Antoinette S.

@antoinette-s | contributor
BPD survivor and recovering addict.
Antoinette S.

Why Borderline Personality Disorder Makes Me a Liar

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To the person at the grocery store asking me, “How are you?” to the friend on the phone asking me about my day, to the concerned boss wondering how life is going outside of work. I need to tell you something… I lie. I lie when I tell you I’m “fine.” I am not fine, but I don’t want to burden you with my thousands of little anxious thoughts popping up simultaneously in my head while I try to function as a “normal” human being. Tired? I’m not tired. But if I told you my body feels as though my soul has left it and that I’m just a shell filled with darkness and memories of every single time I failed at picking myself back up from the cold floor I lay on, would you listen? I mean, how does everyone make everyday life look so easy? The other day you asked me what I did on my day off. If I told you I spent hours searching the internet for ways I could end my life because this shell of a body feels so empty and heavy at the same time, could you take it? Probably not. So instead, I answered you with the same old robotic response: “I didn’t do much,” leaving out the part where I called the  suicide  hotline three times just to hear a stranger tell me I am not alone, while I whisper to myself, “Yes I am.” I am a liar. I lie to protect you from the reality of my inner dark secrets. I lie because I don’t want to destroy the image you have of me. What if you knew that I am not the funny, confident person I let the world think I am? What if you knew how I can’t look myself in the mirror without feeling like my body is nothing but an object used to satisfy the monsters that live on our streets? What if you knew the truth behind my lies? If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Marzacz.

Antoinette S.

What I Learned in Recovery From Addiction and BPD

This time last year, I was probably sitting in a dark basement with my ex-boyfriend, whom I loved very much. I loved him so much that I let him teach me how to do drugs, because in my mind, “If you can’t save them, join them.” Yep, you’ve probably guessed right; I am a co-dependent, an addict and also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Little did I know, this guy was my addiction, just the same as the drug. I thought I needed both to survive. After much convincing from my peers, work and professionals, I decided to leave my hometown and go to treatment. Here is what I Iearned: 1) I cannot fill my “emptiness” with people, places and things. As much as I tried, I couldn’t fill the void I had with drugs or people or whatever other obsession I might have had. It was impossible. Maybe it helped for a while, but in the end, that empty feeling always came back. 2) Emotions won’t kill me. Yes, I really believed that emotions would kill me. I feel so intensely and I feared that one day I would just cry until I would just stop breathing. A lifetime of building defense mechanisms to protect myself from feeling was actually what was killing me. Not emotions. 3) Being vulnerable is not weak. As a small child, I was often told to “toughen up” or “stop being a baby.” I would get laughed at when I cried, humiliated when I was scared of something. I was basically taught to not show any emotion that might make me weak. Now, I learned that vulnerability is what makes us strong. It builds character, promotes self-compassion, strengthens our personal values and helps us to grow stronger and accept ourselves as we are. 4) I need to check my facts: Perceptions often mislead me. I often made decisions based on distorted perceptions or beliefs I had. I would quit jobs because I thought they would fire me anyway, or let go of friends because “I knew” they must be talking about me. These distorted thoughts and paranoid thinking has caused me more relationship problems and pain than anything else in my life, and always lead me to self-destructive behavior (using). Now I learned to “fact check.” Go to the source, ask, confirm and then deal with the situations as they come. 5) It takes a community to heal an addict. Ever hear the saying, “It takes a community to raise a child”? Well, the same goes for addicts or anyone with mental health issues. Many of us (although maybe not all, I don’t want to make assumptions) are natural loners. We isolate, so much so we can feel alone in a crowded room. I learned I cannot recover alone. I need connection, love, support, family and sometimes professionals who can reflect my thoughts and behaviors back to me when I am being led down the wrong path. I need to be reminded of how far I’ve come and that I am worthy of life. Isolation is poison to this addict. 6) You can’t save me. Community is extremely important, but the community can’t do the work for me. I need to be willing to change for change to happen. I need to do the work, ask for help, take my place in this world and keep fighting, even when it feels as though I am getting nowhere. My life is my responsibility. I always dreamed of someone saving me, fixing the broken pieces. It was a romantic fantasy I had. This almost killed me. Today, I know that although I have an army of people behind me, only I can decide to make positive choices daily. 7) Living in gratitude. I have thrown myself an endless amount of pity parties in my day. “If only I had this, if only I had that, what if I looked like this or that.” I pointed fingers, blamed my failures on almost anyone who walked in my path. I thought no one understood me, life wasn’t fair and I had it worse than anyone else. I slowly came to realize that was not the case. Many people would love to trade their problems for mine, because I don’t have it all that bad. That feeling of emptiness I kept trying to fill only has one cure — gratitude. I learned that when I live in gratitude, I feel a sense of completeness that no person, place or drug could ever fill. 8) I have permission to be happy. I always thought I didn’t deserve to be happy. Again, this stems from my distorted thoughts. I told myself over and over again that I was defective, broken or tainted, due to being sexually abused as a child and raped later on in life. Every single mistake I made in life after that, real or imagined, was only evidence I was bad and did not deserve happiness. Oh, how far from the truth this was. I realized depriving myself of joy, love and happiness was punishing a little girl who lived the same experiences as I had. She did not decide to be abused, neglected or harmed in any way. She built her defense mechanisms to protect herself. She knew no other way. So, if I wouldn’t punish her, why do I keep punishing myself? I am not broken or bad. I can permit myself to be happy and not be ashamed of it. 9) I have qualities and strong values. Again, as someone who thought of herself as defective, this is a big deal! So, I will say it again. I have qualities and strong values! Here are just a few: Creative, funny, caring, compassionate, artistic, hardworking, persistent, brave, vulnerable, strong, passionate, sensitive, spiritual, leader. No one can take these away from me; I must nurture them every day and put them into practice. The moment I begin to act in a way that goes against my values or personal qualities, I need to re-evaluate myself. 10) Recovery is possible. One year later, I am clean and sober. I finished treatment. I am free to make choices for my life that are not guided by the depths of addiction and untreated mental illness. I have all I need. I am so very grateful, loved, happy and now a productive member of society. (Side note: I have been hired as a clinical counselor at the rehab center I attended. It is now a blessing and a passion in my life to give hope, and teach life skills to those struggling. If you are struggling too, please get help. Your life is waiting for you!) If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA ‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Antoinette S.

Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction Is Not Family's Fault

To my family, No, I am not ill because of you. I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). I deal with addiction. I struggle a lot. Please believe me when I say — this isn’t about you. I face addiction because I abused drugs and got hooked. Not because you were a bad parent. I have BPD because of childhood trauma, and because I didn’t have enough resources to deal with it. Also, not because you were a bad parent. My relapses, suicidal tendencies… they are a result of my illness. There is nothing you have done to trigger this. You are not a bad sister, you are not a bad brother. This is not on you. Please, stop blaming yourself. This is not about you. You did the best you knew how. I’m an adult now and I need to own up to my illness, my decisions, my mistakes, my life and recovery. I need you to love me through it, but not carry me through it. To push me to do better. I need you to be there for me without blaming yourself. You hurt enough watching me struggle, don’t carry this shame on your shoulders. Let it go, and know you did the very best you could. This is on me. My illnesses. My responsibility. My recovery. I own this. I love you.

Antoinette S.

Quote That Helps With Borderline Personality Disorder

I had what I would like to call a roller coaster day. Because I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), my emotions are intense, my perception is often warped and I am very, very impulsive. Usually, since I started dialectical behavioral therapy, I am able to cope pretty well, look at the facts in a situation and then respond accordingly, without overreacting. Not today. Today I felt lonely. With this feeling came thoughts: “I always feel lonely. I have no friends. Everyone has somebody but me. Nobody loves me. Nobody really cares.” These thoughts triggered more feelings, such as anger. Which in turn triggered more thoughts. “I can’t believe no one called me to hang out today. I’m always there for them. I need new friends. And where’s my family when I need them? Oh, wait they are never there. Remember? Oh, and they are so judgmental! No one understands me. No one loves me. No one cares!” Quickly, my mind went on a downward spiral. I was obsessing over my emotions and in a deep state of self-centeredness. As always, it didn’t end there. With my anger always comes guilt and worthlessness. “I shouldn’t think this way. My parents did the best they could. My friends are probably busy. I’m such a bad person for getting mad at them. I’m so useless and worthless. I can’t even take care of myself. I wish I could escape. I wish I could die… should I die? How could I think that. I would hurt my family. They would be mad at me. There I go again, making everything about me. I don’t know what to do.” I broke down, cried and as always I went to Facebook for an update. There on my newsfeed, someone posted a quote. In big bright letters, it was as if it was demanding my attention: “Are you being led by your spirit or your wound?” Wow — just wow! It hit me loud and clear. These feelings and thoughts were the product of my past wounds. The abuse, rejection, abandonment and lack of security, but they are not a reality of who I am now. Today I was being led by my wounds. They trapped me. My wounds, they want me to hurt. To self-destruct. To cut. To get high. To push people away. My wounds want to lead me in dark places. But my spirit, my spirit is kind and loves and enjoys being loved. My spirit knows I am worthy and cared for and able to do great things. My spirit leads me to happiness and gratefulness. My spirit wants me to live! Next time I start to feel intensely and my thoughts get out of control, I know exactly how to fight it. I will ask myself: am I being led by my spirit or my wounds?

Antoinette S.

Telling Co-Workers About Mental Illness and Addiction Problems

In a moment of what could of been self destruction, a few years back, I decided to tell my work peers about my mental illness and addiction problems. I have BPD (borderline personality disorder). I also work in the mental health field. Here is what happened. 1. They asked me questions. Of course they would. The natural thing to do when someone reveals such a huge truth about themselves is to ask questions. “When did you get diagnosed?” “Do you still struggle with it?” “How do you cope at work?” and many, many more… The question that surprised me most was “How can I help?” 2. They shared their own stories. Everyone on the planet has either experienced or knows someone who has experienced mental illness or addiction problems. But we don’t all talk about it. My small but courageous act of honesty helped us all push through the shame and fear of rejection. After all, we are supposed to be the helpers, not the ones being helped, right? (No. We can be both.) 3. They offered support (when needed). I’ve missed a lot of therapist and doctor appointments in the past because I didn’t want to explain to my boss and co-workers why I have so many. Now that the truth is out there, I am able to take care of me! I can go to my appointments, go to my recovery meetings or even pull someone aside at work and let them know, “Hey, I’m struggling today… can I vent to you for a minute” with no judgments. It’s great! With this extra self-care, I am able to 100 percent concentrate on my work and effectively handle any situation that arises. 4. They encouraged me. I wont lie. Even though I work in the mental health field and believe no one should feel ashamed about their struggles, I felt shame. (I know, it’s just how my brain works!) So in this moment of vulnerability, my peers at work encouraged me. Emphasizing that the reason I am good at my job, and that I am so passionate about what I do, is because I can relate. I can truly lead by example, and I’m living proof that with hard work, we (people who have a mental illness or addiction) can still live our lives to the fullest. Turning our struggles into strengths and new capabilities! And most importantly… 5. They loved me anyway. I can’t explain the fear I felt when the truth escaped my mouth. Will I lose my job? Will they judge me? How will they ever trust me to help people, knowing I still struggle sometimes? Because of the BPD, my brain overdramatizes things, and I instantly thought, what did I do? My career and life is over! What I got was the complete opposite. They loved me anyway. No less than they had before. If anything, the trust I worked to build with my work peers had grown stronger than before. It was a learning experience and growing experience for all of us. Note: This was my experience. I consider myself lucky; I know not everyone would get the same response because there is still such as huge stigma surrounding mental illness. I suggest weighing out all possible options and being fully prepared for any adverse reactions if you intend on sharing such personal things with your work mates. Sadly, not everyone will respond with such love, understanding and respect. Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images