To Write Love On Her Arms

I promise

Week of Reflection. Since I’m feeling inspirational today I wanted to talk about one of my favorite non-profit organizations. I donate to a wide variety of charitable organizations, mostly environmental and wildlife. This is one of the only people centered organizations I give to. Why this one?
To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
The vision is that we actually believe these things…
You were created to love and be loved.  You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story.  You need to know that your life matters.
We live in a difficult world, a broken world.  We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments.  You need to know that you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck. 
We all wake to the human condition.  We wake to mystery and beauty but also to tragedy and loss.   We know that pain is very real.  It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real, and that help is real. 
You need to know that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible. We’re seeing lives change as people get the help they need.  People sitting across from a counselor for the first time.  People stepping into treatment.  In desperate moments, people calling a suicide hotline.  We know that the first step to recovery is the hardest to take.  We want to say here that it’s worth it, that your life is worth fighting for, that it’s possible to change. 
Beyond treatment, we believe that community is essential, that people need other people, that we were never meant to do life alone. 
The vision is that community and hope and help would replace secrets and silence.  
The vision is that we can reduce the suicide rate in America and around the world.
The vision is that we would learn what it means to love our friends, and that we would love ourselves enough to get the help we need.
The vision is better endings.  The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love. The vision is people breaking cycles, making change.  
The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.  
The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know.  
The vision is hope, and hope is real.
You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.
That’s straight from their Vision on the site. They have some great Facts about Depression, Addiction, Self-Injury, and Suicide as well.
Every year they have a collection of days where they make a request that everyone actually write Love on their arms. Once, twice, as many times as you want. The point is so that people will see it and ask why you have Love written all over. People send pictures of their expression to the site, post them on their social networks, text them to friends, and spread the word.  I think this ‘event’ has passed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still do it whenever you want. It’s a good thing to share, a good message to send. I wanted to let you know.  
I never cover my scars with this, but I write it between them, above them, around them, over and under my family tattoo. It’s silly but I love it.
It should be pretty obvious why I relate to this particular organization, having struggled with and continuing to fight, against all of these issues. While a lot of what I write in this blog is about how tumultuous and sad/angry/hurt I often feel. About the facts, statistics, and issues of Borderline Personality Disorder… My goal is to educate. To understand the label of BPD and see past it, to see the person Beyond the Borderline Personality. In knowledge comes understanding. In understanding comes hope. With hope there is the possibility for a better life. A life worth living.

Separation: Borderline Personality Disorder Facts and Statistics

– Patients with borderline personality disorder remembered more difficulties with separation between ages 6 and 17 years, more mood reactivity and poorer frustration tolerance between ages 6 and 17, and the onset of more symptoms (most prominently sadness, depression, anxiety, and suicidality) before age 18 than did patients with other personality disorders.

I’m told I had instances of separation anxiety as early as 2.5 years old when my mother went into labor with my brother. She was in the hospital for a couple days and no one explained to me that she would be back. Which of course, she was. I’m also told I was an exceptionally well behaved kid until I was about 12. I excelled at sports to impress my dad, did extra work to impress my teachers

