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Updated 15 October 2015

Living with borderline personality disorder

'Mommy' blogger, Coral-Leigh Stuart-deLange, shares her story about living with mental illness.

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Do me a favour and read up on borderline personality disorder before reading this post; it might make a little more sense to you if you do.

My emotions are pretty much black and white, and overly so – there is no grey. Things are either really dark or really bright and can go from one to the other in an instant. The light is full of sarcasm, inside jokes and rats with party hats, while the dark is blades, self loathing and regret.

Overwhelmed by negative emotions

The medication is a dimmer switch, if you will, or the bridge between the two. It’s what balances the two sides out. It makes the dark seem a little less dark and the light not as bright. It doesn’t sort the situation out completely, though, and my emotions still run a lot stronger than what’s classified as average. I am a lot more sensitive to things than other people, and heightened sensory sensitivity doesn’t make it any better.

Read: Symptoms of depression

Are you following? Yes? No? Maybe? Let’s explain it more clinically: People with BPD are often exceptionally idealistic, joyful and loving. However, they may feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, experiencing intense grief instead of sadness, shame and humiliation instead of mild embarrassment, rage instead of annoyance and panic instead of nervousness.

People with BPD are especially sensitive to feelings of rejection, isolation and perceived failure. Before learning coping mechanisms, their efforts to manage or escape from their intense negative emotions may lead to self-injury or suicidal behaviour. They are aware of the intensity of their negative emotional reactions and, since they cannot regulate them, they shut them down entirely.

This can be harmful to people with BPD, since negative emotions alert people to the presence of a problematic situation and move them to address it. Living with depression is hard; depression isn’t something you “just get over" or snap out of. If you’ve never suffered from depression, it is difficult, if not impossible to understand what it means to be clinically depressed.

Read: 5 mental health tips

The state of being of depression is hard enough to cope with without the subtle pressure from the environment telling sufferers that "this depression thing has lasted long enough" and that they should “get over it". This attitude is not only harmful to the sufferer, but isn’t even remotely practical as a way of dealing with the problem.

What is depression?

Explaining exactly what depression is, is difficult. It isn’t just when you’re feeling a little sad or "down". It’s an ongoing problem, characterised by low moods and often suicidal thoughts, and it results from an imbalance in brain chemistry.

This is why it’s not something people can just "get over". There are real physical processes involved that make this problem impossible to overcome by willpower alone. I truly believe that anyone who fights depression is a brave warrior. So are their loved ones who fight it with them. Because it's so lonely, there is no way you can get through it without having "one hell of a support system" in place.

Read: Mental health: it's time to talk

When you get visual or audible stimuli, or when you touch something, your brain responds to this sensual stimulus. When you're depressed, your brain doesn't respond to stimuli in a normal way. Depression defies all logic – you can feel angry that children are laughing, or sad, instead of sharing in their joy.

How does one deal with depression?

One day at a time. Those who read my blog know that I see a psychiatrist and am on a cocktail of “happy meds”. You’ll also know that I try to "make light" of my situation. I do that because it scares me that I have to rely on medication to be “normal”, but I also blog about it so that others can know that there is nothing wrong with admitting you need help, and seeking out such help.

Depression is real. Manic depression is severe and considered a disability. Looking for help does NOT mean that you are giving up or admitting defeat; it means you’re strong enough to take matters into your own hands and “fix” what is wrong. I don’t regret being on my meds and I never will. 

Without my medication I know I don’t cope well and I'd probably be in a padded cell without them. I have made friends with some wonderful people who have the same issues, and it has been great knowing them and chatting to them. It doesn't mean that my “normal” friends are beyond understanding, but it's like someone who doesn't have children giving a parent advice and empathy – just not quite right.

Read more: 

Dealing with social anxiety

Manic depression hard to spot

Depressed people have manic episodes

 
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