There should be no “shame” in having a Cluster B diagnosis.

noshame

Yes, another potentially controversial post.  Please hear me out before judging.

There are some (actually, many) people in the blogosphere who believe that people with disorders like Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder made some kind of conscious choice to have their disorder.   With unusual exceptions (which I’ve discussed in others posts), I think this is wrong.

Bad seeds?

People with Cluster B disorders, in spite of what you probably read or heard, aren’t inherently evil or “bad seeds.”   Certainly, some become evil, because they’ve been programmed for a psychological need to obtain narcissistic supply in order to feel like they exist.  In order to get that supply, they became abusive and manipulative.   People addicted to drugs or alcohol are also abusive and manipulative, in order to get their chemical fix.

People with psychopathy may have been born without the brain capacity to feel empathy or have a conscience, but I don’t think Psychopathy should even be categorized as a Cluster B disorder at all, since it seems to have its roots more in brain chemistry than in early trauma.   Plenty of psychopaths came from normal, loving families.  The jury’s out as to whether Antisocial Personality Disorder is the same thing as psychopathy.  I think they may coincide often and their symptoms are similar, but I’m not at all sure they’re the same thing.    I don’t know a whole lot about ASPD, but I think it, too, usually has its roots in trauma as a child.   I know almost nothing about its treatability, but it’s my understanding it’s very difficult to treat, even more so than NPD.    But I digress:  talking about ASPD or psychopathy is not the point of this post.

Another blogger who commented on a post of mine today mentioned that she may have undiagnosed, recovered BPD.   I sensed from the tone of her admission that this might be something she’s  ashamed to admit.   I wondered why.   BPD, like NPD, has a terrible stigma, although in its favor, there’s a movement in the BPD community to reduce its stigma as “evil” and “incurable.”    Their efforts seem to be working, because BPD is seen today as being less of a “mark of the beast” than NPD is, although the stigma certainly still exists.

Why no anti-stigma movement for NPD?

I’m not sure why there is no grass-roots movement among narcissists to change the stigma against NPD, but from everything I’ve read from self-aware narcissists (and you’d be surprised how many of them there are online), they’re either: (a) proud that they are narcissists and wear the “evil” stigma like a badge of honor (these tend to be malignant, overt narcissists with antisocial or sociopathic traits), or (b) *this is a shocker* so ashamed of their narcissism that although they hate the stigma, they seem resigned to it and and seem to hang their heads in shame, quietly accepting how “bad” they are.  “I deserve it,” they say.   It may seem hard to believe, but some of them even defend the narc-haters.  Remember we are talking about self-aware narcissists.  Most narcs never get to that point.   Their grandiosity keeps them from having enough insight to do that.

Ego-dystonic vs. ego-syntonic.

Because people with BPD are almost always ego-dystonic about their disorder (they aren’t happy with themselves), and because generally BPD doesn’t lend itself to self-delusions  (in other words, having a false self) the way NPD does, BPD has a higher cure rate than NPD,  which also helps reduce its stigma.    NPD is usually more ego-syntonic, but not always.  Narcissists who are ego-dystonic (usually covert narcissists) tend to be frustrated, lonely, and depressed, and although they can be highly manipulative, entitled acting, and lack empathy, they lack the grandiosity and false pride that keeps them stuck in the delusion that their narcissism has worked for them.

I don’t see a whole lot of difference between BPD and C-PTSD.  Actually, BPD is like C-PTSD on steroids.  I’ve written about this subject before–the symptoms of both are nearly identical, and both Borderlines and people with C-PTSD are very prone to become codependent to malignant or overt narcissists.   They are also prone to self-harm, wild mood swings, and are sometimes suicide risks.  People with C-PTSD–especially women–often get slapped with the stigmatizing BPD label simply because the DSM doesn’t recognize C-PTSD as a legitimate disorder (and PTSD, while similar, applies more to those who suffered a single, intense trauma rather than the victims of chronic, long term abuse starting in childhood, so the treatments for someone with PTSD would be different).

Moving back to narcissism…

Many people believe NPD cannot be successfully treated, much less cured.   I admit I’m skeptical about its curability, though I do know there have been a few cases where it’s happened.   I also know there are narcissists who are ego-dystonic and unhappy with what they’ve become, once they realize they are narcissists.   I don’t think the adage that “if you think you have NPD, then you don’t” is necessarily true.    I have met a few here and on forums who desperately want to change their behaviors, usually because they’ve realized that they’ve missed out on things like knowing how to love and receive love, or having a healthy relationship with their spouse or children.   They want to know what love and vulnerability in a relationship feels like.  They want to know what real joy and empathy feels like.   They forgot how.   They’ve come to realize their lives are empty and shallow, and they are constantly under the stress of always having to act a part in a play.   They forgot who they were a long time ago.   Most narcissists did not have happy childhoods and most had parents who either abused or spoiled them (spoiling is a form of abuse because it fails to mirror who the child actually is, so the “love” they get is conditional).

