Don’t give up

I recently gave a talk about my experience of  Borderline Personality Disorder and how I am learning to live with, and manage it. At the end of the talk there was time for questions, one of which I didn’t know how to answer.

I was asked ‘How do I help my daughter. I can’t get through to her, I don’t understand her. How can I help her?’ All I could say was ‘don’t give up’. It felt such an inadequate answer that I feebly repeated it two or three times, hoping that it might gather more gravitas with each repetition – it didn’t.

I have since thought a lot about this question and how I would have answered it, had I not frozen like a rabbit in headlights. I’m not an expert on borderline  – but I do know what has or hasn’t helped me. I speak on behalf of BPD sufferers, and these suggestions are by no means exhaustive, so feel free to add comments if there is anything missing.

  • Don’t try and be our therapist – be yourself!
  • Don’t try and fix us.
  • Don’t keep asking what we’re feeling in the moment of crisis – we rarely know ourselves, and we feel inadequate and hopeless when we can’t give you the answers you want.
  • When we are calm talk to us about our triggers, and
  • Don’t try and get inside our head. It’s a dark and scary place and we need you by our side.
  • Don’t tell us we are overreacting. Our emotions are very real even if you don’t understand them.
  • Be consistent and be constant.
  • Learn as much as you can about Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • By all means be cross and frustrated with us, but if you can wait and tell us after the meltdown, not during, that would be helpful!*
  • Be firm and honest with us.*
  • Don’t tiptoe around us.
  • Carry on the life you need to live – don’t put it on hold waiting for us to get better.*
  • Find what help is available in your area. Don’t push us to get help, but talk to us about what you’ve found and let us know that people can lead a functional life with BPD.
  • Consider finding a support group for yourself.

* Please be patient when we ask, for the hundredth time in a day, if you still love us: we are terrified of being abandoned and rejected, and we know that BPD is not an easy illness for anyone involved. 

Having sufficiently substantiated my original answer it no longer feels quite so feeble to add to the list:

  • Don’t give up.

And always hope.

Who do I think I am?

Yours Truly

The fruit of passion or rage

I cannot tell.

Or, perhaps, indifference.

Held in the body, but not the heart,

Bound by duty:

An oddly cold embrace.

Then, the shedding of misfortune –


Tearing only at the flesh.

And scars alone bear witness

To what was born.

A life. A distant memory, if that.


I have never liked the programme Who Do You Think You Are, so last night when I was flicking through the TV guide with the remote, I was hoping my wife would not notice


that it was due to show in less than ten minutes. She did notice, however, and when I shimmied back up the list we discovered that it was Julie Walters and I agreed to give it a go.

I have watched a few minutes of the programme here and there, and the whole concept of discovering ones great-great-grandmother feels entirely pointless to me: I don’t even know who my biological father is, and given that my birth mother died a few years ago in her early-fifties I will never be able to find out who he is.

The idea of getting emotional about great-aunt Frida’s fiancé who died on a jungle expedition seems ludicrous to me. Because there is no history for me to delve into and explore, I therefore find it hard to sympathise with someone who has a long, clear lineage, much less someone who has the desire to do so. Perhaps I am bitter; I certainly have my issues when it comes to familial matters, but I simply don’t understand because I cannot relate in the slightest.

That said, it was an interesting programme from a purely historical point of view (and it was great to see a bit more of Julie Watlers, aka Mrs. Weasley) and perhaps that is the point of the show, who knows. However, the plot thickens…

During one of the advert breaks, I thought about a letter I had sent, earlier in the day, to someone I haven’t seen for about 4 years. I sent a letter with a copy of my my book, and it suddenly occurred to me that she won’t recognise my name on the book. I am now Barker, and that is not who I was. For the split second that this thought crossed my mind and for the first time ever the name ‘Barker’ felt vaguely foreign to me. I had the most fleeting image of being stripped of who I used to be and replaced with who I am now – as I said, I have issues!

