I am Eeyore, Hear me . . . Sigh

In 2004, when I was sixteen, after Nate and I had our it’s-different-this-time breakup, I convinced myself I was crazy. I went to see a psychologist. She told me I had Borderline Personality Disorder.

borderline personality disorder painting

Photo Credit: jakko90 /  deviantART

A few weeks later I was happy because I had a new boyfriend, so she told me I was all better.

Instead of telling this super intelligent free counselor with all her degrees and whatnot that teenage girls feel happy when they start dating someone new, I simply stopped seeing her.

Ironically, that boyfriend ended up being a total jerk and the relationship lasted all of three weeks.

She was obviously not equipped to handle my mayhem.

I did, however, latch on to the (probably unofficial, possibly wrong) diagnosis. My mom got every available piece of information on Borderline Personality Disorder, including not only pamphlets and articles but books and movies with affected characters. Over the next few months we repeatedly read I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me and Borderlines: A Memoir; and frequently watched Gia  and Girl, Interrupted. (Among others, those were just our favorites.)

I identified with every Borderline character in each story, real or fictional. I went through the checklist in I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me. Not only did the title aptly describe my exact mindset, but I also had:

1. A shaky sense of identity,
2. Sudden violent outbursts,
3. Over-sensitivity to real or imagined rejection,
4. Brief, turbulent love affairs (the three-week jerk boyfriend, anyone?),
5. Frequent periods of intense depression,
6. Drug abuse,
7. Self-destructive tendencies, and of course
8. An irrational fear of abandonment.

Of course, as any mental-health hypochondriac would, I probably convinced myself I fit the description more than I did. I was still a teenager, after all, and we all know teenagers are pretty nuts even when they’re completely normal.

Or it could have been my “shaky sense of identity” causing me to grasp on to any explanation I could get.

I Hate You, Don't Leave Me

Photo Credit: BetterWorldBooks

But it did make sense. Supposedly, according to the questionable psychologist, my parents’ divorce when I was not-quite-2 caused my fear of abandonment. Every time I went from one parent to the other my non-developed baby brain perceived only the part about one handing me over, not the other snatching me up. Every time they switched I thought they were fighting to get rid of me as opposed to the reality that they were fighting over me.

This “symptom” of my (maybe imagined) personality disorder has become such a staple in my life that to this day I practically introduce myself as “Backstreet-Boys-lover, getting-wet-hater, abandonment-fearer Tempest Rose.”

Every single one of my relationships quickly turned from “I love you, but we’re both independent,” to “I hate you, don’t leave me.

(I often find myself wishing the book was better so I could tell people it’s my life’s manuscript.)

So I went through the next several years like a crazy person, even crazier than before I had been “diagnosed”. The “I have a mental health disorder” excuse only worked on my parents for the first few months, but it was enough to continuously justify my actions to myself.

I did every drug I could get my hands on. I became addicted to cocaine, and later heroin. I latched on to the personalities of those around me. I cut myself. I slept around, entered abusive and dangerous relationships, broke things, switched jobs frequently, got in fights, gave up on school, broke the law. And I did this all because I was manic; I felt on top of the world and like the most important person ever. I was impulsive and unstoppable.

For months at a time.

And then I would have panic attacks for no reason. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, everything was horrible and I would cry hysterically and not be able to function. So I did drugs, cut myself, slept around, entered unhealthy relationships, broke things, switched jobs frequently, got in fights, gave up on school, broke the law. This time because I was depressed.

For months at a time.

My actions were the same, but they were for different reasons.

Every now and then I began to think whatever was wrong with me was manageable. I would get a good job and a pet and a significant other and a real place to live — all of that responsible grownup stuff. I even paid my bills. One time I had the audacity to eat healthy. I still engaged in my “Borderline” tendencies, but I was able to give the pretense that I was stable.

After a few months of this, the stability faded and the illness became more prominent. And then I would do it all over again.

And again and again.

Then came the hope.


In 2010, when I was 22, everything began to sharpen.

Things got better.

I still slipped up from time to time — the occasional tantrum here, the impulsive act there; addiction reared its head again for a few months — but my life seemed pretty “normal”. I held jobs and stayed in one place; I had a few close friends instead of many drunk acquaintances; I didn’t do anything I consciously knew was self-destructive; I was sober more than I was not.

I was still convinced that I had BPD, but I had read stories about people who were “in recovery.” I thought I was, too.

