Dealing With Mental Health: PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder

Amanda Whitworth Mental Health

“Your present circumstance don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” - Nido Qubein

About a week ago I had an assessment with a Psychiatrist at Moore’s Cancer Center to be evaluated for some mental health issues that had been coming up in a pretty significant way for the last few months. In reality, these issues have been haunting me for a very long time.

I sat before him and poured out my life story, tears streaming down my face as I observed the parts I felt most compelled to share.

At the end of our session, he confirmed what I had already intuitively known, I was in the midst of PTSD. However, he also confirmed something else that, if I’m honest, I already intuitively knew as well; Borderline Personality Disorder.

I sat, staring blankly at him as my memory recalled the moment so many years ago when I found out my dad was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and over the years, a part of me always wondered if I had that in me too.

As he shared the ins and outs of Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD, a interesting thing happened. There was a lightness deep within my chest as I felt the shackles of perfection fall to the ground. I felt the little girl inside who was, and still is, highly sensitive. The one who learned to stuff down her trauma from years of emotional abuse and abandonment by a man who was suppose to protect her shout, “finally! I am free!”.

I realize my years of numbness followed by intense anger, impulsivity, mood swings and irrational thoughts and years worth of binging and purging and starving myself were not all for naught. Rather, a way of coping with something my child mind couldn’t make sense of.

I don’t think it was just a label that was so carelessly and casually given to me because as I listened to him speak about these two disorders, my life, my behaviors, my emotional responses, they all started to make sense and fall into place.

I didn’t walked out of that appointment feeling like a victim. I walked out of that appointment feeling a deep sense of empowerment because now I understood. Now I got to really start the process of healing and knowing myself, my past and my behaviors with compassion instead of self-hatred, judgement and resentment. There was a softness I felt towards myself I have never known before.

Now I get to develop the tools to thrive instead of constantly beating myself up for a way of being that, at times, feels uncontrollable.

I’ve sat wondering the last week how much I should share. If I even wanted to share this truth openly with you or keep this part of me to myself. I worry that you have already retracted a bit and pulled back hearing the words Borderline Personality Disorder.

I worry now there is an unconscious judgment towards me.

I am afraid that someone will come to my website looking to buy my art and read this post and decide otherwise.

I’m nervous that you may think I’m seeking attention or pity or being dramatic.

I’m scared of the rejection I may face because I’m choosing to let go of the mask of perfection and embrace my mess.

Then I think about all the people out there living in their own little hell and how every time I share bits and pieces of my pain, my shattered parts, my story, it finds it’s way to the person who needs it who is quietly struggle to find meaning in their own mess too.

I realized that hiding and concealing these parts of myself isn’t who I really am and that part of my purpose, my authenticity is sharing. Not just the highlight reel but the REAL and this is a truth of mine that needs to be shared.

The truth of being a complicated human being.

The truth of suffering years of back to back trauma from a disease I feel like I have little control over — with myself and my mom and brother.

The truth of being abused as a child in a way that I justified as a normal because I didn’t suffer it physically.

The truth of the intense amount of shame I’ve carried for the things I have and have not done in my life.

And although there are parts of this journey I am not ready to share opening because I’m afraid of the repercussions of exposing the person involved, I think I can share in an authentic way none the less.

This isn’t only for my own healing but also for anyone else who is struggling with the embarrassment, shock, confusion and even relief that comes with finally having answers to some painful questions.

So now what? What does someone do when they fit a piece of their life puzzle together that may not be ideal, but necessary for finding meaning in their life?

You move forward.

You take this new information and instead of compartmentalizing it you lean into it, absorb it, integrate it and learn to listen to this side of you more.

You go to those painful places, no matter how much it hurts knowing that you will be okay knowing the truth.

You seek professional help. I can not emphasize this enough. Do not try to do this alone. That is exactly what I did for years.

You seek a community not to wallow in but to uplift, understand. and relate to.

And for me personally, I’m going to continue to slow my life down, eliminate anything that adds more stress, get more intentional, continue making small changes that are long overdue and peel back another layer.

I know very clearly that I have nothing to be ashamed of and I don’t believe this means I am a broken or unlovable woman. I will not hide from this. It’s a delicate dance that requires me to ask for help, get honest with myself regularly and let go of the shame I’ve attached to so many things in my life.

I will not fall victim to it but use it as a catalyst to know myself in a way I still don’t, to love myself deeper, heal and hopefully impact people in a genuine and helpful way.

In order to do that, I need to own and forgive my past and slow down enough to allow myself the grace of healing.

Grace is something I have only recently just met.

And we are getting to know each other slowly.

It's Okay To Do This

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"And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been" - Rainer Maria Rilke

A brand new year. An opportunity to do things differently, to begin again. 

I hope you remember in this coming year that: 

It’s ok to not be perfect because when you can accept that you are imperfect you will finally realize you are perfect just the way you are.

It’s ok to be disappointed when something doesn’t work out the way you hoped because eventually, you’ll see that this disappointment brought an opportunity that never would have happened had what you wanted actually come into fruition. 

It’s ok to not always be strong or brave or courageous.  

It’s ok to not clean out his closet for days or weeks or years or ever even, if it never feels right. It was a love so deep and for so long, most of us only dream of experiencing that. 

It’s okay to say goodbye to people without actually saying the words. Send them love, or not. Wish them well, or not. And let them go. Close the door. Move on. 

It's also ok to say no. As much as you want, to whatever doesn't feel right in your soul. 

It’s ok to not practice yoga or meditate or journal. You can still be a deep, meaningful, inspired, creative, spiritual person. 

