Emotion Sickness

Sad Danbo

A while ago, I wrote that my therapist at the eating disorder unit suspected my eating disorder was a secondary issue. That something else was going on. Something much bigger than just an eating disorder. In fact, she said the eating disorder had more than likely developed as a result of this “something bigger” having such an impact on my life. Her suspicion?The possibility of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I was pretty shocked to be honest. A personality disorder?? Why would I have that? I didn’t fully understand what it was and I freaked out. Upon discharging me from the eating disorder unit, I was referred to a psychotherapist. Let’s be honest, personality disorders conjure up an image of a severely mentally ill person who might be dangerous or somebody to be avoided. It was also the first time in my life that somebody official had suggested that there’s a lot more going on with me than just eating problems. Even though I knew of a few things which had affected me (such as identity or being bullied), I never realised the full extent of how much it was affecting my life. I used to think it was all because of an eating disorder. Fix that and I’ll be able to get on with my life. If only.

So what is BPD? Well, it’s not really anything to do with its name. Turns out it’s not scary at all. Just goes to show that awareness and education can do so much to remove stigmas and help people. It’s a disorder of emotions or moods, and can affect how a person is or how they interact with other people. It affects different people in different ways as it’s linked to a number of things, such genetics, chemicals in the brain, a person’s development and also environmental factors. You can find out more about BPD here. In my case, I can kind of relate to some of the associated issues: problems with emotions, self-acceptance, insecurity, personal identity, self-harm, suicide, zoning out to name but a few. In fact it got so severe at one point that I switched off from emotions entirely. I just couldn’t bear to feel anything. My life was wrong, nothing was working out and I couldn’t deal with not knowing why or not able to gain some kind of control over my own life – I suppose the need for regaining control is why the eating disorder came about, so yeh I guess my therapist was right about it being secondary. Having feelings meant that I was safe. I couldn’t hurt, I couldn’t be let down, I couldn’t be sad. No terrible things to have to deal with. It did have it’s own share of problems too though. I couldn’t really handle relationships, I couldn’t interact with people properly…I couldn’t function properly. but despite this, I carried on. That was a small price to pay for not having to deal with troublesome emotions. I ended up a complete robot for many years. Whenever anything happened, I would analyse why it happened and just get on with life, making sure not to make the same mistake again. I wasn’t equipped with the necessary skills to be able to tackle life properly so I just made sure I moved on quickly, without dealing with things. For quite a while, it worked.

Not feeling anything is how I was easily able to distance myself from my family. It never even occurred to me what family meant to me or that they were a huge part of my life. To me, they were just people with no more significance than the next person. My world was very black and white. If I didn’t like something or if somebody upset me, I cut it out. There was no grey area and certainly no room for negotiation. Just a simple yes or no, on or off, life or no life. life became very simple. Very regimented. No surprises, no sudden issues to deal with. I knew it would all be manageable for me. I went to work, went to band practice, played gigs and maybe the obligatory night out but that was it. I would always just keep myself to myself. It was better that way. There were times when I tried to make more of an effort with people but I would just get ignored or treated like I was invisible so I stopped doing that. I cut so much out of my life in an attempt to just get by. I moved away from the area and completely lost touch with my family. By that time we were struggling to understand each other and they harboured a disappointment in me which I couldn’t ever fix. At the same time I couldn’t get over how we were raised, especially as I’d practically spent most of my adult life suffering with some kind of mental health issue and/or in therapy which helped me to eventually see that my relationship with my family was a toxic one. We didn’t speak for years. I didn’t contact them, they didn’t contact me. I deleted all their numbers and made no attempt to get back in touch. They knew nothing of my eating disorder or that I almost died a few times. They didn’t even know what I looked like anymore. I got to the point where I didn’t care that I was on my own. I was this zombie floating through each day. I even had Christmases on my own (although hiding that from people was a bit awkward). During my psychotherapy sessions, as I explored events that had happened in my life, it became evident that my relationship with my family had a huge impact on the way I turned out.

In addition to psychotherapy sessions, I also had to see a psychiatrist on a regular basis. During a review session with my psychiatrist, I remember catching a glimpse of my medical notes on their screen whilst they were reading over some reports from my psychotherapist. It said I had a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. This hit me right in the face. Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder is another name for BPD. Not only was it the first time I’d seen it linked to me officially but it was the first time I was made aware of it. Nobody had discussed it with me, nobody had told me that’s what I had. Until that point, I only knew that it was a possibility. Now it was on my medical record. I felt so ashamed and disappointed. What was going on in my life? It felt like I was the only person in the world who wasn’t allowed a break. The diagnosis didn’t feel right. I don’t know why. It explained a lot about me and why I do the things I do but something just didn’t seem right. In the next psychotherapy session that followed, I was trying to explain how shocked I was and how I didn’t totally agree with the diagnosis. I couldn’t put into words why or what I thought was wrong with me, only that it seemed…wrong. My psychotherapist did see it from my point of view and she was shocked that it was put down as a definite diagnosis without anybody telling me. She did mention that she felt BDP wasn’t necessarily the correct way to sum me up and she worked to have the diagnosis taken off my medical records. It took a while but eventually it was renamed to something more vague, which wasn’t one thing or another. At the time, I never picked up on what she said about BPD not being the correct way to interpret why I was the way I am. If I did, I would have tried to find out what was wrong with me. But hey, that doesn’t really matter now, as this blog clearly shows.

One interesting thing about BPD is something that only clicked as I’m writing this: one of the symptoms is that the person has issues with who they are. In the past, for me that was being a bit of a chameleon. Being a slightly different person around various social groups. It only really affected people I don’t know very well purely because I didn’t know myself very well. I had no clue about my purpose, how I fitted in or how I’m supposed to behave. It turned into an anxiety over social situations because each time I knew I’d have trouble fitting in or knowing who I was supposed to be. I would try and find different ways to fit in and show certain facets of myself over others. All to try and be somebody. But I never succeeded. I would always struggle and I grew to hate social situations. It’s only now as I write this that there’s a bigger revelation: that sense of not knowing who I was (and the subsequent social anxiety that followed), the emotional detachment, the emptiness and frustration all stemmed from something that was sort of in my face all along. Taking everything into account, it would seem BPD wasn’t the primary cause at all. I’m pretty certain gender dysphoria was.

Featured image: via Google
Featured video: “Emotion Sickness” by Silverchair (via Silverchair’s YouTube page)

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