7 Days of BPD - Day One: Q&A with Sofie
Monday 6 April 2015
1. Did you realise you had symptoms of BPD before being diagnosed with it?
I never really knew what I was doing at the time. I knew that something wasn’t right with me, but I was never really sure what. I just felt crazy. I never understood why everything that happened to me felt like this. I knew my emotions were mixed up. My self-harm was out of control and I did it because I felt like I needed to be punished. I felt like I had no worth or value. But I didn’t know that I had symptoms of BPD until I researched it.
2. How did your diagnosis come about?
Basically I was put from pillar to post with doctors. The Irish Health Care System isn’t really the best. GP’s are not equipped with the skills to deal with mental health. I have been diagnosed with 4 different illnesses before one (being BPD) finally made sense. The first GP told me I had GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and Panic Disorder. After this I became a lot worse and the SCAN (Suicide Crisis Assessment Nurse) came and tried to refer me to an outpatient psychiatric unit, but before she could do it I was taken to hospital and they put in the referral. After this I became an outpatient of this service and was diagnosed with Bi-Polar type 2. Which made no sense to me. After a lot of upset and outbursts I decided I was going to try and figure out myself what was wrong with me. And it was after my research that I mentioned it to my doctors who then said It has become apparent that it is BPD.
3. What is your understanding of BPD?
Well, it’s defiantly a very serious mental illness. It effects the way you process your feelings. Sadness isn’t just sadness and anger isn’t just anger. Its 100% more intensified. It affects the way you behave with people including family and friends. Most people with BPD have very unstable relationships, which I completely have experienced and understand. And a lot of BPD patients engage in self destructive behaviour including self-harm and suicidal tendencies.
4. Have you always agreed with your diagnosis? If not, why not?
At the start I didn’t particularly want my diagnoses. I was a little in denial and I looked for a lot of different reasons to show that it couldn’t be BPD. It wasn’t until I sat with my self-harm counsellor and talked about it that it started to make sense to me.
5. What do your family, friends or loved ones think of your diagnosis?
My family weren’t always the most supportive family there is. We are all very distant from each other and the fact that I don’t live with them and they don’t see me every day makes it harder for them to understand. Before I was taken to hospital most of my family had no idea that there was anything wrong with me other than my anxiety and panic attacks which they had known about since I was 6 years old. After I was taken to hospital, my mother was angry and upset at me because she didn’t understand and thought it was just me being a “drama queen”. I wrote out a 3000 word letter to her. It wasn’t until my older sister read it out to her that I could see that she really did actually care. We sat and cried and talked about it for hours. My sister on the other hand, has been diagnosed with Bi-Polar type 1 and BPD. So she is very understanding and loving. She’s much older than I am, so she takes the motherly role with me. My friends are probably the most amazing. Especially my best friend and housemate Nadine. She took me to doctor’s appointments counselling and she was the person in the hospital with me, she has supported me through my BPD the whole time. My boyfriend is equality amazing. He has been there for me through everything, he was the first person to convince me to go and see a doctor. He sits there and holds me when I’m down. Calms me down when I have my “episodes” which we call it, and reassures me that he will always be there no matter what I do or say to him during this.
6. What treatment have you been offered for BPD?
I’ve been doing a programme called SHIP (Self-Harm Intervention Programme) since I first became an out-patient. It’s one to one counselling and basically I talk to him about everything that’s going on, and everything that makes me want to self-harm. It was my counsellor that really made me understand that I needed to talk to my doctors about BPD. Recently because my BPD is getting worse and I’m developing new symptoms, I have been offered DBT. But this needs to wait until I finish my SHIP counselling first.
7. What treatment do you have or have you had? Eg. medication etc.
Medication and I do not mix well. I can never really stick with one. At the moment I have been put on a new one called venlafaxine. But I haven’t been set a medication for BPD yet as they aren’t too sure which will work for me.
8. Which symptoms of BPD do you have?
I have all the symptoms that meet the criteria for BPD. Some are less apparent and some are very apparent. Some I haven’t even told my doctors about because I’m too scared that they will judge me due to the things I have done.
9. Can you describe what they’re like?
Life Controlling. They control every aspect of my life. If I’m honest, I can’t even really explain what they are like to doctors so I’m finding it hard to describe it here.
10. Which do you feel is worse, and why?
The worst two for me would be the unstable relationships and the self-destructive behaviour. I understand that I put my family, friends and boyfriend through a lot because I cannot control myself. I get into a lot of fights with mostly my boyfriend. I can see that the things I say and the way that I feel hurts him just as much as it hurts me. Screaming at him telling him to leave me alone and I hate him, to turning around 20 minutes later begging him not to leave. He gets confused and so does everyone else. The self-harm is something that I can’t control and that recently got very out of hand. People who self-harm will understand when I say, that before you self-harm to feel like an over blown balloon. Emotions being the air and your skin is the balloon. And when you pop that balloon everything feels better, and you can’t find another way to get that feeling of instant relief.
11. How are you treat by mental health professionals?
I don’t like the mental health professionals that I am in the care of. I feel like they look down on me and that they don’t really care about how I feel. I seem to always come out of my appointments in
tears or really angry. I feel like all they care about is getting what I say down in my file. Not actually helping me.
12. Do you feel they treat you differently to service users with other diagnosis?
I wouldn’t say so.
13. Have you had any bad experiences of mental health services?
I was told by a doctor in my outpatient service that there was nothing they could do for me. I had come that day with very bad self-harm cuts and was very distressed and she looked me in the eye and said there was nothing they could do for me. So I walked out.
