It could kind of be my motto over the past five years or so, and probably applies to a lot of people with BPD.
The founder of the mental health site, Lost All Hope, writes about the pressure that people can feel, once they’ve told their “I survived” stories, to not relapse, to not disappoint anyone reading it who may be looking to you as any kind of proof that it is possible to beat these pernicious illnesses.
I wish I could say that I’m truly BPD-free, that I always take my recommended fish oil and vitamin D, eat nothing but organic produce, take daily walks in the fresh air and sunshine, and all the other feel-good clichés that are supposed to keep your mind perfectly controlled, perfectly clean, perfectly happy. The truth is that life sucks sometimes (I know, you’re shocked right now!), and periodically, I still feel like utter shit. As I’ve discovered a few times over the past year, I can still launch into full-on BPD mode with the best of them, hurting those close to me, screaming, throwing things, hating life, hating everyone, and desperate to self-harm.
So make no mistake, I’m not telling anyone that you can beat BPD or depression. On the contrary, I now realize that very, very few people (if any) have ever really “beaten” mental illness. Because unlike a cancer that you can sever, or a bacteria you can nuke, I think BPD is, at best, a lifelong on-again/off-again relationship. I’d love to believe (and I have believed, in the past) that it’s a bit like food poisoning: something you can purge from your system with enough tears, strife, drama, experience, therapy and emotional diarrhea. But with each of my little “stumbles” (can’t really think of a good word for them, but I HATE that one. Oh well, moving on), there is no firmly placing this disorder in my past. There is only painfully consistent and vigilant management.
With that in mind, I’m going to share the things that have harmed and the things that have helped. You may have your own personal list of triggers or succors, but many of these are pretty standard when it comes to causing or circumventing BPD crises.
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D
- Determining and asking for what I need
- Small gestures that show love
- Real, honest communication with loved ones
- Sunshine, fresh air
- Accomplishing things, managing a to-do list
- Keeping a clean environment
- The right medication
- Showers, baths, manicures, massage, etc. – anything that makes you feel cleaner, happier, more human
- Sugars/unhealthy and processed carbs
- Alcohol. I don’t even drink socially anymore because of the emotional hangover that usually comes with even a drink or two.
- The wrong medication: certain sedatives and anti-depressants come with a risk (ironically?) of exacerbating the problem.
- Periods of extreme expectations/pressure for things to be perfect: Christmas, birthdays, special events or moments, etc.
- Dismissing or hiding my own emotions
- Periods of extreme sadness (obvious)
- Periods (period). Anyone else find their hormones to be a huge trigger?
- Feeling isolated, ignored or resentful
- Rehashing the past – trips down memory lane aren’t great for me right now, no matter how positively they start out.
- Threatening self-harm – once it’s out there, there’s literally no way things can go well, and it hangs in the air like a promise that I’ll get worse.
No, this doesn’t mean that if I have a donut or let the house get messy, I lose all control and want to die. Nor does it mean that as long as I eat okay and exercise, I’m totally in the clear. But if I do enough of the little positive things, I’ll notice real change. And if I do enough of the little negative things, I know it’s only a matter of time until a blow-out.
I may add St. John’s Wort and/or accupunture to that top “helpful” list, but I’ll have to try them first – something I’m likely to do over the next several weeks. With Christmas coming up, the time I devote to self-care is going to be ironclad and fiercely protected. I’m trying really hard not to get my hopes up for a great Christmas, but rather, for a Christmas that doesn’t involve wanting to die at any point. Is that too much to ask for?