One day you’ll look at your life and recognize that you’ve reached a point in recovery that you have been working toward all these years.
Last year was a year of change. I considered moving, left grad school, got engaged, built jobs I feel capable of handling, and began to write about my experience with mental illness.
A year ago, I would not have imagined this growth. I can fight through my bad days and still have good come from it. I can process and talk about my thoughts and emotions without believing them. I have healed, something I did not see possible.
I hope you recognize your strength and growth. I hope you understand that you can fight. One day you will look at your life and realize you have reached the point you have been waiting for – health and happiness.
Those living with BPD commonly experience guilt and shame.
Many of my negative thoughts are centered around guilt. Did I wrong someone or hurt their feelings? Have I disappointed, someone? Did I say something I shouldn’t have?
Outbursts triggered by intense emotions can result in me doing or saying things I immediately regret. I feel ashamed, and if I allow it, this emotion will consume me. Thoughts of my wrongdoing replaying in my head, over and over.
From an early age, guilt and shame distorted my perception of myself. Eventually, I learned to work through this.
One factor in my healing process has been learning how to combat and ultimately change these negative thoughts.
I can’t ignore the fact that I do and say things I regret, that would limit my progress. I also can’t blame myself for the symptoms of my mental illness. So focusing on these thoughts is essential to my recovery.
I have more control when I feel healthy, and my stress level is low. I feel my best when I get enough sleep, rise early, and eat well. I am patient and kind with myself. Instead of focusing on guilt and shame, I am moving forward.
My mind still tells me horrible things about myself, but I feel in control. If I say something I regret in response to my emotions, I feel extreme guilt. If I hold onto that guilt, it turns to shame. To fight back, I need to process these emotions and not hold onto them.
I no longer need to hold onto this guilt and shame; I am allowing myself to let it go.
It all begins with acceptance.
Accepting your diagnosis, symptoms, and daily reality.
When I accept my diagnosis, instead of fighting it, I am accepting myself and validating my feelings.
I may not feel appreciative or healthy every day, but when I accept my symptoms and reality for what it is, I am removing expectations and pressure. A good day for me might look a lot different than a good day for you, and I’m okay with that.
I can accept a bad day, moment, or even week, because I know tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities.
Without acceptance, I am fighting against myself. Allowing my illness and emotions to control my life. When things are good, I’m waiting for everything to fall apart, and when things are bad, It’s validating my belief. Which is why acceptance is crucial.
I will continue to accept myself, illness and all, not only because I have no other choice, but because it allows me to let go and enjoy my life.
It’s all about learning how to work with yourself instead of against.
At first, I thought to be vulnerable meant sharing the awful and miserable parts of life. The ones that we often refrained from sharing. I believed that by sharing these stories, I was the most vulnerable I could be.
But that’s not how vulnerability works.
We are vulnerable when we share our emotions. Stigma has conditioned us to believe we should keep our feelings hidden, and those who choose to talk about their emotions are looking for sympathy or attention.
We are vulnerable when we talk about our hopes and dreams. When we share goals and desires we have not yet accomplished, we are putting ourselves out there and being real.
We are vulnerable when we share our work.
I feel most vulnerable when I share the thoughts I hold and the content I have created. I am aware that others may not understand or disagree with what I create, but regardless, I am putting myself out there.
While vulnerability can be opening up about a dark time or situation, it is not limited to.
Vulnerability is sharing your authentic self with the world, knowing that not everyone will be accepting of what you have to say.
I often feel every emotion intensely, so when depression hits – I feel empty. This emptiness is so unlike me. My head was filled with thoughts and ideas. Now i struggle to maintain a conversation, unable to think.
My stomach feels tight, and my appetite is absent. My body, weak. I’m exhausted, and I need a nap, yet I sleep for hours and feel unrested.
I crave bedtime when I’m safe, asleep, and not experiencing emptiness.
I usually wake up with anticipation. I enjoy the mornings most because my mind feels so clear. Now I wake up in a daze. My brain is foggy, and I feel sick inside.
I’m coping as best I can. Distraction is the only way through this: knitting, walking, reading, baking, and music.
Putting words to this feeling brings wholeness to my life.
I’m accepting this emptiness, and I’m fully feeling – or not feeling. Then, I will move on because tomorrow is a new day.
My illness is all in my head. Well, it is invisible to you.
I won’t lie; sometimes, I feel guilty because of how I am unable to engage and present myself fully.
