TW: Suicidal Thoughts, Depression
For the last 5 years I’ve been moving through a lot of feelings. Many changes happened in my late 20’s, and many mistakes were made. Moving to Germany was one of those mistakes. I love Germany. It is one of my most favorite places. I had never thought I would connect with it, but the first time I traveled there I fell in love with the country and language. If I could move there and live there now, I would. At the drop of a hat. No question. When I did move there in late 2011, however, the decision to do so was made as an act of survival rather than a well-thought out plan.
In the 6 months leading up to my moving I was suicidally depressed and lacked any real support system to help me. Looking back, I realize that what I needed at that time was to be in some sort of inpatient program, but I had no one in my life who would have guided me there. All I knew was that if I stayed in Portland I was going to die; either I would be in a violent relationship, I would commit suicide, or I would get in a car crash while driving drunk. I had a boyfriend in Germany who I genuinely cared for at the time, and the decision to move, as impulsive as it was, was the only other option I felt I had at the time: In my mind it was either move or die. So I sold everything I owned and moved. I figured if I did die, I would rather it be in Germany anyway(this is how low I was at the time…I felt like dying was imminent)
What I didn’t really take into account was the fact that the boyfriend I was going to live with was also in a mental health crisis, and in need of serious care and support. I think I thought that if I could help him, that might give my life some purpose and distract me from my own mental health crisis, but it just made it worse. I needed help just as badly as he did, and I soon found myself right back to where I was before. Who would have thought that moving to another country would be rough, right? I think for anyone in a sound frame of mind it would be difficult, but for someone like me at that time, it turned me into a time bomb.
I became even more isolated, and withdrawn, and hopeless. I turned more and more to alcohol to help cope with those feelings and escape from them. I slept all day and drank all night. I said mean things. I went to bars and hooked up with people I would have never given the time of day to before, and I didn’t know how to come back. It was like there was only one way for the story to end, and I was ready for it all to be over. In retrospect I think I was desperately crying out for help, but no one seemed to notice, so I decided to scream louder. This unfortunate frame of mind actually leaked out and affected the lives of the friends I had in Germany. I hurt people I was close to, not because of any premeditated malice I had, but because I was not able to make good choices. My mind was not thinking of anything other than how to stop feeling as hopeless as I did, even if it was for a fleeting moment. There were no consequences for me at that time, and I feel like I deliberately pushed people away who might have helped me otherwise because I didn’t want to live. I didn’t want a reason to stick around.
I have never seen that side of me before. It was as if my shadow had full reign of my waking life, and the darkness I felt inside of me consumed every aspect of who I was. I scared myself. I still scare myself when I think of the things I said and did then. I have never felt so out of control in my entire life, and for a control freak like me, that is probably the most terrifying way to feel. I don’t think I’ve ever “owned up” to my actions during this time, mostly because I want to forget the entire 2 years of my life when I was feeling like that, but truth is that I NEED to own up to that. I made some terrible choices. I did. I hurt a really wonderful person I truly loved. I abandoned him during his time of need. I lost friends I thought I would know for the rest of my life, and I was nowhere close to the person I had thought myself to be. I have felt an overwhelming amount of guilt and shame ever since, and forgiving myself for those choices is a process I am still in. Right now I don’t feel like I will ever forgive myself for the things I said or did.
They say you need to separate the behavior from the individual, and that’s hard for me to do. I think of myself as a “bad person” rather than a “person who made bad choices”. I make better choices now. I am not the same person I was in 2011 or 2012, but the fact that I could and was the kind of person who would do those things shows me not only how I can get when I am unsupported and unhealthy, but that I need forgiveness. I need to ask for it. I need to give it to others. I realize that the choices someone makes are not always the choices of the person they want to be, but the person they need to be in that moment. That in order for me to forgive others and myself, I need to understand that everyone, myself included, are struggling through something, and to look on others with compassion. I feel like it’s easier to do with others than myself, but like I said, I’m still processing all of this, and forcing myself to remember everything I can and see myself objectively, as that 27 year old woman who felt like she had no other choice than to commit suicide. Who felt like there was no hope. That no one cared about her. That there was no one in her life she could get help from, or tell about the feelings she had. I wish I had told other people at the time how sad I was. I wish I had been more open about my mental illness. I wish I was able to explain how desperate and hopeless I felt. Maybe it would have helped me in some way. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so isolated. Maybe the veneer of my ability to be “strong” despite my internal crumbling wouldn’t have felt like a cross to bear.
