Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Helen's Story

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.


luna said...

thanks for sharing your story here, helen.

Phoebe said...

There is a lot of stigma about mental illness, because if you look ok on the outside, people don't understand that you can be ill on the inside. Thanks for being so brave in sharing your story.

A.M.S. said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Helen. I'm looking forward to getting to know you.

MrsSpock said...

Stigma is huge. Is has kept my schizophrenic father from getting help these 40 years. Stigma even reaches those around you. Boyfriends have broken up with me because they didn't want to risk my "bad genes". Good for you for working towards recovery.

Shinejil said...

Thanks for sharing your story. That takes courage and I applaud you for that.

diamond dave said...

Hi Helen! {waves}

I came over here, not just because I'm curious about everything you write, but I want to look for some clues in the hopes that I may be able to help my daughter someday, if she ever lets us. I can't say she may be BPD, I don't think she completely follows the profile, but my only possible explanation for her behavior is that something has seriously broken in her. And a few things you mention does seem to fit her. Anyway, I'll have to check back her often.

Jendeis said...

Loved reading this post. Felt so close to your descriptions of your feelings -- G-D knows I have been in such a place many times: the attempts, the horrible feelings, the debate over whether to check yes or no. I don't want to say, I know how you feel, I've had the same experience, because, of course, I haven't; just, we probably have the same emotional travel agent.

Lil said...

Helen, it's nice to meet you...all your bits and bobs. Screw stigmas I say...because I can.