My 26th coming-out: Insane's founder on her mental illnesses
Some time ago, I started (and saw to the end!) a project called One Day One Coming-Out (you can read all of the Facebook posts that make it up right here on the dedicated Facebook page). The idea was to write one Facebook post a day, a truth about myself that most people didn't know. I wanted to finally be true to myself, hence the coming-out name -- but also to make my loved ones and fellow classmates realize that people they considered abnormal, inordinary, and possibly downright dangerous or despicable, out of ignorance or prejudiced ideas, could actually be someone they knew and/or loved. Not so abnormal, not so inordinary, and certainly not dangerous or despicable.
Here's the coming-out I did about my mental illnesses.
I have a mental disorder. I am mentally ill. I am mentally disabled. Call it what you want (though I prefer the first one, so please use that one, thanksalot).
It’s May 31st so this Coming-out is necessary. Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month and so I’ve been dodging this for 30 days.
(“Do your Coming-out, they said. You’ll feel better then, they said.” Well, no, I only have myself to blame for this project, so let’s do this!)
Over the past year, I have been diagnosed with atypical ( = anxious) depression, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).
I have experienced (and still do) panic attacks, crippling anxiety and such sadness, emptiness, hurt, shame, self-hatred and self-harm that it killed me inside.
I am also a suicide attempt survivor.
Read these words again. Mentally ill. Mentally disabled. Savor the sweet-sour taste of it on your tongue, because these words are unlike any other. They are a tool with which to explain the otherness of someone, the door leading to your interlocutor nodding in that “I see what you mean” gesture, and for many, the conveyor of actual fucking relief because finally, their suffering -- our suffering -- has a name and acknowledging if no justice attached to it.
Picture my tears for a second here.
First the many ones I cried with a suffocated heart when, after weeks of psychiatric hospital and facing a doctor that terrified me, I asked him what I had, what was wrong with me and he bluntly looked at me and said “I have no idea”.
Then the Niagara fall-like ones of relief that rushed down my cheeks and neck, and splashed onto my chest, when on the last session with her my second psychiatrist said I had Borderline Personality Disorder and I trusted her so much and she was meaning it was not my fault. I had a mental disorder that only made me suffer, and I later came to understand it was a very new diagnosis and a difficult one that far from all psychiatrists would acknowledge but… it was my first, real diagnosis and it made fucking sense.
After that, came more tears. Of indignation, when I read in my hospital file that my first psychiatrist had actually written down that there was a “surprising discrepancy between the patient’s college education and mental state”. Of piercing shame, when I read more online and was reminded that everyone always shrugged emotional pain off with a “you’re too sensitive, you need to toughen up, stop dramatizing everything” and people with BPD like me truly suffer from emotional (and sensory) hypersensitivity, you moron.
BPD made perfect sense, immediately. I don’t care if my current (and third) psychiatrist and a whole lot of people understandably doubt that BPD diagnosis, “because pretty much anyone could fit all of those criteria”. No, everyone doesn’t and BPD indeed is difficult to diagnose… because it actually opens a highway for all kinds of seemingly unrelated mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal ideation, addiction and countless others. But these, where they can be actual disorders in other people, are often symptoms in people with BPD. The way I understand it (but I’ve read a lot of other ways of seeing the disorder), when you have BPD you are hypersensitive, which makes you that much more vulnerable to all kinds of mental illnesses and wounds.
Anxious depression made sense because, and I know that’s exactly the way my then-psychiatrist meant it, it was simply what was happening to me at the time. It was not a diagnosis of a mental disorder or anything deeply rooted in me and what happened to me in my life… it was a picture of my mental health taken at a precise point in time.
I never, ever expected to receive a diagnosis of PTSD, and yet it is actually the most consistent one throughout all of my psychiatrists and psychologists. All of them mentioned it. And though it is incredibly hard to accept, it does make perfect sense.
I am hurt and wounded. I am currently handicapped by my mental health and may remain so for the rest of my life. I may also recover completely. There is no cure for BPD, but there is treatment for all the mental illnesses that it causes. And, contrary to what you are very likely to hear, those treatments work as they do in other patients, which is really well for some and not much for others. They worked pretty well for me and on a side-note, their side effects have also forced me to reconsider my body in a more gentle, compassionate and loving way - ahem, more than before which is still not a lot, but hey.
I am still trying to make sense of all this. I am still trying to come to terms with my diagnoses, and with the fact that they are only diagnoses that might actually change or get renamed later. I am still trying to live a normal life and handle my everyday while dealing with my mental disorder and surviving in spite of it (with help from my loved ones and two kittens).
The thing I am most afraid of is this: that you may find yourself in a painful mental health state today, or one day, and that you think back to this Facebook post and it makes you refrain from seeking treatment (be it actual medication or therapy). That it stops you from taking proper care of yourself, thinking “juggling all those doctors, taking meds for months or years, getting diagnoses that may actually be mistaken or dismissed all at once with every new doctor… no, thanks”.
Please. It will get better, I promise you. There is proper treatment for what you have, because it’s just that, an illness in your body… that is also enormous because it’s an elephant sitting on your chest and there is no reason -- no justifiable reason, ever -- for you to live in pain. If you feel bad, you go to your doctor. If you feel bad, in your heart and soul, go to your doctor. There is healing for you.