Discovering Your Reason

I am not under the belief that everything happens for a reason. I am under the belief that we can find a reason or a positive aspect for almost everything. That reason may be difficult to discover initially, but as time passes, the reason becomes clearer. For a large portion of my life, I wanted to become a therapist. I loved deep conversations and helping others. I thought this career was something I was supposed to do.


Leaving graduate school left me with a lot of unanswered questions. Why was I so set on becoming a therapist? Were my four years undergrad and one year in graduate school all for nothing? It was easy for me to reframe my undergraduate education. It was then that I became my own person, separate from my parents. I was pushed and shoved out of my comfort zone, and met some of the most important people in my life.


My year in graduate school was much more difficult to reframe. My end goal of becoming a therapist was not accomplished, so what was the point? What was the reason?


I met some wonderful individuals in school and I am extremely grateful for that. Specifically, I met a very close friend of mine. I know that our friendship is deeper than someone you would just meet in class. She understands me in a way very few people do. There are definitely reasons I am happy I went to graduate school, but this wasn’t yet my reason.


One day while meditating, it came to me. The reason isn’t in the goal or accomplishment, but the experience. I grew into a strong, resourceful, confident individual. Someone I wouldn’t have recognized two years ago. Someone who knows what she wants in life and is not afraid to work hard to get there. I came out of school with a greater knowledge of people and mental health. More importantly, I came out of school happy, something I don’t think I’ve truly ever been.


So I don’t have a master’s degree, but I have something even better – myself.


Imposter Syndrome

I think part of me has always wanted to be a writer. As a child, I had endless story ideas. When we began to write papers for school, I noticed how effortless it was for me. I discovered I could write quickly and when I got started the words would flow as if a part of me was awakened.


Writing became an outlet for me, but as a child, I listened to my severe anxiety. I would ruminate and obsess over my negative thoughts. I have always been very critical of myself because these thoughts gave me every reason why I should. The thoughts would repeat through my head, and I was controlled by them.


I guess my dream of writing was lost when I accepted my thoughts as truths.


Writing was where I began to understand and cope with my thoughts and intense emotions. What was overwhelming became more manageable on paper. I could write anything – all my fears, regrets, irrational feelings of guilt and shame, and my dreams for the future. Whatever was on my mind, I could tell the nonjudgmental piece of paper. I did not realize that I was actually processing my thoughts and helping myself heal. All I knew what that when I wrote, I could survive, for just a bit longer than the day before.


When I began this blog I was full of passion and drive. I got lost for a while and I began to have negative thoughts about writing. I felt like an imposter. Writing is not what I went to school for. I know that because of school I hold a lot of knowledge about mental health from my degree in Psychology, but writing has always just been a passion of mine.


Suddenly, I could not wrap my head around why people would want to read what I was writing. I have never felt particularly special in any way. All I know is that I have a lot of feelings, like a lot, writing helps, and I have a narrative inside of me waiting to come out.


What has helped me cope with these signals of imposter syndrome is writing about it, and I believe that is a good sign that I am on the right track.


We all have something in our lives that we enjoy doing and may even experience some of these same thoughts about that. It is important to remember and acknowledge what they really are – thoughts.


 

Removing Blame From Symptoms

I struggle to differentiate my symptoms from myself. The symptoms of depression and anxiety are easier for me to identify and externalize. When I am depressed I feel empty and unfulfilled. Anxiety puts me on edge and makes me light-headed and nauseous. However, personality disorders become messy. The symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder are normal human responses, intensified, with a greater difficulty to control these emotions and emotional responses. My symptoms are intertwined with myself. These symptoms are how I’ve always felt and reacted. When I was diagnosed, I was given the ability to externalize these symptoms.


Borderline Personality Disorder causes difficulties in relationships. Honestly, that is an understatement. It feels as if I have this internal drive to sabotage what’s good in my life and make me feel safe. I am aware of how often I overreact. I have the responsibility to try my best to recognize when I’m overreacting. However, the other half of the disorder is how easy it is for me to not notice the overreaction. This is because my response is a normal reaction to how I feel inside, the intense emotions I have. As you can guess, it’s difficult to allow me not to react to how I initially see fit. Now not only is my reaction intensified, but my threshold to reacting is much lower. Rarely can I brush off little things. Instead, I must allow myself to react, but I try not to externalize my reaction to these little things.


