Rivka L

@borderline-beauty | contributor
I want to raise awareness and get rid of the stigma that lies with borderline personality disorder. It is a debilitating disorder to live with however those that suffer from it are capable of living fulfilling lives.
Rivka L

From BPD to Surgery, Recovery Isn't Linear

This is going to be a long story. A story of self-discovery, a story of real tests of my strength and ability to fight the bad stuff. This is also going to be a story of hope, one that I pray will reach others and help them come to terms with their reality. I had surgery last summer: ankle surgery. After an initial injury in June of 2011 and years of constant reinjuring, I had surgery to correct the problem. I had the Broström procedure done, which is when the surgeon reattaches and/or tightens the lateral ligaments holding a person’s ankle together. For almost 10 years I was walking incorrectly. Every step I took felt like I was walking on ice skates, and when I was actually feeling comfortable while walking, it meant that it felt like walking on ice skates but right before you actually get on the ice. Wobbly and unstable. I could fall at any moment. One wrong move, or even no wrong move at all, could send me falling to the floor in pain. Most people only acknowledged my injury right when it occurred in 2011 — after getting hit by a car while riding my bike (that’s a whole different story). After a few months, everyone thought I was better. I was up and walking, I even spent that summer lifeguarding at a sleepaway camp. I was no longer bruised, the swelling in my leg had gone down (albeit not completely), so clearly I was fine again! All fixed. But I wasn’t. And so last summer I finally had surgery after my ankle just gave up. It had had enough, I could not just fall and then get up and keep going like I usually did. So I had surgery. It’s been 15 months since my surgery. I was going to physical therapy even prior to it, as well as after (until the insurance decided I was “better,” of course). When I restarted PT in August of last year after being immobile for most of July, I was super anxious. My ankle was literally just cut open, how was I going to walk? How would I do any of the prescribed exercises? But I did. I was slowly regaining strength. My entire lower body was a wreck as a result of both my immobility as well as years and years of a modified way of walking. My muscles were weak. My feet did not know where to go when told to walk in a straight line. I essentially needed to relearn how to get around correctly. And I was getting there… until I wasn’t. Some days I had to skip half the exercises because my body just could not take it all. I had lasting nerve damage from my nearly decade-old injury and it terrified me when I could not feel a thing when my physical therapist touched certain parts of my leg and ankle. I was not able to do a simple forward lunge because my legs would quiver and my leg muscles burned. I could not stand on tip toes for more than five seconds because my entire body felt like it was up in flames. I still could not walk for long periods of time without getting extremely fatigued. I felt like a failure. I would sometimes cry during PT, expressing that it’s been so long, why the hell wasn’t I doing better? Every time I expressed discomfort around my family, they would give me a frustrated look and ask me why I had the surgery in the first place because it seemed like I was worse off now than before. At first I got annoyed with their question but soon I started to ask myself the exact same thing. Was all this effort worth it? Was all the hard work going to pay off eventually? When? I’ve thought about that a lot, and I’ve tried to reframe the way I think about it. The surgery did indeed fix my problem. The lateral ligaments of my ankle are now back where they need to be. Recovery from this kind of thing takes a long time, and it is most definitely not linear. For years I was walking incorrectly, for years I was favoring the other side of my body with everything that I did. Of course this was going to be difficult. Obviously there would be days that sucked, days I’d wonder if any of it mattered anyway. What was I expecting, a quick fix? A quick fix for something I’d been dealing with since I was 17? Thoughts like that are just unrealistic and ineffective. This was going to take time and patience and a lot of self-compassion and perseverance. