What I Wish People Knew About My Comorbid Mental Illnesses
Comorbid disorders means disorders that are good friends. They pretty much come together to every party. In my 10 years of experience both working in the mental health system and being a patient in the mental health system, I’ve seen it’s fairly common.
Anxiety likes to bring her friend depression. Depression sometimes enjoys bringing alcohol or drug dependency. Eating disorders enjoys the company of obsessive compulsive disorder. You get the idea.
So when recently my diagnosis from one “official” disorder changed to three, it was hardly a surprise for me. But I think for people in my life who don’t understand how the brain works, it was.
I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), and this is the thing I write about the most, and the thing that has given me the most response from friends, family, professionals and people suffering from the debilitating effects of this pervasive disorder. But I can’t forget the other disorders that are all very closely linked, but equally difficult to cope with.
Bipolar disorder is a disorder of the brain characterized by episodes of mania or hypomania and severe depression. Now, imagine, if you will, the intensity in which I feel my emotions, due to my BPD, running in a yearly bipolar cycle. The results are times when I feel indestructible and can do anything. In these moods, and under the effects of powerful delusions, I’ve booked backpacking trips across the world with no money, I’ve done things people would never dream of. Published a book, been internet famous, written three albums and released one of them on the market, and I’m only 28. Luckily for me this risky and expensive behavior has worked out most of the time. Whether it’s by blind luck or something else, I don’t know.
And that’s only when I’m up, which historically has been between six and 10 months of the year.
And you may be thinking, oh wow, that doesn’t sound so bad. But just imagine waking up after a long sleep to find out you’ve given yourself a financial obligation so huge you can’t possibly comprehend how you’re going to get out of it. That blind panic when you realize you owe people money you don’t have.
And when I hit rock bottom, which usually happens between September and December, a cycle I’ve tracked for the past 10 years, the other disorder comes into play. Schizotypal personality disorder. This is a fairly new diagnosis, with a new set of symptoms like psychosis. For me, this means hearing terrible voices from inside my own brain, having visions of horrible events both happening to me and to the people I love for days on end, until you feel you have to act upon them. Imagine being barraged by these visual images that you can’t switch off until you’re ready to snap.
Again, amplify that with my BPD, and my bipolar depression, and you might begin to understand how intense these crashes and peaks can be.
My life hasn’t been all bad. I can admit I’ve done some amazing things and I’m thankful for the life I’ve managed to lead, against all odds. But I’ve paid a high price. I’m almost impossible to have a relationship with, I find it incredibly difficult to connect to people and if I can, then I find it hard to continue that connection. My family life has suffered. My personal life has suffered. My professional life has suffered. And I’ve suffered.
But there is still hope for the future.
Through medication and intensive therapeutic intervention, I’m starting to build a future worth living. I’m starting to learn how to control those impulsive and disordered behaviors so I can become a healthier member of society.
And one day, soon I hope, I’ll be able to live a life of normality.
But until then all I can do is ride the rollercoaster and hold on as tight as I can.
It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
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