Reading up on your disorder – more harm than good?

I’ve only ever actually bought one book relating to mental health – The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide which I bought straight after my diagnosis. I also have Cyclothymia and anxiety, but BPD was the diagnosis I found hardest to understand and get a hold of what it actually is.

Obviously it goes without saying though that I have constant access to Google – and I do research my other conditions sometimes as well.

20150125_221637But what I want to know is, is it a good idea? Is it a good idea to gain clarity on what’s ‘wrong’ with you, or does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Is it better to just get a diagnosis and allow the doctor or psychiatrist to decide what they feel is best for you, and you continue only knowing as much as they think you need to know?

Do I for example read:

It simply means that you have a pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that may be hindering your ability to have a high quality of life, keep your relationships going strong, or reach your goals.

…and make that a reality for myself? Do I read that clear defining statement of what BPD is and begin to automatically think that I can’t be in a strong relationship and therefore push my boyfriend further away until the relationship breaks down? Or do I read that I can’t reach my goals and therefore decide to leave university early because it’s been said that it may be too difficult for my personality type to handle?

Being someone with BPD, I already don’t have a strong sense of identity, so what’s stopping the things I’m reading from becoming apart of my already shaky identity and not necessarily in a positive way?

It’s natural instinct to want to find out more. As humans we are inquisitive and seek answers to our problems. But is it wise? Just because we are programmed to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

I’m not necessarily talking about the world of blogging, because that’s on the whole about sharing personal experiences. It allows for us to have a way of letting our frustrations go and it allows us to feel comfortable in the knowledge that someone will listen and understand.

Blogging is like a world where people are OK with talking about their problems and don’t feel ashamed of it (which is great!), and it should happen in the real world too – but it’s not medical.

Is that where the line needs to be drawn? Is it negative when we start to get medical?

Should we know about the ICD-10 of medical classification unless we’re trained to know this stuff for professional reasons? Should we be able to so easily gain access to lists of symptoms that allow us to become self-fulfilling hypochondriacs?

Is it self-destructive? Does it make us more prone to fitting into these black and white labels because we become what we’re told we are?

I don’t know.

lovelauren

Fact, not detail.

Every time that I write a post on this blog I get the most amazing and complimentary comments from people. Now I can’t call you strangers because that would be incorrect (you know more about me than some of my friends), but you all exist in the 2D world. Not a single one of my followers have I ever actually met.

That’s a good thing by the way. It makes these comments even more lovely because you’re not comforting me because you have to. It’s not like feeling rude by blanking me in the street, you can just scroll down your reader newsfeed onto the next post and pretend you never saw mine and I wouldn’t know any different.

The comments vary depending on the post (I hate to state the obvious, of course they do!), but often I get this same response. People telling me I’m brave for discussing my disorders and sharing everything about my life.

‘Thank you for sharing!’
‘Very brave talking about having a diagnosis of BPD’
‘It takes a lot of courage to bring things into the open’

I’m not moaning, I promise. I love these comments – knowing that people find my posts useful and that they enjoy reading them makes writing this blog so worthwhile. And these comments are unbelievably sweet, I love that you find me open and willing to talk, because that’s how I want to appear and that’s what I want this blog to be. An open book. Which I am for the most part.

bookk

But I do have a confession.

I find it incredibly easy to write a single fact on my blog, for example: ‘Aged 13 – Sexual abuse, from another uncle‘ stated in a post during my 31 Days of BPD Challenge. 

frankIt’s a fact, a statement. Something which I can isolate from myself. However if someone was to ask me, ‘so what happened?

No. Stop talking about it, I don’t wanna know. No details. Because then it becomes real to me. It becomes my experience. And surely something like that never actually happened to me.

Please don’t now refrain from commenting on my posts for fear that I’m now going to call you out and quote you in a post, but in a very long-winded way I’m just trying to get across that I’m also fragile.

If you feel unable to speak so frankly about what’s happened to you, that doesn’t make you any weaker than me. Whilst I appear to have full confidence in speaking about these things, I don’t really.

We’re as equally strong and weak as each other.

I think I demonstrated this quite nicely in another one of my 31 Days of BPD posts where I tried to go into more detail about things but ended up clamming up at the last sentence, and so I’m going to end this today in the same defensive and blunt way:

End of post.

lovelauren

And I finished it – finally!

