My psychiatrist handed me a thick brown envelope, with my most recent diagnosis inside. A part of me was hopeful, that perhaps after thirteen years of living with my first diagnosis (borderline personality disorder) that I improved to the point that I no longer met the DSM requirements.
To me, that meant that I’d be “cured” of borderline personality disorder.
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The second I got back to my truck, I tore the envelope open and flipped through page after page to find the official diagnosis.
Not only did my doctor keep my borderline personality diagnosis… he ADDED three more things!
Borderline personality disorder
Post traumatic stress disorder
Schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type)
Chronic alcohol use disorder
It was a gut punch. I sat there in the parking lot for god knows how long… and I cried.
I spent my life in and out of inpatient care. I’ve tried every medication from antidepressants to antipsychotics to even anticonvulsions. I go to support groups, read self-help books, never miss a therapy appointment, exercise, manage my diet- what more do I have to do to live a normal life?
Two years after that disheartening diagnosis, it finally sank in…
I will never be cured.
Let’s look at the facts:
3/4 of my diagnoses are affectively considered a “disease of the brain.”
None of my diagnoses are curable.
What’s the point of living?
I spent my late teens and early 20’s being fetishized as the Lana Del Rey/Amy Winehouse type of tragic, sad girl with “daddy issues” and when I got too old for helplessness to be glamorous anymore, they moved on to the next generation of “sad girls.”
People stopped paying attention to me. They got sick of me.
It feels like I claw my way to stay alive for no reason.
Getting out of bed is a struggle.
To force myself to eat is a battle.
Even something as mundane as taking a shower or brushing my hair feels like too much effort.
I even had to delete my social media accounts because I am desperately jealous of people who live stable, normal lives.
Look at her at the club with her perfect friends and perfect boyfriend. They don’t have a panic attack every time they need to be around people.
Oh look at this girl traveling the world and getting paid just to look pretty. Why can’t I have that life? She has it so easy.
Wow, those two are getting married? I wonder what it’s like to be in a relationship where you’re not constantly toxic and manipulating the person you love unintentionally because you’re so insecure and terrified they’re going to leave you for someone better.
Why bother living? Why bother going to treatment? Why am I taking these pills that make me feel like a zombie and sometimes make me feel worse than just being sick?
And yknow… no one could tell me that.
No one could tell me why my life was worth living.
In fact, I’ll take the controversial stance and say- my life wasn’t worth living.
Because it held no value.
I allowed my trauma, my past, my parents, my friends, my work, to define me.
I gave my mental illness permission to convince me that I was not valuable.
That my life is worth nothing.
So I became nothing.
The “fuck it” moment
When the reality sank in, it hurt.
Of course it hurt… because it validated every fear I’ve ever had.
Worthless. Used up. Alone. Abandoned.
People forgot about me.
But in the darkness, I realized, I didn’t forget about me.
The fact that I still show up to therapy, fight for better medication- hell, the fact that I’m fucking breathing- proves that I did not forget about myself.
My heart is still beating and I am still trying.
So what if my mental illnesses, my brain diseases, are incurable and will be with me for life?
I’m not dead yet.
The silver lining: finding center
While you and I suffer from these horrible sicknesses that do not have a cure, there is a glimmer of hope: We can learn to be “centered.”
Centered, even though we’re not cured.
To be centered is to be satisfied and content with who you are and your progress.
For example, borderline personality disorder makes me feel things intensely and in black-and-white. I can’t change this. It will be with me until the day I die.
But to feel so intensely means that I am so fucking passionate about the things I love. It means, when I fall in love with you, I will give you every ounce of what I have. I will write poetry about you. Make cheesy playlists. Gush about you to all my friends.
Other people call this stage of a relationship “puppy love.” My borderline personality disorder means that the “puppy love” stage never goes away. I am obsessive and fiercely intense with my relationships.
When borderline personality disorder dictated my relationships, I would do things like snoop on my partner’s social media to see who they were talking to. If they didn’t answer me back within 10 minutes I would get mad and amp myself up.
They must be cheating… that piece of shit.
To be centered means that I learn to give my partner space and trust.
If I feel insecure and want them to spend more time with me would make me feel better, I’d ask for more time. No “hinting,” no passive aggressive comments. Just straight, blunt communication.
If I felt jealous because they have a new friend who happens to be prettier than me, I would stop and ask myself why I felt so threatened (yknow, instead of starting a screaming match with my partner and manipulating them to drop this friend).
Spoiler: I’ve learned that when I see another woman is “prettier” than me, I associated that with her being a better fit for a partner than me. I’ve now learned to understand that just because another woman is “prettier” doesn’t mean she would be a better partner than I would be. It also doesn’t mean my partner wants that woman over me. Also, if someone dumps me SOLELY because the new woman is “more attractive,” do I really want to be with someone who is that shallow? (No, I don’t)
Learning to be centered has allowed me to feel… satisfied with myself.
Living for myself
Being centered boils down to one simple thing: I’m content and I can live with myself.
It means that I no longer compare myself to Instagram models or feel like a lesser person because I struggle.
I don’t get bitter because someone else can wake up, shower, and go to work, while I have to convince myself that I won’t get electrocuted in the shower because the government installed computer chips under my skin. All that matters is that I fucking did it, no matter if I needed to exert three times the effort.
It means that I remember being a child living with parents who called me worthless while beating the shit out of me, and I dreamed that one day, I will grow up and no longer live there. That I’ll be a singer, and a writer, and live on a little farm, and I’m going to change the world for other abused little kids, and I’ll have a million cats, and maybe a dog, and I will have a sweet partner who adores me even though I’m an asshole sometimes.
I owe it to that little helpless girl, scared and hiding in her closet, clutching a paper towel that she drew a face on so she would have a “friend” for comfort. The girl who no one ever read bedtime stories to, except for the hollow voices she heard in her head. I fucking owe it to that child to pursue the dreams she had.
So I learned how to play the guitar and I sing to myself when I’m stressed. I pay my bills with my writing. I just bought my first flock of baby chickens to start my farm. I created a mental health Discord that WILL be a nonprofit that I open to teenagers who need the support system. I adopt stray cats. I got my dog. My partner is the best person in the world who loves me even when I am at my worst.
I’m not cured. But I am centered. I am living on MY terms.
Not within the limitations of my mental health and definitely not within the limitations that society, stereotypes, and plain ignorance, has put me in.
If you take nothing else away from this post, I want you to take away this:
Yes, you’re sick. Yes, you have struggles that no one else has to deal with. Yes, life should be easier. But these are things that you can’t change.
So let it be.
Pursue your goals anyway. Remember your childhood dreams that feel so silly and far away, and go after them anyway. Recovery and management is difficult so you might as well.
You have a limit on the number of heartbeats you have… so don’t waste them wishing for something (a cure) that does not exist. Instead, spend those heartbeats living a life that you can be content with.
That’s your “center”.