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2010, when I was 16. My struggles obviously did not start on that day in March, but they were finally given a name. All my behaviors, my thoughts that I had always believed deemed me “crazy” actually had a name. Receiving any kind of diagnosis is always scary, whether it be a physical illness or a mental illness. Let me tell you, a diagnosis of BPD basically slaps a “difficult and unhelp-able” label on your face right then and there. It causes clinicians to refuse to even meet you just because they see those three words on a piece of paper. They sound uncomfortable on the phone when you call them, almost like they want to just hang up out of fear of any legal liability. My battle with borderline personality disorder has been a lengthy and difficult one. For seven years I struggled with self-harm. The thoughts still linger, even having not hurt myself for five years. I’ve been bounced from doctor to doctor, I’ve felt like such a guinea pig because of all the medications I’ve tried. One clinician, after three months of me being under her care, decided I was too difficult and dropped me as a patient. I was too high-risk. All they did was see me as a risk, one they were not willing to take on, meanwhile all I was trying to do was advocate for myself and get the help I so desperately needed. I’ve seriously thought about dying. I have gone through periods of such self-hatred that it felt like the thoughts alone would kill me. I’ve cried myself to sleep. I’ve pushed away and hurt people I cared about so much. I’ve isolated myself. I’ve succeeded in taking steps forward and then just fallen down a whole flight of emotional stairs. I’ve trudged through some of the thickest quicksand that exists. It’s almost the end of September 2020. At the beginning of this year, I was not in a good place. Every day was a chore and I wanted to disappear. My entire body hurt and I thought I was dying. It got really scary. People were worried. I could barely leave my therapist’s office because I was so scared of myself (I’ve been with my current therapist for more than five years and she is a godsend). It got to a point where I knew I had to commit to myself or else I really would disappear. So I’ve been focusing on myself. I’ve been getting healthy, in both mind and body. People in my personal life have noticed the difference, my therapist has been proud of me. I am proud of me. Just like with physical therapy for my ankle, I was getting there… until I wasn’t. Recently, a wave of panic came over me. I can’t really tell you if it was over something concrete and specific, but what I can tell you is that all of a sudden I was lying in bed in tears, frantically texting my friend, terrified of my mind. I felt that pit in my stomach, one that had been a stranger for months. I felt impulsive. I was in crisis mode. I was transported back to January/February time, when everything was crap and my life was falling apart. I did not know what to do. I did not know how to respond in a healthy and effective way. Were all my months of hard work worth it? Did all the soul searching and mind exploring even matter? Was it all over? Since that scary night I’ve been trying to reframe the way I think about it. Recovery from this kind of thing takes a long time, and it is most definitely not linear. For years I walked around as a shell of a person. For years I struggled with such self-hatred and unexplained panic and desperation. For years I was living just because I had to. Of course this was going to be difficult. Obviously there would be days that sucked, days I’d wonder if any of it mattered anyway. What was I expecting, a quick fix? A quick fix for something I’d been dealing with for half my life? Thoughts like that are just unrealistic and ineffective. This is going to take time and patience and a lot of self-compassion and perseverance. Life is not linear. Recovery is not linear. My experience is not linear. I am finally working through years of pain and despair. I am really delving deep into myself and my experiences, with the help of my incredible therapist. I spent years living a certain way, thinking it was all I deserved. I modified the way I thought, the way I went about my days. But I am finally seeing that it does not always have to be like this. There are going to be days that my ankle gives me such grief and frustration. There are days when overall panic and depression will make an appearance. But, as with my ankle, I am nowhere near where I was years ago. I am fighting. I am working damn hard. And the fact that I acknowledge that means that I am succeeding.

