I can't do it today.
The groceries need to be bought, and I just can't do it.
The thought of piling Alfie into the car, and then into a trolley, then into the shops, putting my own shopping into bags in the car park, making sure the trolley doesn't roll away with Alfie still sitting in it (guaranteed it attempts this at least once), return the trolley to the bay, get Alfie back into the car, get all the shopping bags onto both arms whist yelling to Alfie "walk to the house, no the house... NOT the road... NOOOOT THE ROOOAAAD!" drop bags, grab Alfie and re-grab the bags, holding onto him as the bags start to indent and burn my arms as I trudge towards the front door.... all the way down the back into the granny flat, stagger into the house whilst trying to make sure the cat doesn't escape.
I'm exhausted thinking about it so I begin to pace the house and aimlessly move things from one spot to the other... procrastination at it's finest.
I finally start to get the nappy bag ready, and mull over what groceries we need. Does Alfie really need his vanilla custard pouches? I start to talk myself out of it again... and search the cupboards and fridge to come up with a meal for tonight that I can scrounge from what we have. I start to tear up and think "Why am I such a loser? It's just shopping." Bad thought. I reprimand myself for thinking that. Now actual tears start to fall down my cheeks. "Now you are crying about getting upset about telling yourself off. Such a loser."
This was my life leading up to now. I would have bad days and good weeks. At first it was once every now and again but slowly the bad days got closer together. Soon it was bad weeks and a few good days. You wouldn't have known looking at me, because it was all internalised and in my mind. One day Jeremy and I had a fight, I was irrational and couldn't remember what we were arguing about the further we got into it. I wanted to punish myself for arguing with him. I couldn't think clearly and wanted to die. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I wanted to die, I actually wanted to end my life. I wanted the ground to swallow me up and devour me. It would solve the problem. Removing myself from the equation would mean that Jeremy would not have to put up with me and my shit. I was becoming more and more emotional and Jeremy was becoming more enraged at my lack of understanding with what was going on. I dug my nails into my skin, in such a way that he couldn't see me and stop me.
The instant relief that follows the searing pain of breaking skin gave me a brief feeling of euphoria and I was able to think clearly for a second and calm down. I then disengaged from the argument and retreated into my head. He snapped. "What are you doing Amanda?"
"I'm wanting to die. I deserve to die. You would be better off without me. It would be easier for you if I didn't exist."
"I'm done Amanda, I can't do this when you get like this. There is no reasoning with you and it is hurting me. I'm done."
The words stung and my head snapped back up. He wants to leave me? What?
"What do you mean done?" I quivered quietly.
"As in, I cannot do this anymore and need to look after myself. I am done with this."
I felt sick. I felt like I was going to faint. I wanted to vomit. I started to hyperventilate and needed to feel cold on my face. I slumped to the floor and pressed my cheek on the cool timber floor. Hyperventilating continued. I don't remember much after that point - but Jeremy explained to me later that I had passed out after sobbing and hyperventilating uncontrollably for a few minutes and had to wake me up once he realised that I had stopped breathing, by shaking my shoulders and calling out my name.
When I came to, Jeremy was sitting next to me on the floor. I felt oddly calm.
"Are you ok?" he asked me quietly
"Yea..... please don't leave me"
"I'm not leaving you."
"Ok. I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too..."
We left the argument at that. We both knew it wasn't going to get resolved with me always getting into hysterical states. I came to the conclusion that this was not normal. I was dealing with something that wasn't normal in my mind. It reminded me of when I was younger (primary school to early teens) and I didn't like feeling like this.
I decided to go and get help.... again.
I saw the Dr, a different Dr who I had not seen before these issues. I sat down and she asked me what she could do for me. I broke down into tears.
"I can't do this anymore, I am tired of not feeling normal. I'm sick of being upset, of fearing to leave the house. Worrying about what could or might happen. Not being good enough because of worrying, punishing myself for things that I am sure other mums are dealing with too. I hate driving. I feel sick at the idea getting into the car, since my accident all I can think about is 'what if it happens again?' I have sweaty palms just thinking about having to drive back home after this." I showed her my wet hands and noticed that my leg was jiggling up and down nervously.