I am the same me I have always been. Hopefully a little wiser, a little more stable and aware than I used to be, but the essence of who I am has not changed. I chose the surname of my wife as a name I could belong to; a name I was welcome to share and be a part of. My identity is, I believe, intact – I just struggle sometimes to feel rooted in who I really am.

In an attempt to nip in the bud the world’s shortest identity crisis, I asked myself who I was. As I came up with a mental list, the temptation to disparage each of these points was hard to resist – but resist I did. I am all of these things regardless of whether I do them well or not. I don’t have to be anything special in order to be special to those who love me.

I have worked hard to put down my own roots, and finding ones place in the world is, for all I know, an ongoing quest. Who do I think I am? In the grand scheme of ancestral trees I have no idea, but in the here and now of what and who I have in my life, I am:

  • a wife
  • a dog mum
  • a sister
  • an aunt
  • a cousin
  • a friend
  • an author
  • a poet
  • a reasonably good cook

I am someone who loves and is loved. I have people in my life that have chosen to be there, and stay there. I also have two adorable dogs that have no choice who they live with, but I’m pretty certain they love me too!


Time to Talk

Whether you’re on a bus or in the car,

In the cafe or at the bar,

By the school gates,

Or chilling with your mates –

It’s a good Time to Talk.


When you’re in the office or at the gym,

Dropping the kids at their Saturday Swim,

Down the shops or at the book club,

At a football match or walking the dog –

It’s a good Time to Talk.


When you’re visiting loved ones,

Having your hair done,

Waiting for a train that may or may not come,

When you’re having a bad day, or even a good one –

It’s a good Time to Talk.



Thursday 1st February 2018 is Time to Change | Time to Talk Day.  Their website has lots of ways to get involved, and great ideas about how to start conversations about mental health.

Let’s keep working to end the stigma, shame and isolation that so many people with mental health problems feel. There is no right or wrong place to talk about mental health, so break the ice – tell someone it’s Time to Talk Day, and together we can work to end mental health discrimination.


We need to be brave and keep talking until it isn’t a matter of being brave anymore, and it is simply a matter of talking. 

(The Tracy Barker Blogs, May 8 2017)


Being enough

The Wall of Silence

No news or reviews,

Likes or retweets:

Refresh is getting weary –

It’s the only one that gets the hits.

Silence, where once I hid,

Now enslaves me;

I used to like to keep it,

Now I’m trying to break free.

Get off the phone

I tell myself,

Be in your beautiful home.

The love is real,

The likes here are the type

you can actually feel.

It’s hard to believe that little over a year ago I was worrying about reading negative reviews for my newly published book.  Would people like it? Would they think it was well written, well constructed, informative and helpful? Little did I know then about the publishing world.

The truth is, I have barely had a single review since my book was published. Apart from a few friends and family members (thanks guys!) and, I think, one ‘stranger’ who have reviewed my book on Amazon, I have heard absolutely nothing. As far as I know, all the review copies that were sent out by the publishers have borne no fruit whatsoever, and the recipients are all delivering a resounding silence that is almost harder to bear than a ‘bad’ review. I have no idea whether my book was well received or not, and that is hard.

And so as I am finally settled into our new home – with an office for writing (rather than the dining table in the lounge), I am feeling somewhat despondent and greatly lacking in confidence as I am now beginning to focus on my second book.

At my book launch my sister-in-law talked to me about writing for the sake of writing – she asked: did I write any of my poems with the intent of them being published? Absolutely not! I always hoped that one day some of them might be published, but that was not why I wrote them.  I wrote them because I love to write, to play with words, and to express my thoughts and feelings.

My poems are not polished, or perfect, but they are genuine expressions of myself and that is enough. I am trying to write in the same vein – writing for the sake of writing, but also with the hope that I can inform, encourage and inspire. But that is proving difficult.

