Helen is the contributing editor for Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. She writes daily at Everyday Stranger where she also chronicles life with her twins, Nick and Nora.
My name is Helen.
And I'm crazy.
Not crazy like going to work wearing a tutu, Wellingtons, and a Napoleon jacket with silver epaulets and pulling it off, even though really - that's crazy. I mean crazy as in spending a little time inside of a place where people get to spend the night in rooms that have restraints on the beds. I mean certifiably crazy, although I never got a certificate to hang on my wall.
In 2003 I was finally diagnosed with something called borderline personality disorder, accented with severe dissociation. This came one month after I went right over the edge and tried to commit suicide. I was briefly hospitalized. This was, unfortunately, not the first time I tried to kill myself, but it was most definitely my last.
The DSM IV criteria for BPD are:
1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. [Not including suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5]
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving).[Again, not including suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5]
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats, or self-mutilating behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars, or picking at oneself.
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness, worthlessness.
8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms.
I went through many years of psychotherapy to help overcome my mental illness. I don't know if you can ever be cured, I think it's something we grow to live with. I have to make conscious efforts at some things, including avoiding falling into previous eating disorders I had, but while I don't think that you can ever be truly cured of a mental illness, it is something I have worked hard to overcome to be a better person, not only for myself but for my partner and my gorgeous babies, born to me after years of fertility treatment (and who are hanging in there with me while I battle postpartum depression).
There is a lot of stigma attached to being mentally ill. I'm here if you want to talk, because I know about the stigma. I know how bad it feels inside. And I know how amazing it can be to just have someone to talk to.