As a mental illness.

I’m in no way defending narcissists or the way they act.   But as a cluster B disorder,  it started as a defense mechanism to cope with unbearable pain and feelings of emptiness. Many people believe narcissists love themselves, but nothing could be further from the truth.  They only love their false self.  Scratch any narcissist and you find a person who doesn’t even know who they are.  BPD is much the same that way, except Borderlines don’t have a functional or strong false self.    I’m not suggesting sympathizing with active, unrepentant narcissists or condoning their toxic behaviors. I’m not suggesting staying with one either!   But I think the stigma against NPD has hurt those people with the disorder who sincerely want to change.  These people do exist!  I don’t think they’re lying when they say they want to become non-narcissists–why would they? What would be their motive in doing so?   Much as with people with BPD, therapists refuse to treat them, insurance won’t cover them, and they are frequently demonized as non-human creatures or worse.

Maybe the treatment rate for NPD is so abysmal because they are given up on so easily by therapists who lose patience with someone who doesn’t show immediate improvement or acts aggressively or in a confrontational way.    NPD is a very difficult disorder to treat, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.  Even if a narcissist can’t be cured, CBT and other mindfulness therapies have had good results on some narcissists who really want to change the way they treat others and have more mutually fulfilling relationships.  DBT (dialectical behavioral training), a mindfulness therapy similar to CBT traditionally used on people with BPD, has also been shown to be effective on some people with NPD.

As a Borderline myself (my therapist thinks I’m recovered, but I’m not at all sure about that), and having personally experienced the stigma against Cluster B, I have a great deal of empathy for anyone with a Cluster B disorder who is self aware and genuinely sorry about the way they’ve treated others or the choices they’ve made, and who sincerely wants to do the hard work needed to make changes in themselves.   People with Cluster B disorders didn’t choose to become that way; like people with C-PTSD, they have a mental illness caused by trauma and C-PTSD is almost always at the core of any cluster B disorder.

While it’s true that some will never get to the point of self awareness or even if they do, may not be interested in finding new and better ways of relating to others and the world, there are many who do, and we shouldn’t judge them or hate them just because of their stigmatic diagnosis (and the diagnosis could be wrong anyway!).  That’s why I don’t run a “narc free” blog.  I allow people with Cluster B diagnoses–including NPD–to post comments on this blog and share their experiences along with others who do not have those disorders and were abused by people who do.  As long as they don’t attempt to upset or trigger non-Cluster B abuse victims and remain civil and add to the conversation, they are always welcome here.

Bipolar: The roller coaster I didn’t pay to get on

Very readable and relevant article about living with Bipolar disorder and dealing with people who still insist on stigmatizing mental illness. Thank you, “Mama”! 🙂
Please leave comments under the original post. Oh, and please follow her blog too.

I'm Mama, but I'm still me...

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You’re crazy! You’re a bitch! You’re a mess! I wish you’d just get your shit together! Why can’t you be normal? Just get out of bed! It’s like you’re two different people! It’s all in your head! You’re just lazy! Good for nothing! Worthless! Pathetic!

These are just a few of the things I’ve heard over the years in my struggle with my mental health. Some of these things have been said by friends. Some of these things have been said by loved ones. And some of these things I’ve said to myself.

Have you ever had a bad day? I mean, a really bad day. You wake up late. Forget the most important thing that you needed for work at home, but you’re already late, so you have to make up an excuse not only about your lateness, but about your not bringing that important thing. Your boss calls…

View original post 1,355 more words

Death, Prince, “the void,” and loss of control.

Update on my death phobia.

I’m looking for guest bloggers! (Round Two)

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My Sunday guest blogs have turned out to be a success! I want to take this opportunity to thank the writers and bloggers who were kind enough to share their personal stories and struggles with mental illness, mental illness stigma, or narcissistic abuse on this blog. These personal stories turned out to be among some of my most popular posts, and hopefully these bloggers also saw a boost in their hits due to posting for this blog.

Unfortunately, it seems that I’ve reached the end of my list, and I’ve had a few drop-outs too. So I’m once again looking for people who are interested in writing a guest post for this blog.

YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A BLOG TO WRITE A GUEST POST, and this invitation is extended to my lurkers as well as those who regularly comment.

The types of articles I’m looking for:

— Personal accounts of living with a mental illness
— How mental illness stigma has affected you
— Inspirational stories about how you have coped with or even benefited from your experience.
— New therapies you have learned about or are using

This time, I’m especially interested in personal accounts of living with mental disorders caused by early trauma or abuse, especially the following:

— Cluster B personality disorders (as long as self awareness and a willingness to change is present)
— Cluster A or C personality disorders
— Dissociative disorders
— Complex PTSD

I’m also interested in blogs by people with Aspergers or autism spectrum disorders, and anxiety disorders such as OCD, Panic Disorder, or Social Anxiety; and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Since there were no posts about substance abuse/alcoholism from my last batch of guest bloggers, I’d be interested in those as well.