31 Days of BPD

It took me 5 months to complete a 1 month challenge BUT IT IS DONE. I’m super excited because I never thought I was going to get there.

Please click on the links to take you to each post. They’ll also always be stored in the 31 Days of BPD tab down the side of my blog for you to go back and look at.

  • Day 1: Think of the last time you were really angry. Why was that?
  • Day 2: Why did your last friendship end?
  • Day 3: Do you self-harm? If yes, how?
  • Day 4: Have you ever attempted suicide?
  • Day 5: Have you ever written a suicide note?
  • Day 6: How’s your love life?
  • Day 7: Have you ever dissociated? If so, how often?
  • Day 8: Do you have any other diagnoses? Which ones?
  • Day 9: Do you get mood swings?
  • Day 10: What kind of impulsive decisions have you made?
  • Day 11: Is there anything you do that helps keep you grounded?
  • Day 12: What’s your relationship with your family?
  • Day 13: Are you a perfectionist?
  • Day 14: Do you ever become obsessive?
  • Day 15: Have you ever changed your opinions, depending on the people you are with?
  • Day 16: Does your style (clothing, hair, etc.) change a lot?
  • Day 17: What are five of your biggest fears?
  • Day 18: Do you worry what people think of you?
  • Day 19: What are some lyrics that describe what you’re going through right now?
  • Day 20: How do you usually express yourself?
  • Day 21: How many people know about your diagnosis?
  • Day 22: What’s a random story from your childhood?
  • Day 23: How do you think other people see you?
  • Day 24: If you could pick one year of your life to give back and start over, which one would it be?
  • Day 25: What’s one thing you wish non-borderlines could understand?
  • Day 26: Name three fictional characters you relate to.
  • Day 27: Do you have any bad habits?
  • Day 28: Do you consider yourself high-functioning or low-functioning?
  • Day 29: If your mind was a house, what would the house look like?
  • Day 30: What is your “safe place” when you are upset? (This can also be a person.)
  • Day 31: Post a picture of yourself and tell us your story.

Day 31: Post a picture of yourself and tell us your story.

31 Days of BPD

Here we are – the end. (It only took 5 months, I apologise!)

meeeeSo here I am. I’m Lauren Hayley Sowts and I’m 23 years old. I have the most incredible mum, boyfriend Nathan, and friends.

It’s hard to know what to write when you’re faced with ‘tell us your story’, so I’m going to give you a quick timeline and bulletpoint it for you all to see:

  • Aged 11 – Abuse from an uncle
  • Aged 12 – First (and only) time to properly self harm
  • Aged 13 – Sexual abuse, from another uncle
  • Aged 14 – Anxiety attacks begin
  • Aged 15 – Anxiety attacks 2 or 3 times a day and hello depression
  • Aged 16 – The deepest and most consistant depression I’ve ever faced
  • Aged 17 – Anxiety prevents me from eating – drop 2 st
  • Aged 18 – Come into recovery from the eating disorder caused by anxiety
  • Aged 19/20/21 – Consistantly up and down
  • Aged 22 – Diagnosed with BPD and Cyclothymia
  • Aged 23 – Anxiety at an all time low and taking its form in Agoraphobia

I think it’s safe to say I’d like just one normal year. My life is one thing after another all the time. It’s so draining.

But luckily for me, I have a creative streak and this is the only thing that can take my mind off all the rubbish. I write (obviously), I paint, I draw (not very well), I upcycle, I design – I do everything and anything that uses that fun part of my brain.

So that’s basically me. In a nutshell. Or the weird parts at least. You can find the more random parts here.

And now, because I’m crazy and haven’t got enough to do, I’m planning The Mental Health Art Auction in August. It uses my skills for a good cause and I need as many of you as possible to get on board and join the fight with me. If you are interested, please let me know so that we can make a real difference.

mental health art auction

lovelauren

Day 30: What is your “safe place” when you are upset? (This can also be a person.)

31 Days of BPD

I guess my safe place is wherever someone I love is. And if they’re not around, my bedroom.

If I can’t be around someone that means the world to me, then I don’t want to be around anyone.