Rivka L

From BPD to Surgery, Recovery Isn't Linear

This is going to be a long story. A story of self-discovery, a story of real tests of my strength and ability to fight the bad stuff. This is also going to be a story of hope, one that I pray will reach others and help them come to terms with their reality. I had surgery last summer: ankle surgery. After an initial injury in June of 2011 and years of constant reinjuring, I had surgery to correct the problem. I had the Broström procedure done, which is when the surgeon reattaches and/or tightens the lateral ligaments holding a person’s ankle together. For almost 10 years I was walking incorrectly. Every step I took felt like I was walking on ice skates, and when I was actually feeling comfortable while walking, it meant that it felt like walking on ice skates but right before you actually get on the ice. Wobbly and unstable. I could fall at any moment. One wrong move, or even no wrong move at all, could send me falling to the floor in pain. Most people only acknowledged my injury right when it occurred in 2011 — after getting hit by a car while riding my bike (that’s a whole different story). After a few months, everyone thought I was better. I was up and walking, I even spent that summer lifeguarding at a sleepaway camp. I was no longer bruised, the swelling in my leg had gone down (albeit not completely), so clearly I was fine again! All fixed. But I wasn’t. And so last summer I finally had surgery after my ankle just gave up. It had had enough, I could not just fall and then get up and keep going like I usually did. So I had surgery. It’s been 15 months since my surgery. I was going to physical therapy even prior to it, as well as after (until the insurance decided I was “better,” of course). When I restarted PT in August of last year after being immobile for most of July, I was super anxious. My ankle was literally just cut open, how was I going to walk? How would I do any of the prescribed exercises? But I did. I was slowly regaining strength. My entire lower body was a wreck as a result of both my immobility as well as years and years of a modified way of walking. My muscles were weak. My feet did not know where to go when told to walk in a straight line. I essentially needed to relearn how to get around correctly. And I was getting there… until I wasn’t. Some days I had to skip half the exercises because my body just could not take it all. I had lasting nerve damage from my nearly decade-old injury and it terrified me when I could not feel a thing when my physical therapist touched certain parts of my leg and ankle. I was not able to do a simple forward lunge because my legs would quiver and my leg muscles burned. I could not stand on tip toes for more than five seconds because my entire body felt like it was up in flames. I still could not walk for long periods of time without getting extremely fatigued. I felt like a failure. I would sometimes cry during PT, expressing that it’s been so long, why the hell wasn’t I doing better? Every time I expressed discomfort around my family, they would give me a frustrated look and ask me why I had the surgery in the first place because it seemed like I was worse off now than before. At first I got annoyed with their question but soon I started to ask myself the exact same thing. Was all this effort worth it? Was all the hard work going to pay off eventually? When? I’ve thought about that a lot, and I’ve tried to reframe the way I think about it. The surgery did indeed fix my problem. The lateral ligaments of my ankle are now back where they need to be. Recovery from this kind of thing takes a long time, and it is most definitely not linear. For years I was walking incorrectly, for years I was favoring the other side of my body with everything that I did. Of course this was going to be difficult. Obviously there would be days that sucked, days I’d wonder if any of it mattered anyway. What was I expecting, a quick fix? A quick fix for something I’d been dealing with since I was 17? Thoughts like that are just unrealistic and ineffective. This was going to take time and patience and a lot of self-compassion and perseverance. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2010, when I was 16. My struggles obviously did not start on that day in March, but they were finally given a name. All my behaviors, my thoughts that I had always believed deemed me “crazy” actually had a name. Receiving any kind of diagnosis is always scary, whether it be a physical illness or a mental illness. Let me tell you, a diagnosis of BPD basically slaps a “difficult and unhelp-able” label on your face right then and there. It causes clinicians to refuse to even meet you just because they see those three words on a piece of paper. They sound uncomfortable on the phone when you call them, almost like they want to just hang up out of fear of any legal liability. My battle with borderline personality disorder has been a lengthy and difficult one. For seven years I struggled with self-harm. The thoughts still linger, even having not hurt myself for five years. I’ve been bounced from doctor to doctor, I’ve felt like such a guinea pig because of all the medications I’ve tried. One clinician, after three months of me being under her care, decided I was too difficult and dropped me as a patient. I was too high-risk. All they did was see me as a risk, one they were not willing to take on, meanwhile all I was trying to do was advocate for myself and get the help I so desperately needed. I’ve seriously thought about dying. I have gone through periods of such self-hatred that it felt like the thoughts alone would kill me. I’ve cried myself to sleep. I’ve pushed away and hurt people I cared about so much. I’ve isolated myself. I’ve succeeded in taking steps forward and then just fallen down a whole flight of emotional stairs. I’ve trudged through some of the thickest quicksand that exists. It’s almost the end of September 2020. At the beginning of this year, I was not in a good place. Every day was a chore and I wanted to disappear. My entire body hurt and I thought I was dying. It got really scary. People were worried. I could barely leave my therapist’s office because I was so scared of myself (I’ve been with my current therapist for more than five years and she is a godsend). It got to a point where I knew I had to commit to myself or else I really would disappear. So I’ve been focusing on myself. I’ve been getting healthy, in both mind and body. People in my personal life have noticed the difference, my therapist has been proud of me. I am proud of me. Just like with physical therapy for my ankle, I was getting there… until I wasn’t. Recently, a wave of panic came over me. I can’t really tell you if it was over something concrete and specific, but what I can tell you is that all of a sudden I was lying in bed in tears, frantically texting my friend, terrified of my mind. I felt that pit in my stomach, one that had been a stranger for months. I felt impulsive. I was in crisis mode. I was transported back to January/February time, when everything was crap and my life was falling apart. I did not know what to do. I did not know how to respond in a healthy and effective way. Were all my months of hard work worth it? Did all the soul searching and mind exploring even matter? Was it all over? Since that scary night I’ve been trying to reframe the way I think about it. Recovery from this kind of thing takes a long time, and it is most definitely not linear. For years I walked around as a shell of a person. For years I struggled with such self-hatred and unexplained panic and desperation. For years I was living just because I had to. Of course this was going to be difficult. Obviously there would be days that sucked, days I’d wonder if any of it mattered anyway. What was I expecting, a quick fix? A quick fix for something I’d been dealing with for half my life? Thoughts like that are just unrealistic and ineffective. This is going to take time and patience and a lot of self-compassion and perseverance. Life is not linear. Recovery is not linear. My experience is not linear. I am finally working through years of pain and despair. I am really delving deep into myself and my experiences, with the help of my incredible therapist. I spent years living a certain way, thinking it was all I deserved. I modified the way I thought, the way I went about my days. But I am finally seeing that it does not always have to be like this. There are going to be days that my ankle gives me such grief and frustration. There are days when overall panic and depression will make an appearance. But, as with my ankle, I am nowhere near where I was years ago. I am fighting. I am working damn hard. And the fact that I acknowledge that means that I am succeeding.