You may well ask whether it really matters what other people think – of course it does – I have BPD! People with borderline personality disorder notoriously desire acceptance and affirmation from others, and I am no exception to this rule. Without the validation of others it is all to easy to feel worthless, unimportant and less-than. It is an easy trap to fall back into, and I have fallen hard when it comes to writing another book. Will I even find a publisher, given that my first book has hit brick walls at every turn?

A good friend of mine has a saying: the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. I don’t feel hated – there is nothing so far to suggest that my book is hated, but I feel it has met indifference and that, to me, feels worse.

I am doing my best to fight the feelings of needing to be validated by someone outside of myself. I am not worthless or less-than. I need to be kind to myself while I battle the waves of despondency and low confidence, and I need to find ways – healthy ways – to validate myself.

I am enough, and it is enough for me to be reminded of this. For now!

Un/reasonable expectations: New Year

Well, here we are; a New Year! Christmas has been and gone, along with all the good and bad of 2017.

I feel like I missed the Christmas boat, in terms of blogging – I was busy moving house. I think I’m just about in the nick of time for a New Year Blog however, so here are my thoughts about the year ahead.

For many, the New Year holds a lot of promise: it symbolizes hope; a fresh page lies before us – a blank canvas to do with what we will; all the successes and failures, the highs and lows, the sorrows and the joys of the past year are behind us; a new chapter has begun. It seems to have a lot of expectations to live up to – and from where I’m sitting these don’t seem entirely reasonable.

As someone who lives with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I don’t cope well with disappointment. The higher the expectation, the greater the sense of being let down is, and this is true also (maybe more so) when it comes to my own expectations of myself. The fear of letting myself down is at least as real as the fear of somebody – or something – else letting me down.

I don’t make New Years resolutions anymore. I used to, because it’s what people do – ‘New Year, New Me’ and all that. But no matter how realistic I felt my resolutions were, I could not stick to them, and the sense of failure I felt with each doomed resolve far outweighed any potential good had I been able to see a single goal through.

As I begin to embrace 2018, settling into a new home in an unfamiliar area, I am somewhat reluctant to draw a definitive line under 2017. I am all in favour of a new chapter but, for me, a blank canvas is not how this year starts – certainly, it is not how I want it to start. I have no qualms with focussing on the future but the tapestry of life is made up from exactly that – life.

I am bringing with me, into the new year, all I have learned from 2017. I am not lugging baggage, but I am bringing newfound knowledge and wisdom from the experiences (both positive and negative) of last year.

2017, just as every year preceding it, has shaped me. It has knocked some edges off me, taught me things about myself and others. It has tested me, strengthened me, battered me and bruised me, but it has not beaten me. It has also blessed me, healed me, and pleasantly surprised me. It has not been a perfect year, but it has been a good one – one in which good things have happened.

I find it almost impossible to have no expectations (in an attempt to eliminate potential disappointment), and I find it equally difficult to temper the expectations I cannot help but foster. What I am learning to do, and will continue to do this coming year, is to be kind to myself (when I fail, or disappoint), and to learn something from every experience.

I don’t honestly know what to expect from 2018. I have hopes – high ones naturally!, possibly unrealistic goals and far-too-great expectations, and no doubt at least fifty percent of these are doomed to disappoint. I will win some battles and lose others. I will laugh, cry, shout, despair, rejoice, fail and succeed and fail and succeed again.

I will be bruised and battered, blessed and healed, surprised and strengthened and I will probably be largely unaware of the great (and sometimes terrible) process as it is underway.

I have no resolutions, as such, other than to be the best me that I can be, and to make the most of the new year and whatever is thrown at me in 2018. And when, at some point (usually late January/early February) it becomes apparent that the whole of 2018 is too much to tackle head-on, I will revert to facing one day, one step at a time.

For now, here’s to 2018, and all that we can make of whatever it brings us!