I had a child and went back to school. I joined clubs and became a staff member. I dove into everything I was passionate about with ferocity — writing, education, politics, charity, parenting, art. I’ve always been incredibly confident, sometimes even cocky (actually I think that same psychologist labeled me a narcissist), but I was truly happy with myself for the first time. I cleaned my life. And my house.

By this point I was starting to believe that I had had Borderline Personality Disorder, but then I grew up so now I didn’t. BPD was still kind of my go-to whenever mental health came up or I had an off day, but for the most part I thought I was simply growing up. Anything I still struggled with was actually my avoidance of becoming an adult, which I just had to deal with.

Then came the fizzle.


In the late summer/fall of 2013, when I was 25, everything began to dim.

Instead of making 14-page study guides, I read the chapters the night before class. Instead of writing 6 paragraphs, I wrote 2 and took online personality quizzes. I thought of everything I would and should do instead of taking action. I made plans I would never keep. My son discovered favorite TV shows instead of favorite parks.

Unlike all the destructive habits I held on to during my “stable” years, now I noticed each harmful tendency. I saw that I was regressing.

I remembered a discussion with my father about Seasonal Affective Disorder. He claimed that he got clinically depressed, but only in the winter. So I looked it up. I talked with my father.

I identified a lot with what my dad described. I went through the symptoms on every webpage about SAD. Not only did my problems (this time) start in the Fall, but I had:

Photo Credit: Ray Medici / GettyImages

Photo Credit: Ray Medici / GettyImages

1. Oversleeping,
2. Daytime Fatigue,
3. Craving[s] and Weight Gain,
4. Decreased Sexual Interest,
5. Lethargy,
6. Hopelessness,
7. Lack of interest in normal activities, and
8. Decreased Socialization.

Even though I was no longer an unstable teenager, I knew from the past that I was incredibly talented in convincing myself I had ailments found on Google.

This also could have been my “shaky sense of identity” from before, switching things up on me.

Or maybe it was my lethargy simply accepting any explanation I could get.

But it did make sense. My dad had been hounding me relentlessly about sleeping the day away. I never had any energy. My diet consisted of ice cream, and only ice cream. Sex wasn’t even in my vocabulary anymore. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone.

And, what I thought was most important, I felt hopeless for the first time I could remember. No matter how bad things got previously, I always had hope. A good outlook. Future expectations. But things started to feel bleak. I still had big plans, but had the increasing feeling that there was no point; that I would never accomplish my long-term goals.

Obviously the way to combat my new-found winter depression was to push through it. It didn’t really matter if I wanted to do things, so long as I actually did them, even unhappily.

Unfortunately, my way of fixing myself was to start new projects instead of finishing the old. I became over-involved; I was being productive but in only one area. Each new task I took on overshadowed everything else. 

Then came the flicker.


In the winter of 2013, everything began to tremble.

I was still doing something, so I was okay. Instead of studying the night before a test, I would sort through donations in my basement and skim the book on my way to class. Instead of writing 2 paragraphs and taking quizzes, I would write an excuse and a blog post. I mapped out my entire life, conveniently leaving out the parts I was neglecting. I made promises I had every intention of keeping. My son learned colors and numbers and letters and Spanish, through the TV shows I had meticulously chosen.

This time I thought I was doing better. My doctor prescribed me Zoloft. I avoided thinking about the things I wasn’t doing and instead congratulated myself on the things I was.

But it was still incredibly difficult to get those things done. I felt exhausted. For a period of about a week, my body temperature was out-of-whack and I was shaky and it was difficult to walk.

My friend, who was in the same classes and clubs as me and saw my journey first-hand, who has been in therapy herself for years and is a Psychology major, told me she believed I had Bipolar Disorder.

I had already known a lot about it, as it seems like the new “it” mental illness of my generation. I always denied having it simply because everyone had it, and I didn’t want to be everyone. But I talked to my doctor and my friend and looked it up. I thought about all the Bipolar people I had known throughout my life.

Photo Credit: chiaroescuro / deviantART

Photo Credit: chiaroescuro / deviantART

I realized I identified with every one of them, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Not only did I have the obvious intense mood shifts, but I also experienced:

During Manic Episodes –
1. An overly happy or outgoing mood,
2. Extreme irritability,
3. Racing thoughts,
4. Being easily distracted,
5. Increasing activities and taking on new projects,
6. Being overly restless,
7. Sleeping little,
8. An unrealistic belief in one’s abilities, and
9. Impulsive, pleasurable, high-risk behaviors.

