I’ve written before about being “cured”, and when I looked back to find the post where I mentioned that, I was shocked to realize it was (almost) a whopping two years ago. !!!
It seems a bit naive to use that word at all. In the two-year period since that post, I’ve achieved a lot of things that make me feel cured (I no longer self-harm, I’m not in therapy or on any medication, and I’ve even managed to form a healthy romantic bond and get married <note: this bizarre fact needs to be the subject of its own post (or several) one day), but I would no longer use the word “cured” for any mental illness tbh – and maybe not for any illness at all.
It’s an odd thing to say – cured – because it implies that you are exactly the same as you were before an illness/event affected you. But we’re never really the same. Not after cancer, or schizophrenia, or surgery, or any other massively dynamic shift in our bodies and/or souls. Things have changed on a cellular level, and sometimes the very building blocks that make up our entire worldview seem to have undergone alchemical transformations.
I love the comic above by Hannah Hillam, because it illustrates what I’m saying perfectly (and so much more succinctly). BPD will never be out of the picture entirely for me. And in that sense, I don’t think I’ll ever be cured. Instead, it will probably just always be there, in the background, affecting my choices with low-level input and threatening to engulf me if I don’t keep it in check. I’m (oddly?) okay with that. When you compare the two panels, I guess it makes sense why I’d feel okay with that.
Just to be out of the situation on the left is incredible; I hope I never take that freedom for granted (even though sometimes, I can already see myself doing exactly that). I remember – vaguely and in the way we can never truly remember acute pain – what it felt like to want to die. Every moment was agony and every breath taken grudgingly, wishing it could just stop. Trapped in my head with something cruel and hateful, something that criticized everything about me in screaming tones that I couldn’t block out even as I pressed my hands over my ears and literally begged it to be silent. Unable to stop the images that flashed through my mind, images of my own suicide and too many horrible things to mention – things that convinced me further that I was fucked up and would be better off dead.
As I sit here writing this, I shudder to remember that place, that feeling. But I’m not foolish enough to think it’s a place I have left behind forever. The door to that world is still there in the hallway of my mind, closed but not barred. I can walk past it – I often do – and make the choice not to go in there. But I remember what it was like to feel unable to choose, to be trapped in there and unaware that there was even a way out.
The other reason I’m not in a hurry to use the word “cured” is because I also think that it can lead to a false sense of security. Once we feel (or are labelled) “better,” it’s very easy to veer back towards the same habits that may have caused us problems in the first place. The stage I’m at now is one of hyper vigilance in this respect. I don’t read the news if at all possible (especially now…). If someone says something hateful, mean, triggering, even callous or careless, I leave the room or pointedly change the subject. I let myself get upset or cry, no matter how small the hurt, processing what happened and validating it. I rarely watch movies or TV without reading detailed synopses and reviews online, so I can avoid upsetting content. I eat with my health in mind, take certain supplements for brain health every day, and try not to have more than one alcoholic drink at a time (and even one is rare).
But most most most importantly, I check in with myself constantly; I invest a LOT of time and energy into making sure I never get to the point of depressed, and hopeless, waiting for somebody to say or do something to make it better – because this, to me, was the trademark sentiment of BPD, the mind frame, in a nutshell, that kept me feeling victimized and codependent, caught in borderline cycles of abandonment and anger. If I’m feeling like no one is meeting my needs, I go above and beyond to meet my own needs that day – and I try to do that with as little bitterness/animosity as I can towards the people that I believe have “let me down” (by not meeting said needs… I’m not great at that part yet, but I’m slowly getting better).
Does this sound selfish and self-absorbed? Like I refuse to listen to the plights of refugees and just buy myself cupcakes and manicures instead? I don’t mean it to, but even if it does sound that way… frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I know what I’m capable of and what I’m not capable of at this particular moment. And I no longer feel much of a need to justify myself or wallow in guilt when I know it only makes me useless and sick. I donate to causes I believe in, I help in ways that I can, and I look forward to the day when I can devote myself even more to the nitty-gritty of remedying the world’s endless pile of horrific injustices. For now, it’s enough to be getting better. It’s enough to be as close to “cured” as I may ever be.
p.s. a very loving shoutout and hug to anyone still reading, in spite of my patchy record of posting over these last couple years! xo