22 Surprises, but My Mental Health Won't Be One of Them
At 26 years old, I felt that life had finally achieved some kind of “normal.” Sure, I had my diagnoses of bipolar II disorder and #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder, but I was in a stable place. I had my meds, I had therapy, I had good friends and an adoring husband. Life was as normal as it could be.
But then I decided to get a DNA test done with 23andme. I had found there was a research study on #Depression and #BipolarDisorder, so I was eligible for a free test. At most, I figured that I could learn more about my health. What I absolutely didn’t expect was to find three half-siblings I’d never heard of. My new, supposed-sister Rachel explained she was conceived through sperm donation… which meant that I was, too.
Fast forward to now. There are now 22 of us half-siblings, and most of us have welcomed the donor, Peter, into our lives, as well. I found my life suddenly entwined with so many strangers. They were family that I never believed to exist in their first place. The more of them I spoke to, the more excited I became. I was ready to befriend any, if not all, of them. It was a new beginning, and I couldn’t wait to connect.
Still… hiding in the dark crevasses of my mind, the BPD was always ready. These new relationships are prey to it. As soon as I realized I was becoming fond of my siblings and my donor, I decided to start the dialogue early. I knew my mental illnesses would come up at some point, what with a history of self-injury that left my arms covered in obvious scars. I pretend not to notice when unfamiliar people glance at my arms, but these people were new family. I wanted to be up-front with them.
I impressed upon some of them that relationships are difficult for me to maintain. People with BPD have a terrible habit of sabotaging their own relationships with friends, love interests, and even family. Years of therapy have worked wonders on me, but this BPD monster always tries to stick its claws where it doesn’t belong. I still felt enormous self-doubt, shame, and fear while talking with this new extended family. Would I do something that would make them hate me? Would I annoy them? Would I cling too hard?
It’s a terrifying tango that only I know I’m dancing. All of my relationships are built on my careful effort to maintain a balance. I’d allow myself to talk, but not too much. If I send a text, I’ve trained myself to just leave it at that until they respond so that I don’t try to smother them with lots of messages. Sometimes, it’s like I try to overcompensate for what I consider to be inherent “unlovability” by being the most agreeable person I can be. Until I mis-step.
After I met my donor and some of my siblings, panic set in. Was I becoming too attached? Are they just going to distance themselves from me, now that the novelty’s over? Or was I just being paranoid? I genuinely couldn’t tell if my fears had any basis in reality, but I’ve learned that constantly asking if someone if mad at you can only lead to disaster.
Against my better judgement, I sent Peter an email that touched on this fear. I had told him before about my BPD, but now those symptoms were live. BPD is exhausting not only for me, but for anyone that has a relationship with me. It’s a lot of tossing and turning, back and forth, love and hate. I half-wanted to break it off with him and the sisters I had met. I could only think I would cause them #Grief and drama. I was going to be the kind of person that they didn’t want in their lives. In my darkest thoughts, every night as I lay in bed, I was full of loathing for the kind of person I was, especially the parts that were amplified by the BPD. Above all, I feared that Peter would be mad at me for things I did and said, or drop out of my life. I adored him already, and the idea that he would come to hate me became my nightmare.
In this email, I told myself, I would offer him an out. It wasn’t fair to foist my disordered brain onto him. I would offer this out to him, and then accept things as they were, for better or worse.
He didn’t take it. He was warm and accepting, despite what I told him and despite the way I sometimes behave. My insecurities didn’t go away, but it did give me peace of mind that I didn’t need to be so paranoid. I tried to relax. I was able to find a comfortable rapport with each of the siblings I spoke with, which led to me policing myself less.
It’s difficult to maintain a constant guard around myself, but I found it was even more frightening to let that guard down. Self-doubt chased me in every interaction. I feared that the things I said or the way I said them would turn any of them away from me. For the most part, however, I left myself vulnerable to them. To my surprise, and excitement, the rejection I thought to be inevitable just never happened.
This group of near-strangers accepted me as a sister, just as they’d accepted everyone else has sisters and brothers. I was one of them, after all.
Being open about my struggles doesn’t make it any easier, but it does make me feel like I don’t need to constantly apologize and justify my actions and words. I worry less about my imagined missteps. It’s freeing, to be able to act like a “normal” human. I enjoy their company more, and I don’t feel bad when I act silly around them.
For us, this new family group is unpredictable and large, but full of joy and love. It’s something that not even my mental illnesses can destroy.