I moved when I was 6. I never saw the friends I’d made before that age again. I made friends quickly when I was younger. I still make friends easily, but I no longer let people as close to me if I can help it. I always had very close, bonded relationships with my friends. My best friend moved when I was 8. I was heartbroken. Every weekend since I was born we spend Sundays with my grandparents. When I was 9 my grandmother died. I never let anyone see my cry. I had to be strong for my brother and sister. When I couldn’t stand it I locked myself in my closet so no one would see me upset. When I was 7 I was pulled out of the elementary school I went to. I was placed in a school for gifted children for the rest of elementary school. I had the same small class, the same friends since the 2nd grade. When we were old enough for junior high that class got broken up and incorporated into the combined school and I didn’t have class with my friends anymore. I was still able to hang out with my best friends (especially my best guy friend) after school. When I was 12 and started to hit puberty our friendship wasn’t allowed to stay the same anymore. We couldn’t hang out the way we did, couldn’t have the sleepovers we had for years.  I’m sure it was that parental fear that things would get ‘confusing’ but I’d been friends with this guy for almost as long as I’d known my sister, he was family to me, not a boy. Things kept changing. I began to resent the fact that I was female. Junior high and high school were filled with too much drama for me. People kept coming and going. My relationships with people ended abruptly. People wanted things from me that I didn’t know what to do with. I couldn’t stay in relationships for longer than a month and a half before pushing away. Friends started dating and our friendships weren’t as close anymore. Things kept changing. Nothing was stable. In high school my friendships were destructive. “Friends” would turn on me, conspire against me, then take advantage of my depression and I’d let them back into my life because I didn’t want to be left alone. I stayed in a rollercoaster of a relationship with a guy for 6 years because I couldn’t deal with the thought of losing my best friend, even though he did things to me I never should have tolerated. The one opportunity I was actually interested in to distract myself from this my ‘best friend’ helped me cultivate… then literally the day before things would have happened she tried to take it away. He asked me prom, but I told him I couldn’t go. I let her take away what I wanted to preserve our friendship, but I resented her ever since and our friendship exploded. Or she tried to explode and I walked away and didn’t look back, literally. A month later the guy she took away from me, I seduced and he cheated on her with me. He always liked me more anyways so it wasn’t hard. Of course, I never trusted him after this because he’d cheat on his gf. Ironic, no? By then I had no interest in him anyways. (So instead of working to get out of the abusive relationship I’d been in previously I let continue. Off and on. This continued even after I went to University before I finally severed the relationship completely.) This is when I decided it would be better to not let anyone close to me again. People can’t leave you if they’re never close to you in the first place.

That sadness, depression, anxiety took over my life in the 7th grade (11/12 years old). Every change made my world fall apart. I just wanted something steady. It was the one thing I never got. When I was 13 and tried to kill myself the first time, the friends that I thought cared about me the most, instead of encouraging me to get help, pulled away and left me to deal on my own. I understand now that it was just too emotionally traumatic for kids so young to handle, but I took it as though they didn’t care enough to stay.
Things changed, beyond my control, and I’ve never believed anyone cared enough to stay. Never cared enough to do the one simple thing that would help me be happy. Not good enough to care about. Not good enough to not leave. So I left them first. I confided in no one. The problem with this? I was even more excruciatingly lonely than ever before. I had no one to turn to, no one to ease the pain and suffering that overwhelmed me. I threw myself into my studies. I pushed away friendships, didn’t let anyone close, but at 

least my grades were top notch.
Writing about these things, so boiled down and simplified, don’t seem like such big things. They even seem normal for teenage years. They’re such deconstructed bits and pieces of the years and years of this I dealt with.  Every single instance was a breaking point. I would rage, lash out, destroy the things around me. Harden myself to what I saw as inevitable eventualities. All before I even graduated high school.

Still to this day the only male I believe won’t ever leave me, is my cat.

– These results indicate that many of the features of adult patients with borderline personality disorder may initially appear during childhood and adolescence and that these features may be used to differentiate borderline from other personality disorders
No argument here. I knew there was something severely wrong with my emotional control, but refusing to tell anyone what was really wrong with me, I never had help. Didn’t know how to express what I was really feeling. Refused to talk to my parents. They’d never understand anyways (or so I believed) as we fought constantly. I wouldn’t even entertain the possibility of therapy. I was too young to really be diagnosed with BPD then anyways, but all the symptoms, all the signs were clearly manifesting. 

