Living with Borderline Personality Disorder – Andrea’s story

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Since forever I have suffered with mental health difficulties.

Around the age of nine years old, is my first recollection of what I believe was a BPD episode, screaming in the back of the car like a banshee about how ‘my head was going to explode.’…it was probably just a headache but I remember at the time it felt like my head was just about to explode and go POP! Writhing and screaming at my mum from the back seat as she was driving us home from having been to gymnastics club that day, my mum probably terrified I might have a brain tumour or something. She rushed me to A&E, living in the UK where there’s the NHS, they gave me a brain scan & of course they didn’t find anything wrong with me. I was definitely just a dramatic little girl with a headache or was it something more serious than that and an indication of the mental health diagnosis I live with today called Borderline Personality Disorder?

I much prefer the term EUPD, which stands for Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder.

I still to this day will often describe this sensation that I get in my head where the brain resides, this feeling of my mind being “on fire”!!!

From around the age of 16, or maybe even earlier, I can remember starting to feel like there was something very wrong with me as I was struggling to cope with day to day life, struggling to get myself ready in the mornings, feeling very heavy, especially in my heart, sometimes by the middle of the day I’d find myself crying (behind closed doors to begin with) however this got worse with time to a point where I couldn’t control it and then I started having panic attacks.

I remember having several public breakdowns, (I probably remember these so vividly from the embarrassment I felt that they caused me at the time, the memory of it is still so vivid to this day) crying but trying to fight back and hold in tears whilst being on the train home from work or whilst waiting for one on the platform or once I had passed my driving test & was able to drive…crying in the car simply because it was safe there on my own & I couldn’t keep it inside anymore.

“It” was like a tap that needed to be opened and I had no control over the timing as to when it would open; I was “just really sensitive” all the time and I felt awful on top of that for feeling sensitive to begin with…but I was convinced that everyone must be coping with whatever I had only they were better at doing it than I was.

So around the age of 18 after two years of struggling with “it” alone, I took myself along to the doctor, he had been my doctor since I was born and when I told him how I’d been feeling and what had been going on he simply told me that I needed to get out more, exercise more often and basically take better care of myself.

I was a little bit shocked that that was the answer & solution having been a very healthy person my whole life, eating well. My mum is Brazilian and so she always fed me fresh healthy food, home cooked meals, plenty of fruit and vegetables and I had been engaged in sports and gymnastics my whole life, as well as dance being a huge passion (I was at a dance college studying and moving every day) so I was unsure how I could get out and be more healthy than I already was. I didn’t smoke, I was active but that seemed to be the solution according to Dr.Moore. I was super confused; either that, try to be more healthy or the other option…antidepressants.

He printed out something for me on Depression and told me a little about this thing called anxiety and he sent me away convinced that yes, maybe I could fix this just by trying harder.

I think from the outside I looked happy. I had a pretty bubbly disposition and was always very chatty and talkative so to the people around me I don’t think they ever really knew what was going on for me internally. My skin, being mixed race and of black heritage, meant to any doctor that I’ve ever encountered that I was “well”,  because I guess I looked it.

The breakdowns in public made me paranoid but again I was pretty much having them alone, nobody ever approached me whilst I was crying (I tried to do it discreetly) but I always knew that sorry for me look when my eyes met someone else’s whilst fighting back tears. I remember one time, I think around the age of 24, I got off the train and I was so confused, I couldn’t remember where I had parked my car or anything because my emotions were totally overwhelming me and I just felt very disoriented. In hindsight I was probably just in the midst of another panic attack but it’s only now having the diagnosis of BPD that it makes sense to say that, so I took myself along to A&E because I was in such a state; I didn’t want to get into my car to drive (well I didn’t know where it was!) and I felt that I was a danger to myself (possibly others had I got in the car and tried to drive whilst crying) so I walked maybe 1 or 2 miles to my local health walk in centre and when I got to the desk I remember not being able to get my words out! I was choked with tears and as the lady could see I was struggling so she handed me a pen and paper & I wrote down “I think I’m having a mental breakdown”.

She got me to wait for a doctor but because of the state I was in, kindly I was allowed to wait in a cubicle by myself until a doctor arrived. I had calmed down by then and probably appeared to seem relatively “normal”; a young girl on her way home from college who’d “probably just had a bad day”. I don’t remember how that played out but I vaguely recall something like being given a prescription and being sent to my own doctor the following day but it’s not clear to me anymore.

Fast forward to 2014, I was 27 years old & in yet another new relationship having had several relationships break down, struggling to pay rent, I’d moved house 14 times, was in a ton of debt having been to uni & through trying to build a business – both as an individual & through one of those MLM companies. I’d maxed out a credit card but had convinced everyone I was doing great and making so much money through this pyramid scheme, life felt pointless, I saw no way out and so…

I tried to end my life. I decided I wanted to end my life as I felt like nothing was going right and I felt like a burden.

Growing up in the UK, I was always fortunate enough to have access to free healthcare and up until my suicide attempt I had mainly just been given antidepressants to help me to cope (none of which worked) they only made me feel worse and exacerbated my symptoms.

When in my twenties, through my job as a Special Needs Assistant which I’d been lucky enough to secure through teaching dance to children at the school, I had been able to have a few counselling sessions whilst I was struggling to find stable housing via a scheme which they had through the local council. It was an unqualified man who I would sit in a room with once a week, sometimes fortnightly, (it was all based on his schedule you see) but he would ask me questions and then listen to my replies.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but now from being able to draw on the experience of what it is to have an actual psychotherapist and team treat me (true psychological intervention) I can honestly say counselling really didn’t quite cut the mustard! It did however, delay the inevitable suicide attempt that eventually was to happen.

Then through the loss of a job, at the age of around 25, I ended up receiving 6 months access to a private group therapy in Kings Cross, London. The company fired me but the way they did it was really quite clever; they had me interview for another position (they told me that my current position was no longer going to be available, being innocent, naive, and unwell I believed them) but it was all set up very nicely and in keeping with how my life had been going, I was sent into turmoil…like a rug being pulled out from underneath me. Despite always being on time and carrying out the role to the best of my ability, I had begun to not be able to hold it together anymore whilst in the role, after a 5 year relationship ended so very suddenly and so I found myself crying again, I could no longer hold it together, crying at my desk and so I think that they simply softened the blow of firing me by letting me continue to have access to a group therapy; I was able to access the group pretty swiftly through the HR department.

This time it was a qualified psychotherapist but once the 6 months had passed having been fired and no longer in a secure job, there was no way I could afford to keep up payments, so as much as I wanted it to continue and felt that I needed it I put on a brave face and did the whole “I don’t need it and I’m going to be just fine without it” act but I remember one of the other group members telling me it was a mistake and that I’d regret it but I really did have no other choice.

My suicide attempt happened at around the end of the summer 2014. I ended up in hospital and I can honestly say even then, at that point, less than 24hrs after having tried to end my life by washing down over 300 tablets with alcohol, the nurses and support staff were trying to get me to leave and send me home and it was only when my now husband showed up at the hospital and saw that they were having me sign discharge papers to agree that I was ok and safe to go home that we were able to sit down and have the conversation about accessing some form of support. Through his  persistence and insistence I went into  a psych ward at the St. Peters hospital in Surrey and was granted access to the medical professionals that diagnosed me with the illness that we call Borderline Personality Disorder. As mentioned in the last question, I do prefer the term Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder though in truth I prefer neither, I dislike both terms and think the name needs updating to something more fitting such as Affective Conditioning Disorder or Emotional Trauma Disease or something along them lines.

Be sure to follow Andrea on Instagram: @BPDmatters

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