I wish I could be carefree and easygoing, but that’s unrealistic for me.
Often, I want others to understand why I’m not those things.
My illness is invisible; others cannot read the thoughts that I have. Others cannot feel the pain and tension I experience. Others cannot grasp the emotions that take over my reality.
Sometimes my presence is all I can manage. I am juggling my mind and existence, and on stressful days that keeps my hands full.
There are days where I feel in control. My thoughts are more positive, and I have more energy. On these days I can be present. I feel like myself, and I can engage. These days remind me why the hard ones are worth it.
If you can relate to my words, I want you to know it is enough for you just to be you as little or much as you can manage. If you can’t relate, I hope you can better understand.
I’m fighting an invisible illness.
If you follow my Instagram, you know that I’m not one for big New Years’ resolutions. I find that most are instructed and unrealistic. While I could make one attainable goal, I don’t want to be held down by one big thing. I also find that the added stress results in little to no positive change.
This year I thought I would try something different. Instead of a goal, I am creating a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase to set your choices and life.
My mantra for the year is Intention.
Since beginning to work from home, I find myself wasting a lot of time as a reaction or response from an emotion. I feel overwhelmed, and I distract. Helpful, but I want to do something more meaningful. I rationalize this downtime by reminding myself that I need to rest and keep stress down, but resting should only go so far.
Instead of telling myself to buckle down and get tasks done, which would only add anxiety and shame, I am using my mantra to make my choices more intentional.
By intention, I mean mindfulness and purpose. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I know from DBT skills that I need to stat mindful and self soothe. While watching TV is very relaxing, it does not keep me aware. Now, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I want to be intentional about how I cope. Music helps me relax and soothes me. To stay intentional, I may use my record player and focus on the lyrics. Taking it all in, being present in life. Or perhaps ill play some music and write. Allowing the thoughts and emotions flow through me. Afterward, I will feel less stressed and more relaxed, but the difference is my actions were intentional and productive.
What is your goal or mantra this year? Why did you choose it? What changes do you want 2020 to hold?
It was a Monday evening, and we had a night planned. Multiple dogs were on their way, and I was feeling good.
When my Mom told me she had bad news, I immediately knew. I had felt this odd feeling the past weekend and was thinking about my great-grandma often, so I knew.
At first, all I felt was guilt. If I had just visited her last weekend. If I hadn’t had car troubles a few months ago when I was going to help her move.
I hated how happy I had been all-day while my grandma was already gone.
After the guilt, came anger. Why couldn’t she make it till Christmas? I didn’t get to say goodbye
Then came the sadness. Holiday commercials made me cry – something I rarely do when it comes to television. I would be doing okay, and then it would hit me all over again, the pain.
Depression hit hard on Thanksgiving. A holiday my grandma used to host. My heart ached for her, and the day dragged on.
I’ve reached acceptance, but I’m not over it. I never will be. You don’t move on from grief. I will, however, move forward.
Remember these icebreaker activities you were required to do in grade school? The teacher would ask for a fun fact or three ways to define yourself. What makes you, you. Those ice breakers always brought extreme anxiety. Now just the fear of all eyes on me or speaking out loud. It was the fact that I had no idea how to define myself.
What I didn’t realize then was that I have the power to choose who I am.
I would answer that question with adjectives others labeled me as. I was shy, kind, quiet, and caring. While at times, I am these things, these characteristics don’t define me.
While I don’t find myself getting forced into an ice breaker activities, I do meet new people. I think about how I introduce myself, and the characteristics people see are ones that I CHOOSE to show.
I don’t want to be defined by aspects that are not me, and I used to see that as something external or out of my control. But now I know that I hold power.
Others may see aspects in you and label you, but at the end of the day- you define yourself.
I feel this external pressure to be happy and cheerful during the holiday season.
I get caught up with the holiday bustle, and I forget to slow down.
I want to be present when I’m with my family, but I also need to take time for myself and remember that it’s okay if I don’t always feel positive.
Even though it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean that my mental illness goes on holiday. Because of this, I need to set boundaries with myself. Taking breaks, going on walks, and most importantly, trying to keep a schedule.
Last year I was hard on myself. I wasn’t feeling particularly cheerful, and that made me feel selfish and ungrateful. This year, I am removing the pressure and expectation. How I feel is how I feel, and I can be grateful and full of joy even if I’m having a stressful day.