Borderline Personality Disorder Facts and Statistics: Part 2

As promised I’m going to take a look at some of the more relevant facts and statistics concerning Borderline Personality Disorders. I’m only going to cover a few per post because there’s a lot of them. Don’t worry, there will be more.
– 2% of the general population are afflicted with BPD.
That’s a lot of people. That’s 1 in every 50.  In the United States alone this translates to approximately 5.4 million people. Perspective: this is the entire population of Tibet or Denmark (suppresses joke about ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark’). That’s enough people to make our own country. Hah, that’s actually a pretty scary thought. We could have an emotional regulation tax. The government would be rich. The likelihood of finding better treatment would sky rocket though, or plummet, crash and burn depending on whether our universal health care coverage administration could manage their mood swings. Considering the massive amount of people that BPD affects, you would think there would be much more research into this disorder but to this day BPD remains one of the most misunderstood personality disorders. Often being considered a ‘catch all’ for a multitude of co-morbid symptoms (which it certainly has) instead of it’s own distinct disease. There has been some research, but not nearly as much as other personality and mood disorders. Most of this research has gone into assessing the symptoms, and understanding the causes, but it’s still a long ways from finding a cure or finding optimal treatment. Is there really a cure for personalities though? Part of me still resents the implication that there’s something wrong with my personality. I happen to like my personality. I’m pretty fantastic (on good days). Also, modest. On the other hand, I have a lot more bad days than good and I do recognize that I have a lot of defective tendencies that I am working to change.
Random: 1 in 50 people have digestive problems w/ daylilies. Gradually build up to eating them. WTF?!?
– 69% to 75% exhibit self-destructive behaviors such as self-mutilation, chemical dependency, eating disorders and suicide attempts.
I wonder if this is counted by individual people or by how many of each of these destructive behaviors present. I’ve had every single one of these self-destructive behaviors at some point + more. As mentioned before my thoughts of self-harm are slipping away. For one of the first times in my life I don’t need such an extreme reminder that I am, in fact, living in this world. This is such a surprising revelation for me because for almost 18 years these thoughts have been a constant companion. One I am not unhappy to be rid of. Chemical dependency for me was alcohol. I’ve never done drugs (except by Rx), nor will I. I have this thing where I actually like my brain functioning to it’s fullest potential. I’m still fighting with my eating disorder and my body image. This is one of the more insidious, less overt, of my problems because I hide it so well. I manage to come across as a health nut, but not problematic. I’ve been in recovery from this for years with only minor relapses. My body image is a completely different story though.
Instead of suicide attempts I would think this has more to do with suicidal gestures, thoughts, threats, as well as attempts. I threatened myself with suicide often when I was younger. I didn’t tell almost anyone about this, especially not anyone that would have done something about it. When things were so bad that I believed this was my only option, I didn’t want anyone to stop me. Telling people who would stop me is counterintuitive to the success of this plan. What’s the point of wanting to die and then telling people who will take away that necessary relief? I didn’t have hope for ‘a cure’. I didn’t have hope for anything. There was maybe one person that I can look back on that I think it was more a need for attention, a need to know that someone cared, more than anything. It was certainly a cry for help. I couldn’t hold onto the belief that anyone would remain in my life, that I wouldn’t always be alone. I needed the affirmation that there would be someone that stays. Ironically, I got rid of him years later and, surprise, my life has gone on and improved considerably.
– 8 – 10% die by suicide usually due to lack of impulse control over depression.
Lack of impulse control. Hm. I’m not sure most people consider suicide on a whim. It’s rarely a spontaneous decision. Suicide is a last result, when things have been so bad, for so long, it’s impossible to believe that things will get better. It’s a thought that is only toyed with at first. Creeping thoughts now and again that become pervasive over time as things don’t seem to ever get better. As happiness and hope become things so far lost to the past that a future including these elusive things can’t be seen. It’s not an impulse, it’s a cancer of the psyche that infects over time.
– Successful suicide rate doubles with a history of self-destructive behaviors and suicide attempts.
I can see how this would be true. Once you’ve thought about it for so long, made a couple attempts, the prospect of death can become less scary, more necessary because it becomes so ingrained in everyday thought. Personally? Suicide is my greatest failure. And by ‘greatest’ I mean one that I am most grateful for. Nothing makes you appreciate failure so much as looking back on the wonderful things I could have missed out on had I succeeded in ending my life when I was younger. Every now and again when I hit a low or things go wrong and I feel absolutely hopeless the thoughts creep back, but I no longer consider suicide an option. For as bad as things can seem sometimes I have lived enough, experienced enough, to know that things change. As long as there is a chance for change, there is a chance for things to get better.
My sense of humor is often inappropriate
– 10% of all mental health outpatients; 20% of psychiatric inpatients

I beat the stats on the inpatient thing, though probably I shouldn’t have. Other than one evening in the psych ER which was do to an overreaction from an ex {<~~~ bastard}, I’ve never seen the inside of a hospital for psych problems. Physical medical problems caused by mental problems (remind me to tell you about the sweet potato some time) yes, but not for being out of my mind in need of a ‘rest’. I am certainly an outpatient if you consider seeing talking to my PCP, my psychiatrist, and going to therapy twice a week outpatient.  What can I say, I’ve grown and matured a lot when it comes to my mental health. BPD is not easy to deal with. After more than 15 years trying to fight it on my own, finally I found assistance and it’s made so much difference. Ok, so maybe my learning curve isn’t so high but I’m getting help now.

