Eight years ago I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Two years ago, I was given a further diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD). I remember so clearly the day the BPD label landed in my life. At this point, I’d spent years in the public mental health service, and years trying and failing to come to grips with my extremes of emotion. We were dealing with the depression as best as we could (medication and ongoing therapy), but for every step forward I took, there seemed to be three backwards.
When BPD was finally mentioned, it made so much sense. I remember coming home and reading up about it. I was relieved to finally know what I was dealing with. Yet, I was horrified at the implications, how difficult it is to treat and to manage and how it had impacted my behavior for most of my life.
I struggled on for another year with my therapist doing the best she could to support me. Yet, it was becoming increasingly clear I needed more help than she could give (particularly as I found it more and more challenging to respect the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship).
The turning point came last May. It wasn’t a spectacular, “everything is better now” turning point, but rather one that made everything so much worse. I had an overdose. While I thankfully did no lasting damage, it was the nail in the coffin for my relationship with my therapist. She knew I needed a different intervention, and my psychiatrist had started talking about dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), so we agreed to finish. I went on the waiting list in my local adult mental health service.
All good, right? Wrong. It was decided I needed a break of at least six months between therapies. So my DBT start date was pushed out to March.
During those six months, with no emotional support of any kind, depression came back with a vengeance. By November of last year, I was signed out of work on sick leave (I’m yet to go back). We, my husband, family, friends and I, were hanging on by our fingernails. The promise of DBT was the only thing keeping me going. I was suicidal, self-harming, severely depressed and functioning at a bare minimum level. As I have two young kids, this was incredibly difficult. My general lack of ability to cope was starting to take a toll on my family.
Then, at the last minute, my treatment was pulled. Not only was I not going to get a place, it was not going to happen at all. (Mental health services in Ireland are in severe crisis and have seen significant cuts to already paltry funding over the last few years.)
I probably don’t need to describe how I reacted, how utterly devastated we were. There was something quite uniquely horrifying about being told my last available option had just been taken away from me. It felt like drowning, watching the lifeboat get closer and closer all the while struggling and losing strength. It was like watching them change their minds at the last minute and sail away, leaving me to fend for myself. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, we had been expecting this.
I’ve been let down by our mental health services so many times over the years I had never fully believed they would come through for me with something as huge as DBT. We spent a couple of days in shock, then started to consider alternatives. Private treatment wasn’t an option. It’s prohibitively expensive and we just do not have the means, particularly as I’m currently on unpaid sick leave. The more we looked, the more we realized there was no alternative. We would have to find a way to make private therapy work.
This next bit was really, really hard to do. I’ve been blogging for years about the various aspects of my mental health drama. I have a decent following, people who’ve been incredibly supportive of me and were very aware of just how badly I’d been let down by the HSE (our national health service).
I needed to raise €5,000 to fund a year of therapy (about $5,581). So I decided to try crowdfunding. It felt horrible. What right did I have to ask for money? Why did I deserve to get help above any of the other people who’d been let down just as much as me? We thought long and hard about it, but eventually decided we had been left with no choice. There was literally no other way for me to make this happen, and a future without treatment would quickly have become no future at all.
The response was just staggering. In less than 24 hours, I’d been donated enough to provide me with a year of sessions with a private clinical psychologist, one who specializes in personality disorders. I started with her a couple of months ago, and am quite literally astounded at the difference the proper treatment is already making to my life. She’s explaining so much to me about how our brains work, how our bodies react, how inextricably linked the two are and how they constantly feed into each other. Most importantly, she’s helping me to see none of this is my fault.
I have a lot of work left to do, but I’m doing better now than I have done in years, possibly ever. I’m aware I’m fairly limited in what I can take on right now and I have to work hard to keep myself well. I need to keep things as simple as I can, avoid stress and watch my diet, my sleep, my exercise and the demands I put on myself. I also need to be able to function as a parent. With all of this, going back to work just isn’t on the cards for the immediate future. Right now, it would be a push too far, a push that would take energy away from everything else that has to happen.
With the help of my new therapist, I’m in a far better place to accept that. I’m not jumping ahead to what’s going to come next or what could be around the corner. I am where I am, and that’s the absolute best I can do. I’m just so incredibly grateful to the people who made this possible for me. They have quite literally saved my life.
This post originally appeared on Healing From BPD.
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