There is always hope

Author’s note: This blog was meant to be about hope; about recognising the progress of your self or loved one. I wanted to acknowledge the help I have received and how important & invaluable that help is. It was never meant to end up quite as gushy and mushy as it has! However: credit where it’s due and all that… 

Survival of the Weak

I survive

but I do not overcome.

I go on living

but I die.

I manage

but I really do not cope.

I go on smiling

while I cry.

 

I survive,

but it isn’t quite enough.

I fight the fight

to no avail.

I endure

but I do not persevere.

I try my best,

but I fail.

Taken from Chapter 7: A Sad and Sorry State of Disorder

Now available for pre-order

 

This is a poem I wrote many years ago, back in the days when I agreed with many professionals that there was no hope for someone ‘like me’. Back in the days where one day blurred into another with a sluggish trail of failure and misery in their wake. Back in the days when I gave up even trying not to fail because I couldn’t stand to be the bearer of anymore disappointment, either for myself or those who loved me. 

Sometimes, when I read my poems now, there is a response in my gut that recalls, exactly, the feelings that prompted the poem to be written. Like the faint voice of an old, familiar companion it stirs up emotions and sensations that have brought me to the brink of death.

Needless to say; it is a most uncomfortable feeling, and yet I am grateful for my unconscious determination to remember on my behalf. In a split second my heart plummets, to those terrifying depths, drawn by the familiar song – almost like a war-cry. But when my heart surfaces from this involuntary plunge – when it returns to the relative safety of ‘now’ – it heaves the biggest sigh of relief, and of gratitude. 

When I read poems like this I hurt but I also rejoice, because the devastatingly and painful days that inspire this kind of poetry are no longer a regular feature of my life.

My book, A Sad and Sorry State of Disorder – A Journey into Personality Disorder (and out the other side) talks specifically about management and not recovery. I don’t consider myself cured, or better. I am, without a doubt, better than I was and as long as I can keep saying that, I am happy with my progress. There may come a day when making sense of the world around me becomes natural and effortless; where I don’t have to second guess every feeling or emotion (of my own, or someone else’s); and, where I don’t have to fight or struggle to contain anxiety or paranoia so as not to unleash the beast within. These days may come, but in the meantime, knowing that the darkest and most hellish days are behind me is enough to keep me fighting this worthy fight! 

Whilst I try not to dwell on how bad life once was, I do believe I’d be doing a disservice if I did not acknowledge how far I have come – and I cannot do one without the other. It would be a disservice to myself to ignore or dismiss the gut-reaction I experience when I read one of these poems; the person who wrote the poems is the same person that fought tooth-and-nail, against the odds, for a second (it was actually my last) chance at life: I cannot disregard this.

It would also be a disservice to anyone else whose life is impacted by borderline personality disorder; anyone who believes there is no hope either for their self, or for someone they love and care for. I believe that people need to know that however dark and long the tunnel may appear, there is always light at the end. You don’t need to be strong, or have all the answers (or any answers at all); you just need to be really bloody brave, and keep believing in the light you can’t yet see.

I have come an incredibly long way, from the shy and terrified person I was when I was first referred to a complex needs service. For years I could barely speak in therapy, and it was several weeks before I began to speak freely in the Therapeutic Community. I have changed, almost beyond recognition, as has my life.

It is a long journey, and I would not have made it this far without the tremendous help I have received along the way. There are too many people to name individually in this particular blog; friends, family, peers and professionals have all helped me to get where I have managed to get to date. But today, in the spirit of Mother’s Day (which was actually yesterday!)  I will name one: Lizzie.  Dear Lizzie! 

Lizzie has been an amazing friend, supporter, believer, carer, and mother to me. She has walked beside me every single, painful step of the way. She has gone far above and beyond the call of duty . She took up the mantle of ‘mother’ and carried me, although I was not hers to carry. She has loved me unconditionally and embarked on the darkest of journeys with me. Neither of us knew a single thing about borderline when we began our journey together; we learned as we went along and Lizzie has remained stalwart throughout. She is my biggest fan (along with my wife Dawn), and although she cannot remember what my book is about, she promotes it tirelessly to friends and family. 

I have a feeling that when Lizzie reads some of my poems, she too will have a gut-response that throws her back, momentarily, to the dark days. And I am sure that she, just like me, will acknowledge these poems as part of who I am, and be grateful that I no longer write poetry quite like I used to. I know that when it is published, she will read my book as though for the first time, and feel pride at the journey I have been on. I know this because she is always proud of me, but nowhere near as proud as I am of her.

