Borderline Personality Disorder is not blatantly obvious, if you do not know the hallmarks to look for. It’s a lot like bipolar, not in all the symptoms, but in the stigmas. People generally understand anxiety and rarely fault you for it. PTSD is widely talked about and almost never seen as a personal fail. Agoraphobia, is basically the need to isolate, or fear of public spaces, again, not seen as a personal fail. Borderline though, like bipolar, comes with a lot of assumption and judgment. They are both often misunderstood and treated as a personality flaw.
I “came out” of the bipolar closet and publicly told my story. After 18 years of fear and shame, this was a distinct game changer. Letting go of stigma has helped me realize the magnitude of my fear since being diagnosed in 1997. After forgiving myself for managing my diagnoses of Bipolar I, my dignity has been fortified with a sense of pride, not self-loathing.
I have such gratitude for the work with my former therapist. After 18 years together, I feel like there’s a computer chip in the back of my head that holds her advice and wisdom. When I’m unsure about a challenge or risk of relapse, her advice echoes through my mind. She knew me better than anyone in this world, but now we start again – that’s scary and I’m not sure if it’s going to be luck or hard work that keeps me on track. Maybe both.
So, this is bipolar. For me. I personally believe that bipolar is a spectrum disorder because I’ve known people diagnosed who were milder, or more extreme than myself. I couldn’t find the art piece, but it summed up what being bipolar is like perfectly. Picture a man walking on a tightrope, except the rope goes up and down, up and down forever. The man has an umbrella and is doing his best to step over the valleys in the tightrope, but it’s inevitable that he will fall again. He never knows how far.
I can’t even say in public how I really feel at times, because sometimes I’m not ready to put my freedom in jeopardy. Why do people suffer in silence? Because we can’t be honest. And when we can it’s for one hour twice a week at max with a therapist, who we get showered and dressed up for and smile and say I’m fine. We might say we’re depressed, but we know the keywords to avoid the therapist from being legally obligated to institutionalize us.
I’m as healthy as I can muster at the moment. I go to bed early when I can and I try to smell the roses as often as possible. It’s not easy, but I try. And isn’t that what any of us can do? In this topsy-turvy world, we can keep on plugging away and working hard while managing the prospects of our goals and dreams. Sure – a synapse could get angry at me and this house of cards could tumble. But I can only do what I can – take my regime of medications, stay healthy and monitor myself regularly.
I recently told a new friend and neighbor that I manage a diagnoses of Bipolar I with psychosis and rapid cycling. I explained that I haven’t been symptomatic in a long time and that vigilant compliance to my health care regime is key to thriving – as is support. I asked if she had questions and we talked a lot. It was a very open, honest conversation, Jesica was extraordinarily receptive and filled with empathy.
But there’s something I’m not telling you. Something that relates directly to having a mental illness. It’s the weight I’ve gained from taking medication that is causing these aches and pains. It’s the hunger that comes with some medications and the lack of direction on how to avoid that weight gain. Now I’m on the warpath about weight gain and how unnecessary it is for those of us who take medication and who are experiencing these bad side-effects.