During Depressive Episodes –
1. An overly long period of feeling sad or hopeless,
2. Loss of interest in activities,
3. Feeling tired,
4. Problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions,
5. Being restless or irritable, and
6. Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits.

Obviously I was most recently in a depressive episode, or maybe a mixed episode, but the signs were clear.

Or maybe it was my shaky sense of identity grasping on to any explanation I could get, though I don’t feel like I relate to that anymore. I’ve known who I am, who I want to be, what I do, what I want to do, and every other Who Am I? answer for years.

But it did make sense. Looking back on my life, my actions and my feelings (although I have a pretty bad memory, but that’s a symptom, right?), nearly everything falls into manic or depressive categories. With some hints of stability in between, which is common.

This time I didn’t exactly latch on. I put this possible diagnosis aside with the others (but moved it to the top of the list) and tried to meet with a psychiatrist. Which proved much harder than I thought, as I still haven’t seen one.

I decided I was going to get help. I called doctors and therapists and counselors. I talked to my family and my friends. I researched everything I could online, and took more legit online personality tests. I started trying.

I convinced myself I would make good on those previous promises. I knew that I wasn’t feeling up to accomplishing all that I used to do, but I figured that slow and steady would win my race; that if I completed one small task at a time, everything else would follow.

I tried to split up my time between what I needed to do and what I wanted to do; neither got my full attention, but I was on my way. I stopped tackling new obligations; I knew I was overwhelmed and needed to accomplish everything already on my list before I could begin to heal.

This lasted a few weeks.

Then came the blur.


In the early spring, when I turned 26, everything began to fade.

Nothing made sense.

Instead of sorting through donations and skimming test material, I stayed in bed. Instead of writing, I read. I didn’t make promises or plans. In fact, I didn’t really talk to anyone at all. I disappeared. My son woke me up to turn on the TV and give him the iPad, and I went back to sleep.

During Spring Break I got to rest. When it was over, I couldn’t get back up.

Everything I had planned I hid deep down and forgot. I felt like a physical force was holding me captive. I wanted to succeed, but I couldn’t. I let people down. I let myself down.


Now, things are more or less the same. I blog, because it keeps me sane. Other than that, I don’t do much.

I take my son outside, mainly so I won’t fight with my dad. I go shopping so we don’t starve. I do the things needed to keep the household afloat, but barely.

Photo Credit: Risata / deviantART

Photo Credit: Risata / deviantART

I’m still taking Zoloft and I’m still trying to see a psychiatrist.

I don’t thank Jack enough for his contributions.

He’s been sick in bed for the past three days. My sink and counter are over-flowing with dirty dishes. My floors are sticky. My room smells. I haven’t showered in two weeks. I check Facebook from time to time, sometimes manage a comment. But when someone responds I crawl back in my shell and blog about it.

This isn’t what I want. I never meant for anyone else to join my suffering. I never meant to give up. This is not my intention.

This is what I can’t escape.

It may not seem like it, but I am trying.

 

Facebook: Nonsense & Shenanigans / Twitter: @nonsenanigans

This was also posted on Bipolar Parenting Foundation, where I am a contributor.

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20 thoughts on “I am Eeyore, Hear me . . . Sigh

  1. a) you can escape it; b) you probably can’t escape it without some help. I think one of the major problems with depression is the negative impact it has on the prefrontal cortex and associated executive functions. I know this firsthand: there is nothing more agonizing than being able to clearly analyze a problem, identify a problem behavior and solution within yourself and literally be incapable of taking action due to the disabling of your executive abilities caused by severe depression.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not that I think I can never escape it, it’s just that I can’t right now. I’ve been trying to get help, but it’s more difficult than most people close to me realize because it’s a chore just to pick up the phone, and then whenever I do manage to call I can’t get through or they have no openings. Our mental-healthcare system is a mess.

      Like

      • It’s SO true. You work up to it all week and they happen to be out to lunch when you call, and blam – you’ve spiraled back into inaction for another werk. You need an advocate, someone who can help move the process forward while your are struggling through the depressive haze. Is there anyone you can call on to help ?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kinda-sorta. I used to talk to my friend (mentioned in the post) every day. She used to really push me to do things but not naggingly-so. Then when it got really bad I abandoned my class I had with her and the literary magazine we were involved in, and stopped messaging her as much so she stopped messaging me.

          Most other people close to me mean well, but either don’t take it seriously enough or become nagging instead of supportive. I’ll figure it out eventually, it just might take some time (one of the upsides to all this is that out of everything I’ve thought I’ve had, I never had the common symptom; I was never suicidal, so it’s not necessarily a life-or-death situation).

