After six nights and seven days, I was discharged from the psychiatric ward at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. It was Friday, February seventeenth. My birthday.
Happy Birthday – we don’t think you’re crazy enough to harm yourself anymore, so you can leave.
In truth, I don’t want to harm myself anymore. My week on the ward, while difficult and emotional, was also eye-opening and therapeutic. I met many wonderful people during the week, and I promise I will tell you all about them, and my time there, but today is not about that.
Today is about my diagnosis.
In addition to a Major Depressive Disorder and a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. On the bright side, it seems as though depression and anxiety can be a symptom of BPD, and once I get help for the BPD, the depression and anxiety will become less paralyzing.
The definition of BPD (according to the Mayo Clinic) is, “Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes a pattern of unstable intense relationships, distorted self-image, extreme emotions and impulsiveness.
With borderline personality disorder, you have an intense fear of abandonment or instability, and you may have difficulty tolerating being alone. Yet inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though you want to have loving and lasting relationships.
Borderline personality disorder usually begins by early adulthood. The condition seems to be worse in young adulthood and may gradually get better with age.”
During some of the research I have been doing, there were times when I actually felt like the articles were written about me precisely. It explains so much that has happened in my life, and finally gives me a tiny little dot of hope. Now that I know what it is, I can start to heal.
Borderline Personality Disorder is not treated with medication (besides the meds I take daily for depression)- because it is not technically a chemical issue with the brain, the way for example, some depression is treated with an SSRI because of a serotonin deficiency.
This fact I am actually happy about – I don’t want to keep putting more and more pills into my body until I am a sleepy zombie stumbling around the world, popping Ativan every time I feel anxious.
So how is BPD treated? Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – “Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) treatment is a cognitive-behavioral approach that emphasizes the psycho-social aspects of treatment. The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. DBT theory suggests that some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels.
People who are sometimes diagnosed with borderline personality disorder experience extreme swings in their emotions, see the world in black-and-white shades, and seem to always be jumping from one crisis to another. Because few people understand such reactions — most of all their own family and a childhood that emphasized invalidation — they don’t have any methods for coping with these sudden, intense surges of emotion. DBT is a method for teaching skills that will help in this task.”
Coping skills. Therapy. Basically, delving into my mess of a life, and accepting what made me this way, and learning how to cope with triggers, and future stressful situations. Easy peasy, right? No. But I have a wonderful tool at my disposal: A twelve week program designed to help folks like me who struggle with mental health, to learn these coping mechanisms, as well as other skills such as mindfulness, goal planning, wellness communication, and much more.
So, for the next three months, five days a week, I head to the hospital and work on me. But I get to come home every day, and sleep in my own bed (with my pup), and that is definitely the cherry on top.
I can’t wait to tell you more about my experience in this program, which is referred to as “Day Hospital”, and show you how I grow and heal. I will leave you with a painting from one of the hospital classrooms, because just as I do, you too have the power.