Rivka L

From BPD to Surgery, Recovery Isn't Linear

This is going to be a long story. A story of self-discovery, a story of real tests of my strength and ability to fight the bad stuff. This is also going to be a story of hope, one that I pray will reach others and help them come to terms with their reality. I had surgery last summer: ankle surgery. After an initial injury in June of 2011 and years of constant reinjuring, I had surgery to correct the problem. I had the Broström procedure done, which is when the surgeon reattaches and/or tightens the lateral ligaments holding a person’s ankle together. For almost 10 years I was walking incorrectly. Every step I took felt like I was walking on ice skates, and when I was actually feeling comfortable while walking, it meant that it felt like walking on ice skates but right before you actually get on the ice. Wobbly and unstable. I could fall at any moment. One wrong move, or even no wrong move at all, could send me falling to the floor in pain. Most people only acknowledged my injury right when it occurred in 2011 — after getting hit by a car while riding my bike (that’s a whole different story). After a few months, everyone thought I was better. I was up and walking, I even spent that summer lifeguarding at a sleepaway camp. I was no longer bruised, the swelling in my leg had gone down (albeit not completely), so clearly I was fine again! All fixed. But I wasn’t. And so last summer I finally had surgery after my ankle just gave up. It had had enough, I could not just fall and then get up and keep going like I usually did. So I had surgery. It’s been 15 months since my surgery. I was going to physical therapy even prior to it, as well as after (until the insurance decided I was “better,” of course). When I restarted PT in August of last year after being immobile for most of July, I was super anxious. My ankle was literally just cut open, how was I going to walk? How would I do any of the prescribed exercises? But I did. I was slowly regaining strength. My entire lower body was a wreck as a result of both my immobility as well as years and years of a modified way of walking. My muscles were weak. My feet did not know where to go when told to walk in a straight line. I essentially needed to relearn how to get around correctly. And I was getting there… until I wasn’t. Some days I had to skip half the exercises because my body just could not take it all. I had lasting nerve damage from my nearly decade-old injury and it terrified me when I could not feel a thing when my physical therapist touched certain parts of my leg and ankle. I was not able to do a simple forward lunge because my legs would quiver and my leg muscles burned. I could not stand on tip toes for more than five seconds because my entire body felt like it was up in flames. I still could not walk for long periods of time without getting extremely fatigued. I felt like a failure. I would sometimes cry during PT, expressing that it’s been so long, why the hell wasn’t I doing better? Every time I expressed discomfort around my family, they would give me a frustrated look and ask me why I had the surgery in the first place because it seemed like I was worse off now than before. At first I got annoyed with their question but soon I started to ask myself the exact same thing. Was all this effort worth it? Was all the hard work going to pay off eventually? When? I’ve thought about that a lot, and I’ve tried to reframe the way I think about it. The surgery did indeed fix my problem. The lateral ligaments of my ankle are now back where they need to be. Recovery from this kind of thing takes a long time, and it is most definitely not linear. For years I was walking incorrectly, for years I was favoring the other side of my body with everything that I did. Of course this was going to be difficult. Obviously there would be days that sucked, days I’d wonder if any of it mattered anyway. What was I expecting, a quick fix? A quick fix for something I’d been dealing with since I was 17? Thoughts like that are just unrealistic and ineffective. This was going to take time and patience and a lot of self-compassion and perseverance. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2010, when I was 16. My struggles obviously did not start on that day in March, but they were finally given a name. All my behaviors, my thoughts that I had always believed deemed me “crazy” actually had a name. Receiving any kind of diagnosis is always scary, whether it be a physical illness or a mental illness. Let me tell you, a diagnosis of BPD basically slaps a “difficult and unhelp-able” label on your face right then and there. It causes clinicians to refuse to even meet you just because they see those three words on a piece of paper. They sound uncomfortable on the phone when you call them, almost like they want to just hang up out of fear of any legal liability. My battle with borderline personality disorder has been a lengthy and difficult one. For seven years I struggled with self-harm. The thoughts still linger, even having not hurt myself for five years. I’ve been bounced from doctor to doctor, I’ve felt like such a guinea pig because of all the medications I’ve tried. One clinician, after three months of me being under her care, decided I was too difficult and dropped me as a patient. I was too high-risk. All they did was see me as a risk, one they were not willing to take on, meanwhile all I was trying to do was advocate for myself and get the help I so desperately needed. I’ve seriously thought about dying. I have gone through periods of such self-hatred that it felt like the thoughts alone would kill me. I’ve cried myself to sleep. I’ve pushed away and hurt people I cared about so much. I’ve isolated myself. I’ve succeeded in taking steps forward and then just fallen down a whole flight of emotional stairs. I’ve trudged through some of the thickest quicksand that exists. It’s almost the end of September 2020. At the beginning of this year, I was not in a good place. Every day was a chore and I wanted to disappear. My entire body hurt and I thought I was dying. It got really scary. People were worried. I could barely leave my therapist’s office because I was so scared of myself (I’ve been with my current therapist for more than five years and she is a godsend). It got to a point where I knew I had to commit to myself or else I really would disappear. So I’ve been focusing on myself. I’ve been getting healthy, in both mind and body. People in my personal life have noticed the difference, my therapist has been proud of me. I am proud of me. Just like with physical therapy for my ankle, I was getting there… until I wasn’t. Recently, a wave of panic came over me. I can’t really tell you if it was over something concrete and specific, but what I can tell you is that all of a sudden I was lying in bed in tears, frantically texting my friend, terrified of my mind. I felt that pit in my stomach, one that had been a stranger for months. I felt impulsive. I was in crisis mode. I was transported back to January/February time, when everything was crap and my life was falling apart. I did not know what to do. I did not know how to respond in a healthy and effective way. Were all my months of hard work worth it? Did all the soul searching and mind exploring even matter? Was it all over? Since that scary night I’ve been trying to reframe the way I think about it. Recovery from this kind of thing takes a long time, and it is most definitely not linear. For years I walked around as a shell of a person. For years I struggled with such self-hatred and unexplained panic and desperation. For years I was living just because I had to. Of course this was going to be difficult. Obviously there would be days that sucked, days I’d wonder if any of it mattered anyway. What was I expecting, a quick fix? A quick fix for something I’d been dealing with for half my life? Thoughts like that are just unrealistic and ineffective. This is going to take time and patience and a lot of self-compassion and perseverance. Life is not linear. Recovery is not linear. My experience is not linear. I am finally working through years of pain and despair. I am really delving deep into myself and my experiences, with the help of my incredible therapist. I spent years living a certain way, thinking it was all I deserved. I modified the way I thought, the way I went about my days. But I am finally seeing that it does not always have to be like this. There are going to be days that my ankle gives me such grief and frustration. There are days when overall panic and depression will make an appearance. But, as with my ankle, I am nowhere near where I was years ago. I am fighting. I am working damn hard. And the fact that I acknowledge that means that I am succeeding.

