Monday, 5 October 2015
As it is October, and I have been thinking about what I shall be for Halloween, I found myself pondering what is it about Halloween that I love so much? I've always loved the excitement of choosing a character to play. My birthday happens to be one week before Halloween so I've often been able to incorporate the hallowed night into my parties. But why do I love it so much? For starters, the lack of expectation. With Christmas there is always the air of obligation to family. And as someone who has never had a stable family unit in terms of mother and father, most holidays are filled with anxiety and dread. But Halloween was always mine.
I loved figuring out what I wanted to be and how to create this character out of things I already had and using items creatively. But why have I always loved it so much? I started thinking about it in relation to my illness. It suddenly became very clear and then I wondered if other
Borderlines, as well as others with personality disorders, liked Halloween as much as I do. I realised the reason I loved becoming a character is because I didn't have to try and be something I wasn't.
Let me explain. Those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder create personas to fit whatever situation we are in whether it be for work, a social gathering, particular circles of friends, etc. We learn to adapt and conform. BPD's are all actors in this thing we call life. We never develop our own personality. We are the chameleons of the human world. It enables us to survive in a world we don't understand. And we are very good at it. Sadly our souls remain hollow since we never are able to develop and maintain true relationships. (Footnote: of course years of therapy and support can help us overcome our identity crisis, but even if we do, we still find it very easy and necessary to revert to our chameleon state if needed.)
But there's Halloween. The one day of the year we don't have to pretend to be something we aren't. We get to choose our character. I realised there is an amazing freedom in that. Not HAVING to be someone but rather CHOOSING who we are for one night. We don't have to think about the emptiness inside and struggle to be something we aren't. We get to drop the charade and easily blend in without the exhausting effort, because everyone is something they aren't. It's our one true night of freedom.
I then expanded this line of thinking to actual professional actors. There were times in my life when I thought how easy and fun it would be to be an actor. To get paid to do something I found so easy. Hmmm... How many actors out there are like me? How many have Borderline or similar personality disorders which make them easily slide in and out of fictional roles? I can easily think of a few off the top of my head that surely do based on things I've read about regarding their personal lives: manic episodes, drug abuse, cleptomania, sudden desire to shave one's head, etc. It does make me wonder, how many are like me? And is that the reason they chose acting? Because it comes so naturally.
Just my random thoughts of the day. And for those wondering about what I will be this year for Halloween, you'll just have to wait. But here's last years character... Who am I?
I have had so many thoughts and feelings flying through my head lately. Mostly dark scary things. I've been using every coping mechanism I know to keep the demons at bay, but the fight is getting so hard. My days are getting darker, my soul blacker. I'm being ripped apart from the inside and the pain is unbearable. I'm taking more meds to sedate me, but that only calms the physical symptoms, the emotional and mental anguish flourishes in my haze. I've been trying to stay positive, was going to write an upbeat post about Halloween, but I've shelved it for this post, because I feel like there is no better outlet.
My poor husband is at the end of his tether. He loves me so much and just wants to squeeze the love into me and push out the bad. If it were only that easy. As I've mentioned in recent posts, I am struggling with the fact I've been hiding my illness from my new UK family and friends. I am in the process of "coming out" slowly and tried to take a big step Saturday night. My husband invited his sister and her fiancé over for a session of drinks and catching up. I specifically, as he knew, and as I thought he had conveyed to his sister, thought that the idea was to talk about what they've been up to and how my illness has awakened. I wanted to try and explain my illness a bit better to them (they know about it, but don't understand and clearly haven't taken the initiative to learn) and to let them know I need their support because I feel like they have been avoiding me (whether avoidance is real or my paranoia is irrelevant). Things didn't go as I planned.
