Reflections of Borderline

embraceeternity2

I was diagnosed not very long ago, after a lifetime of battling crippling depression & anxiety, as well as Bipolar I disorder. A series of breakdowns and episodes of suicidal psychosis lead to me being carted off to the hospital either in the back of a cruiser or strapped down to an ambulance gurney on a few occasions. I received a full psychological evaluation, and my blood ran cold when they told me it was clear that I was suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder.

BPD is an emotional disregulation disorder that, for me, is characterized by capriciousness, a compulsion to self-harm, a turbulent sense of self, persistent suicidal thoughts, feelings of emptiness, an irritating degree of empathy, and a constant sense that I don’t belong; that I am foreign or alien; that my existence is a flaw in the universe.

The first thing I thought to myself was, well, fuck. Why me? Why this? I’d always had an inkling that it could be BPD, but told myself it wasn’t that bad. Sure, things were awful, but at least they weren’t BPD awful. Even as I slipped deeper into psychosis; as I sat in the office of my workplace and cried into my hands, absolutely sure that I was being followed by some malevolent presence; as I broke down day after day until I couldn’t even function anymore, I told myself that it wasn’t as bad as I thought and that it was all in my head. That I should shrug it off in my famous way. Unfortunately, BPD is a problem that only gets worse the more you ignore it.

That all being said, things make a lot more sense now that I’m armed with this knowledge. I now understand why I’ve been so transient all my life; shifting between friend groups and relationships every few years or so, what’s up with my rabid, quickly-cycling moods, and why I’ve always been hypersensitive to the emotions of people around me. I’m kind of a chameleon in my own strange way in that I’ll pick up on a person’s tone or vibe and reflect it back at them. I’m a 2-way mirror that, if you only just cup your hands against the glass, you can peer right through me.

A lot of people ask me what it’s like, and I struggle to describe the experience accurately. I often ask people to imagine that they are a sane and rational person. Now imagine, as someone who thinks they are sane and rational, suddenly experiencing something against your will, such as an audio or visual hallucination. Imagine hearing the voices of your dead friends reciting snatches of decades-old conversations from some indeterminate point in space and time. Imagine your dawning horror as you realize that this doesn’t happen to people who are doing fine. Imagine being so happy in one moment that you suddenly can’t breathe, that the world is crashing down on you like an icy wave and oh my god, am I dying? Suddenly there are tears running down your cheeks as you hyperventilate in front of a group of your friends, and you try to apologize but all that comes out are choked half-words. Your brain is screaming for you to get yourself together like a fucking adult but your vision is blacking out around the edges, your face is tingling and you can’t feel your fingers anymore. You sit down and one friend wraps an arm around you and tries to be soothing but by now you’re obsessing over how you must be so taxing to be around; everyone must really just spend time with you out of pity and kindness. You’re not even remotely good enough to deserve such treatment. You should’ve stayed at home but instead you fucked up the day and put all of your friends on edge. A series of scenarios in which you kill yourself in various ways flash through your mind as you resolve (again) to remove yourself from this world because you never belonged here in the first place. A surge of anger at how pathetic you’re being burns in the back of your throat and manifests as a tic that makes your eye twitch uncontrollably. You consider all of this and realize you are a Real Life Crazy Person.

It’s not always that bad or just like that; sometimes I’m more angry or sad. Sometimes I can function perfectly fine, and I forget what spinning out feels like. I live in a state of perpetual solipsism, unable to imagine anything other than what I’m currently feeling, constantly wondering when the other shoe is going to drop, when my next freak-out will be, or if I’m really just making it all up and I’m actually fine. I experience a staggering amount of uncertainty in my daily life that is usually best combatted through setting a schedule or routine and adhering to it. Minimizing chaos is an important coping tactic, personally. I try to practice mindfulness when I can and I’m on a couple of wait lists (6+ and 8+ months wait time) for criminally underfunded yet invaluable Dialectical Behavioural Therapy; a branch of cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy specifically tailored for people with BPD. Sometimes I feel like my pursuit of treatment is like chasing a rainbow. I can see it in the distance, but the closer I get, the more it actually looks like an ouroboros of bullshit, phone tag, waiting, mixed metaphors, repeating myself, and xeroxed pamphlets telling me “It Gets Better”. If there were ever a more appropriate use of the word “Kafkaesque”, I’d pay to see it.

I’m still on the road to recovery. I had to take a break from working so I could focus on getting my sanity back together, but things are a lot less bleak these days. There’s a nice, comfy veneer of restfulness about me now, like damask wallpaper pasted over drywall that was caked in black mold. All it takes is for you to poke a little hole in me and the evil comes out, but I’m a lot nicer to behold from a safe distance. Hopefully I can get myself to a less delicate balance in the near future.