Seeing is believing

Something that people with Borderline Personality Disorder are known for is over-thinking and worrying about something that has happened, or something that may happen. We often struggle to ‘be in the moment’ or live ‘in the now’.

I can’t begin to count the number of conversations I have replayed in my mind, or for how long: did I sound stupid? did I make sense? did I make a fool of myself? will they hate me because of what I said? did I say enough? I think I said too much…

Last week I gave a talk to a group of people, about my experience of BPD and also about my book. The talk was organised by  Viewpoint, a charity in Hertfordshire, that is involved with helping people with mental health, or drug and alcohol problems and I was refreshed to hear a trainee counsellor say that practising mindfulness does not work so well for people with trauma-based mental health problems.

BPD sufferers are very ‘good at’ overthinking, overreacting, over-worrying, so it would be a reasonable assumption that to teach us to “pay more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing”  (

However, there is a flip side to every coin, and the flip side here is that sometimes we borderlines’ are very good at living in the present moment – too good, in fact.

It is often difficult for those with BPD to hold on to the knowledge that somebody loves them unless they are physically present to ‘prove’ it. Failing that, they need to be phoning or texting us – or at the very least responding (preferably immediately) to our texts or phone calls.

If my wife is late home from work I have a hard time to convince myself it’s not personal, and that she does indeed still love me! Of course she’d rather be at home than at work (I hope!) but in that moment, more often than not, I initially feel abandoned which then turns into anger. I am getting better at challenging this automatic assumption and, as with many borderlines, the moment she arrives home I feel un-abandoned and all is well!

When I did my first ever ‘talk’ at Viewpoint I got a fantastic response – far better than I could have hoped for. I got some incredible feedback the following day too, via email, and I was buzzing – for about 19 hours. After which time, the emails ceased and the feedback (both verbal and written) was not ‘there’ anymore. It had been there, but it was no more.

I wasn’t worried about the past, or the future. I was paying absolute attention to the present moment and in that present moment it was almost impossible to keep believing that the feedback I had got was still real and applicable. What if they don’t mean it anymore – if I asked them today for feedback would they still say the same?

The same can be applied to relationships: yes, they loved me yesterday, but how can I be certain they love me still today?

Perhaps because our own emotions are volatile and transient we assume it is the same for everyone. Our black and white thinking (often referred to as ‘splitting’) means we can hate and love the same person within seconds. It is possible that we project this onto others, because we ourselves find it hard to hold onto, and believe in something, that isn’t constantly tangible.

I am getting better at talking to myself firmly when, for example, my wife is going to be late home from work; sometimes it takes longer than others to believe that I have not been abandoned by her, that she still loves me and she isn’t out to get me.

In the same way I have to argue with my default setting that discounts evidence if it is not current  (and therefore is no longer applicable).

There are times when I may well benefit from being in the present moment rather than worrying about the past or the future although mind, but there are also times where I would relish the ability to hold on to positive things from the past and carry them with me into the future and, more importantly to really believe them in the now.

My talk was awesome. It really was!


The Waiting Game

The Waiting Game


It starts off exciting,

For the first second or two –

An adventure

On the horizon

Something great,

Something new.


I don’t mind hanging on

For a minute or so –

I can plan

For the future

Until I can’t,

Until I let go.


I am patient enough

In the very beginning –

I will play

For a short while

But I’m definitely

Not winning.



That’s all for today!

Somewhere like Hogwarts

Somewhere like Hogwarts

Take me back,

Not to what I knew

Where hands hurt

And love hurt

And home hurt

And Life hurt

But back

To somewhere like Hogwarts:

A place that is safe

Full of friends

Full of love

Full of magic

Full of life

That doesn’t hurt


I’m allowed not to care

Too much, just yet,

About growing up

And growing old

And growing out of myself.

Take me back

Not to what I knew

But back

To somewhere

Exactly like Hogwarts.

This is my latest offering, unedited and unfiltered. We were supposed to be moving house on Monday 13th November. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s now off for at least another week.