When I think of her, I want to hold her and hug her and tell her everything will be ok. Even if I didn’t think so. Even if I knew it would be harder before it got better. I want to give her gifts and buy her flowers and tell her how important she is to me. I want to fill her life with hope. I want to take her out to the movies or write poems with her or take her to castles and gardens on sunny days. I want to go shopping with her and help her job hunt. I want to show her that there are still things to live for.
There are still things to live for.
And I am living. In this mess I made, I am sifting through all of it, trying to find the wisdom through the guilt.
BPD is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses. Maybe that’s why for so many years I avoided getting a diagnosis. I was scared of how others would view me if they knew I struggled with this diagnosis. Truth is, I think I have known for a long time, and in the last few weeks I’ve been coming more and more to terms with the fact that there is a name for all of the feelings I’ve have and a reason for why I’ve felt the ways I do and behaved how I did in the past. I was untreated and undiagnosed with BPD. For many people, Borderline Personality Disorder conjures up images of manipulative, difficult people who are attention-seeking and overly dramatic. Who are sensitive and needy. Who are “too much” and too “toxic” to be around. Sometimes I have seen myself in those descriptions, but only when I was unsupported, or when I wasn’t taking care of myself(much like other mental illnesses, when left untreated, sometimes life becomes more difficult and our symptoms more severe). While I’m still a bit scared of coming forward about this, because of stigma, the stigma itself is something that needs to change. I feel like we are working towards accepting neurodiversity in a number of circumstances, but many therapists won’t even treat someone with BPD because of the stigma associated with the diagnosis. For me, accepting this part about myself has been an awakening process. For so long I’ve wondered what was “up” with me, and it’s a bit comforting to know that there is hope in treatment (many treatments that work for BPD I coincidentally discovered on my own and added to my self care “toolbox” years ago) and that I can be a passionate, insightful, creative, and empathic person who is functional and flawed as anyone else. I have BPD and I’m okay with that. It’s a part of who I am and who I’ve been and I’m not going to hide it anymore.
Awhile ago I came to the realization that alcohol no longer serves any purpose for me. For years I used it in many different ways. To forget. To punish. To connect. For a long time when I had no one in my life to talk to or help me, alcohol was there and the dependence on it slowly became more and more apparent. For two years I was drinking up to 3 bottles of wine daily. I was so lonely and sad and did not know what to do or who I was anymore. I ran from any reason to stay sober and it was one of the darkest times in my life. A time where I made many mistakes, all of which I regret and most of which I wish I could take back.
Since Raj was born I have patted myself on the back for not being a drunk, but I saw that although I was no longer drinking on a daily basis, the times I did drink were binges 50% of the time. I also noticed that on most occasions I would drink by myself, when I was upset or emotional, or when my social anxiety made it impossible to talk to people otherwise.
The truth is that I come from a family of alcoholics. That I am genetically and socially programmed to be an alcoholic. I am never going to be the kind of person who will be able to drink socially. I will never be the kind of person who doesn’t make horrible decisions when drunk. I am 32 years old. I am not able to live with hangovers anymore or waste an entire day in bed or throwing up. I do not want that kind of life. I want to be a better partner and mother and friend and person and alcohol will always prevent me from that.
So a month ago, after I had drank 2 bottles of wine and was incapacitated the next day, I said enough was enough. It didn’t take a DUI or the betrayal of a friend or a suicide attempt or a million wasted nights.(although I wish one or all of those consequences would have been enough of a wake-up call) My rock bottom was my own understanding that no matter how “good” I am, or determined to just have “just one drink” I will always want a second third forth or tenth drink and it’s a crap shoot as to whether I am strong enough in that moment to choose not to(like I said its 50% of the time and that number is too high for me). I have worked damn hard to pull myself back to life and reality. Worked hard to drag myself out of depression that almost killed me, to heal from grief, to forgive myself for guilt and shame, to gain an understanding of my mental illness, and I’ll be damned if booze is going to take that all away from me.
In all honesty, alcohol truly helped me at a certain time and place. It made it possible for me to feel anything, but I am done using it in order to feel nothing. There are zero positive benefits to my life from drinking and every bad choice I have made in the last 7 years has been alcohol related. That alone should be enough. And it is. I’m done pretending I have any kind of control over it. The only thing I am controlling is my life and whether or not I choose to run from it. I want to experience everything; especially the painful things. The deep loneliness and awkwardness and painful understanding of my own challenges as a human being. Being drunk doesn’t solve any of those problems and for the first time in my life I’m willing to admit that