If there were any major tips I’d offer anyone who has a loved one with BPD it’d be that chances are, we are absolutely terrified that you are going to abandon us, so please, be extra conscious about when you make plans with us. Don’t set a date if you know you’re just going to bail, it sends us into a death-spiral of feelings of inadequacy. Remind us that you love us, because we need the assurance. Look into BPD; it means a lot to us that you’re educating yourself. If you’re close with us, always be honest about how we’re affecting you, because we know we can be difficult to be around sometimes. Be patient if we don’t get back to you in a timely manner; it’s hard to keep track of our thoughts sometimes, nevermind our inboxes. For the love of god, don’t give us the silent treatment, and be prepared to be a bit more specific when talking to us. Try to understand that sometimes, we are taken hostage by our emotions, and we don’t always mean what we say, especially in anger. Don’t worry, we’ll never stop apologizing and beating ourselves up for it. Finally, try to be empathetic. Some of us feel our emotions with an uncomfortable intensity, and something that you might think is inconsequential might actually be a huge deal for us. The world can be very abrasive in our minds, and we’re a lot more likely to feel affected by world events and disasters. We’re just sensitive like that.

It hasn’t been easy, and it never will be, but with the right knowledge and support, things are going to work out. Or maybe they won’t, who knows. But for now, let’s say they will. This World Mental Health Day, be the ally the world deserves and do your part to get informed, smash the stigma of mental illness, and remind your mentally ill friends (or self!) that you love, respect, and care about them. Maybe one day we’ll leave the fear and misinformation behind us. I like to hope that day is coming soon.

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▬A Story

The internet has been abuzz today because a tragedy occurred. I’m not going to talk about it. If you’re looking at this post in the future, google the date and you’ll see what I’m referring to. What happened today is raising lot of questions about society’s attitudes toward women and girls- and that’s what I’d like to talk about today- my own personal experience of growing up as a biological female.

I grew up in a lower-middle-class family, in a middle-class enclave surrounded by lower-class housing and establishments. It was a pretty dangerous area at times, and there was always some kind of crime going on, or some unsavoury individual lurking about. Born the second of 3 daughters, I, like many middle siblings, went about my important childhood business mostly unsupervised and unnoticed. I went to all of the places my parents told me never to go to, like the Quarry and the Scarborough Bluffs. I was never bothered by anyone while playing, I suspect that is almost entirely because I was a tomboy until I was about 12 years old. I liked my hair short, I looked like a boy, dressed like a boy, hung out with boys, and even pretended that I was a boy sometimes. Even at such a young age, I knew that there was power and invulnerability in masculinity. I used that to my advantage because I was taught that femininity and “girly girls” were weak and inferior. I didn’t have many friends of my own gender because I viewed girls as vapid and stupid. I still have a particular distaste for vanity and stereotypical female affinities like shopping, salon-going, gossip, and the like. But I realize now that the media is mostly what convinced me, a masculine young girl, that the female experience was all of those things that I hated, when in fact, women had a whole range of personalities and interests beyond Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt breaking up, or what the latest fashion was (imagine that!). I finally started to realize that the media is a clusterfuck of unreality and a poor reflection of women around the time I hit puberty. I started wearing tighter clothing and adopted my trademark all-black clothing style. I started wearing eyeliner. I started getting sexually harrassed at 13. People would honk their horns at me as I was walking down the street, or make comments about my face or body. It was confusing and enraging; I had been given respect and space as a tomboy, but now that I was visibly feminine, I was a target, an object, and was treated as if I should be grateful for all of the sexual harrassment I was getting because that meant that people thought I was pretty. Because my only worth in life was my looks. Because women are only good for their bodies.
I still get harassed about my looks on the street all the time and it usually goes one of two ways: I’m beautiful and freaky, my complimenter looking over my body, likely wondering what kind of kinky sexual scenarios I would participate in; or I could be so beautiful, what a shame that I’ve mutilated myself with my five facial piercings, if they were my parent/boyfriend/friend they’d rip them right out of my face. I do not solicit comments on my body or style, but because I’m a woman, people (of all ages and genders) feel it’s their right to do so. People have grabbed my ass or breasts in the streets, in crowds, at concerts. People have forcibly twisted my arm to get me to stop and hear their opinion of me. Women all over the world are physically and sexually assaulted because of a toxic and pervasive culture of misogyny. I’m just one of so many, one who even still has it so much better because of my white skin and North American birthplace, not to mention that I’m cisgendered and don’t face the incredible amount of bullshit that trans women have to face on a daily basis. But any misogyny is too much. I don’t know what my story means to anyone, but it is mine and I’m sharing it. Women and girls: you are not alone. You are not inferior. You are capable of great strength and deeds. You are not objects. I would like to remind everyone to be kind to each other, to make an effort to understand the world and people around you, to break stereotypes and crush prejudices. Parse the fact from bullshit in the media your brain will inevitably consume on a daily basis.
Consider my story, consider the untold stories of all the women and girls you know.