Rivka L

From BPD to Surgery, Recovery Isn't Linear

This is going to be a long story. A story of self-discovery, a story of real tests of my strength and ability to fight the bad stuff. This is also going to be a story of hope, one that I pray will reach others and help them come to terms with their reality. I had surgery last summer: ankle surgery. After an initial injury in June of 2011 and years of constant reinjuring, I had surgery to correct the problem. I had the Broström procedure done, which is when the surgeon reattaches and/or tightens the lateral ligaments holding a person’s ankle together. For almost 10 years I was walking incorrectly. Every step I took felt like I was walking on ice skates, and when I was actually feeling comfortable while walking, it meant that it felt like walking on ice skates but right before you actually get on the ice. Wobbly and unstable. I could fall at any moment. One wrong move, or even no wrong move at all, could send me falling to the floor in pain. Most people only acknowledged my injury right when it occurred in 2011 — after getting hit by a car while riding my bike (that’s a whole different story). After a few months, everyone thought I was better. I was up and walking, I even spent that summer lifeguarding at a sleepaway camp. I was no longer bruised, the swelling in my leg had gone down (albeit not completely), so clearly I was fine again! All fixed. But I wasn’t. And so last summer I finally had surgery after my ankle just gave up. It had had enough, I could not just fall and then get up and keep going like I usually did. So I had surgery. It’s been 15 months since my surgery. I was going to physical therapy even prior to it, as well as after (until the insurance decided I was “better,” of course). When I restarted PT in August of last year after being immobile for most of July, I was super anxious. My ankle was literally just cut open, how was I going to walk? How would I do any of the prescribed exercises? But I did. I was slowly regaining strength. My entire lower body was a wreck as a result of both my immobility as well as years and years of a modified way of walking. My muscles were weak. My feet did not know where to go when told to walk in a straight line. I essentially needed to relearn how to get around correctly. And I was getting there… until I wasn’t. Some days I had to skip half the exercises because my body just could not take it all. I had lasting nerve damage from my nearly decade-old injury and it terrified me when I could not feel a thing when my physical therapist touched certain parts of my leg and ankle. I was not able to do a simple forward lunge because my legs would quiver and my leg muscles burned. I could not stand on tip toes for more than five seconds because my entire body felt like it was up in flames. I still could not walk for long periods of time without getting extremely fatigued. I felt like a failure. I would sometimes cry during PT, expressing that it’s been so long, why the hell wasn’t I doing better? Every time I expressed discomfort around my family, they would give me a frustrated look and ask me why I had the surgery in the first place because it seemed like I was worse off now than before. At first I got annoyed with their question but soon I started to ask myself the exact same thing. Was all this effort worth it? Was all the hard work going to pay off eventually? When? I’ve thought about that a lot, and I’ve tried to reframe the way I think about it. The surgery did indeed fix my problem. The lateral ligaments of my ankle are now back where they need to be. Recovery from this kind of thing takes a long time, and it is most definitely not linear. For years I was walking incorrectly, for years I was favoring the other side of my body with everything that I did. Of course this was going to be difficult. Obviously there would be days that sucked, days I’d wonder if any of it mattered anyway. What was I expecting, a quick fix? A quick fix for something I’d been dealing with since I was 17? Thoughts like that are just unrealistic and ineffective. This was going to take time and patience and a lot of self-compassion and perseverance. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2010, when I was 16. My struggles obviously did not start on that day in March, but they were finally given a name. All my behaviors, my thoughts that I had always believed deemed me “crazy” actually had a name. Receiving any kind of diagnosis is always scary, whether it be a physical illness or a mental illness. Let me tell you, a diagnosis of BPD basically slaps a “difficult and unhelp-able” label on your face right then and there. It causes clinicians to refuse to even meet you just because they see those three words on a piece of paper. They sound uncomfortable on the phone when you call them, almost like they want to just hang up out of fear of any legal liability. My battle with borderline personality disorder has been a lengthy and difficult one. For seven years I struggled with self-harm. The thoughts still linger, even having not hurt myself for five years. I’ve been bounced from doctor to doctor, I’ve felt like such a guinea pig because of all the medications I’ve tried. One clinician, after three months of me being under her care, decided I was too difficult and dropped me as a patient. I was too high-risk. All they did was see me as a risk, one they were not willing to take on, meanwhile all I was trying to do was advocate for myself and get the help I so desperately needed. I’ve seriously thought about dying. I have gone through periods of such self-hatred that it felt like the thoughts alone would kill me. I’ve cried myself to sleep. I’ve pushed away and hurt people I cared about so much. I’ve isolated myself. I’ve succeeded in taking steps forward and then just fallen down a whole flight of emotional stairs. I’ve trudged through some of the thickest quicksand that exists. It’s almost the end of September 2020. At the beginning of this year, I was not in a good place. Every day was a chore and I wanted to disappear. My entire body hurt and I thought I was dying. It got really scary. People were worried. I could barely leave my therapist’s office because I was so scared of myself (I’ve been with my current therapist for more than five years and she is a godsend). It got to a point where I knew I had to commit to myself or else I really would disappear. So I’ve been focusing on myself. I’ve been getting healthy, in both mind and body. People in my personal life have noticed the difference, my therapist has been proud of me. I am proud of me. Just like with physical therapy for my ankle, I was getting there… until I wasn’t. Recently, a wave of panic came over me. I can’t really tell you if it was over something concrete and specific, but what I can tell you is that all of a sudden I was lying in bed in tears, frantically texting my friend, terrified of my mind. I felt that pit in my stomach, one that had been a stranger for months. I felt impulsive. I was in crisis mode. I was transported back to January/February time, when everything was crap and my life was falling apart. I did not know what to do. I did not know how to respond in a healthy and effective way. Were all my months of hard work worth it? Did all the soul searching and mind exploring even matter? Was it all over? Since that scary night I’ve been trying to reframe the way I think about it. Recovery from this kind of thing takes a long time, and it is most definitely not linear. For years I walked around as a shell of a person. For years I struggled with such self-hatred and unexplained panic and desperation. For years I was living just because I had to. Of course this was going to be difficult. Obviously there would be days that sucked, days I’d wonder if any of it mattered anyway. What was I expecting, a quick fix? A quick fix for something I’d been dealing with for half my life? Thoughts like that are just unrealistic and ineffective. This is going to take time and patience and a lot of self-compassion and perseverance. Life is not linear. Recovery is not linear. My experience is not linear. I am finally working through years of pain and despair. I am really delving deep into myself and my experiences, with the help of my incredible therapist. I spent years living a certain way, thinking it was all I deserved. I modified the way I thought, the way I went about my days. But I am finally seeing that it does not always have to be like this. There are going to be days that my ankle gives me such grief and frustration. There are days when overall panic and depression will make an appearance. But, as with my ankle, I am nowhere near where I was years ago. I am fighting. I am working damn hard. And the fact that I acknowledge that means that I am succeeding.