Pancras-Starbucks

Ironically, because I now can’t get on trains because of my anxiety, London St Pancras is actually another ‘safe place’ of mine. OK hear me out – I know it’s weird. It’s the complete opposite. Crowded. Busy. Noisy.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been, but there’s a Starbucks made completely of glass walls that looks over the train timetables and the rest of the station. And this is where I like to sit. To the point where I’ve purposely missed trains in the past so that I can sit there longer.

I’m separated from the rest of the crazy London life, because I’m behind glass, and it puts reality back in check for me. Everyone is without a doubt annoyed and in a bad mood all the time. Typical London communiting mentality. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been to London, but if you have, you’ll know that noone interacts with eachother. It’s very singular. Everyone is out for themselves.

It’s basically the opposite of me.

I’m originally from a small town about 90 miles out of London, and the city and the people in it are completely different from that. But whilst I think an occasional ‘hello’ wouldn’t go a miss and it doesn’t mean the person next to you is trying to stab you, I think they have it right about being about themselves sometimes.

Obviously I’m only talking about commutes here. I know Londoners aren’t selfish and as hard faced as they seem down on the tube or walking through Oxford Street. They’re just sick of people as I would be if there were constantly 500 people in my way when all I wanted was to get to work or buy a pint of milk. But that’s the impression they give off in these busy, crowded, fast-pased situations, getting annoyed about the most trivial things.

So as I sit in that very Starbucks – on the high chairs facing out to the station – I watch people. Annoyed because someone just bumped into them in their panic to catch their train. Looking at their watch in horror because they’ve been delayed by fifteen minutes.

I watch people from all walks of life. Definitely not just those stereotypical Londoners. But people from all over the world after the train connections from Gatwick Airport and the Eurostar. These people are the opposite. Happy. Excited. Just wait until they get further towards the exit and notice the place they’ve chosen to come on holiday is most definitely now raining. 

I just find it interesting. It makes me desire the trivial problems instead of what’s going on in my head, and it makes me realise that sometimes I just have to do things for myself and not everyone around me. On the flipside, as the French and Japanese and Spanish and Indian and American all walk through, it reminds me where I am. In the center of London which is so easy and close for me to get to. I’m on holiday – enjoy it.

lovelauren

Day 29: If your mind was a house, what would the house look like?

31 Days of BPD
Please note that I also have Cyclothymia

myhouse

I’m aware that I’m brilliant on Paint, you don’t have to tell me…

Here’s my mind – as a house.

As soon as I saw this question I knew exactly what I was going to draw because I knew exactly what it would look like. It’s like my mind’s already thought about this metaphor at some point or another.

So the first two floors are cramped. It’s confusing and I feel trapped when I’m in them. It feels like there’s no way out and I’m beyond anxious – this is Depression.

When I climb the stairs further, I reach normality. I reach that haven of feeling just as everyone else. It’s simple here – so sometimes I choose to take a seat, but more often than not, I don’t, and I decide to keep climbing. My mind constantly searching for more.

This is when Hypomania kicks in. The party floor. The fantastic floor. It feels amazing. But noone is able to keep this state up for long. And so inevitably, I fall down the slide rapidly and hit rock bottom once again.

My brain needs to learn to just shutup and take a bloody seat.
lovelauren

Day 28: Do you consider yourself high-functioning or low-functioning?

31 Days of BPD

Some quick definitions first from BPD Central so we know what these terms mean:

Characteristics of lower-functioning,”conventional” BPs:

  1. They cope with pain mostly through self-destructive behaviors such as self-injury and suicidality. The term for this is”acting in.”
  2. They acknowledge they have problems and seek help from the mental health system, often desperately. Some are hospitalized for their own safety.
  3. They have a difficult time with daily functioning and may even be on government disability. This is called low functioning.
  4. If they have overlapping, or co-occurring, disorders, such as an eating disorder or substance abuse, the disorder is severe enough to require professional treatment.
  5. Family members’ greatest challenges include finding appropriate treatment, handling crises (especially suicide attempts), feelings of guilt, and the financial burden of treatment. Parents fear their child won’t be able to live independently.