▬The American Dream

Something a little less personal. I wrote this story for my dear friend Marcus a couple of years ago and played with it a little since. I hope you enjoy it.

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      I have never woken up so painfully. Every morning is even stiffer and sorer than the last. I lift my head with a groan, my neck aching terribly from sleeping on the dusty, uneven floor of the half-demolished diner. Or is it a gas station? It’s hard to tell or even remember anymore, every building is mostly rubble and in that way indistinguishable from the next. As I blink my eyes against the brightness, you sleep peacefully. I never understood how you could do that. Every night I’m a nervous wreck, grabbing a few hours at best. Then again, you were always such a deep sleeper. You know, before all of this. The cracked concrete slab we rested on last night was hardly adequate, but at least it isn’t the goddamned sand. I reach over and shake you gently. It’s time to get up, we’ve gotta keep moving.

      You never complain. You just grit your teeth and scrunch up your face and we start walking. The heat is all but unbearable, but luckily the pilfered linens we wear provide protection from the relentless sun. Our dead Earth is a sweltering, shimmering desert. In the haze we smell like sweat and death but it’s okay, this entire wasteland reeks of it. My mouth feels like I’ve been eating cotton balls and sawdust for every meal but that’s impossible; we ran out of food three days ago.

      We find a hideous puddle of what we are pretty sure is water beside another ruined building in the shadows. How it got there, we have no idea, but you point out that there’s a rainbow slick of oil on top and that we probably shouldn’t drink it. We drink it anyway. It’s gritty with dirt and we fill up our collection of bottles with the brown liquid. It makes me feel like I’ve eaten sandpaper and I complain as loudly as my ruined voice allows. You wrap your arm around my shoulders and whisper about out East, and how we just need to keep going and everything will be okay.

      Another day. Something on our path smells worse than usual. Upon investigation, it’s a dead animal of some sort. There are flies all around it and maggots coming out of its eye sockets. Normally the rotting carcass would be far from appetizing, but we hadn’t eaten for nearly a week… Anything remotely edible is consumed. We throw it up anyway.

      Human-like shadows in the distance fill us with hope. We’re excited enough to try running, but after a few short moments our fatigued bodies force us to resume our slow gait. That was the second last time I saw a smile on your face. And then they attacked. Knives, shanks, I’m not sure what they were, but the blades bite into our skin with relative ease. I escape with a number of defensive wounds and you get a little scratched up but they take everything we have and leave us for dead. How you scream, a hoarse cry that shakes my world as I

f

a

  l

    l

into d a r k n e s s.

      I wake up covered in crusty, oxidized blood, my arms and chest bandaged with strips of some of the only possessions we have left aside from a book of rationed matches; those dusty white linens. It’s almost dark and the sky is a cloudless sea of fire, the sun a hellish red. Everything hurts. I’m parched. You don’t have any tears left to weep. You fret over me and I

f a d e

a  w  a  y

a   g   a   i   n.

      We’re on the move at last. The desert sun is  s o  h o t  but we dare not travel at night. There have been strange howls and odd shadows that prowl the dunes after dusk. You saw one once; a mangy but hulking dog-like creature with h o l l o w eyes and open sores on its exposed pink flesh. You reckon they don’t have a very good sense of smell, otherwise we would have been found by now. You tell me that we’re lucky. I stare at the ground.

      Don’t know how long it’s been since we last had anything to eat. You used to be curvy, with wide hips and full breasts. Now, like me, you’re all jutting clavicles and angular, protruding b o n e s beneath sun-weathered skin. I’m nauseated and I know damn well you are too. You still don’t complain. You are my s a l v a t i o n at the end of the world. I grasp your dirt-stained hand in mine and pull you close, our

s      k      e      l      e      t      a      l

frames hard and uncomfortable against each other but you still fit perfectly in my (now t h r o b b i n g and slightly swollen) arms and that’s all I need to keep going. I see a small blossom of dark brown on the linens near your ribcage and I want to vomit. You’re hurt and

y o u ’ v e  b e e n                                                                      y   o  u  ‘  v  e   b  e  e  n

                                                   you’ve been

h i d i n g

h                     i                     d                     i                     n                     g

hiding it from me. My tears have long since dried up but if I could cry, I would be
w e e p i n g.
e e p   n g.
w    e p i n
e        i    g.
e p   n
  i

You simply stoke my hair and touch your chapped lips to my forehead. No words are exchanged.

||  W  e   a  r  e   g  o  i  n  g   t  o   d  i  e.  ||

      We lick our own i n f e c t e d wounds with f i l t h y  t o n g u e s and scream to the sky for rain. Another cloudless day, the oppressive h e a t confining us to the s h a d o w s of another crumbling building. We find an axe with a corpse that is half-buried in sand and s l o w l y  m u m m i f y i n g. It’s amazing how fast bodies wither away in this climate. If I wasn’t so WEAK and USELESS I’d probably be fascinated, but to be completely honest,

I  d o n ’ t  t h i n k  I  f e e l  m u c h  o f  a n y t h i n g  a n y m o r e.