The rules are few. I don’t have a minimum or maximum word count, and you are free to submit your own graphic or photo if you wish. If not, I will find one for your post. I only ask that the writing be clear and the post is honest. Profanity is okay but should be kept to a minimum. The only other rule I have is that if you have a blog and write a guest post, that you reblog your post on your own blog (NOT re-publish it, just reblog it from here).
If you have already written a guest post for this blog, please give others who haven’t a chance.

Again, you do not need to have a blog yourself to write a post for this one. However, if you don’t blog, you will need to provide your email or link to your social media account so I can contact you. If you’re interested please leave a comment (with a link to your blog, if applicable), so I can compile a list from these. When your article is posted, I’ll share it to my social media so it gets as much visibility as possible. I’ll reply to you in the comments, so keep checking back after you have posted. If you want to go ahead and send posts to me now, my email is under “Contact Me” in the header.

***PLEASE SHARE THIS POST***

Guest Post #7: How hypersexuality plays a role in Bipolar disorder

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I’m honored to introduce my 7th guest blogger, Jess Melancholia from The Bipolar Compass, a blog about her experiences living with the manic-depressive form of Bipolar Disorder. In her post, she will be discussing how hypersexuality can be a symptom of the manic (or in Jess’s case, hypomanic) phase of this disorder. I applaud Jess for her courage in openly sharing this delicate but surprisingly common symptom of the manic phase of Bipolar disorder.

From her About Page:

Jess Melancholia is a bpHope Magazine blogger who resides in San Diego, California with her husband and cat. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 in May 2014 after suffering a 6 month bipolar depression triggered by extreme family medical stresses. Through medication and a strong support system, she works tirelessly to live a “normal” life and keep her hypomanic and depressive episodes under control. Her hobbies include playing horror video games and wine tasting. Her daytime profession is a molecular biologist at a biotechnology company.

HOW HYPERSEXUALITY PLAYS A ROLE IN BIPOLAR DISORDER
By Jess Melancholia, The Bipolar Compass

I know what you’re thinking; if I’m writing about bipolar 2 disorder, then why am I talking specifically about sex? No one in their right mind would talk about sex to promote their mental illness blog. Why risk chasing away followers? Why not make it easy on myself and just talk about the other bipolar symptoms of mania such as anxiety, overspending, and feelings of grandiosity? Because that’s what everyone else talks about. And while those are important to me, the one that impacts my life the most is what I want to focus on. And if that makes you uncomfortable then stop reading. But I think that we are all adults here and that things like this need to be addressed. There are countless people out there that want me to talk about this. That need me to be their voice. And I want to be there for them, because they deserve to have their story told.

What in the world is hypersexuality?
That would definitely be my first question if I was reading this post. Well I’m glad you asked. I’m actually very excited to talk about such a delicate subject with you. Please be aware that this is not a joke and that I’m being completely serious about this. If you need more information, please refer to the links in the article and my personal blog for more details. If you are experiencing bipolar hypersexuality, then please contact your doctor immediately to get some help. I’ll start off by giving a little bit of background on this topic.

Hypersexuality is essentially, from my personal experience, an overwhelming desire and obsessive preoccupation with sex and sexual content caused by the presence of a manic episode. In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition), it’s listed as a primary symptom of bipolar under the category of “sexual indiscretions.” bpHope.com is a fantastic resource when it comes to articles and expert advice on what the symptoms look like as well as professional opinions from leading experts in bipolar disorder. The technical content I relate to in this post is accredited to them.

According to some studies, hypersexuality can occur between the range of 25 to 80 percent of all patients with mania! Recent studies suggest around 57 percent! For something that prevalent, it’s amazing that such a subject is rarely if ever talked about.

There are varying opinions as to the cause of the symptom. One such opinion pioneered by Louis J. Cozolino, PhD, a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University in southern California, and leading bipolar disorder guru, says that it’s akin to sexual addiction. He goes on to say that people who are manic with this symptom display “vulnerability to a ‘disinhibition’ of social restraints during manic periods.” In fact, there are studies to suggest that there is more blood flow to the left part of the amygdala (almond-shaped part of the brain that deals with fear and panic) in bipolar patients than in other people. Furthermore, feelings of pleasure and arousal are related to a sort of calming effect. Sort of like taking painkillers.

