oftentimes demonstrating self-injurious behaviours (risky sexual behaviours, cutting, and suicide attempts).”

“These individuals are very sensitive to environmental circumstances. The perception of impending separation or rejection, or the loss of external structure, can lead to profound changes in self-image, affect, cognition, and behaviour. They experience INTENSE abandonment fears and inappropriate anger even when faced with a realistic time-limited separation or when there are unavoidable changes in plans.”

After my stay at the Dubé Centre for Mental Health I received the “BPD” tag. Like I had mentioned in a previous post, there was a huge sense of relief upon receiving an actual diagnosis. It was no longer “what is wrong with me?“, but now “this is wrong with me.” The description fit. The symptoms were bang-on. I felt the diagnosis was accurate. I was now “Dave Stone, 34yr old husband and father of 3, living with anxiety/depression/and BPD.” I was relieved, I was ready to get into therapy and counselling and kick BPD’s ass. The thing is though, the more I read, the more I realized that this was going to be no easy task. I was reading phrases like “4-10 years of extensive therapy” and “working with a support team of therapist, mental health nurse, psychiatrist, GP, etc”. This whole “BPD thing” was staring to feel a lot like a full-time job. Then the doubts… “can I do this?”, “am I ever going to get over this?” and “is this even worth it?” But I was determined… and talk therapy began.

After about a month of counselling, and trying to figure out my “new life” of being a legit sufferer of mental illness, I got the blow that stung. That upset me. That I did not want to believe, and for sure not admit. After an appointment with my psychiatrist, a new “tag” was added to Dave Stone. And that tag was NPD, “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”. The literal words out of my mouth were, “…shit. I don’t like the sounds of that one”, to which my psychiatrist very nicely pointed out exactly “why” he came to his diagnosis. And I use the term “nice” in this situation the same as I would describe hugging a cactus as being “nice”. It hurt. It stung. I didn’t like it. He was nice enough… it was the message I wanted to ignore. I went home, I got on google, and I read…

“Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. You may be generally unhappy and disappointed when you’re not given the special favours or admiration you believe you deserve. Others may not enjoy being around you, and you may find your relationships unfulfilling.”

– Mayo Clinic

 Awesome!! Doesn’t that sound great?!? Now not only was I moody, depressed, and unstable… but now let’s tack onto that the “asshole” tag. Things just keep getting better. What could possibly be next? But you know, as much as I hated the diagnosis, it has really helped with understanding what happens in my head. Things all of a sudden make a little bit more sense, and you can kind of take a “knowledgable” approach to working things out. I’m a sports guy, so I kinda look at it as getting stuck in goal in hockey. You may have never done it before. You might not even know what hockey is. But if you know where the shooter is going to aim the puck… you have a much better chance of making the save. Having mental illness is like being thrown in goal. But having a diagnosis that gives some understanding is like knowing at least where the shot’s going. Where your moods are going to take you. What you’re going to react to. I’m going into this with at least that one advantage… and a pretty amazing team fighting for me. With those two things going for me, I’m gaining confidence that we’ll be pretty tough to beat.(see that, another hockey analogy)