Rivka L

My Therapist Rearranged Her Office, but It's Still My Safe Place

My therapist redecorated her office. Not in the most dramatic way, but I crave consistency and now things are different. Right when I walked into my session, I stopped and went, “Whoa.” I noticed every single change. There’s a big rug on the floor now. I guess that’s fine, in fact it’s a light color so it brightens up the room a little. I accidentally spilled coffee on it yesterday, so I guess I’ve made my mark. Every little table is different, from the small one that holds the tissue box and the slightly larger one with the lamp on it. To the left, there is a bookcase, one that — years ago — used to be on the right side of the room. Where there have always been lots of psychology books, there are now none. The bookcase is just sitting there. Empty. Lonely. I don’t know why it got to me so much. After all, why should I care about something like that? Her various diplomas and certificates are now hung up in the hall. I mean, I guess it’s about time, she’s been in that location for so many years. In a weird way, seeing them up there comforted me, gave me more faith in the mental health care system. It was kind of like … see, she’s a therapist and she’s not scared away by the label that’s been put on me. I don’t see that a lot. My poem is also hung up, high and important next to her diploma. Right in the middle, above the desk. The poem I wrote and framed and gave her at the beginning of December. I tried to sum up all the emotions I feel surrounding our therapeutic relationship. I tried to relay to her how grateful I am toward her and the work we have done for more than five years. Honestly, when I gave her the poem, it seemed like she was going to cry. She stared at it for a while, reread it over and over. I know she appreciated it, I know she understood the sincerity in my words. I also know she legitimately felt it. My pillow is gone. Well, not my pillow, but the pillow that’s always been there, flat and worn-out from the many people who have held it, cried into it or if they’re like me, they’ve hidden behind it. The new pillow feels stiff like it was just bought from Ikea. It feels foreign and uncomfortable. My pillow is gone. I feel such a mix of things about this redecoration. I feel comfortable with some things, but with others, I feel like a stranger. What will always stay constant is the fact this small room is my safe place, a place where I can come and let down the walls I try so hard to keep up. It’s a place where breakthroughs occur, where intense feelings and emotions surface. It’s the only place I can truly be myself and feel 100% understood and validated and cared for. I don’t think that will ever change, regardless of the surroundings.

Community Voices

When Anxiety Becomes Your Reality

Imagine this: You are in a coffee shop with a friend doing school work. Everything is normal. You are actually being productive, getting things done. You should feel accomplished. Happy. Relaxed. All of a sudden, a wave of nausea hits you. Your heart starts beating so fast that you can hear it in your ears. Your hands start to shake, so badly that you can’t type on your laptop so well. Your head is spinning and the light from the window is hurting your eyes. A feeling of intense paranoia hits you. Something bad is happening. Something is wrong.