This overreacting, lashing out, and getting my feelings hurt easily, leaves me with two emotions that linger – guilt and shame. Read any book on Borderline Personality Disorder and you’ll see them mention guilt and shame. It makes sense though. People with BPD do not lack self-awareness, and therefore often feel guilty and ashamed for how their illness influences them to react. , mental illness required care, from yourself and from others. Sometimes this means doing or making requests that could be considered selfish. However, we need to be selfish sometimes, it saves lives. This is not to suggest that self-care is selfish, but what I am saying is that if you need to be selfish for your health, sometimes that is necessary and 100% okay.


When my symptoms are difficult to recognize at the moment, I must reflect with a clear head. I take a deep breath and I honestly look at myself. I reflect on my actions, emotions, and beliefs. I process what has been going on by journaling and meditation. I often find that my pen and paper discover my true intentions and feelings before my mind does. This reflection allows me the opportunity to recognize my symptoms and remove blame. Additionally, I am supported. My fiancé, Tyler, is often good at removing blame from my symptoms. When he approaches the situation with a clear head can point out my symptoms and tell me that those are not me. he validates my difficult experience and my effort to hold myself together. However, this is an example of an ideal situation. If Tyler approaches the situation with his own emotions, it escalates the situation and my symptoms. Sometimes this happens, we are human, but when I acknowledge how helpful Tyler is when he approaches the situation with a clear head, I am validating his effort and making it easier for him to help me.


Being diagnosed with a mental illness is like being given a car manual, but discovering it is blank inside. You think you’re being given an explanation for why you work the way you do and how to help yourself when things are no longer working properly. In reality, that information is not given, its discovered. Instead, you are being given an opportunity for deeper self-awareness and understanding.


This impulsivity, reactivity, and sensitivity are not myself, these are symptoms. They may appear difficult to recognize, but taking the time to reject and recognize is essential to growth and healing. This is the core of my recovery.

Authenticity

Aspects of ourselves that we once viewed as weaknesses can become our greatest strengths. For a very long time, I hid my true self. It can be frightening being authentic and vulnerable. By putting ourselves out there, we are showing the world who we really are, but we are also opening ourselves up to criticism. However, there is another side to this. By showing our authentic selves we are allowing the possibility for deeper and more authentic relationships. Others will love these aspects of ourselves because they are what sets us apart and makes us unique.


I am extremely emotional and these emotions are intense. I am also very sensitive and reactive to my environment and personal interactions. I once believed this made me lesser than others. I felt like a child because everything upset me and I couldn’t control my emotions like those around me. now, I recognize what strengths I have because of these strong emotions.


I am empathic. It comes naturally and s always present. I care deeply about others and their emotions. I can empathize with others because I have felt these strong emotions, every day.  I can feel the room and pick up on these emotions as well. I feel with people, and their emotions become my emotions.


I thought these were flaws, but now I view them as strengths.


I want the same for you. Embrace what you once viewed as a flaw. Be unapologetically authentic. This self is exactly who you’re supposed to be. Others want to get to know that person, so be that person. Be you.

Distress Tolerance

When I was in an inpatient program I would hear this Dialectic Behavioral Therapy skill mentioned daily. I have not been focusing on my skill use recently. I get distracted by life and caught up with emotions. Life passes by and I forget these ingrained skills that I sue daily. When I focus on my skill use, I use my skills more often and validate my own success.


I am reactive to my environment, and the smallest things can send my day downhill. Over time, I have learned how to ride this emotional wave instead of allowing it to crush me. This is distress tolerance.


This skill allows me to take a step back. I observe what is triggering me: a conversation, an overwhelming stimulus, a sudden change. I feel these strong emotions and acknowledge them. However, instead of allowing these emotions to control me, I accept them. They will not immediately disappear, but they will lessen over time.


Earlier said than done, I understand that. At times, I still let those little bumps ruin my day. Although since I’ve begun to recover, the days I am able to use my skills outweigh the bad days.


Recovery and the use of skills take time. Life will not get easier when practicing unhelpful coping mechanisms. This is something I have had to learn the hard way. However, with time and hard work, recovery is possible and so worth it. Hang on and ride the wave.

Asking for Help

Asking for help has always been something that I struggle with. I used to believe that reaching out meant I was admitting weakness. I would push it off, telling myself that I was fine and I would reach out later. This made it easy for me to not reach out. I thought this made me strong and independent in some way.


Reaching out is still difficult for me, but I realize how important it is. A few months ago Tyler took a side job as an assistant golf coach. This means he had to travel on occasional days and weekends. At first, I felt abandoned. This is a common feeling for me, and a large part of my diagnosis. I constantly feel that those I love no longer care, and will eventually leave.


When he was away I struggled and it was easy for me to get into that dark place inside my head. I blamed these feelings on Tyler – if he would just come home I wouldn’t feel this way. I soon realized this was not helpful for either of us. It would be easy to say “just get ahold of yourself, you’re 23 years old and should know how to be okay by yourself.” However, I cannot put blame on myself for struggling to manage my symptoms when I am alone. I must accept reality and find an effective way to cope.


