After decades of chaos and self destruction, failed careers, sickness and substance abuse I finally got diagnosed in 2006. My diagnosis was Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder (formerly known as Borderline Personality Disorder) and Dysthymic Disorder.
EUPD is characterised by 9 features. If you experience 1-5 you have EUPD traits, if you have 7 or more you are likely to experience the full disorder. If you experience any of these symptoms please ask your GP to refer you to your local mental health team to get a proper diagnosis.
The following nine features are taken from Wikipedia:
- Extreme mood swings which can change by the minute or hour.
- Markedly disturbed sense of identity
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, and extreme reactions to such.
- Splitting (“black-and-white” thinking.
- Impulsive or reckless behaviors (e.g., impulsive or uncontrollable spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
- Intense or uncontrollable emotional reactions that are disproportionate to the event or situation.
- Unstable and chaotic interpersonal relationships.
- Self-damaging behavior.
- Distorted self-image.
- Frequently accompanied by depression, anxiety, anger, substance abuse, or rage
Overall, the most distinguishing symptoms of BPD are marked sensitivity to minor rejection or criticism; alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation, along with varying moods and difficulty regulating strong emotional reactions. Dangerous and impulsive behaviour are also correlated with the disorder.
Other symptoms may include feeling unsure of one’s personal identity, morals, and values; having paranoid thoughts when feeling stressed; depersonalization; and, in moderate to severe cases, stress-induced breaks with reality or psychotic episodes.
The above text was taken from the Wikipedia page about Borderline which you can visit here.
My second diagnosis is Dysthymic Disorder which is a mood disorder. It is also called Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) which manifests itself in the same symptoms as Depression but longer lasting. You can read more about it here.
It was a relief to me to finally know why my life was so chaotic and that there is a name to it. It felt like I got at least recognition and that there was something I could do to try and make my life a little more bearable. But as I was about to find out, there was a long way to go and it was bloody hard work!
The next 2 and a half years I spend doing therapy with the aim to get my day-to-day life back to a relatively ‘normal’ (I hate that word!) way. I mean at the start I couldn’t look after my son who was only 4, which meant he lived with my parents for 6 months. If you have read my second post you can imagine how hard that was! But I really didn’t have a choice, I barely could keep myself alive, let alone a young boy.
I learned a lot in that time, about myself and how to steer my mind away from the dark. But I think the best thing was that I recognised then that I had a disability. And that meant I needed to stick to a few very strict rules if I wanted to get healthier and more resilient. The rules I have set over the years for myself are:
- No drugs or alcohol
- No repeated late nights of reduced or no sleep
- A routine
- No romantic relationships
- No team work, care jobs or customer facing roles
- Limited responsibility (don’t take on too much)
- Say no
- For big decisions, take your time and speak to trusted friend first
- Take medication religiously
Since then I have refined those rules, and sometimes tighten them up a bit. In the last 2 years I have found my mental health deteriorate again, together with my chronic back pain. It got so bad that I got sacked from my job (I was a lorry mounted crane operator) and a few months later stopped working altogether because I could hardly get out of bed.
I got a MRI scan but except two worn discs in my spine they couldn’t see why I had such excruciating pain. So my conclusion is that it probably goes hand in hand with my mental health deteriorating and the stress of working 45 hours a week. After about a year of unemployment my back pain did subside somewhat, but I will always suffer when put under pressure and the lower back pain is chronic anyway.
Whilst going through this process of searching I decided it was time I really started looking at all the underlying issues. So I got help. I thought I just try all angles and started with my GP. I asked for a referral to the mental health team who started me on a skills group, once a week. I did that, and it just got me thinking and gave me a new perspective also because of the input of the other group members. I have to add that this process took about a year before I actually got help, because at first they didn’t take me seriously, and there was a huge waiting list.
Then I looked for more psychological help to deal with the trauma and I am now getting 1 hr sessions (by phone) with a psychologist from a charity who deals with sexual abuse victims. Yes, a charity. I think this is outrageous, all mental health services should come under the NHS and should be properly funded in line with the demand.
Another point I want to make is that I have often been offered i-talk by my GP. This is in my opinion a way to fob people off, reduce costs and make them believe they should be helping themselves by practising well-being techniques and not clog up the proper mental health services. On their FAQ page though, you will find a line that says:
“If you have been diagnosed with a severe and enduring mental health condition such as bipolar, schizophrenia or personality disorder, speak to your GP about your support options. IAPT services like i-talk are unable to treat patients with these conditions”.
So to end I want to say, if you suffer, demand help and if you don’t feel able to ask a friend, a family member or loved one to do the talking and be by your side when you see your GP and mental health team.
By Gif – 17/10/2020