BPD, Mental Health

Fear of Abandonment: “You’re Going to Leave – Aren’t You?”

For sometime, or else for as long as I can remember, I have experienced an intense fear of abandonment. A few years back whilst working with a therapist I was told that this, alongside other symptoms I was experiencing, could be classed under “borderline tendencies.” 

Now, without having had an official diagnosis of BPD or for having BPD tendencies I was unable to fully comprehend the symptoms I was experiencing and therefore was unable to seek appropriate help. The possibility of either diagnoses being true was, and still is, truly terrifying with such a vast stigma bolted onto the disorder with “borderlines” being classed as manipulative and attention-seeking (and difficult to treat). That image was definitely not aligned with who I try to be: someone that people trust; a loyal, supportive and kind sister, daughter and friend. If I truly was “a borderline” then the image painted of BPD by the internet and health websites would greatly conflict with the core of who I was.

Between bouts of fear and anxiety about this I tried to do my research around what BPD actually was and I found that, amongst multiple symptoms, an intense fear of abandonment was something I could really relate to. However this symptom isn’t one that is unique to BPD and so will be something that a lot of people, with different diagnoses, will experience. Therefore, I felt it would be worth writing about my own experience in an attempt to make my fellow abandonment-phobes feel less alone.

If I am to reflect on my life thus far, I realise that my fear of abandonment has greatly impacted my ability to maintain and commit to interpersonal relationships. Most relationships I’ve had with others have terminated abruptly and any relationships that are currently normal and quite happy are also very new. Any long term relationships that I’ve somehow managed to sustain have definitely had extremely frictitious moments and have remained intact only with extreme patience and forgiveness on their part. 

The reason behind all of this seems to be the “hurt them before they hurt you” approach my brain has adopted. The bold assumption that, at some point, all the people I have connections with in my life will end up leaving me  sets the foundation for actions I might take following these suffocating feelings. It will usually go one of two ways.  I will sit with these made up but intense feelings of rejection for a long period of time only to redirect that as strong feelings of anger towards this person. Usually, this will result in an explosive episode where I say to the person things that I know will hurt them and hopefully have them hate me, forever. (Mind you, I never really have a full recollection of these episodes.) Or when the realisation that everyone will leave hits me in the moment, but I have no idea what I must have done to upset them to make them leave, I will intentionally do something that I know will make them angry as if attempting to provide a reason for them to hate me.

Honestly, this all seems quite contradictory- if you don’t want them to leave you, why do you keep hurting them? I promise you, if I knew why I would tell you. Unfortunately, I don’t. I would assume it’s the result of some form of previously unprocessed trauma that has led you to have difficulties in certain cognitive processing. However, though this is all still a big mystery to me, I do plan on doing my research and contacting people that can help me understand and start healing thereafter.

One big self-care tip I would advise, however, is to be kind and forgiving with yourself (something I could also do more of, let’s be honest). Fuck-ups happen, everybody makes them. It’s definitely not an excuse to repeatedly hurt people who love you and we must take responsibility for our healing so as to prevent similar events from occurring. However, in the words of Black Widow “don’t judge people on their worst mistakes.” You’re more than what you do at your worst. What actually defines you is what you do to be the best version of yourself. So do me a favour and don’t give up on yourself. Be kind and be forgiving. 

A little self-love won’t hurt anyone 🙂

Stay safe and well and I’ll keep you updated!

With love,

Arya x

Anxiety, Mental Health, Reality, Stigma, Stress

“Are you ok?”

Often we can become so caught up in our own lives that we forget to pay attention to the people around us. Moreover, we have transitioned into a society where awkwardness predominates most situations and prevents us from connecting to those around us. It even hinders us from doing nice things for people, because we are unsure whether we would be acting within social norms. But maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about fitting into social norms especially when it comes to doing good for others.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was making my daily commute to university on the tube, I noticed that a woman sitting opposite me was crying silently, wiping her tears on the end of her sleeve. She was trying so hard to make it look inconspicuous that I genuinely wondered whether she was crying or if she was suffering from some sort of allergy causing increased tear secretion. Once I had mentally confirmed that she was crying, I started becoming concerned and was tempted to ask her if she was ok. On the one hand, it is highly unusual for two strangers to start talking in London and striking up a conversation may make the situation uncomfortable, but on the other hand, I really wanted to make sure she was ok and let her know that she is not alone in the problems she is dealing with. I took the next few minutes deliberating over what would be the most appropriate thing to do. I tried catching her eye contact but she started to close her eyes in an attempt to have a quick nap.

A few stops passed and she opened her eyes, so I took the opportunity to say, “Excuse me, are you ok?” She seemed startled by my question, and gave a flustered response – “Yes, sorry, yes, I’m fine, I’ve just had a bad day.” I continued to ask her whether she wanted some water or a tissue to which she said “no, thank you” as she already had some. I thought I’d give her some passing advice and said, with regards to her crying, “It’s better to let it all out than keep it bottled up.” She smiled at me in gratitude and for the remaining stops of her journey on the tube that morning, she kept on smiling to herself and had stopped crying. She thanked me shyly before she left the train.