There was no note…

An acquaintance of mine recently committed suicide. Everyone I know is incredibly broken up by this.
I feel nothing.
I handle death differently than most that I know. Death inevitably comes with life and I don’t see it as anything but natural. What will be worse for me is when it does hit and I start thinking about my own mortality. I don’t believe in an afterlife. There is life, and there is the void of nonexistence. I literally feel a drop in the pit of my stomach at the contemplation of utter nonexistence. Spending any great amount of time thinking about this will drop me into an almost paralyzing anxiety. Afterwards, I waver between a reckless need to experience everything in life because this is the only one I have, and clinging to that which is safe but makes me enjoy life all the more, but can cause me to hermit. I may be reckless, or structured to stabilize. Now, I don’t know. I guess I’ll see.

While my friends are screaming about how selfish he was, how could he do this to his friends, his family, why didn’t he ask for help, anger, etc. I can empathize. I have a slightly different perspective on suicide as I’ve contemplated it so often, for so long. I’m sure he did ask for help. For years. Doubtful, this was a quick decision. When you are loved, and still, all you feel is the oppression of hopelessness, there is nothing more to look forward to. Nothing tying you to this plane. Death is a release. The only escape from the pain. It may be selfish, but not understanding, not forgiving someone a release from a life lived in misery because you feel a loss, is selfish too. What makes one act of selfishness, more relevant than another? Who’s to say.

When you tell people you want it all to end, and they cry about how it will make everyone else feel, all this does is add guilt on top of pain. I’m sure there’s the undertone of ‘all these people love you, you have so much to be grateful for’ there, but that’s not how it feels. It’s becomes just one more reason why you suffer and create suffering for those around you.
I can only wonder if he found the release he clearly needed so desperately. I feel no sadness just a sort of resigned understanding.
Most of my friends don’t know how tenuous my hold to my life can be some days. I don’t talk about it. But I understand the need. I can’t feel sad about his decision to end his life. While I understand why his friends and family miss him, I don’t understand the thoughts that he was selfish and inconsiderate. The pain caused to others in the wake of the event I understand. To me it seems like people are forgetting that for someone to make this decision, they pain they have lived with for so long masks the future in only more crippling pain. Why would you want someone to live like that for your own sake? That, to me, is selfish.

There’s too little life to waste it on things that make you unhappy. Let go. Forgive. Move on. Reconcile. Release. Find things that make you happy. There is no second chance to live. 

Nevermore – Criteria 5 / Suicidal Ideation & Gestures

Why did I finally give up the ideation of suicide?
I’ve tried to end it mostly by slashing my wrists and overdosing. I’ve thought about it in a hundred different ways, in a hundred different places though; while I’m driving, just keep going right off the road/cliff, or pull in front of a semi, walk in front of a moving vehicle, take all my anti-psychs, stab myself through a major vein, etc. All ways I have easy access to. So why don’t I?
In a nutshell: 2 reasons.
To fight back. Just before graduating high school a ‘friend’ of mine worked to break up my friendship with my closest friend. He succeeded and later in a drunken confession admitted he’d done it to see if I would kill myself. He’d known how depressed I’d been for so long and thought it would push me over the edge. He had no reason other than his own god complex. The problem with this scenario is; I rail against adversary. If someone expects me to be one way, I am another (as long as it suits me). I don’t just go with the flow of a situation. I fight back. This act actually made me less inclined to kill myself and made me more determined to not let people close to me so that I could protect myself, my self worth, and my life. I don’t just roll over and die, I come back swinging, fighting tooth and nail. If you expect something negative from me, I will prove you wrong. If you try to push me one way, I’ll push right back. The less someone believes in me, the more reason I’ll give them that they should.
But more importantly, I lost faith. I was raised without religion but even from a young age I held to the old Earth Religions, believed in Reincarnation and an afterlife of sorts. There was an ‘ever after’ that I didn’t fear. After so many tumultuous problems in my life I lost faith in the belief that there was anything better, anything beyond what I was currently living through. I adopted atheism (Well, technically I’m agnostic but a practicing atheist). No longer believing in an afterlife made me believe that this was my only chance at this life. Death is the end of my only chance. As long as I am alive, there is a chance to change things. I never considered suicide an option after this. I’ve always done whatever I could to hold to that potential for change.
Amusingly if anyone knows anything about the Tarot: Death is my card. Death is a card of change. Endings as a doorway for the potential of a new beginning. As long as I live there will be death, and change.