It’s ok to not be over him or her yet. Know that with enough time and distance, you will be one day. 

It’s ok to try a million different things over the course of your lifetime. You're a complex, ever-evolving person and hey, it gives you so many great stories to tell. 

It's ok if you don’t feed your kids homemade organic meals from scratch every night and you opt for a box of Mac and Cheese. 

It’s ok if the house is messy and you move the clothes from the bed to the floor for a week straight. 

It’s ok if you delete friends off social media. And it’s ok if that’s me. 

And it's definitely okay if you decide to delete social media altogether. The world will go on. 

It’s ok if you fall off the diet wagon day two of the new year. And it’s definitely ok to say a big FU to diets in general. 

It’s ok to want to grow and change and shed old skin. Even if you are worried what others may think. Even if it feels scary. 

It's okay to stop caring what other's think. In fact, I highly recommend it. 

It’s ok to go to the grocery store and buy nothing on your list but come home realizing you just bought $150 worth of food. 

It’s ok to start over...and over ... and over again until you find what fits. 

It’s ok if you like to say fuck. It’s really ok. 

It's ok if some days you just want to hide away and turn off your phone and watch twenty-five episodes of Sex and the City. 

It's ok to not have it all figured out. 

It's ok to be different and fully embrace it. 

It's ok to cry a lot. Again, you are a complex human with a ton of emotions. 

It's ok to want more for yourself and it's ok to be perfectly happy with where you are right now. 

It's ok to let go of the need to be a certain size. 

It's ok to stop coloring your hair and embrace the grey and it's ok to color your hair until the day you die.  

It’s ok to be 37 and still single after 4 years. 

It’s ok to eat quesadillas for lunch for a week straight. Quesadillas are really good. 

I can go on and on but the moral of the story is, I hope you go into 2018 knowing wherever you are, right this moment, is perfectly ok. 

Stop being so hard on yourself. 

Here is to a brand-spankin' new year. 

Anxiety, Depression, Loneliness and the Dog That Saved Me (part 1)

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"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." - Gandhi 

It's Christmas morning, about 6:30am and I'm curled up all cozy in my bed, Rocky sleeping next to me with his head resting close to my hip. His breathing is heavy as little snores escape his snout. You'd think he was in a deep sleep but every few moments, he pops his head up and looks at me as if to ask, "Now mom? Is it time now?"

When he realizes I'm not quiet ready to take him on his W.A.L.K, (we never, under any circumstance whats so ever, mutter that word out loud unless you are ready to fully commit) he lets out an annoyed sigh and places his head back down on the bed beside my hip. 

I let out a laugh. To him, this is what he lives for. His small world of happiness looks like food, poops, cuddles and walks. It's as simple as that. 

I look down at his shiny black coat and the green handkerchief I have tide loosely around his neck. Although unintentional, it's quite festive next to his red and black plaid collar.

The loneliness I'm feeling is temporarily filled with a deep sense of love as I think about how lucky I am to have serendipitously found him. How different both of our lives would be had that fateful day of scrolling Instagram  never happened. Rocky would be eight months dead and I, well, in some ways, I suppose I would be too. 

I think about how he came along when I wasn't even looking and filled a big hole in my heart I never realized was there. If it wasn't for him, I truly believe my days would look and feel a whole lot darker. 

I like to joke that I didn't save him. He saved me. As if I even had any say in the matter. 

I'm reminded again that wonderful and unexpected things always come when you are not looking. It's as if something so much bigger knows exactly what you need, when you need it and just how it should come to you.

Huh. Funny how that works.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about this as I've been consumed with this feeling of dis-ease and discomfort. Anxiety has riddled me once again and I find myself grasping for what I can not truly control. I want to force and manipulate those things I want so badly and it seems the happy days are few and far between and I can't seem to figure out why.

Is it hormonal shifts? Is it just this time of year and how it's colder and darker and my skin hasn't felt the warmth of the sun in what feels like forever? Is it that I'm still single and it seems harder and harder to meet a genuine, honesty, caring man? Or is it that I'm still putting way too much emphasis on the fact that I'm still single after four years?

Or is it that I feel unstoppable change coming my way and I'm not sure I'm ready for it?

But then I settle on what I truly feel it is; that I'm trying so hard to hold on to things that never were meant to be mine. 

I can't help but wonder as I watch how simple it is to make Rocky happy, that maybe I still, even after all these year and experiences and learnings and time, have it all wrong?

Upon further explorations, I realized that maybe this dis-ease and discomfort are from holding on to ideas and perspectives, certain people and old comfort zones? Maybe it's time to really, truly let go. To say goodbye to what I want to be mine but what will never be? 

I look up from my computer to find Rocky peeking back at me with one eye open as if to say, "Mom, I can't even be bothered to lift my head if it's still not bloody time to go on a walk." I laugh again and feel the center of my chest fill with warmth. It's a genuine laugh. A genuine warmth. That is what I long for. More of that feeling, deep within my chest. 

It's true and real and 100% authentic. It bubbles up from such depths that it momentarily warms my whole body. It's pure joy and bliss. 

It's 100%, without a doubt, happiness and love. 

I throw back the covers and Rocky jumps up with contagious enthusiasm. If he could talk he'd sing with such unwavering and flamboyant joy, "It's TIIIIMMMMMMMEEEE!" As he prances of the bed because now it was, in fact, time for his WALK. One of the most most simplest joys to this bright eyed pup day. 

I slip on my UGG boots and beanie and zip up my black North Face puffy vest and know, without a doubt, that yes, it is in fact...TIME. 

To be continued.