For me, it IS essentially a painkiller. Whenever I’m hypersexual, I stress the need for sexual satisfaction as a top priority. With being happily married to a wonderful husband, this kind of symptom tends to get me in serious trouble. Last year, I had a terribly bad manic episode that lasted several months. During that time period, I lost complete control of myself and acted out sexually towards some stupid college kid I met chatting online. He seduced me into cybersex and phone sex with him along with eventually meeting up a few times. As many times as I told myself and him no, that I can’t and won’t do this, he always managed to get inside my head and change my mind. Under normal circumstance, none of his tricks would’ve worked on me. However, when I was manic, all I did was focus nonstop on sexual satisfaction. The worst part was nothing was ever enough. I needed more and more. Nothing would satiate me. It took over my entire brain and wouldn’t let go until the mania finally died. Despite the fact that I fought fervently against my overwhelming urges, I still was constantly unable to stop myself from falling into temptation.

Now that the clouds have parted and the dust has settled, I can think clearly and work around the triggers that caused me to lose control. My husband and I educated ourselves thoroughly on hypersexuality and he has now forgiven me for my actions. Whereas I was and am still responsible for all actions I take, I understand now that my behavior was a symptom of an illness. A common symptom of bipolar mania. Armed with this information, him, my best friends, and my healthcare professionals have all agreed on a strategic prevention plan to help minimize my triggers and prevent any future mistakes.

Although I do feel guilty everyday for what I did, I no longer feel ashamed of myself. What happened was a terrible mistake but I’ve learned considerable information from it. With knowledge comes power and I’m trying every single day to bring that power back into my own hands. Hopefully I’ll regain it fully one day.

Don’t be ashamed of your actions. Learn from them and grow.

Please visit The Bipolar Compass:
http://bipolarcompass.com/

Guest post #4: You Are Empowered (Just Plain Ol’ Vic)

I’m happy to introduce my 4th guest blogger, Just Plain Ol’ Vic.  Vic’s blog is one of my favorites.  I’ve been following it almost from the very beginning of my blogging journey and have found it always inspiring and thoughtful.    Vic has helped me through many of my own rough moments and is a regular commenter on this blog too. Be sure to stop by his blog!

This is from his About page:

Just Plain Ol’ Vic

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Bio: Thanks for taking a look at my blog. I am Just Plain Ol’ Vic, however Vic will do just fine. I originally started this blog as a form of writing therapy. I am happily married, with kids but my wife suffers from bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, has an eating disorder and is a recovering alcoholic. Needless to say it is quite a bit for one individual to handle, thus my blog. I started this blog to connect with others that suffer from mental health issues and/or have loved ones that have mental health challenges. This is a way for me to connect, discuss and educate myself about my wife’s condition and perhaps in turn, allow me to be a better spouse. Perhaps too, in hearing my story, others will know that they are not alone and there is help, empathy and resources out there. My blog has since developed beyond just talking about mental health (although that is still a priority). I pretty much discuss what is on my mind or happening in my life. I am not afraid to spout verbal diarrhea, give unsubstantiated opinions and generally exercise my 1st Amendment rights. Along the way I hope to provoke some thoughts, get you interactive with my blog…perhaps even make you crack a smile and belly-laugh every now and then. So if by now you are still interested and willingly join me on my journey, thanks for coming along and don’t forget to buckle up! http://justplainolvic.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/tempting-fate-taking-a-leap-of-faith/

Here is his guest post, not really about himself, but about all the wonderful things he’s learned from living with his wife, who suffers from Bipolar disorder.   Through their relationship, joys and struggles, Vic says he has developed a level of empathy and understanding for the mentally ill he might not have otherwise had.  I thought his story was very touching and inspirational and I even got a little misty-eyed reading it.

YOU ARE EMPOWERED

By Plain Ol’ Vic (http://justplainolvic.com/ )

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Introduction:

Hello there, my name is Vic and first of all I would like to thank Lauren for giving me this wonderful opportunity as a guest blogger.  I don’t think my story makes me any more special than the next person, thus my moniker of “just plain ‘ol” seems very appropriate.  I am just a guy, husband and father that is trying to make sense of his world and do right by my family. There are days that this is harder than it sounds; as my wife has bi-polar disorder, has attempted suicide, has had multiple hospitalizations, is a recovering alcoholic and recovering from an eating disorder.  Guess what?  She is and will always be a wonderful woman and I am lucky to be married to her.

 Instead of telling my story and the trials and tribulations we have faced as a couple and family, instead I would like to talk about some of the positive things I have learned as I have become more educated and empathetic to the challenges my wife faces on a daily basis. As tough as the challenges have been, as daunting and insurmountable as the obstacles seem to be – we are still here, engaged in the moment and are as strong (perhaps stronger) than we ever were.

***

It is so easy, when someone suffers from a mental illness, to have it consume their lives and allow it to define who they are, how their perceive themselves and become the cornerstone of their existence.  I am here to tell you that does not have to be the case!  You ARE empowered to be who you CHOOSE to be, should EXPECT people to treat you the way you DESERVE to be treated and you should NEVER SETTLE for anything less.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

I know it is hard to look in the mirror and not “see” your mental illness.  I challenge you to look beyond the physical and see your spirit within.  See the inner beauty, the inner resilience and the inner fighter that you have become.  “Normal” and “perfect” do not exist, they are made up abstractions.  Who you are, your uniqueness is what makes you beautiful.  If you can embrace that inner beauty, it is the first crucial step to learning to love yourself.

YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE AND AFFECTION

Having a mental illness does not make you “less deserving” than the next person. Despite the challenges you may face every day, you are deserving of a partner that will love you for who you are – not what they want you to be.  While a relationship can and will be challenging at times, you can find someone that will accept and love you the way you are.  The key to this is communication:  being open and honest from the first moment.  Making sure you have a partner that you can talk to, confide in and lean on is critical.  No relationship is ever perfect but it can work for you as long as you are willing to work for it.

YOU ARE POWERFUL, STRONG & CAPABLE

Having a mental illness does not make you less of a person, less capable than someone that is “healthy.”  Indeed you may actually be much stronger than a “healthy” individual because you have to endure so much more.  Never doubt your ability to lead a full and productive life.  You are capable of achieving whatever you set your mind to.  Now I am not going to deny that it may be tough, that there may be setbacks – however you are powerful, strong and capable – you can take back your life.  Your life and your contribution is just as important and relevant as anyone else, so shout your message from the rooftops and embrace all that makes you unique.

I would like to show you this video where I drew inspiration from for this post.  Now I have made it clear that while I am not religious I am a spiritual individual, however despite that I cannot deny the power of this message.  Please also understand that I think is message (and my message) is geared for both men and women.  Take the time to listen to some of the words that are said and understand that this IS you or CAN be you If you so choose.  There are so many things misunderstood when it comes to mental illness, so many stigmas out there.  However if you empower yourself, share and communicate your story then you too can help other see what makes you so wonderful, so unique and so human.

I wish everyone the best.  Be well.  Take care of yourself and each other.

Just Plain ‘Ol Vic.

 

Guest post #3: Facing Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

I’m happy to introduce my third guest blogger, Alisha, who has a blog about living with Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) and chronic pain. She was kind enough to write this powerfully written guest post for this blog. I loved reading it because it ends with a message of hope, no matter how bad things might seem. Please visit Alisha’s blog, The Invisible F.  She has another blog featuring her fantasy writing, including her novel, The Return of the Key.

From her About page:

alisha

Hi, my name is Alisha. I’m a proud alumnus of the University of Westminster where I did my MA in International Journalism. I love parrots, singing, drawing, sharing stories, fantasy movies, games and books, and people who like fantasy movies, games and books.

I live with a number of chronic health conditions including fibromyalgia, clinical depression, anxiety, & Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and for much of my life have suffered from debilitating symptoms. I want to raise awareness to help people understand but moreso to share and engage with all those whose lives are touched by fibromyalgia and mental health problems in one way or another, so they know they’re not alone.

Facing Complex-Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder
By Alisha, The Invisible F.

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I was sitting in a small room at hospital when the psychiatrist’s voice called me away from the brilliant white walls that were pulling me in.

“You’ve had a very difficult life Alisha” she said, looking at my notes. After asking me to recount some of my ordeals, she said “From your symptoms, I would say you have Complex-Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (C-PTSD).”

I had to ask her how C-PTSD differed from PTSD, which many of us associate with soldiers who have served in warzones or conflicts. She explained that C-PTSD tends to occur in people who have suffered repeated traumas for a prolonged period, with no chance of recovering from each incidence.

The more she told me about it, the more I felt like she was telling me about myself.

I had a long history of abuse starting in childhood, when I honestly believed I wouldn’t live to see the age of 18. I survived, thankfully, but I continued to endure traumas past my teenage years and into my twenties. I can’t say which incident was worse, because I felt the enormity of each one added to the already heavy weights that I carried. At 16 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, suffering terribly painful anxiety attacks that made my chest hurt so much I thought I would die.

I tried to ignore the feelings my past stirred up, because I lived in a society that stigmatises mental health conditions. I thought I was fine. It was only years after my stepfather and friend were brutally murdered, that I started getting glimpses of the brokenness I had masterfully hidden from the world and myself. I packed my bags and left everything and everyone I loved behind, moving to the other side of the world. Surely pain wouldn’t follow me there. But we can’t unknow things, and there was a lot of pain etched on my heart and mind. These parts of me would not let me forget.

C-PTSD manifesting

The C-PTSD diagnosis made sense but I was still surprised. Mostly because I wasn’t expecting another label. I already lived with fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety and several months before had been slapped with borderline personality disorder, which I was still struggling to come to terms with. I could say very clearly what some of my symptoms were, but I couldn’t always say which diagnosis was responsible for what I suffered on any given day.

As time passed and I connected the dots, I understood more about how deeply C-PTSD had been affecting my everyday life, unknown to me.

