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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Illustrating the 'highs' and 'lows'

**Please note that this post mentions eating disorders, suicidal and self-harm thoughts**

Here are some of my pictures. I have many, many notebooks full of creative things, but here are some pictures I made around the same period a few years ago. At that time, I wasn't diagnosed with bpd, but my emotions were a volatile ocean of highs and lows that came and went in rapid cycles. 

I was showing a lot of signs of bpd, but it took me more than several years of distress to be diagnosed with bpd. When I made these pictures I was quite overwhelmed with something getting towards anorexia, which I was having a lot of treatment for. I no longer have a huge eating disorder problem, the therapy I had mostly closed that avenue of self-harm for me, it I am very relieved to say. 


This picture (i) illustrates the 'high' I get 'in' with bpd. My emotion of joy/love/exhilaration/elation makes me feel like I am going to explode. Sometimes I feel like the emotion of joy/love/exhilaration is going to kill me, it is so strong. I also feel like I about to burst with ideas that are bubbling in my head, as if they are fizzing beneath a shaken-up bottle with the cork about to burst.


I made this picture (ii) when I was 'in a high'. When I feel high I feel like my dreams are beaming out of me, I feel like the embodiment of passion, hope, self-belief, confidence, happiness, excitement. The feeling seems to be a brilliant one, like the suns rays are inside my heart. But actually, like the suns rays, it can burn and leave you feeling very sore, because there is usually a crash that inevitably comes after such a high.

I would say that the main emotion I feel when I am 'in a high' is love. This is very difficult to explain and difficult for me in my life, although it is also a lovely thing. I feel like I have so much love that I am going to be killed by the pressure of it inside me. The love/joy/exhilaration is not really pleasurable because the emotions feel so strong that they hurt. I feel like no one has any idea of the extent of my emotion of love, exhilaration, joy, happiness and this can make me simultaneously extremely sad. 


It is not uncommon for me to feel the joy/love/exhilaration that I described above simultaneously with really dark, scary, suicidal thoughts. I don't even know myself how that can be possible, but it feels something like this illustration above; the dark swirl of being sucked into terror and a pit of sadness, yet whilst being acutely aware at the same time of beautiful love and joy. This mix of extreme emotions is not only confusing for myself and my own identity, but also for others close to me...confusing in so many ways. 




When I feel I am 'in' the opposite of a 'high' (v, vi, vii)  I would not call it a low. It is lower than that; I feel as though I am alone under the sea bed, beneath thick black sand with a stormy ocean swirling over. Often, I feel a 'swirl' in the middle of my body. Often it becomes visceral, physical pain to me and I have to clutch my stomach. Like my insides are screaming out and sucking me down, down, down, eating me up, drowning me, strangling me. It's during these times that I might have suicidal thoughts and thoughts about self-harm and eating disorders. It is doubly upsetting to be feeling this way, because of the abundance of love/joy I know I have in my life. 


There are many severe repurcussions of feeling these ways in such rapid cycles, it is like a 'split' way of being. I used to visualise that I was being 'possessed' or 'overcome' by a monster when I felt the sadness, but I need to accept that these emotions are parts of me, no matter how much I wish I didn't have the capability to feel such dark thoughts, especially because I feel guilty for feeling these emotions.


Hope these pictures have illustrated some aspects of bpd for you. But please be aware that all people are different and, of course a lot of people with bpd have similar experiences, but all will experience our emotions and lives differently. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Five reasons why I wouldn't 'undo' BPD if I could

Don't get me wrong here: BPD takes a person to the deepest, darkest, loneliest, scariest depths of the ocean of human experience and emotions.It is terrifying to feel desperate, suicidal, frantically alone and confused.

On my BPD Orchid a couple of weeks ago, I asked people if they could 'undo' their BPD, would they? Most people who responded said that they would. The enormity of the pain, the stigma, the difficulty in accessing mental health and support services, the loneliness can make the experiences of BPD so unbearable people would do anything to erase the three little letters from their life. 

I would not take the experiences I have had with BPD away from me. Here are five reasons why--in a wierd way-- I feel grateful to my BPD.