Meanwhile, instead of the extra space we promised our precious dogs, we have less space as the walls are lined with boxes. We have no internet, our mail is redirected to our new property, and even our corkscrew is packed in a box somewhere.

I am down to my very last nerve. I know I am ‘blessed’, ‘lucky’, fortunate – however you look at it – things could be much, much worse I know: I have a wonderful, supportive, patient wife, fantastic friends and family, two beautiful dogs and a roof over my head. But still I am down to the very dregs of my resources, and coping strategies are wearing thin.

I am hanging in there, but only just – wherever ‘there’ is. It’s not Hogwarts that’s all I know!

World Mental Health Day

As someone who writes about mental health, and someone who suffers from mental illness, days like today feel both highly significant and decidedly daunting.

I like to think of myself as an advocate of positive Mental Health, and yet I feel a  sense of duty rather than passion to recognise World Mental Health Day. On days like today I feel as though my voice is the smallest, most insignificant of whispers amongst a chorus of experts, professionals and people who actually have something interesting, and something new to say.

So todays challenge for me is to continue writing this blog – not regardless of the voices – but because of the voices that tell me I really shouldn’t bother.  Maybe I do have nothing new, or exciting to bring to the World Mental Health table. But I do have myself: the journey that I am on; the lessons that I am learning; the small battles that I am winning; the fact that I am still standing.

I don’t have to be clever today. I don’t need to stand out from the crowd in order to be heard. I  need to be a part of the crowd – of the chorus. I need to add my voice, however small, to all the other voices that are challenging and encouraging people around the world to talk about Mental Health. I need to join them, with my tuppence-worth, to work towards normalising talking about Mental Health.

I did not survive being mentally ill by staying silent about it. It takes a lot of guts to speak out, to get help and to engage in treatment.  Imagine if our mental wellbeing was as common a topic as the weather, here in the UK.  I wonder how many mental illnesses could be prevented or treated much sooner, if only we could all  invest in our mental health and wellbeing without fear or shame.

Against all odds, I am still here and fighting strong, and that is my offering for World Mental Health Day. In a nutshell: hope. Always hope.


National Poetry Day: Freedom


“National Poetry Day is an annual celebration that inspires people throughout the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems.”


My Definition of Free

Freedom is fullness,

Wholeness inside,

A life lived in truth

With nothing to hide.

Love freely given

No matter the cost,

Risks freely taken

No opportunity lost.

Freedom is waiting

For destiny’s call

A life lived in hope

Of the greatest gift of all.


I wrote this poem many years ago, when the concept of freedom was to me like a fairytale is to a small child: a nice make-believe story. One can always dream, I thought, but one should never be so foolish as to expect the dreams to come true.

For years I lived trapped within the confines of my mind. It was dark and disconsolate existence, and one which I truly resented. The notion of ever being free from this way of thinking, feeling, being was laughable. And yet here I am, learning how it is to feel full and whole, and learning that the fairytale can still be real even when things go wrong.

Life is not either good or bad – it is both, sometimes at once, sometimes in equal measures but not always. For me, a whole lot of freedom has come from truly understanding this – that a bad life does not necessarily preclude a good one (if indeed this distinction can me made at all?).

Poetry has undoubtedly been an integral part of my healing as it has always felt safe to me: the ability to express myself without necessarily exposing myself, and in some of my darkest moments, I have been able to articulate what I could not give voice to in any other way. I dare say that the smallest, most creative part of me, always knew that there was a freedom worth holding on for, and worth fighting for.

Whatever your particular dream of freedom may be, don’t stop believing and don’t stop fighting. And write a poem just because you can.  You can! 

Ps: As it is National Poetry Day I think it would be rude not to mention that there are several poems in my book, A Sad and Sorry State of Disorder – A Journey into Borderline Personality Disorder (and out the other side)  just in case you were looking to read some more!