She looked at my sympathetically and said that everything was going to be ok, I looked up at her and face showed compassion and kindness. I believed for the first time in a while that it would be. She prescribed for me to go onto anxiety medication to help deal with my panic and anxiety attacks about driving. Just a small dosage to begin with and we would see how it goes after a while. She then referred me to a psychologist. She called them straight away and helped me book an appointment. We also came up with a mental health plan that I had to take with me to my first appointment. I was able to get in pretty early as it was stated that I was having suicidal thoughts and I was self harming.
I started my sessions with my psychologist Veronica and we got stuck into things from the get go. Each week we discussed family history, my current and past relationships. We talked about being a mother and how my pregnancy and childbirth had not been smooth sailing - both physically and mentally. We talked about every topic under the sun and deconstructed past arguments and interactions that I had from as early as I could remember to now.
After a few weeks I had to hand a test that I had completed at home, answering a series of questions where I had to give a scale of 'completely untrue' to 'describes me perfectly' in to Veronica.
I sat there anxiously waiting for wait she would say. My hands were sweaty again, despite my anxiety medication - which had been working wonderfully up until now, as I could drive with a lot more ease - and I wiped them down my legs to dry them.
She looked up from the test and gave me a big smile "it's ok, this isn't giving you a diagnosis that you've never had before. It's finally giving a name to what you have been dealing with all this time by yourself. Knowing this will give us the insight and knowledge to equip you with the right tools and methods to help you get back on track."
I felt calmer, and breathed a deep sigh of relief.
"Now, have you heard of biploar?"
"yesssss......" I gazed at her questioningly.
She laughed at my reaction, "Now what you have is not that, but I wanted to know if you had any understanding of bipolar"
I nodded slowly, "Yea I do, but it's more I know people with it and I know their personal stories, but I wouldn't say I fully understand the ins and outs of it all."
She went on to explain the complexities and variants of biploar and what it entails.
"Now that we have that figured out I want to talk to you about BPD, or Borderline Personality Disorder"
"ooookayyyyy...." my questioning gaze had returned.
"this is what we are naming what you have."
My eyes widened.
I have what now?
A million thoughts raced through my mind. The combination of the words, borderline.... personality... disorder.... and knowing what I knew about myself instantly had me imagining Alfie being taken away from me.. me being locked up in a padded cell wearing a white gown and being force fed medication.
Like she could read my mind she quickly added "now don't freak out, it's not as bad as what it sounds."
I laughed shakily "if you say so... it sounds a little crazy to me to be honest."
Schizophrenia, multiple personalities, disorder, the fact that I self harm and think about suicide frequently all screamed at me in my mind. I am not fit to be a mother, I'm not fit to be in a relationship!
Veronica went on in depth about the complexities of what I have. I nodded silently and tried to absorb all that she explained. Some bits sounded so familiar, and made a lot of sense. I felt numb though, and sat in silence as she continued to go through everything.
My session with her was wrapping up and she finished with "it's ok, you are going to be ok. You have nothing to worry about, Alfie won't be taken away from you and you can have a normal and functioning relationship with Jeremy." I smiled wearily, all of a sudden I felt exhausted. I left wondering what it all meant, and how I was going to deal with it.
Once I got home I did my best to relay what I had been told to Jeremy. I was fuzzy on details as I hadn't really been able to grasp all that she had said, so I went on to Google to research a bit more myself. It was good and bad at the same time. Unfortunately the most popular searches gave me results of blog posts that were named things like 'My BPD mother and living a nightmare', 'Signs of a BPD mother and how to cope' or 'Memoirs of my horrible childhood and a BPD Mother'. Nearly every article I read came from a child's point of view and that basically their relationship with their mother in childhood (and some even into adulthood) were terrible.
I then found an article about BPD mothers. This also came from the child's point of view, but didn't feel as judgmental as all the other articles written. I read through it and couldn't relate to any of the examples given. I sat back and mulled over my sessions and what I had been reading. It then hit me, I am actually a bit of a 'hermit mother'. I don't necessarily see the world as a dangerous place that I have to shield Alfie from, but I do worry about having a car crash with him in the car. I then realised that these were generalisations. I don't need to fit exactly into these boxes of description. I have my own story, and while I have similarities, this doesn't mean that I am or am going to be a bad and horrible mother to Alfie.