I was really anxious waiting for them to arrive, pacing, chain smoking, trying to sip my beer and not chug it (don't judge, you've been there). They were some 40 minutes later than expected, which isn't unusual for them, but when you are in a rapid-cycling state, time tables are important to you as I'm sure some of you know. Anyway, they arrived with typical greetings, beer sorted into the fridge, and chatting began. I started with my sister-in-law asking how her work has been. I used to work for her, so I was eager to hear the latest and hear how she has been doing in her new role as a "mini" manager. She asked how I was doing because she knew I had been struggling to say the least. I was trying to explain how I've been and what I've been doing: therapy, meds, exercise, hobbies, doctors, vicars, meditation, etc. I know she knows I have an illness. I know she doesn't understand, because unless you have spent a lot of time and watched someone go through the nightmare that is a rapidly declining psychological breakdown, you can't understand. I will admit it bothers me that I don't think she's even tried to do any research to understand at least the basics. But I started the conversation.
I had her come inside and I grabbed my iPad and gave her my blog to read. I specifically gave her my "Open Letter to my Mother and Father" to read to just jump in with both feet so she could feel the pain I've lived with my entire life. If you have read that blog, you know what I mean. As she sat and started reading, my husband and her fiancé had joined us at the table. I mentioned what she was reading, and her fiancé immediately started making jokes and was asking when we were going to start playing cards. I tried to steer him away by asking about what's been going on with him, because I knew he had some issues he had been dealing with and I didn't want them to think I wanted some big pity party. I honestly was hoping to have a catch up, share some thoughts and feelings about our struggles, give them a bit more understanding about what I was going through, and convey how I needed their support. He quickly glossed over his issue and once again started making jokes. Okay, he's uncomfortable. But I'm the one with the serious mental illness on the verge of collapse, so could we take a few minutes to have a serious discussion before we lightened the mood?
As she was finishing reading, I explained to her fiancé what it was and that it was a depiction of the severe emotional abuse I endured at my mother's hand. I whipped out my list of characteristics of emotional abusers and started reading them. My soon to be brother-in-law could not interrupt fast enough or make more jokes about the situation. I'm trying to explain what caused my illness and convey the horror that was my childhood, and he's cracking jokes! I had no intention of making the evening a completely miserable downer, but did he honestly think I just wanted them to come over and get smashed knowing what a bad place I'm in? Or did he not know? Or was he so uncomfortable he just had to end all conversation and get straight to drinking and cards? My sister-in-law did little to stop this chain of events, nor did my husband. So I did what a Borderline always does. I conformed to the situation. I buried my emotions under a flood of alcohol and smiled and laughed. But the demons inside were now in their element, feeding on the dark turmoil that was now stirring just below the surface. The rage inside begging to come out. I somehow kept it all at bay. But...
The next morning I woke up in a shambles. All the emotion I had to repress the night before was coming out. The anxiety and pain coursed through my veins as if a damn had broken and the flood was destroying everything in its wake. I sat shaking and sobbing. I could feel the demons just below the surface begging for release. I was clawing at my own flesh trying to release them. I desperately wanted an instrument, knife, glass, anything I could use to release the pain. I resisted. I stared helplessly at the beautiful garden I had just spent months making perfect, and I all I wanted to do was destroy it. Destroy everything. I wanted my surroundings to reflect my soul. Complete devastation. My husband found me in this state in the garden and asked what could he do? I had him get my medication, specifically my sedatives (diazepam) to dull the rage. I hate the haze, but I knew I was teetering on the edge of collapse. I told him I wasn't safe. I wasn't safe within myself. I was frantically holding onto reality. I was inches away. But I managed to hold my ground.
The sedation finally started kicking in and a haze lasting hours subdued the demons. I laid in and out of a semiconscious state staring blankly at the TV. I calmed but the pain and frustration weren't gone. I spoke to my husband of my upset regarding the prior evenings events. I expressed my outrage at how my illness was swept under the rug, a dirty little secret. These are supposed to be people who love me and are there to support me. Clearly that is not the case. So what to do? They aren't bad people and I do love them and I know they love me. They just don't understand. And they obviously don't want to understand. I suppose that is their choice. Unfortunately it breaks my heart. I don't have a choice about my illness. It's there. It's never going away. So now I must learn to accept that my closest family apart from my husband in this country will not be available for support. I do understand some people just aren't capable of understanding or dealing with mental illness. I know this. I was just hoping that they were.