14. What has been your best experience?
I would say the best experience was actually recently. I had gone to them with new symptoms and the nurse that I had listened to me and engaged with me, and also didn’t make me feel like I was as crazy as I felt. But other than that, I wouldn’t say I had many positive experiences.
15. Do you have any advice for others with BPD?
Do not feel crazy. You are not crazy. You are an amazing person. And the most amazing thing anyone ever said to me was. You are not a mentally ill person. You are a person with a mental illness. You are always a person first. Make sure you are treated in your mental health service like a person first. Also, explain to the people that you love what you are going through. If you don’t, they will never understand and you will lose a lot of people that way.
16. What or who has helped you the most and how?
Four people have helped me the most. Nadine My Housemate - She has been there for me when I’m down and cheered me up in every way possible. She sits and listens to me cry and lets me tell her every emotion that I’m feeling at that moment. And she has a way of talking to me that makes me feel calm and brings me back to reality. James My Boyfriend – He has been truly amazing to me since we first met. Before we were in a relationship we were best friends. He has taken me to appointments, sat outside in the waiting room worrying about me being in there on my own. He has dealt with me in my most severe episodes. From self-harm to attempting to hoard pills for an overdose, he has stuck by me and brought me back to the real world. Nichola My Sister – I really could not ask for a better sister than her. She messages me every day to make sure I am okay, she has been my biggest source of communication towards my family. She explains things to them that I cannot. The fact she also suffers from mental illness and is the person she is today is amazing. Sarah - I lived with Sarah 2 years ago when I moved away from college. Back then, i didn't know what was wrong with me and I was in a crappy relationship where I felt horrible about myself and had also gone through a really bad experience. Sarah was the only person who understand the way that i was, and knew that if i walked out of the house in the pouring rain without my glasses, saying that i needed a walk, that i really just needed a walk even if other people freaked and ran after me. We lost contact for a little while but this year recently got back in contact and what a friendship it has become. We have a group in my house, including me, Sarah and nadine. Where we go and talk about EVERYTHING we are feeling without stigma. And i know if there is anything in the entire world that I need. I can go to sarah and she will be down in a flash, she understands my words even when i cant explain very well. She has been one of the biggest influences in my recovery.
17. Is there anything you wish you’d known when you first began your journey?
Yes. Defiantly. I would have loved to know that they things I was feeling and the things I was doing were due to me having an illness. For a long time I felt guilty and upset and thought I was just a horrible person. If I had known that I was ill all along it would have make things so much more easy.
18. Do you have any regrets of things you’ve done because of BPD e.g. self-harm etc?
My self-harm scars will haunt me forever. I feel like they will never go away. They are always there to remind me that I am ill and that I have a problem. Another thing which I would prefer to not go into details about was my experience while I was let loose in London. I did a lot of things that now makes sense with my diagnoses.
19. Is there anything you think should be improved in mental health services?
YES! EMPATHY! Why don’t any doctors I have been in contact with have any empathy towards their patients? I do not understand it. Sometimes all we need is for someone to not look at us like we are defective humans and say that they understand we are going through a hard time.
20. Have you had experience of being in a medical hospital since your BPD diagnosis? Was it different to before your diagnosis?
I have had the worst experience ever with a medical hospital. I went to Wexford General Hospital due to the fact I was going to attempt suicide and I had extreme self-harm cuts all up my legs. After being in Wexford hospital A&E for 4 hours, I was sat in a room with the most horrible doctor in the entire world who basically told me I should be happy he’s here helping me. I was then send back out into A&E without them looking at my cuts even though the person that found me had advised them I had cut myself badly. I was told I needed to man up and be strong and I’m "too young to feel like this" and "too young to have a mental illness". I was then put in another room alone with a waste box that I’m pretty sure had used needles inside. In my head I kept thinking I could use them to kill myself but thankfully didn’t. I was then TOLD I was being sent up to Waterford in an ambulance, and after another hour wait the ambulance arrived. I was taken to Waterford. After an assessment there where I told them I was going to take my own life and needed help, I was told I would be left in a trolley in the hallway or I could leave. At 3am, I walked out of Waterford hospital without having my cuts even covered and got in a taxi. The taxi man noticed me being upset and talked to me about everything. After I left the hospital I planned to kill myself. If it wasn’t for the lovely taxi man who talked to me about my problems are was so understanding and lovely, I would probably be dead. The HSE (Irish health care system) need to seriously cop on with what they are doing with patients with mental illness. I recently went on a radio in Ireland to talk about this experience, I will include the link if you would like to listen to it.
21. Why did you begin blogging?
Blogging is something that I really want to start. I have started writing things but not posting them up. I don’t have the confidence in what I say to post on a blog. But I am hoping to start blogging soon. I use twitter a lot to voice my opinion on mental health services.
22. What do you like to do in your spare time? E.g. career/education and hobbies/interests.
I am currently doing a degree in social care. I am in my second year. It’s proving hard with my illness but it does take my mind off things a lot, it’s a great distraction. I enjoy spending time with my friend’s as well to distract myself.
23. Is there any last thing you’d like to say?
Just because you have BPD doesn’t mean you are any less of a person. I know sometimes we feel defective and broken and that we have no value or worth. But ask yourself this question. Do humans have worth? Do the people you see on the street have worth to you? If the answer is yes, remember. You are also a human. You also have worth.
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