An End to It All – Criteria 5 / Suicidal Gestures and Ideation

I haven’t tried to kill myself since I was 16. Nearly 13 years have passed since then. My life was so scheduled away, so full of pressure, unobtainable standards, and emotional pain I couldn’t imagine feeling that way for an entire lifetime. When you’re in the moment it’s often hard to see that there is another one just around the corner. To understand that these feelings will pass. Especially when they’re persistent and don’t go away. Don’t actually pass. 

I have known of my mood disorder since I was 12. I could see my increasingly shifting moods reflected in my grades. Where I would be an A student normally, as my depression worsened, so did my grades. The material wasn’t difficult, maintaining my interest and ability to care, was.

I’ve been clinically depressed (Major Depressive disorder) all this time, nearly 17 years. It’s hard to tell me that these feelings will go away, when so far, this has proven to be untrue.

You can’t just tell someone that is Major Depressive to cheer up, to take a look at all the wonderful things in our lives and be happy. The real bitch of it is, it’s often impossible to pinpoint one major reason. Often there is no reason. Just a pervasive melancholy that won’t go away. Everyone feels depressed every now and again, but usually this follows an appropriate event or situation. With a mood disorder, there’s not necessarily one good reason. Sometimes there’s none. The sun is just too bright, the air too biting, laughter grates the nerves and nothing smells so sweet. It’s not a rational issue that you can logic away. However gaining an understanding of depression is a first step in controlling it. Be it with medication or cognitive behavioral therapy, it first needs to be recognized. Without recognition all there seems to be is one vast grey, gloomy horizon stretching onward forever into the future. Who wants to live like that?

What’s more, who can imagine living like that for the rest of their life? Waking up everyday to the same dull outlook. Getting up in a shroud of unhappy feelings, it’s almost logical to ask yourself if it’s worth it to continue like this. If there’s nothing better to look forward to, what’s the point of going on? It’s often not an individual glaring reason that kicks on the ideation of ending it all, it’s the monotonous drone of hopelessness that seems endless. The resignation that things have been this way for so long and most likely will continue to be this way for even longer.  

For me, it’s often this monotonous drone. I’ll have moments, maybe even a day or two of brighter happiness but this never stays. However, I’ve also had a lifetime of turbulent relationships, one after the other, abuse, abandonment, that make me fear the pattern will continue on forever. My anxiety spikes at the smallest infraction and I relive all the horrible emotions that have crippled me before. After a lifetime of build up, the little things now set me off. One small thing in and of itself is not the reason I’d think of killing myself, it’s that proverbial straw that broke the camels’ back.

For me, it’s not a grand suicidal epiphany. It’s a quiet resignation that if this is all I can hope for, then it’s not worth continuing the trauma.

 I’d never even considered killing myself, again, until last year. I slammed the door on any thoughts of suicide a long time ago. Then the thoughts started creeping back. I wasn’t forming plans, rather it was a small voice in the back of my mind questioning if it was worth it, offering me release from the bleakness. That even after I’d done so much to change my life, my environment and now in a more stable one, STILL nothing ever goes my way, still faced with even more upheaval, it doesn’t stop, it will never stop. I should simply end the turmoil of my days because nothing will ever get better.

Fortunately, I have a good therapist and psychiatrist that I am diligently working with to get through these issues. I’ve found that one or the other isn’t enough for me. I need to balance my medication with my cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s a lot of work, but now I have hope that I can open myself to better experiences and live a better life.