Hell, I don’t even think much anymore. We don’t have the energy to move. My left arm is practically useless. The flesh is turning r e d and p u r p l e around the deep cuts, and there’s a

p

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n

g

e

n

t   o o z e

coming out. I give you a look and your eyes widen as you shake your head. I don’t even open my mouth; I just stare at you until you finally wring your hands and nod, your face a hollowing m a s k  o f  t e r r o r. I help you start a campfire with bits of wooden framework and a phonebook. You lay the head of the axe in the embers.

      I WEEP uncontrollably as the t o u r n i q u e t gives my arm PINS and NEEDLES. I try to flex my fingers but I don’t have any sensation left in them. You count down (ONETWOTHREE), tearfully swing the red-hot axe and vomit when the deed is done. There is a sizzle and an odd pressure, then pain.

S   O    M   U   C   H    P   A   I   N

I clamp my jaw and a strangled cry escapes my throat. You frantically run somewhere and a f e w  s e c o n d s or a n  h o u r later you come back and press the H O T  B L A D E  against my new

    w  o   u    n     d

to finish the cauterization. I squirm as much as my body will allow and

BLACK OUT.

When I

                   e

            k

     a

w

                                  p

                           u

(OHGODPLEASEWAKEUP) you’re looking at me. My s e v e r e d  a r m still lies on the slab of rock that functioned as our crude b u t c h e r ’ s  b l o c k. You glance at it, and then back to me. Breathing in sharply, you place your hand on your stomach and I k n o w that you’re hungry, what are you trying to…?

O H .

      Moving. Keep moving. B E L L I E S  F U L L. We’re both so h o r r i f i e d at ourselves that we can’t look each other in the e y e anymore. Everything is sand.

E N D L E S S || S A N D.

Then there are the h i d e o u s sounds. They begin in the late afternoon. We keep moving,

k e e p  m o v i n g,

k  e  e  p   m  o  v  i  n  g . . .

      Screeches of predators kept us on the run for so long that we couldn’t tell if they were real or if it was just our tired minds d e c e i v i n g  u s. We don’t want to find out. Your breathing has become  l  a  b o u r e d. I think you’re sick but we can’t stop. We can’t let them get us because

W E ‘ V E  C O M E  T H I S  F A R.

Up

all

night.

C A N ‘ T  S L E E P  and C A N ‘ T  S T A Y  A W A K E. You passed out

h

o  u

r s  a

g o,

and you must be d r e a m i n g because for some reason there’s a smile on your face. I hope it’s about us. How we used to be, back at the apartment in Tucson. About everyone we used to know, about our soft bed and quiet, happy life that had a

||B O M B||

d

r

o

p

p

e

d

on it. Our new half-life (or as you once called it, “T H E  A M E R I C A N  D R E A M”) is the APOCALYPSE and soon we’ll be nothing but

                              U                                                   T

D                                                   S

just like everything else. How far have we gotten? D o n ’ t  t h i n k  I  c a r e. The stars I’m staring at twinkle down at me and I wonder if there’s anyone alive who’s doing the same. I fall asleep E N G U L F E D in the sound of

||complete nothingness.||

      Y o u  w o n ’ t  w a k e  u p.

w                               h                               y                               w                               o                               n                               ‘                               t                              y                               o                               u                               w                               a                               k                               e                               u                               p?

Y O U  W O N ‘ T  G E T  U P. I shake your

f           r           a           i           l          

l           i           t           t           l           e          

b           o           d           y

as hard as I can with my remaining arm but your head only lolls and bounces on your shoulders. My heart  p o u n d s.

W H A T   D O  I  D O?

I can’t find it in myself to leave you here, N O T  H E R E.

O H  NO   O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H    NO  O H  NO  O H  N O  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO   O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  N O  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  N O  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H   NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  N O  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  N O  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  N O  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO  O H  NO

W H A T D O I D O?

I don’t have

a

n

y

t

h

i

n

g

left.

I ’ m  a l o n e  a n d  

I ’ m  g  o  i  n  g   t  o   d  i  e   a   l   o   n   e.

A t h o u g h t crosses my mind. With every last ounce of my strength, I PULL YOU out into T H E  S A N D with me. My stump of a left arm throbs; b l e e d i n g again. Collapsing in the heat, I intertwine m y fingers with y o u r s and

c           l           o           s           e                     m           y                     e           y           e           s.