Days before I met the psychiatrist at hospital, I was sitting in Accident & Emergency having a meltdown, unable to cope with the avalanche of emotions tumbling through me. I wanted to give up again and almost did. I didn’t understand why the smallest upsets felt like utter catastrophes, or why I seemed to attract bullies or why getting close to people terrified me so. The doctor was most empathetic about it.

“Well you’ve had a lot of bad experiences with people so that is going to shape your outlook. It doesn’t mean your outlook is wrong. It only means your experiences have shaped your perspective” she said.

If only other people were that understanding. Not too long before I had encountered very unsympathetic people in a shared flat where I resided. Just when I thought I was recovering from the dark feelings that led to two close calls on my life, I discovered that approaching the close of my twenties, I was having night terrors. I had never even known there was such a thing until it was googled by a flatmate who constantly complained about my screaming at night. I couldn’t believe that I was screaming while asleep with no recollection of it the next morning. I didn’t believe it until my own screams woke me in the dead of the night. Frightened and panicked, I searched around my room until reason returned, and I questioned what it was that I was looking for, and so terrified of.

Nightmares

I have a long history of nightmares, which started in childhood. The kind that leave you so terrified you’d do anything to keep yourself from drifting off, anxious of what’s waiting for you in the realm of dreams. Consequently, I developed insomnia from a young age. Generally, my anxiety tends to get worse at night. It’s not uncommon to find me wide awake in the wee hours of the morning when most people are getting their best sleep. I’ve always slept better in the day, when the sun is out and it somehow feels safer. When I (reluctantly) have to go to sleep at night, I clear my room to make sure there’s no clutter that might form awkward shadows, that may frighten me when I wake in between my cat naps.

My flatmates couldn’t understand the nature of night terrors, and I was accused in person, by email and text like a perpetrator. I felt bad about it, truly. The accusations though, only distressed me more, and increased the frequency and severity of the night terrors.

Recently, I started sleeping walking, and I often wake up running towards my bedroom door terrified, with no recollection of my dreams.

Living with C-PTSD has been like sitting in a prison inert, long after the doors have been opened. I have wanted so badly to walk through, tending to avoid things and places that remind me of past traumas. I think of all the positive things I’ve managed to achieve through my beleaguered time here. I spend my waking hours keeping extremely busy so I rarely have time for stray thoughts, and it works; but everytime I go to rest, my subconscience reminds me of the many demons I’ve buried and hidden away.

In my dreams I am always running, looking for an ally, and an escape that is rarely found. I often run in different directions, only to end up right back in the place where my captors are waiting by the prison doors. When I am not shut away, I am violently murdered, again and again, like a broken cassette sticking in the same sickening place.

The things I said I’d never do

I suppose I never realised how my past traumas were affecting me until my late twenties. People would say, ‘it’s the past, just leave it behind and move on.’ Or worse ‘everyone has problems.’ If only it were that simple. I’d give these people a chance to walk in my shoes if I could, and silence any doubts. I want to forget, and I do everything possible to move forward, but the mind is such a powerful thing. All my efforts have been no match for my mind which digs up torments when I am asleep.

Owing to C-PTSD, I’ve done a lot of those things I said I would never do. You know when we watch others suffer and silently judge, telling ourselves, ‘that will never be me’? At 17 I remember watching my 30-something year old friend elaborately explain how she avoided the doctor’s questions when he asked how she accidentally cut her arm again, needing stitches. When I asked her directly, she brushed it off, and I sat there thinking I will never understand this.

I didn’t think of my friend when I first hurt myself. All I remember thinking was how good the external pain felt, taking the focus away from my internal turmoil. Months later I diverted from my healthy diet and found myself facing bulimia. The first time I felt confused, wondering why I kept eating though I was satisfied. But I craved the food badly, I ate and I ate, until I felt so physically upset I had to empty my stomach. I cried & cried every time because I wanted to badly to stop but I had no control, and that was the part that got me. I didn’t even have control over me.

It’s sad that after everything I’ve suffered I’ve also had to deal with bullies who have targeted me because they know they could. I try to build myself up, to be stronger and braver in the face of this. I do psychotherapy and I’m not sure it helps. Maybe? Doctors say I will likely need therapy for the rest of my life. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Every day is a challenge. But I wake up and set out to do my very best. I try to practise mindfulness and celebrate my successes. Whether they are publishing a new book, managing to stay out of hospital or simply getting out of bed when I feel like shit, I celebrate them all equally, because I know what it is like to be crippled by depression and C-PTSD. I know very well what it’s like to lie in bed unable to will myself up; to want to shower or make a cup of tea and not be able to do so. I know what it’s like to feel that it’s safer to stay alone than get close to people…to stay indoors for days, unable to set a foot outside the front door. So every day I achieve something, no matter how small, I pat myself and say ‘well done, you’ve done it today so when you think you can’t do it tomorrow, just remember you did it today.’