          I more-so wanted to write this not as a plea for help, but as an explanation. Another staff member of the literary magazine told me “I’m not your biggest fan anymore” and sent me a picture of the finished magazine after I had commented on one of his Facebook posts (the first contact we’ve had in months), so I realized just how much this may have affected other people. Plus it pissed me off. Haha

          Like

          • That all makes a lot of sense. No one lives in a vacuum. I didn’t read it as a cry for help in any case – but what I saw there prompted me to want to reiterate what I think know you already know: this may not (in fact) pass in time; and if you are going to break out of the fugue you’ll need to communicate the seriousness of this to someone who is in a position to understand and be your wingman. There’s all of the lives you touch and the impact of that wake to consider – I hope that you will not try to go it alone if there’s any other option.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. As I was reading your story, I kept thinking…hmm, sounds more like bipolar to me before you got to that part. I have a daughter and also a boyfriend with severe bipolar disorder. I know it is tough on a daily level, sometimes even a moment to moment level. I do agree with midnight– an advocate could be your greatest help. Our mental health system is a mess and makes it so hard to get help. I’m glad you are starting to understand yourself…that really is a big step in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you=]

      I always turned my back on thinking I was Bipolar. So many psychiatrists diagnose everyone with it, even people who are just dealing with normal life emotions. We’re an insanely over-diagnosed, over-medicated nation. Sadly, that makes it harder for those with real mental health needs to get help. I think I also latched on to Borderline Personality Disorder because it was so uncommon and rebellious, as a teenager I almost thought it was cool. People took that more seriously than they did Bipolar. Right now I don’t care what the hell it is, I just want some answers. hah

      Our mental health system is indeed a mess. That’s my biggest problem right now; I WANT to see someone, but they’re making it near impossible. The one therapist I found cost $300 per appointment, and I just don’t have that.

      I’m hoping one of my family members or very close friends will start taking me more seriously. We’ll see. A good friend of mine is away at the moment, but when he gets back I’m 99% positive he’ll tackle this with me.

      Like

  3. Wow! You’ve been on quite a roller coaster your whole life. That’s how I feel sometimes with my son, constant ups and downs–more downs than ups lately. But to live it as you do, as he does, I haven’t had that. But your story here gives me an important glimpse into what that must be like. You are so brave and strong to have gotten where you are and to be able to write about it this way.

    I remember as a young woman feeling that emotionally I was constantly up and down, happy and depressed, over and over. I couldn’t figure it out and wondered what was wrong with me. But then, DUH, I discovered that it was tied to the moon, my monthly cycles. Just before my period and during, I was in a depressed state of mind which lifted shortly after. It was a shock to learn that that was the reason for this ebb and flow, and apparently there was nothing I could do about it. I read however, that these low times were nature’s way of slowing us down, forcing us to go inward, getting us to reflect on life. It was a time to baby ourselves, pamper ourselves. And the down times became easier after that, when I knew to expect them and nurture myself during those times.

    I don’t imagine this story has anything to do with what you are going through, which must be a hundred times worse than anything I’ve personally experienced. And what’s worse is that it is so debilitating and keeps you from pursuing you goals. But maybe just loving yourself more during those down times, letting yourself go inward, dark, exploring the shadow side of your psyche might ease what you experience a bit–just a thought. Since it’s something you can’t fight or overcome, perhaps meeting it on its terms might help. Perhaps addressing it like some demented, dark twin: Ok, you’re here. What do you want from me? What do you want to show me? What’s in that dark scary place that torments us?

    Of course, having no experience with this, it might not work at all.

    On the other hand, it’s outrageous that our healthcare system is so broken that you can’t find a psychiatrist that you can afford.

    In the meantime, I hope your friend returns to help you deal with this. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry it took me so long to respond — that motivation thing is getting the best of me again.

      Thank you for your thoughts and kindness. I seem to be doing better on the Zoloft (I’ve actually been writing a post about how great the other day was), but having no motivation is still a big problem. I’ve tried pretty much everything I can think of, and STILL can’t get an appointment with a counselor. I’m just taking it one day at a time for now.

      It’d be nice if those closest to me took it more seriously, but my friend should be home within the next few months, and we’ll tackle it head-on then. =]

      (Hope you’re doing okay!)

      Like

    • Thank you=] I try to remind myself it’s not nearly what so many other people go through.

      I get that a lot. Almost everyone I meet thinks I’m way younger or way older. I don’t mind. Hah

      Like

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