1. The factors which gave me BPD are also those which make me who i am.

2. My empathy. I feel that having experienced a lot of difficult emotions and experiences means that I am open to the fact that life is not straightforward, emotions are complex and that people are not what they seem. I never take the surface as the person, because I myself know that my external self doesn't match up to society's view of what someone with a mental health problem looks like.  I feel that my empathy for others' pain and emotional experiences has opened up paths i that would have otherwise have never been so open.

3. Relationships. This point overlaps with 2, but when I opened up a couple of individuals about my story and what I was going through, it led to a deeper relationship, as if the mental health issue facilitated a facet of a relationship that may have never been discovered. It feels as though BPD has opened up a greater compassion between myself and others and led to closer, stronger bonds. Vulnerability is a powerful thing (see the famous TED Talk by Brene Brown).

4. Imagination. I often wonder what link my extremely flexible, lively and wacky imagination has to my BPD, but I feel they are linked. I think my plastic, creative, playful mind is bound to the ability my brain has to access darker parts of the human experience. Certain emotional states that are tied up to my BPD have been conducive to creative works, although by no means all. I should clarify that there is nothing less 'artistic' or 'creative' about a mental breakdown. In 2010, I slept, stared at a ceiling, unable to read, write, string two ideas together. It was a mind-numbing experience that was the antithesis of creative energy. 

5. Therapy. This has been absolutely amazing...can't describe how much of a revitalising, life-giving, fascinating, insightful, delightful, exciting, powerful, magical, interesting, inspiring influence it has been for all areas of my life: personal, creative, career, relationships, intellectual. 

This is a non-exhaustive list, but as a quick addition, I will post a quick line about Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. I felt such an emotional tie to Bertha, I felt a personal connection to a fictional character on a level that I feel was facilitated by my BPD. 

The possibility of telling more people about BPD

In the last couple of weeks, I've been thinking about what it would be like to share the fact that I was diagnosed with BPD to more people, toying with the idea of sharing this blog to a group of friends....I've been coming round to the idea that there is a possibility that I could share my mental health, or more of it, with more people I know.

I'm not ready yet...but I feel as though there may be a time when I am ready tell the name of BPD Orchid to a couple of close friends. Furthermore, perhaps on a special day, like Borderline Personality Disorder month or something, I could share on Facebook/Twitter the fact that this diagnosis has been applicable to my life and that people can never tell who is affected by mental illness and who isn't.

It would be good for shattering ignorance and the taboo perhaps. I would love to help break down the misunderstandings but currently I feel too scared.


Not knowing how to talk about my mental health

I have a problem with the five minutes after I hang up the phone. I often end a phone call and then end up sending a long and intimate text message about some of my deepest, and often darkest feelings. I then end up feeling embarassed, guilty and ashamed about my actions.

In my post A Confidant in the Family, I tell of the moment where this pattern kicked off with regard to disclosures about my mental health. Did it start there? The moment when I told intimate details and they were met with acceptance, love, support, kindness and support that opened the door to an important and nurturing relationship in my life that continues to this day?

These kind of texts, packed full of over-share, choc-a-block with personal details that probably should be saved for another time, often backfire. People can be angry with me for sharing such details in such ways. Most often, however, people are just generally baffled and confused by me....

So tonight I will see if he replies to my long, over-share of a text.....If he doesn't, I completely understand why, because it is difficult to know what to say to me.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Aimee Wilson; her blog and my upcoming guest post for her!

I am doing a guest post for Aimee Wilson and feel so honoured! I am starting to read her blog in its entirety. Aimee's blog is called I'm NOT Disordered and is subtitled 'A 23 year old girl recovering from Borderline Personality Disorder'. It's a wonderful blog, and I especially love her recent post Happy Second Birthday which celebrates the impressive second year of her blog. It's an inspiration, and I wish I could be so successful! I am about to write my answers to a set of Q&A she has written for me...I will post the links to that when she posts it soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out her blog, she writes interestingly and insightfully about issues such as trauma and being an inpatient with regard to BPD. 

I'm NOT Disordered, Aimee Wilson's beautiful blog about BPD

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Mainstream mass media reports sensitively about bpd !

I was celebrating last night and the jubilation has continued into today. The cause for celebration? A mainstream, popular magazine has published a sensitive and sensible article on Borderline Personality Disorder. One step towards an increased public understanding of mental health conditions and bpd in particular. Yippee!

