Huge thanks to T for sharing her story, in this brave and honest guest post.
I first got a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) about 10 years ago. It was in many ways a relief, as there was finally a single condition that covered the different, seemingly disparate, symptoms that I had battled with over the years. It also validated the reality that the feelings and thoughts that often threatened to overwhelm me, and led to destructive behaviours, were more intense than those experienced by the average person. As many people diagnosed with a condition relate, having a name for what you are experiencing often brings a sense of validation. Having something you can research, and hear the stories of other sufferers, can help relieve some of the sense of isolation.
But it was also a difficult diagnosis to receive. Much of the information I initially read suggested that the condition was difficult to treat, and much of the publicity around BPD involves people who end up in prison or harming themselves or others. But there was good news too. Many sufferers find the condition improves with age (which has certainly been my experience), and also research has shown that specific forms of therapy, particularly DBT, and more recently mentalisation therapy, can be of great benefit.
At the time I received the diagnosis my life was in chaos. I had battled with anorexia for a number of years, I was self harming regularly, and veered between shutting people out and becoming dependent on them. I was on a vast array of medication and struggling to just keep going.
I was eventually referred to a Complex Needs Service, where I became part of a therapeutic community for 18 months. It was a tough experience, but one which helped enormously. Through the support of the community, I was able to stop self harming, come off a large proportion of the medication, learn better ways of dealing with emotions and learn what it was to have and maintain healthy, interdependent relationships. It wasn’t a magic cure, or a quick fix, but it certainly gave me a range of tools to use when times are tough.
During this time I was also blessed by a loving community of friends around me; who loved and supported me, and held hope for me when I lost sight of it. People who stood alongside me cheering me on, without allowing me to become dependent on them. Who set healthy, loving boundaries, and wouldn’t allow me to be sucked into believing that there was no hope or purpose. Plus, I know that God was with me, through these people, but also by not allowing the bruised reed to break, or the smouldering wick to be snuffed out.
It’s not been a smooth journey since then. I continue to battle with an eating disorder, and depression and anxiety, but I have good and bad patches. I am part of a loving community of Christians, who speak truth to me, and hold me to account in helpful ways. A place where I know that I am loved and valued, even when I don’t feel it. I am learning to not rely on my emotions, but also not to try and bury them or ignore them. I am so much more content in my own skin. Years ago if you had told me that I would largely be content with who I am, I would have laughed it away, but for much of the time now, that is the case.
I am still learning to manage the condition. But there is so much change and hope. God has been gracious, faithful and kind. He is bringing me to a place of knowing that it is all about him. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more or less. I don’t need to earn what he has freely given me. It is in his word and his truth that I can truly root myself and find freedom.
So I would want to encourage anyone who is struggling with similar issues, that there is hope, and a future. That however dark it seems, however hopeless, there is a way forward. When times are really tough we do need to let others carry the hope and light for us, until we can carry it again, but that’s ok.
As odd as it may seem, I honestly don’t think I would change my past or my illness. Although it has been a hard road, it has taught me so much about myself, God and others. It has shown me that I can’t do it in my own strength, but I know a God who has already done it all, and he is with me every step of the way.