Our relationship took a hit from this. Tyler felt guilty each time he had to leave, and I was overwhelmed with pain and loneliness. After a lot of fighting and talking, things became clearer. When Tyler traveled for coaching, I needed to ask someone to stay with me. This brought up a feeling of immaturity and shame. I didn’t want to feel as if I had a babysitter.


Since then I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I now feel grateful that I have the support system I do, and they are willing to stay with me. I also appreciate how they never make me feel dependent or immature. I feel like I am spending time with a loved one, rather than on crisis watch.


I am proud of myself for pushing past my fears of abandonment. No matter how irrational my fears are, they still exist and feel incredibly real to me. I can now make the most of my weekends away from Tyler. I have worked through my feelings of guilt and shame, and I am happy Tyler can enjoy his time as a coach. I can see how happy and fulfilled it makes him.


Needing help and support from others is nothing to be ashamed of. Humans are social creatures and need one another to survive and thrive. Next time you’re feeling lost and alone, don’t sit with those feels alone. It is okay not to be okay, so reach out to your support system.


One of the ways I work through this second-guessing is by journaling. I realized that I hold myself to very unrealistic standards. I would want and expect my friends to reach out if they were struggling or needed help, yet expect myself to do it alone.


We all go through roadblocks. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but strength. Knowing when help is required shows self-awareness and maturity. Take care of yourself and reach out to a friend. They want to help you, so let them.

My Diagnosis Saved Me

After my second suicide attempt, I accepted that something has to change. Medication  changes and weekly therapy were helping me cope, but not enough. My life as I knew it was fading away. I was fading away.


Around the same time, my psychiatrist suggested psychological testing. By this time I had two mental illness diagnosis on my mental record, Depression and Anxiety, but I had never gone through formal psychological testing.


From an outside perspective I had it all together. I was high functioning and successful. I graduated with my BA in Psychology. I was accepted into a counseling masters program. I was in a loving and committed relationship and was close with friends and family. While all this was true, I was also hiding the chaos and suffering within.


For most of my life, I didn’t have the vocabulary to fully explain how I felt inside. Being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder helped me understand how I had always felt, but could never name or describe.


Now I understand why my body feels raw with emotion. Why I wakeup in paralyzing fear for no significant reason. I now understand why I quickly get attached to people, but once they’re in my life, I struggle attending and keeping the relationship. I push and pull people away using emotions. I now understand my impulsive self-harm urges and suicidal thoughts even when I’m not depressed. I can recognize the dissociation, splitting, and over the top emotions. Now I understand why I’ve always felt like I experience emotions differently than others, because I do. I’m emotionally sensitive and reactive, and now I have to vocabulary to express that.


I began to understand myself. For the first time I felt heard, understood, and validated. I had hope for recovery, love, life, and a future advocating for myself and others like me. I discovered my true self and all the wonderful skills, talents, and dreams that came along.


Don’t let the stigma of your diagnosis present self-acceptance. Understanding your true self is the first step to acceptance. I accept you just as you are and you can too.


My diagnosis saved me. I don’t know id my suicide attempts would have been controlled if I hadn’t been diagnosed. It allowed me to discover who I am, and be proud of that person.

Take Time to Reflect

I want to remember where I’ve been. I want to reflect on my progress and past. I want to understand and appreciate the lessons I have learned.


Self-reflection is the reason why I journal. Without reflecting, I float through life. I find myself living for what is ahead, forgetting where I have been.


Today I am reflecting on this past year and all the changes it brought. A lot has changed, which would often leave me feeling lost and out of control, yet I feel whole like I am slowly healing.


I had planned on taking the summer off of school, but with the intention of returning this fall. Since deciding not to return to school, my mental health and general outlook of my future have changed. While I still struggle with my mental health, my baseline is in a much better place. I am in control.


I am proud of myself for taking such a huge step, and I haven’t let myself acknowledge that. I could have continued down my career path and become a therapist; I could have been incredibly successful in that line of work and helped many people. However, I would have felt stressed, unhappy, and lost. I would have been sacrificing my health and happiness for a career, one I thought I needed to pursue to be satisfied with myself.


My health and happiness are more important than a valued career. I am happier as a dog sitter and walker than I ever could have been as a therapist. Don’t get me wrong, I loved therapy and excelled in my classes, but the stress and emotional wear it brought me was not worth it.


Reflecting on this past year and the choices I have made have helped me feel proud, something that doesn’t come along often. Take time to reflect today.