The one dream

I’ve told you what many of my nightmares consist of. But it would be remiss of me not to mention the one dream that overshadows every nightmare that comes.

In this dream, I carry a heavy babe in my arms as I climb a tall, rickety winding staircase leading to a wall. With every step I take, the child becomes heavier. When I’m almost to the top, the staircase crumbles like dust in the wind. This part of the dream ends abruptly, like a director’s cut in a poorly edited movie, and when I open my eyes I am on the sea front, surrounded by people who cannot see me. The rippling turquoise waters beckon me and I do not resist. I walk into them and as I float farther in, the waters envelope me, washing away every heavy burden my soul bears. I embrace the waters filling me up as I begin knowing a kind of peace. It almost feels…like home, where my soul will find rest, so I let it consume me. But as my consciousness ebbs, a hand reaches through the veil of the waters, and pulls me out. And again, the scene ends abruptly. I awake as a child, amongst the laughter and play of my fair cousins.

My aunt, an interpreter of dreams says the heavy child I carry represents the burdens I bear; the seaside scene is the deception of suicide and my subconscience believing that it is there I will find rest from the pain that plagues me. She says the hand pulling me out of the waters, is the truth that I am not lost, that redemption can, and will be found…that even when I am drowning, no matter how close I come to death’s doors a power higher than any torment and death will lift me up.

I press on, finding strength in my faith and true friends who embrace me, imperfections and all. I am encouraged by sharing with others in the same boat, by bringing a good word to those who need it. Maybe doctors are right…maybe I will need therapy for the rest of my life. Maybe. All I know is I’ve managed to make it this far, when I didn’t think I could. You could have told me a thousand times that I’d make it, but I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t walk this road myself.

A million hugs & prayers for your courage & peace of mind.

Love Alisha

Guest Post #1: When My World Shattered

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Credit: Unknown artist, Favim.com

I’m thrilled to introduce my first guest blogger, Tessa from Advocate for Mental Illness.   Her blog is about her daily struggles with Bipolar disorder, told from a Christian perspective.  She has recently given her life to Jesus Christ.  Here is her bio from her About page:

ABOUT TESSA

Teresa (Tessa) Smeigh is over 55 and still going strong despite her disabilities affecting both physical and mental abilities. She has bipolar disorder (mental), Fibromyalgia (nerves), degenerative disc disease (spine), and arthritis (joints). Despite that she is active in Mental Health Advocating, writing for http://www.IBPF.org (volunteer for non-profit) and has 5 blog posts already published by them. She is also working on 2 fiction books (mysteries). She keeps her blog filled with useful content, daily devotionals (She is a Christian), stories and poems. Plenty to keep you busy. She has also been interviewed by blogs and had other posts published on many different blogs. She has 2 blogs so far http://www.tessacandoit.com and http://www.finallyawriter.com She is from Deptford, NJ. Her family and blogs keep her busy.
Although she doesn’t focus on it in her blog, Tessa also has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and complex PTSD.  I have asked her to write a guest post about having BPD, because none of my other guest bloggers are writing about BPD but I already have several who will be writing about Bipolar and complex PTSD.
Here is her guest post.
When My World Shattered!
I am a 59 year old female who has suffered mental health conditions since birth. Since I was born in the 50’s people didn’t talk about mental health. Even with a suicide in the family it was not talked about.
As an infant I took anxiety medication in order to keep food in my stomach. I was considered to have a “nervous stomach.” My mother kept a supply of anxiety medicine at hand all through my childhood because anything could set me off into an “anxiety episode” and hysteria. This was common throughout my childhood. My self-soothing unfortunately was considered self-harm by today’s standards.
At a very young age I developed signs of bipolar disorder which at the time we did not know. I got an official diagnosis in my early 30’s after a breakdown. Also by the same procedure, a hospital stay almost 4 years ago picked up on the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and I followed the symptoms back to when I was a child as well, but a little bit later than the bipolar.
Bipolar disorder and BPD are similar in symptoms and are often misdiagnosed. I have officially now been diagnosed with both. The biggest difference between the two is the length between the mood swings. Since my mood swings as a very young child were months apart it is most likely the bipolar disorder started first. Then later when the BPD developed they became rapid even changing during a single day or even hour.
It is difficult to break the symptoms down and say this belongs to bipolar disorder and this belongs to BPD. I will just go into the symptoms I suffer as one. Which is the direct cause, is not really necessary to know at this point.
How about a little history on BPD?
Symptoms usually manifest in childhood, but don’t become serious until a person becomes a young adult. This fits close to my time-line. Only I figure mine started in my teens after a traumatic experience of having been almost raped twice by the time I was 15 years old. I was then emotionally raped at 17 years old where I was told by the young man that either we had sex at that point or he was leaving me (abandonment considered to play a role in BPD) and we had just gotten back together. I couldn’t let him go. I gave in and that was also traumatic. I wasn’t ready. During that time I also suffered a miscarriage although I really didn’t know it at the time. I was totally naive even though my low self-esteem led me to wear sexy clothing and flaunt my body to every man. I didn’t know why I did it. I craved that attention though (promiscuity).
The exact cause of BPD is not know though they suspect brain chemistry plays a role, also genetics and environmental factors, along with the possibility of childhood trauma.
To add to the trauma, the 17 year old played the “I am going to kill myself if you don’t marry me” game when I tried to break up our relationship. I felt stuck, my emotions caused me to give in and marry him. I didn’t love him, but I was married at 19 years old. At 21 I had my first child, 22 I had my second and by 30 I had three children.  By then my weight was out of control due to binge eating.
My self-harm became more severe although I did resist cutting after I tried it and felt it didn’t give me the feelings I needed to soothe myself.
My anger intensified, but I kept it inside. I did not explode into rages unless you really pushed me but those rages were severe. People didn’t listen to my warnings and I flew into rages, shocking people with their intensity.
Paranoia became a constant state of my life. I am always sure people are talking about me. Even today.
Dissociation has been a constant since childhood. I always daydreamed and put myself into my books. I loved to read and my parents would force me outside. That triggered my anxiety and panic.
Severe depression for months on end would cause suicidal thoughts and several attempts and the last one landed me in the hospital for treatment and intense therapy. Luckily I didn’t succeed. The last one was the most serious.
I am currently in severe financial poverty due to low disability payments and reckless spending while I was manic.  Manic episodes are currently considered a symptom of both bipolar disorder and BPD.
I also have had a lot of unsafe sex due to my promiscuity, which is another shared trait.
BPD is difficult to treat. Usually a therapist, especially one trained in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) or CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), combined with medications such as anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and mood stabilizers will help tone down the symptoms.
***
Please visit Tessa’s blog here. 
My apologies about the wonky spacing.  WP isn’t letting me change the coding and I don’t know CSS.  I hope that doesn’t affect anyone’s reading experience!

