My Life With Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder
Emotions are always a tricky thing for me. As a teenager, I experienced constant episodes of feeling depressed, crying in my room watching the ceiling fan spin slowly. Occasionally, I would experience episodes of feeling too happy, too reckless, too euphoric. I did not understand that these episodes were hypomania. At the age of 19, I decided it was too much of an emotional turbulence to be in, and decided to seek psychiatric help. I remember walking into the doctor’s room, being scared of not knowing what will happen, with no friends or family, just me and the doctor. She began asking me a series of questions, where I vividly told her about my auditory hallucinations and depressive moods, and I was prescribed Lexapro, an antidepressant. My diagnosis was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with Psychosis.
But things didn’t add up. Every few weeks, I would have moments where I was convinced I was cured, convinced I could control the world and I am the grand leader of the universe. When I explained this to my psychiatric, she grouped it under psychosis and gave me more antidepressants, only for me to end up with this bizarre high charged energy episodes and grandiosity that I did not understand. But I kept taking these cocktails of antidepressants until I told her four words that changed the course of my psychiatric treatment “I’m having mood swings”. For those who do not know, antidepressants can trigger a manic or hypomanic episode. From that day, my diagnosis was Bipolar Type 2.
Shortly after my diagnosis of Bipolar Type 2, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. To be honest, having Bipolar was already tiring enough, often frustrating and incomprehensible. How is it possible to have a mood disorder and a personality disorder at the same time? I was confused. I was more confused that my moods were changing so rapidly, my hallucinations became stronger when I was hypomanic due to nights of not sleeping, and suddenly I will crash into the depths of depression. Between those two episodes, I experienced extreme fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, suicide attempts, dissociation and paranoia.
I looked into the mirror and I didn’t recognise who I was seeing.
It was extremely hard to function on a daily basis. Appointments with multiple psychiatrists and psychologists became more frequent. I had tried almost every medicine psychiatry had in store for Bipolar Disorder (You can’t medicate a personality disorder, but you can with a mood disorder) and even went for Electro Convulsive Therapy. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) skills were very helpful though and I learned a lot on how to cope with my intense emotions .
There were points I had to be brought to hospital because my hallucinations were taking over my head.
My emotions were intense. Many friends became strangers. Many moments became episodes.
Would you recognise me, diagnosed with a cocktail of mental illness, as “mad, crazy, out of her mind, deranged” person, if you met me on the street? Most likely no. Because regular John and Jane Doe’s can have mental illnesses, but it doesn’t change the fact that he or she is still a unique individual at the very core.
To add on, I’m a psychology student. Most people tell me “you will become crazy if you work with crazy people”. I beg to differ. In 2011, a year into my treatment, I came across something so empowering. It was Marsha Linehan, the creator of DBT, coming out to the world confessing she had Borderline Personality Disorder. The 3 paged New York Times article gave me a new sense of hope that I too can be an important part in Psychology, as uniquely as an individual and collectively as a mental health patient.
Often at times, I find there is a huge stigma towards people from the mental health field that suffers from mental illness. This stigma haunts and intimidates many current and future mental health professionals. For those practicing, the feeling of “I’m inadequate of controlling my own feelings, how am I going to support another person” is often a feedback I get when I ask people will mental illness in the helping professions field. For those opting to start a career, “Will I be hired if I have unresolved mental health issues?” is a question that plays around in their head.
I’m not a psychologist, but merely a humble 4th Year Psychology student.
I would generally say I’m coping well now, thanks to all the support I have received and my own knowledge that I can relate to while studying Psychology. I would like to let you know, I’m suffering from Bipolar and Borderline Personality, and I didn’t stop me from doing what I love.
Recovery is real.
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