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How I had to distance myself from my family to recover

Illustration: Julie K.


The difficulties with my loved onesI found my voice in BordeauxThe long road to recovery

Laetitia was diagnosed as suffering from borderline personality disorder. She discusses how she had to first get some space from her family to allow herself to recover before returning to them in a better place.


I met the psychiatrist who was to change my life after a disastrous inpatient stint in a psychiatric clinic, following two suicide attempts, self-harm, depression and panic attacks. It was during this hospitalization that I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.


When I arrived at the small, closed unit of the local psychiatric hospital, I was in a deep crisis. I came out after a two-week hospitalization. I wasn’t stable, and the following year, I went through various hospitalizations and was treated at the local center for psychiatric disorders. It was after my fourth hospitalization, which lasted one month, that my psychiatrist decided to send me to Bordeaux for treatment, at a private clinic.


The difficulties with my loved ones

Every time I went home, I relapsed a little further into my illness; I was suffering, and nobody could reach me as I was lashing out through my words and actions. I felt like a weight, weighing down on the shoulders of my family, a weight so heavy that it was sinking, dragging all the people I loved down with it.

At home, I couldn’t even maintain normal relationships with my family who didn’t seem – from my point of view – to understand my distress.

I found the atmosphere stifling, I was suffocating in a toxic environment, surrounded by people I thought were responsible for my suffering. In reality, they were simply helpless in the face of the illness, but I resented them and isolated myself even more, to the point of drowning myself in a form of paranoia.


To avoid me returning to my family after my hospitalization, my psychiatrist and social worker filed a request on my behalf for disability benefits for adults.

If I was to get better - according to my psychiatrist – I needed to detach myself from my parents and fly the family nest in which I could find neither my place nor my voice any more.

Surprisingly, my parents took the news of my departure fairly well. I was discharged from the psychiatric hospital one Friday, and my departure for the clinic was scheduled for the following Monday. On my side, I was delighted and excited to go away for “aftercare”, to a clinic where there would be lots of activities.

Leaving was the best way for me to put all the chances on my side and hope for future recovery.


I found my voice in Bordeaux

In Bordeaux, I decided to take my mental health into my own hands. I fought against my anxieties, suicidal and self-harm thoughts, daily. I talked… I talked a lot, a flood of words and tears with the psychiatrist, the nurses, the assistants. I took lots of “if necessary” medications (given in case the need should arise, rather than to take on a regular basis, usually tranquilizers). I found my confidence again, far from my family. I participated in all the workshops offered at the clinic: musicotherapy, art therapy, theatre, mosaic, cooking etc.

With the psychiatrist at the clinic, we carefully felt our way in search for medication that would stabilize me. I finally found the right cocktail, including several antipsychotic medications, an antidepressant and antianxiety treatment, that was right for me.

But above all, I had an extra tool that I had developed over time: my voice. Previously, I could only express my pain through my martyrized body, but there, I finally found my voice (again).


During my stay, I had limited contact with my family, because I had decided – so as to not feel influenced by them – to operate a real “parentectomy”.

At the start, I only communicated with them a little via phone, every couple of weeks or so. As time went on, the more I progressed, the more I felt the need to call them so that they too could witness my progress. I also learnt to trust the professionals around me, and this helped me to discover my inner resources, to accept and let go of my pain. I stayed at the clinic for a year and four months. This time also allowed me to take a step back, to take stock of my relationships with those close to me, to forgive, to understand, to love better.


I came out stabilized and having matured. I discovered my potential that helps me to move forward towards recovery every day. My relationship with my family has improved since then, because they too have been able to mourn the girl I was and learn to accept my illness. My loved ones took the time to heal their own wounds, my mother and twin sister started psychotherapy for example. My Dad sent me a text message one day saying that even though he was sometimes impatient with me, he had understood that I needed time to get better. I had taken all the time I needed far away from my parents and their expectations. Paradoxically, this distance from my family and loved ones had brought us closer together.


The long road to recovery

Since then, I have been on the road to recovery and I am learning to live with my borderline personality disorder and other psychological vulnerabilities.

Healing isn’t recovery, but it helps to give a new purpose to one’s life without necessarily involving the disappearance of symptoms. It’s an individual process and allows the strengths and resources that enable us to live a “normal” life to shine through.


I am currently working with a psychologist and psychiatrist at the local psychiatric unit in my town, who help me to recognize the resources within me and my limitations.

I am aware that I can relapse, but above all, I now know that I can get back up again and be supported by my family and professionals. The psychiatrist at the clinic in Bordeaux actually said to me, as I was leaving: “If you ever need to return, even just for a couple of weeks, you always can, and you can always call us, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”


Thanks to my psychiatrist, once I had left the clinic, I was able to move into therapeutic accommodation, not too far away from my family. This enabled me to gain more independence from my parents and to keep a certain distance necessary to my recovery, whilst still remaining close to them. During the week, I take part in activities at the center for part-time therapeutic treatment.

These days, I volunteer with several organizations and this helps me to feel useful and regain confidence in myself whilst helping others. In fact, I am thinking about getting support in September to help me slowly find my way back into a professional career path.


I have come a long way, and this journey has taught me to understand my emotions and to let them out using my voice, sport, or even theater. My treatment also helps me to not suffer from these painful emotions or rapid changes in mood as much.

I am grateful to my psychiatrist, for having allowed me to spread my wings, and my psychiatrist in Bordeaux, for having found the right treatment for me, and having borne witness to my first steps towards greater self-confidence.


Recovery is an individual, unique journey, but it’s also a process that I am now enjoying discovering, just as I am discovering my new life.

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