#Anxiety.

This exact scenario happened to me this week.  It has been happening randomly all week. I’ve had panic attacks before, usually precipitated by something happening around me. That doesn’t make the experience any easier, but at least it makes some sense as to why I’m panicking.

Lately though, the anxiety has been completely out of the blue, not because of anything situational. I have #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder. I’ve dealt with the interpersonal chaos it comes with. I’ve battled the self destructive thoughts. I’ve fought the #Depression.

But never this amount of anxiety.

It’s terrifying. Not knowing when it’s going to hit. Not knowing if today will be a good day or an anxiety riddled one.

One thing that really helps me get through those moments is talking to myself — sounds wacky, right? But it’s not. Self-talk is so important when you’re in a crisis. I tell myself to breathe deeply. I tell myself that it will pass. It might suck now but in an hour, maybe two, it’ll be over.

Another thing that’s extremely helpful to me is really focusing my attention on one thing, with that thing not being the anxiety. Some examples of good activities are: color in an adult coloring book, watch a funny TV show, listen to music and even have a dance party in your room! I’m not kidding with that last one – it’s effective.

Reach out to someone! Whether it be a friend, your therapist, a mentor, or just someone you really trust — reaching out is essential. Take advantage of the support system that you have. Don’t feel bad for asking for help. If you need it, you’re entitled to ask for it!

The most important thing to tell yourself is this: it’s okay not to be okay. You will get through this.

Community Voices

What I want to say to my therapist after my session.

Picture a balloon that someone keeps blowing up even though it’s about to pop. They keep going and going and it hurts the balloon and stretches it so thin, but still they keep adding air. The balloon holds on, wanting to become the biggest balloon out of them all— the strongest! And finally, one day it just pops. It’s had enough already, and it lets go. The air comes rushing out, relieving it of all its weight.

I feel like all through the summer, although let’s be real — since the beginning of May, I’ve been exactly like that balloon. Everything was just building up, but I wanted to avoid that discomfort and sadness because I wanted to prove that I am strong. So I sat with it all, even though it was literally tearing me apart.

Can’t let go.

Stay strong.

Be okay, dammit.

Today I let the balloon pop. It’s like you broke down the brick wall that I built in front of me over these last few months. You didn’t care if it made a mess when it fell apart, you broke it because it had to be broken. If it hadn’t been, it would have ended up surrounding me and ultimately suffocating me.

I feel proud of myself that the wall has been broken. That the balloon finally popped, no matter how hard I tried to make it stay inflated. Sure, I made a mess. I cried, I basically screamed because I was letting go of all the shit that’s been trapped in my mind. I kept apologizing, saying that I wasn’t yelling at you, it was all just coming out that way. You said it’s fine, and you leaned forward in your chair, hands in your lap, and listened. You listened while I sobbed, while I expressed so many painful emotions and feelings that had been kept hidden for months. I felt uncomfortably exposed because the inner workings on my mind were literally being poured onto the floor of your office. The fading carpet was now absorbing everything that had been eating me up from the inside out. The painting on the wall, bought from some art museum in NYC, was staring back at me and encouraging me to continue because what I was doing was healthy and effective.

After what I felt was a lifetime, time was up and I ran to the bathroom to try to wash away the evidence of the vulnerability that was written all over my face. I stared at my reflection and felt ashamed of my tear-stained cheeks, my hive ridden chest, my entire being. As I splashed the icy water on my flushed face, I thought about everything that had just occurred. I slowly realized it’s okay. It’s good. This is a good thing.

And I hope I can only continue to go up from here.

Rivka L

When Feeling 'OK' Makes You Feel Suicidal

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. Imagine this: you have dealt with a debilitating mental illness for around 10 years and for the first time in your life, you feel truly suicidal. This has never been an issue for you before. Yes you went through years and years filled with self-harming behaviors, but they were never meant to make you die. This is a whole new ball game. This was my experience for the past month. Don’t worry, I’m not a risk to myself right now. I actually feel calm and OK. But for around a month, I was suffering from such scary thoughts and feelings and urges. Stability is a strange thing. This past summer was horrible for me emotionally. I experienced a lot of family turmoil, I was sad, I was depressed. I wanted so badly to hurt myself, something that hasn’t occurred in two years. But then… summer ended. Work and school started and I started to feel — for lack of a better word — stable. It was cool. It was such a contrast from how I was feeling in the summer. I felt free of all my demons. I loved it. But at the same time, I didn’t love it. In fact, I hated it. I wasn’t used to not feeling such intensity. It was all so foreign to me. With borderline personality disorder (BPD), you live in a constant state of intensity and now I just wasn’t. I felt almost bored in a way. That got me thinking. During the summer I hated feeling miserable. Summer ended and I hated feeling OK. So where did that leave me? Nowhere? That’s when the suicidality came into play. I didn’t know where I belonged. No mindset felt comfortable to me, so instead I turned to the only thing I thought did make sense to me: death. Here’s the thing — I wished I didn’t feel suicidal. I didn’t want to want to die. But it was the only thing that made sense to me. I started thinking about it all the time — how I’d do it, how I thought people would react, what would happen after, etc. It started to become more and more real as the days went by. I went through my days in a state of despair, with suicide constantly in the back of my mind. I told my therapist, and she asked if I needed the hospital. I told my psychiatrist, and she asked me the same thing. Both times I said no — I didn’t believe I’d act on anything, because as I told my therapist, I was “too much of a coward.” But it was terrifying nonetheless. I told my therapist I was sick of feeling so depressed. I wasn’t sleeping, I was breaking down at work in front of my kindergarten students. I told my psychiatrist I thought a medication change was necessary. I’m not one to want more medication, as I was already taking three. But I was just so tired of it already. She prescribed a fourth medication that I now currently take. I’ve been on this additional medication for two weeks now. I’m not saying medication alone fixes everything, because it definitely does not. However I believe it has begun to clear the fog that has been inside my mind for the last few months. Here I am now — It’s the beginning of 2018 and I am feeling OK. Not 100 percent yet, but OK. I look back at the last few months and feel bad for myself, but at the same time I am proud of myself for getting through it. Bring it, 2018. I am here and I am here to live. 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 . Getty Images photo via alexandralarina