The magazine is not one of my personal favourites, it's a bit too superficial and simplistic about gender, sex, feminism, sexuality, body image, etc. However, I am utterly impressed at the article they have chosen to print and have presumably edited. The article is written by The courageous and inspiring Charlotte Dingle. You can read it for yourself here.

A magazine article is a compressed form, and yet the Charlotte the writer and the editors have done an outstanding job of giving an overview and communicating an understanding of bpd. The tone of the article is humane; it understands that people diagnosed with bpd are like everyone else, with hopes, dreams, career goals, fallibilities and strengths.

There is no connotation that diagnosis equals certain doom, although it does talk about the complexity of the condition. I love the way the article addresses that mental health and medical professionals are wary of diagnosing because of stigma inside the profession. 

Furthermore, the article's depth does not stop there: it goes on to propose the idea that stigma inside the profession is inherent because the depth and types of feelings that bpd can lead to is very daunting unless professionals are trained and supported well. Moreover, it discussed DBT, and although it doesn't directly state this, it seems to me to be probable that mental health professionals, certainly those in the UK, are scared of dealing with people with bpd because access to DBT is so scarce.

This is why I love the article. It understands BPD as a system inside many systems, the mental health system a complex system in itself, with a web of therapies that may of may not be available, or even known, to mental health professionals. I have met mental health nurses who have (supposedly) 'never heard of' DBT. 

Well, now some Cosmo readers have. This is a groundbreaking article, I believe. I want to thank Cosmopolitan for nuanced editing and for allowing Charlotte Dingle to share her story. Thank you to Charlotte for her courage at writing such an honest article and daring to speak out.

Friday, 2 January 2015

bpd: to chat, or not to chat about that?

If push came to shove, I could probably talk about bpd with close friends. I talk about it with my boyfriend, because, quite frankly, it is often the seething, stampeding elephant in the room.

 I have talked about bpd with friends over the written word and fairly briefly in person. I have alluded to it, and at times my life has exuded the air of mental illness-- usually by my spontaneous absences or my red eyes and insomniac face.

However, I haven't got to the stage where I can calmly and naturally just say the word. It would clog up my throat and a fear of feeling ashamed, embarrassed and misjudged would make me a prisoner of myself. In short, I would feel very wary and uncomfortable with just throwing in a reference to my bpd. 

(image from

I do allude to the problems I've had with mental health in conversation with my friends in social situations, but it's usually in phrases such as, 'please don't be embarrassed, you know what happened to me in 2011 and I didn't leave the house for months', or something along the lines of the vague expression, 'I've had eating problems, as you know.' 

Would I like to be more open? Yes. I look up to someone like Stephen Fry who is honest and speaks up for people with mental health problems by telling his life how it has been. 

It is an ambition to have my face to my bpd and mental health story and say hello to the world as a person with bpd- a person who will hopefully have made a successful career and have contributed something meaningful to our society. 

I have a friend who is open about bipolar. They are an inspiration to me, but, I admit, they also incites feelings of envy in me because I wish I had the guts like them to be open about bpd- to my friends, acquaintances, colleagues and wider family. And therefore to society, which needs to shake off it's taboo shackles about mental health. 

I hope in time I can be open. But for now I am afraid it would taint my career prospects. Is that selfish of me? My friend with bipolar tells me that of course it's my choice and it's such a personal decision and he has full respect that for now I am to stay confidential for my own reasons. 

I am in a dilemma though, because I am sure that the best way to combat stigma is to speak openly and not hide. And right now, I write behind a facade of anonymity, which makes me feel cowardly. Again, I I being selfish? Surely I should sacrifice my career if it will help society become an iota more informed about mental health and bpd. 

But I guess it's better to speak out anonymously, than not speak out at all. That's what I tell myself sheepishly anyway...

And I guess that when I put my real face and name to the bpd orchid project, I will share it almost by default to my friends, acquaintances, colleagues-- because it will no longer be so much of a secret. 

Maybe I should talk about it more with some friends. But I've had some experiences talking about it with friends that have sadly put me off...just some misguided comments and a lack of understanding. And also I don't want to bother them with something that they may find boring. 

In a few weeks, it will be the anniversary of my diagnosis and it will be a good time to take stock of how far I've come. Perhaps in a few years I will be more open and, in a decade, I'm sure I will be honest about the struggles I've had with bpd as a young person, who, all being well has become- all but very occasionally of course- symptom free.