It takes a lot of guts to embark on a dark and terrifying journey for oneself, but it takes a damn sight more to hold someone else’s hand and travel with them, for them. I hope all the ‘mothers’ and all the carer’s who may read this feel encouraged and validated – whatever stage in your loved one’s journey you may be at, I hope you can believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I will never take for granted the help and support I have received in order for me to get to this place of self-awareness and self-management. I am also well aware that any significant unwelcome change to my life as it is now could be catastrophic for my current equilibrium. It is hard to be smug when life is so finely balanced, but that doesn’t stop me from being proud of the changes I have managed to make, with the  unwavering support and care of many along the way. 

 And thank you Lizzie, from the bottom of my heart.

Can I trust my feelings?

When I wrote last week’s blog I was feeling weary. I was tired and frustrated with what can often seem like an uphill battle and a never ending one at that. It is exhausting to constantly be battling with one’s own feelings.

But how do I know which feelings I can trust? Can I trust any of them? As is the way with borderline personality disorder, feelings come and go in an alarmingly rapid succession; they are fierce in their intensity; they are often irrational and based on a colossal misconception, and yet they all seem so incredibly real.

I have talked before about my euphoria regarding the publication of my  book – intense highs and excitement followed by equally intense self-doubt and fear, with a generous helping of suspicion!

So often this is the case for me: any positive emotions are swiftly followed by vengeful negative ones, usually accompanied by suspicion or paranoia. And with all these feelings being at the most extreme end of their spectrum, the pendulum really does swing very high and very low.

When I was in TC (Therapeutic Community), there was a lot of talk about ‘being in the moment’ – talk which, at the time, drove me mad. I suspect it drove me mad because I didn’t fully understand it, and was much less able to do it; rather than admit this I scoffed at the phrase and ridiculed the notion. I now eat those words of ridicule and scoffery, as I am beginning to understand and am learning to be in the moment, if only for a second.

It is hard, when you know your emotions to be volatile and erratic, to allow to yourself to bask anywhere. You get so used to being on the run, on the defensive, waiting for the next blow in life, that you cannot dream of stopping for even a moment and soaking in the scenery. And yet I am discovering that this is exactly what I need to be doing.

There was also talk of ‘grounding’ oneself at TC, and this talk also irritated me – again (I suspect) because I was afraid of failing to master the art. But I am starting to see that ‘being in the moment’ and ‘being grounded’ are not just therapeutic platitudes; they are ways of ‘being’ who and where we are.

Rather than feeling utterly mortified about my most recent cock-up, panicking about what might happen if I cock up again, or feeling suspicious when I am not feeling mortified or terrified, I can just stop and appreciate where I am.

Recently I had an encounter which left me feeling confident about who I am. I didn’t feel inferior or ‘wrong’ as I so often do. Instead, I felt like an equal. I felt respected and respectable. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I knew this feeling wouldn’t last too long (and it didn’t!), but I almost didn’t care: I allowed myself to experience the feeling rather than dismissing it as a fake feeling and worrying instead about something that didn’t matter anymore, or that didn’t matter yet.

I’m not sure that I trusted my feelings in this instance or whether, because I stayed with what I was feeling, I enabled it to prove itself. Either way, I stayed in that moment and I examined it and enjoyed it for what is was for as long as I could.

It is not uncommon for me to allow myself to be defined by my feelings, but it is uncommon for me to take stock of what the feelings are and who, in that moment, I believe myself to be. For the few minutes that the feeling of confidence did last I walked with my head held high; I felt dignified and empowered. This brief interlude, and my acknowledgement of it, was a soothing balm to my all too often battered ego. I enjoyed feeling confident, and I felt entitled to it.

I wonder, as I write this, if I might be giving the impression that I am, in general, not happy, and I want to assure my readers that this is not the case at all! I am very happy, on the whole.

I have good days and I enjoy them while they last. I have days that are a mixture of good, fun, happy, anxious, sad and fearful, with varying measures of each and I have almost got used to it – and it’s no big deal (almost).  Yes, sometimes it’s really shit and harder to manage than other days, but I have learned to pick myself up, dust myself down and get on with life. I am increasingly able to hold on to what I know to be true, rather than what feels real and true.

Borderline is what it is – feelings come and go, some are much stronger than others, they can’t always be trusted and they sometimes get me into a lot of trouble. It can be exhausting, living with borderline but, by and large, I have learned to shut out the worst of the noise and disruption it generates in my mind.

I have learned to manage, and I am happy. I am learning that whilst I cannot always trust my feelings, I am more and more able to trust myself: right at the very core of me is a small, shy voice of reason that is getting gradually stronger, and if that fails I have a very reasonable wife and some good friends who are always happy to put me straight!

My feelings might be at the mercy of whichever wind may blow them and where, but that doesn’t mean I have to go with them: I don’t have to be at the mercy of my feelings. I am learning this, as I continue my journey of self-discovery and self-management. And I am happy to say that I am happy.