Rivka L

4 Coping Skills to Practice When Your Therapist Is on Vacation

Your therapist tells you she is taking a two week vacation. You think it won’t be that bad, but then she tells you that because she’s coming back on a Wednesday and you usually come on Tuesdays, you’re really going to be missing three weeks of therapy. You sit there in her office, in your place of security, in complete shock. What are you going to do? This exact scenario happened to me this past month. I have been seeing my current therapist for almost three years now. She knows me more than I know myself. She has seen me at my best, she has seen me at my worst. She has seen me in times when I was thriving and she has seen me when all I wanted to do was go to sleep forever. Needless to say, I rely on her a lot. I am extremely attached to her — some may say almost too attached to her. And now I wasn’t going to see her for three weeks. It may seem silly to say, but those few weeks felt like years. I was trying to tell myself I was OK, that I could do it without her. Some days I felt confident, like I never needed a therapist in the first place. But then there were the bad days, the days that overpowered the confident ones. They were the days when all I wanted to do was cry. I felt so alone. I knew I had no one to turn to. Yes I had friends, but without my therapist I felt like I was on my own. I knew she still existed, I knew she still cared about me. But with me, if someone is not physically there telling me that it’ll all be OK, then I don’t honestly believe it to be true. Therapists deserve vacations. They deserve to take time for themselves, because the nature of their work can be very emotionally taxing. Here are a few things to get you through your therapist’s vacation: 1. Surround yourself with friends. Friends are not therapists but, if you surround yourself with good people, they can really help you in times of distress. Have someone you can call — whether it be to go to Starbucks for coffee or just for a drive. Being physically alone is often not a good idea when you feel like you are in crisis. 2. Take up a new hobby! If your friends are not available, having something to do when you feel down is golden. One example you can try is picking up an adult coloring book! That may seem childish, but they are targeted towards adults — with intricate designs that can keep you busy for hours. Indulge and buy yourself some fancy markers too. You won’t regret it. 3. Watch funny Youtube videos! Even when I am really sad, I can’t help but laugh while watching “The Ellen Show.” That’s only one example. Find something you like and go with it. 4. Write down your feelings. Pretend you are talking to your therapist. If you are in a crisis, write down what is bothering you and prepare to bring it to your next session. Sometimes this can help alleviate the feelings of loneliness. It seems so difficult — I know it firsthand — but it is indeed possible to get through a period without your therapist. But if you have the right tools, you will make it out on the other side unscathed. 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 Dragonimages.

Rivka L

Trouble With Eye Contact in Therapy or Hard Conversations

Spring water. Those are the two words that were staring back at me. Spring water, written on the label of my CVS pharmacy brand water bottle. I was in my therapist’s office, attempting to have a meaningful conversation, yet all I was focused on was spring water. The bottle was perched on a small table right next to me, and my eyes were fixed on it. I’ve always had a difficult time with eye contact in therapy. Not just in therapy actually, but rather whenever I speak about intense topics, it is always hard for me to look directly at the person I am talking to. I think it makes it all the more real if I see the other person’s reaction; I don’t know exactly. I once brought it up with my therapist. I told her I’m terrible at eye contact and it’s something I want to work on. At one point later in our session, I felt I was failing to look at her so I said exactly that: “Oh my gosh, I’m seriously failing at this whole eye contact thing!” She chuckled and said I was doing fine. The next week, we were talking about something especially difficult, and I literally look a pillow and put it in front of my face. This time she was the one to say, “Well now you’re really failing at this whole eye contact thing!” We both laughed at that one. It’s hard to face your problems head on. It’s hard to look right at someone and say, “I am having a hard time. I am not OK.” But I guess the most important thing is to remember that, especially in the context of therapy, you are not being judged. You are not being made fun of. You are being real, genuine and honest. So before you become so hypnotized by spring water that you don’t even know where you are, think twice about why you’re really there. You want to face these things. You want to recover. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Chepko