What this situation made me realise was that sometimes, it’s enough to just let people know you care by asking them if they are ok. It’s a simple and very overlooked question because it’s become so integrated in our casual greeting, “Hey, morning, you ok?” to which the automatic response is “yeah I’m good thanks”. But asked in the right way, it can show the other person how much you really care. In this case, I feel that me asking the woman about how she is when I was nothing but a stranger to her, made a difference. I know that, were it reversed, I would have appreciated somebody else’s concern incredibly. It just gives you the hope that you are not alone and there is help to be offered. It also helps us humanise the busy commuters around us, who we subconsciously ignore in our morning hustle, and if everyone did the same, we would all be more connected as a population.

There have been a few times when I have ended up breaking down on the tube and on the bus, crying uncontrollably. Despite the people around me noticing, nobody asked me if I was ok. I don’t blame them because we often fear the shame of being awkward so much that we forget to do what is more important. When I was having a breakdown, a simple “are you ok?” may have made a lot of difference. Sometimes I forget that I am not alone, sometimes I feel as though there is no one to help me. But a simple reassurance from a fellow human being is enough to make a difference.

So let’s make that change. Overcome the awkwardness, and ask that question.

Anxiety, Medicine, Mental Health, Stigma

Am I Insane?

I ask myself over and over again, “Am I insane? Am I crazy? Am I unstable?” As strange as it sounds, I am haunted by myself. The thoughts that run like obsessions through my mind and my gradual estrangement from ‘normality’ make me question my sanity. I often scare myself so much so that I cower away in the corner of my room and keep repeating to myself prescriptively “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m normal, I’m ok,” rocking back and forth as comfort, in my attempt to convince myself that I am not insane. Counterproductive? Maybe.

There are a few reasons why I often feel as if I’m going insane. The first has to be my constant struggles with suicidal thoughts. Every day, they creep up on me insidiously, especially when I am alone, and they keep getting stronger and stronger, until they develop into well-thought out plans. The temptation to implement the plans becomes unavoidable, and just as I am about to do it, I stop. I re-think and play devil’s advocate. I think about my family and friends. I think about the knock-on effects. I step back. Then it happens all over again, like a video on repeat.

The thoughts and planning tire me out so much, that I feel completely exhausted. It’s as if I am constantly fighting myself, and it takes its toll. It disrupts my normal concentration, I always feel drowsy and weak, and my motivation drops even more than it’s normally low level. Often after these episodes, when I just about avert the implementation of my suicidal ideation, I break down completely.

With severe depression and anxiety also comes increased irritability and mood swings. I often lash out at the people closest to me, for the smallest reasons. I may say some hurtful things without thinking, and I immediately regret doing so. I apologise, but we can never take our words back, and I feel even more angry at myself for being so incompetent. I just feel as if I am no longer in control of myself. I don’t know how I will react, I don’t know where my thoughts will take me, I can’t do anything that anyone expects of me, I can’t even predict if I’ll still be around a few hours later, or if I’ll end up taking my life before then.

Although not as bad as some sufferers, I have had brief episodes of auditory and visual psychosis in the past which terrified me and made me more convinced that I had essentially ‘gone mad’. It’s scary because sometimes I no longer know if something is real or if I’m just imagining it. This haunts me for sure.

What doesn’t help is also being made to feel alienated because of my mental health. I don’t like being branded or being treated differently, because it makes me feel abnormal. The stigma in society relating to mental health problems is what fuels this alienation. I am lucky to have friends who do their best to treat me like myself whilst being sensitive at the same time. It makes a massive difference to not be shunned but understood. But of course, not everyone is like that. My friends are all medical students which make them naturally compassionate and understanding compared to the rest of the population.

Today, I was at my Medical Ethics and Law lecture on the Mental Health Act 1983, and we were taught that patients with ‘mental disorders’, such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc, are not to be considered competent of making their own medical decisions, and may need to be ‘sectioned’ if they are deemed to be inappropriately refusing treatment. Reading this made me feel as if I was an incapable outcast. Although I am depressed and anxious, I would always want to have the right to decide what happens to me, even if it doesn’t quite synchronise with the widely accepted definition of ‘my best interests’. I strongly feel that should I be in the position where I need to make a medical decision for myself, I am able to understand both sides, know the consequences of my actions and am prepared to take any risks with either opting or refusing certain treatment. Basically, I still have competence. To be stripped of that right simply because of my mental health state seems wrong to me.

Maybe I am insane. Or maybe we should re-define insanity.

 

Please note: If you are feeling low or thinking about suicide, please contact the Samaritans helpline on 116 123. They are open at all times and are there to listen.