My head is a car wreck.

car_wreck_head

My head is a car wreck

all sharp edges painful brightness

razor blades screeching wheels

rusted edges steel on steel

chaos blood pain terror

thought-snippets nattering and chattering

scraping and scratching

trying to get out

tight jaw gray pallor heart in throat

out of body floating am I dead will I die?

was I ever alive?

brain flashing danger signs

knotted intestines

startle tremble shake and quake

suspicious paranoid hypervigilant

Take me to the junkyard I can’t be fixed

Go away go away go away go away no wait don’t go hold my hand

help me help me

help me God help me someone anyone

Save me wake me up get me outta here

wrap me up in peaceful dreams

when I finish out this nightmare

 

My dark thoughts.

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When I feel like this, the only way I can cope is to write.
I had one of my “black mornings.” I don’t get them every day, but when I do get them, they are overwhelming.
I’m getting less of them than I used to, but even one is too much.

I wake up into whiteness. My white blinds reflect the blue white snow that fell three days ago but the shadowless brightness hurts my eyes and mocks the darkness that rises like a miasma and permeates every cell in my body. I lie on my bed and pull the covers up over my head to keep out the daylight. I close my eyes tight. I will myself to fall back to sleep.

I can’t sleep. Thoughts that are blacker than black filter through my consciousness. They seem to arise from a bottomless pit located somewhere in my upper abdomen. They swirl like a cesspool or a black hole or a slow-moving tornado in my soul: thoughts of death, sickness, poverty, loss, and emptiness suck any lesser, lighter thoughts in with them and consume them like food.

Two words reverberate in my atrophied soul: No Future.

I try to will tears to empty myself of this horrible dread and hopelessness, but the backs of my retinas only burn and my eyes remain dry as tinder. I move my consciousness on the pit at the center of my stomach but all I can feel is my heart slamming into my throat. I swallow hard and kick the covers angrily away.

I need to get up. Even if I could sleep I would only wake feeling worse later. Like I wasted a day, and the guilt would consume me.

I look in the mirror on my door. I look like hell. My skin looks grainy. My hair hangs in oily strings. I really need to do something with it. But I know I won’t.

I turn away and go to the kitchen and make some coffee. Strong coffee, milk, no sugar please.
I take it back to my room, drink it. I know I shouldn’t drink coffee given my mental state, but it always calms me for the short term.

The pain is always worse in the morning. Most of the time I can pretend it isn’t there, but it’s always there, waiting in the shadows, ready to sink its tentacles into any mask of sanity I can muster like the flimsy paper covering it really is.

As I write, the darkness retreats. I find some temporary relief. For now, I can fill the void with frivolity and fake cheer.
But the darkness will be back. It always comes back.