Now there will come a time when you start to thrive and live fully even while still experiencing symptoms of BPD. Mental health diagnoses can often feel like a death sentence when you first get one. It runs through your mind that you’ll never be able to manage life, you will always struggle and never be well again. But, this is not the case. There are steps you can take to building a life where you manage your symptoms and start to flourish.
Understand the diagnosis
Reading about BPD was eye opening for me. While there is a lot of bullshit out there about how manipulative and awful people with BPD are to be around, there’s good stuff as well. There’s explanations of causes, accounts of ‘recovery’ and more information which helps to make sense of it all. It can lead to a greater acceptance of yourself which is so important for making progress.
I know that it’s not easy to access therapy, it took me years of being let down and the wrong treatment until I found the right therapy for myself. BPD is complex, humans are complex on the whole and having a chance to make sense of everything is great. Therapy isn’t always easy, it’s hard and painful but it is so worth it. MBT and DBT are the current recommendations of treatment for BPD so ask (or better, demand) someone for it. And if the waiting list is huge, look online for resources – there’s plenty of books out there and online self help tools. Everything will make a difference even if it doesn’t feel as though it is at the time. From experience, your GP is likely to refer you to talking therapies as a first action however, this is only suitable for those with anxiety and/or depression. I was told that my issues were ‘too complex.’ If you know that it will be a waste of time referral, tell your GP. You have a right to get the appropriate treatment as quickly as possible.
Look after yourself, mentally and physically. Take regular breaks from work, studying etc. Personally, I find that planning all of my annual leave for the year so that I have time off every 2 months keeps me going. I also allow myself sick days if I’m not doing so well. This used to be hard for me, I felt like I ought to be able to manage to would keep going into work even when my mental health was deteriorating – it was never good for anyone. Eat well, drink plenty of water, get outside, do everything you can possibly manage to look after you. Remember that it is okay and often necessary to prioritise your mental health.
Now, I’m not talking about having the next 10 years of your life planned out. However, as you start to manage symptoms better, you might see yourself having a future for the first time. That’s amazing. Set little (or big) goals for yourself. These could be about your career, personal life or anything else. Just make sure that they are realistic, it can really help to motivate you to keep fighting.
Ask for support when you need it
All of the well functioning mentally ill people that I’ve met are those who accept that there are times when they need extra support. Even if you’ve finished treatment and doing all you can, mental illness is a bitch and will throw things at you that you cannot deal with at that time. Asking for support could be from your GP, boss, friends, family. Whoever it is, do not feel ashamed. Nobody has their shit together all of the time.
Build a support network
Following on from asking for help, we all need a support network. It doesn’t have to be huge. There could be one or two people who you know will listen and understand when you are struggling. Focus on healthy relationships, put your time and energy in to maintaining them rather than keeping people in your life who make you unhappy. Not everyone will stick around when things are tough but you will find people who do.
Find your passion
Being passionate about something has been really integral for me over the past couple of years. It gives a sense of purpose and enjoyment. You could be passionate about music, art, books, cats, the solar system… whatever you find exciting and interesting. Let yourself be passionate, make time for it. It really helps to love/care about something deeply and you can always find others to connect with who share this.
Start seeing how far you have come
Yes, you’ve struggled and been through incredibly devastating experiences. Nothing will take that away. But, you’ve also survived it. You’ve learnt how to manage life better, you have the tools to help yourself. Mental illness has probably made you more empathetic and compassionate towards others. Show yourself some of that compassion. Focus on what you have gained throughout the struggles rather than what has been lost. You are incredible.
And that concludes my posts for Mental Health Awareness Week 2017. I appreciate the need to increase awareness of mental health but I sincerely hope that campaigns and charities start pushing harder for different changes. We need better crisis services, more hospital beds, more community support, more treatment options, shorter waiting lists, a fairer benefits system, preventative care for young people (particularly those who have experienced trauma.) The list could go on. Right now, it’s great to see more people talking about mental health but we need action and we need it fast because people are dying and that is not acceptable.