I felt better, and kept researching for more examples and theses on BPD to get a broader insight into it. One reoccurring theme I saw with BPD was the link to traumatic childhoods and different forms of abuse. This one puzzled me a bit and I asked my therapist about it, as I didn't feel that I fit into that category at all.
She questioned my memories of childhood and asked me to giver her examples of any bullying or things that were traumatic. I was bullied quite a lot at school, and it did effect me in my teenage years - mum once found me cutting myself and when she confronted me I went into an hysterical state (much like the one I had recently had) but I didn't feel that that was a 'trauma". She asked me to imagine if I found that had happened to Alfie. I felt sick. Thinking about those situations and imaging them happening to Alfie made me want to cry - it also made me realise I had been through traumatic experiences. I then actually started to cry. I had been pushing these encounters away and downplaying their gravity and impact on my life all this time.
One memory that I had forgotten, was when I was seven. I had been invited to a boy's birthday party, and I didn't want to go. He was always trying to kiss me at school and would touch me inappropriately whenever he could. One time I told a teacher and she replied "well it's your own fault for looking so pretty!" I had had my hair crimpy that day, after mum had plaited my hair the night before. I felt yucky knowing that it was my fault that he was kissing and touching me. I went to this birthday party, and when mum had left (because back in the day parents didn't usually stay for parties) I looked around and noticed that I was the only girl there. His parents and older sisters came over to me and told me how pretty I looked and that he (the birthday boy) loved me. I felt so uncomfortable. It got even worse when it turned out they had organised a photo shoot for me and him, where they made me sit on his lap and place his arms around my waist. "It's his birthday, and he wants to take some cute photo's with you" I asked not to, and said I wanted to go home "That's not very nice, poor "his name" you can't make him sad on his birthday!" So I did it. He kissed my cheek, and they tried to make us kiss on the lips - but I started tearing up so they decided the cheek was fine enough.
Another time was when I was playing netball, around the age of nine. Two older girls teased me and called me names. They took turns grabbing my arms and held them up over my head while the other girl pulled my pants and underwear down and then would back away pointing and laughing as I tried to pull them back up quickly. To end it they then each grabbed my hands and feet, and while my pants and undies were down they swung me into a prickly bush. Our netball coach was a teenager herself and wasn't very..... authoritative so just let it all happen. My mum asked me what was wrong when she picked me up, and I reluctantly ended up telling her. She yelled at the two girls and demanded that they apologise, but they never did.
After telling Veronica these sorts of stories I looked up from my hands, her face was stunned.
"Amanda, that's traumatic. Fuck. That's actually abusive. Can you let yourself understand that you have had some seriously traumatic experiences and that no child should ever be made to feel that way?"
I nodded and finally understood. I had always just shrugged those memories off, that I had deserved them and that I was yucky or it was my fault. Imagining Alfie in those situations maddened me, and made me want to run into my past and scoop my younger self up and hold her and say "it's ok, it's not your fault..... you're not yucky."
So I am well into my therapy. Including a weekly, 8 week course in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. It's not easy, and I still make mistakes and feel that I need to punish myself when I get something wrong or disappoint someone I love. I am still hard on myself, and expect perfection in everything I do. The temptation to harm myself or commit suicide is still there, but I recognise it a lot sooner now. One day I hope to not even think of it at all. I am learning what my triggers are, and have learnt how to keep myself calm and talk myself through situations.
I don't always get it right, but I can take my past experiences, trauma and abuses - recognise them for what they really were and learn from them. When I fail it is not the end of the world. I am not a disappointment even if I disappoint the people I love. If bad things happen, it's not because I deserve them or that I need to punish myself for them either.
It's an ongoing process and mental illness cannot be fixed overnight and not without the proper help and guidance. I also want to stress that I don't want people to read this, see similarities in themselves with this and self diagnose.
Always see a professional if you think you, or someone you love needs mental health help.
For help straight away if you can't wait, or if you are having thoughts about suicide and/or self harm please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 - they are available 24hrs, 7 days a week.
Love AJ xo