Higher-functioning, invisible BPs:

  1. They strongly disavow having any problems, even tiny ones. Relationship difficulties, they say, are everyone else’s fault. If family members suggest they may have BPD, they almost always accuse the other person of having it instead.
  2. They refuse to seek help unless someone threatens to end the relationship. If they do go to counseling, they usually don’t intend to work on their own issues. In couple’s therapy, their goal is often to convince the therapist that they are being victimized.
  3. They cope with their pain by raging outward, blaming and accusing family members for real or imagined problems.
  4. They hide their low self-esteem behind a brash, confident pose that masks their inner turmoil. They usually function quite well at work and only display aggressive behavior toward those close to them. Family members say these people bring to mind Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  5. If they also have other mental disorders, they’re ones that also allow for high functioning, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
  6. Family members’ greatest challenges include coping with verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical abuse; trying to convince the BP to get treatment; worrying about the effects of BPD behaviors on their other children; quietly losing their confidence and self-esteem; and trying—and failing—to set limits. By far, the majority of Welcome to Oz (WTO) members have a borderline partner.

bed2b4

Based on these, I think I’m somewhere inbetween (that’s right, I’m sitting on the fence!).

Like someone with low-functioning BPD, I seek help. I know I need help and I’m desperate for it. I often struggle with daily tasks and the people that know me most are always trying to find appropriate treatment for me.

But like someone with high-functioning BPD, I rage outward and blame everyone else around me. I also put on a brave-face and pretend confidence around everyone else to fool them that I’m fine.

Is it possible to me middle-functioning BPD? Apparently I have just have the bad aspects of both – brilliant! But maybe that’s partly due to my Cyclothymia as well.

lovelauren

Day 27: Do you have any bad habits?

31 Days of BPD

Bad habits. Hhmm. Doesn’t everyone?

squi

I’m impulsive. But not in a good way. I’m impulsive in a destructive way and I’m too anxious to do anything impulsively fun.

I’m obsessive. A little bit. Sometimes.

My boyfriend would say my worst habit is walking out of the room half way through an argument or always wanting to get my own way.

Being lazy which then makes me more anxious because I have so much to do in such a short amount of time.

Inevitably always getting paint on everything. 

Eating rubbish and ordering takeaways even when I have food in the house and no money.

The list is most likely endless if you ask any of my friends – but I think I’m going to stop now – because this is coming way too easily to me. I wonder how easy it would be to name good habits?

lovelauren

Day 26: Name three fictional characters you relate to.

31 Days of BPD

I’m struggling with this one. Does anyone have a good answer?

I can’t think of a single character and I’ve been trying since I began this whole challenge – except from Agnes in Despicable Me – and that’s just because she likes unicorns!

agg

Can anyone else think of anyone?

(I’ll move straight onto Day 27 now so that you can at least have a little bit of potentially interesting reading!)

lovelauren

The relief that comes afterwards.

*Trigger warning*

Now for those of you that saw my post last week, I was incredibly nervous about my exams that were taking place this week.

I haven’t been attending classes because my agoraphobia has become so bad, and therefore I’m incredibly far behind. But on top of that, I also have the agoraphobia to contend with during the exams.

Let’s be real – My finance exam on Tuesday can get a big black cross through it. It sucked. If I passed, I’m surprised and I’ll be extremely happy with the lowest grade possible. Finance hasn’t ever been my strong point. I can’t retain numbers and the fact that I was so far behind with my attendance meant I stood no chance.

That’s OK though. Retakes aren’t the end of the world and I’m pretty much at peace with the idea for the first time in my life. I was going through a horrible time and it wasn’t something I’m naturally good at. Anyone else would have done just the same.

download (1)

Today though – I had my law exam. I’m not naturally good at law – remembering all the acts and latin terms isn’t my strong point (overall this semester wasn’t really my strong point as I’m sure you can tell!). But my biggest issue was the exam itself.

I’ve taken these exams in separate rooms to limit my anxiety and I’m really glad the university have been nice enough to let me do that. But today’s exam was taking place on the second floor. No big deal right? Except for someone with agoraphobia that’s a bloody long way from the door. I’m trapped.

But I did it. My heart was in my mouth. I felt like I was going to throw up and it took me half a bloody hour to walk up two flights of stairs without feeling the need to pass out.

But I did it. I sat through the two exam and I did it.

And do you know what, I did well. My last minute hectic revising worked, and they literally asked me everything I knew the answers to.

Occasionally, just occasionally, life cuts you some slack and you can achieve more than you thought you ever could.

  • Beat the anxiety
  • Most likely passed overall

tick

lovelauren