After stumbling upon aforementioned article about Borderline Personality Disorder and realizing that that, in fact, is what I’ve always had, I went ahead and read everything I possibly could about it in the last day-and-change because I *heart* learning. And what I’ve realized as the symptoms and discussions kept me nodding my head in constant understanding/familiarity is this:
I can either take this new, finally-correct diagnosis of an incurable, typically-dreaded/professionally-avoided mental disorder and curl up into the fetal position and cry about the fact that I will probably always be Crazy, OR I can accept that this is something I’ve always had, recognize that I’ve done a shitload of work in the last decade to get better than I was, and continue to work on it while acknowledging that, maybe, there are things about it that make me special and colorful and creative.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop taking my meds and go on destructive, manic rampages until I’m locked up forever. I’ve had the luxury of mental health care and endless resources for tackling this thing bit-by-bit, so ditching all that would be really stupid at this point, especially now that I have so many reasons to continue healing. But maybe this Crazy is actually a big part of my identity and I just have to learn to develop a symbiotic relationship with it to use it to its fullest potential.
The thing is, I’ve spent many, many years feeling uncertain of my diagnoses. Being diagnosed with alcoholism and bipolar disorder never resonated with me, even after I’d surrendered to them and worked to recover in those realms. In my early 20’s, I thought I was an alcoholic because I was drinking a ton, and it was exacerbating my depression. However, once I got out of the toxic relationship I was in for forever and I started letting my meds work and started embracing things I really enjoyed without fear, I no longer felt the need to drink all the time. In the last couple years, I’ve struggled with it because I know I don’t want to be drunk all the time and I know I can stop at one or two (and do/have), but there’s still been something wrong about it. Only recently did I realize that it was because any substance interfered with my medication and drinking sends my brain into an uncomfortably loud mania that lasts a couple days. I like drinking, but no longer to the point of complete immobility (and I haven’t in a long time, actually), but even recently, my brain doesn’t relent after I’ve imbibed and it just isn’t worth it the next day to have no mental peace. In conjunction with that, I never felt like the “bipolar” diagnosis was accurate because I know that my manic episodes have only come when I’ve been using some sort of outside substance. For example, the only time I ever had audio hallucinations was after a couple nights of working around the clock [to help provide information to a con-artist it turned out… long story] and taking the Adderall that had been prescribed to me by a psychiatrist who thought I needed “a little boost to get me out of bed in the morning.” In fact, all my manic behaviors have come about when I’ve been [mistakenly] prescribed Vyvanse or Adderall or when I’ve had a drink or two while taking Lamictal. Honestly, I don’t know if I’m genuinely bipolar if I’m off medication altogether, but that’s not something I’m going to attempt just yet – not when I’m starting to feel level and hopeful about all this.
But every single thing I’ve read about Borderline Personality Disorder has resonated deeply – especially the parts about being incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar. I’ve reviewed every phase of my life and realized that all of the behaviors and symptoms have always been there – the overreactions to things most people think are no big deal; the overwhelming emotions that dominate my reality; the ridiculously passionate emotional responses to almost every possible issue, no matter how small; the need to urgently address other people involved in said emotions the minute they arise in my consciousness (oh man. All the times I’ve flung myself at people who thought we were done talking about this shit is just mortifying… The worst part is that I KNEW I looked crazy every time I did it, but I couldn’t help myself because I felt like it was unquestionably THE right thing to do.); the desperate need to keep in touch with everyone allthefuckingtime because I’m positive I’ll be abandoned; the deep, dark feeling of dread and terror that comes over me when everything is peaceful and harmonious that makes me hate myself and my brain for feeling that way; the wildly impulsive behaviors and complete lack of moderation; the inability to hold down a full-time schedule of any kind… it’s all there. It’s always been there. That’s who I am.
Yeah, I’m scared. Turns out that half my emotions and “gut feelings” are completely fabricated versions of reality that my mind does because it’s sick? Awesome.
However, I don’t know that this “disorder” is all bad.
Wait. Just hear me out on this.
I’ve recently faced the fact that I’m one colorful person with a life path that people like to hear about and that is unusual and bizarre and really, really fun when it isn’t dark and terrifying (the latter has been happening less and less since I started recovery in 2003.) Frankly, I like most of my crazy whims. I like marching to this drum. I like having crazy creative ideas and the brass tits needed to dive in head first. I even like knowing that, when something unusual I tried fails, I did the best I could with what I had.
I tried to hang out once with a local woman I met in a stay-at-home moms group a couple years ago and was immediately put off by her rampant negativity. In the three hours I attempted to make the best of things, she bitched about pretty much everything in her life from her lack of money (in a 2-story, 4-bedroom house) to how adopting was encouraging “the scum of the earth to keep reproducing” to how she hated her friends. My visit quickly ended when she was assessing her friends and said, “And you’re completely bonkers, but you’ve got good intentions!” to which I replied, “Right. And at least I’m not a fucking drag.”
I stand by that. I dig that my idea of a girls’ night out doesn’t involve talking about shit that’s on TV and couponing. I like that I had an unusually prolonged college experience because I have enough crazy-ass stories to make me rich one day when I write them all down. (It’ll happen.) I like that I have the impulse to meet people of every walk of life, so now I have a variety of friends so wide that one works in the Pentagon and another works at Burning Man HQ and yet another is an international star in a children’s television show. I like that I could leave my job teaching night classes at a community college, change my shoes in my car, and spray-paint old rural buildings on my way home. I like that I have the courage to deal with my emotions head-on and talk to the people I need to confront to get that shit taken care of and my long-standing emotions healed. I like that I make an effort to keep in touch with the people I think are important and I’m shameless about sharing love and adulation with the friends I’ve bothered to keep around. I LOVE that I feel impassioned enough about things that bother me enough to get off my ass and do something to change it, even if nobody else cares about whatever cause I’m championing.
And if any of that is because I have a borderline personality, then frankly, I’m okay with that. If being a little Crazy is what keeps the sparkle in my eyes, then I’m not going to work too hard to squash it.
I’ve just got to work on recognizing when it’s flaring up and making me destructive or more Crazy than usual and I think everything’s going to be okay. Great, even.
A lot of legendary people have had serious mental issues, but too many of them were destroyed by their inability to deal with it or their lack of access to help. I’ve been given more than enough resources to tackle this thing and ample time, love, and support from people who are still somehow taking my calls and paying attention to my crazy self to be healthier than the sick part of myself. This diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence; it could actually be a blessing. Maybe.
I don’t know, though. I’m not saying I have answers just yet, and I’m going to spend a lot of time reading more about this (friends have already come out of the woodwork to offer literary suggestions and commiserations after reading the last blog entry…because y’all’s patience is astounding…I’d be sick of my ass if I was you. I practically am already.) and working with my therapist to figure out how to maintain a lifestyle that isn’t rife with destruction and chaos anymore. I’ve had enough evidence that behavioral therapy improves my life, so I’m definitely on board with continuing.
I don’t have a remedy just yet. But I do have hope. And I do, actually, have confidence.