‘Better’ and Me and BPD

It’s been a while since my last post, not because I’ve been lazy or not had anything to say, but because I’ve been busy! Since the start of this year, I’ve started a Diploma in Makeup Artistry and that has taken up a lot of my brain space. It’s been really nice to have something to focus on, and I’m really excited about the opportunities and challenges it’s bringing. I have to remember to not let me brain run away with itself too much, though. I know that I have a tendency to jump into stuff head-first, make myself too busy and then suffer from a serious case of overwhelm. It’s really hard, and I’m doing a lot of work in my last few therapy sessions around setting boundaries for myself, maintaining balance and giving myself permission to switch off and rest.

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. Today I want to talk about the concept of getting Better when you’ve experienced poor mental heath. Is it possible to get Better? And if so, what does Better look like? Or is it just a myth we tell ourselves we need to aim for when we’re struggling? As always, I will say that my thoughts here just reflect my own experience and my opinions. Everyone is different.

I lost track of the amount of times, when I’ve been really ill over the last two years and expressed the desire to be better, that someone has said to me something along the lines of ‘Better doesn’t exist’ or ‘Maybe you’re aiming for something unachievable’. Now, I know these people have always had my best interests at heart, and what they have been trying to say is that I need to not put pressure on myself to make masses of progress, and to work with where I am at that time, but sometimes it hasn’t been that helpful. It can feel like they’re implying that I can only ever expect to live in a kind of limbo state of emotion, settling for always feeling a bit crap.

For me, Better has always been something I have known I can achieve, because it is something I have experienced. It isn’t about being deliriously happy all the time (to be honest, that sounds bloody exhausting), it’s more about the absence of unpleasant sensations, thoughts and feelings, the successful management of them if they crop up.

For me, Better includes:

  • Not waking at 4am EVERY MORNING with uncontrollable existential panic, unable to get any more sleep, and trying to slow my racing heart.
  • Not crying every hour or so.
  • Being able to engage with the outside world (friends, family, the cat) without withdrawing constantly into my own thoughts.
  • Not cancelling plans because I don’t want my friends to see me not ‘myself’.
  • Enjoying food again. Man, do I love food.
  • Not needing to take diazepam every day to help me control my panic.
  • Laughing.
  • Being able to lose myself in something I enjoy.
  • Recognising irrational thoughts as just thoughts, and not facts.
  • Going easier on myself, allowing time for self-care and space for making mistakes.
  • Speaking to my support network, being honest and asking for help if I need it.
My favourite cartoon about learning to live alongside mental health issues, by Hannah Hillam (find her on Instagram @hannahhillam).

With Borderline Personality Disorder, and with many mental health conditions, I don’t think it’s a case of ever being free of the issue. It’s not like chicken pox where you catch it once, it goes away and you don’t get it again. It’s more like shingles, where it can lie dormant in your system for years and flare up when you’re stressed, run-down or busy. Or, sometimes, for no discernible reason, it just pops up unexpectedly. 

I know now that I have pretty much always lived alongside my BPD tendencies, and I know that I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. This means that in order to live a meaningful life I enjoy, I will always have to make allowances for myself based on what I know about my thought processes and the way my emotions can become dysregulated at times. I know that if I pack too much into my days, try to make everyone happy, and push myself to do too much when I’m run down, the likelihood is I will get ill again. I also know that at times, despite being aware of this, I will still let those things happen, and therefore I will become ill. And I guess at those times I will just have to remember that Better exists, and if I’ve experienced it before, I can experience it again.

Right now, I am feeling Better, which at several points over the last couple of years I did not think I would ever feel again. No, it isn’t a state that I will exist in for the rest of my life, because life isn’t like that – difficult things happen, sadness can engulf any of us at any time, there are just as many downs as there are ups. But for now, I’m going to enjoy where I am. I’m going to luxuriate in sleep, savour all the food I love, lose myself in films and revel in enjoying my makeup course. I’m going to make sure that the people who support me in my dark times know how much I love and appreciate them, and I’m going to work on making memories with those people to carry me through the dark times when they come again.

For now, I’m going to enjoy feeling Better. 

Sarah x

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