Dust to Dark: The Colors of My Craziness

I’m trying to tell the truth about my life because so far it’s been a series of falsehoods, necessary lies and necessary evils stacked precariously on top of each other like a survival game of Jenga. I’m ready to move forward unfettered and only introspective honesty can save me. These lies, white and black, that I’ve told to myself and others for self-protection, need exposure. Then the truth will be known, and the truth will set me free.

I won’t start at the beginning. It’s too cluttered. I’ll start my truth at the moment when I knew: it’s on my twenty-fourth birthday that I realize something is wrong. I wake up crying and the tears don’t stop: I cry onto my toast, onto my coffee, all over my keyboard. It’s a sadness I can’t stem, as if my vulnerable insides have become over-saturated and swollen, suddenly cracking my protective exoskeleton. After years of carefully constructing my outsides to be impenetrable the levees have broken, the barriers have crumbled, and I’m crumbling with it. I’ve survived childhood abuse and abandonment, gone on to excel in college and create a new space for myself, far away from the past, and now my past is showing up at my doorstep. The Bible, that book of broken promises, warns that the sins of our [abusive] fathers will be visited seven-fold upon the children. Is that what’s happening? Is the darkness of my skin a mark of the damned?

Sure, I’m a hot mess, but isn’t everyone in their twenties? Nothing unusual to see here, just the regular quarter-life crisis. I see a psychiatrist and nod when she gives me her diagnosis: acute depression. I take the pills she prescribes me, and consider the whole mess cooled down. I head out on vacation to see my brother and best friend; we eat french fries with mayonnaise in Belgium, smoke weed in a charming head shop in Holland, and sample German beers and sausages with long lost cousins from Kazakhstan.

Three weeks later, the day before I am to leave my brother and fly back home, I try to kill myself for the first time.

It takes six men to restrain me to the hospital bed, their burly bodies the only barrier between me and the darkness and my desperate need to finish what I started. I’m handcuffed to the bed, my jail cell, and am confronted with confused faces – didn’t I take my medication? Why would I want to hurt myself, want to hurt those who love me? I have no answers. I only know that inside I am already dead. Where others see a magnanimous light at the end of the tunnel, I see a merciful darkness waiting to take me home.

I’m back in therapy, and a new diagnosis has been determined: Borderline Personality Disorder. A condition in which people have long-term patterns of turbulent emotions and a persistent unstable sense of self. Since I’m dead inside, therapy is a slow process: corpses were never known for their conversation skills.

“How do you feel about growing up with a father who beat you?”

Silence.

“What’s your emotional reaction to your mentally ill mother?”

Silence.

I don’t understand the question.

I plead the fifth.

Silence was the only tool against pain in my family: see no evil, speak no truth. On the outside I am hard femme, but inside I am stone: no one is allowed to touch my private parts, my hidden self.

All I want is to gather my million splintered shredded-paper pieces into a whole and I’m surrounded by strong people with loving hearts, people who won’t give up on me despite the fact that I gave up on me a long time ago. They’re a circle around me, keeping the night at bay, swaying back and forth to Sufjan’s soft voice: “I can see a lot of life in you, I can see a lot of bright in you.” They say it’s going to be all right. Hold on, they say, but I’m just trying to make it through these noisy nights. My brain has been commandeered by a guerilla army of twisted terrorists, a poisoned peanut gallery, asking, “Why are you still here,” and sneering at my pain, feeding on my fear. Your time is up. You have no place.

I’m holding on, but I’ve already asked the audience and called a friend, and the lifeline is slippery, thin, slick with self-doubt and brittle from my persistent weary grip.

I go on a OKCupid date and give myself mental high-fives for successfully completing a normal social interaction without any incident, but the date only highlights the emptiness inside.

I call my ex-partner: I need a body, I need her to give it to me hard, drawing me out of numbness, need the bruises to remind myself that I’m here and not lost. She doesn’t answer- she’s already told me, gently but firmly, that we can’t be together anymore, it’s too complicated, too messy. I’m not what she wants, which hits me hard because I’m not what I want either. My call goes straight to her voice mail and it feels like a stab in the heart and just like that, the lifeline snaps and I free-fall back down the rabbit hole.

The magic potion makes me so small that I disappear, obliterating myself in the inky darkness. When darkness falls, there is no distinguishing the truth from the lie, right from wrong. You rely on sense, instinct, what your body and brain has done before. I fall into autopilot mode, swallowing pills and injecting weeks worth of insulin without a single thought crossing my consciousness. I am a shadow of my regular self; my being having been consumed by darkness. It’s a darkness that is physical, palpable, suffocating. If god is dead, then why am I still alive?

The following 48 hours are a blitzkrieg of anxious action: sirens, blood, the fierce tears of loved ones whose love I cannot comprehend. Again, I’m trapped in a hospital bed, being poked, prodded and questioned by nurses, plastic surgeons and the municipal psychiatrist. I plot my escape from those inexplicably bent on my recuperation. I disconnect my IV, lying that I need to find the bathroom. I collect my damaged body and wounded soul and escape into the night.

The night is where I belong; the darkness is the only thing I understand. This is what I tell myself as I wander the streets, dizzy, disoriented, and disillusioned by the comfort of death, dying and yet still alive. A friend I fucked has made a deal with god that if I come home alive, she’ll call her mother every week. She probably hasn’t heard that god is dead – we killed him, and now the world has plunged into chaos.

I’ve been listed on the news as a missing person and when I find out that there’s an entire police force, thirty men strong, combing the city in search of me, I am enraged — in my mind they’re careless and cruel, misguided and misinformed; they are nameless, faceless antagonists in my struggle to rejoin the night.

I lock myself in a friend’s apartment, barring the doors of his bachelor loft to prevent an intrusion by those foolish enough to try and save me. This man who I used to sleep with, before I accepted his body was not the kind that I needed, he has not let go of me the way that I have let go of him and everyone else who has worn their love for me on their sleeve. He is not home – he is spending the night on a couch in my apartment, waiting for me to make my way back home so he can hold my fragmented self in his arms and try his best to make me whole again. Maybe this is what love is, I will think to myself later — an unshakable will to put things back together again.

I dream of subway tracks, of lying on a highway in front of on an oncoming truck, or flinging my already broken body off the highest heights. And this is how they find me twenty-four hours later, still trying to obliterate myself so that I and the darkness can become one.

I’m forcibly committed to a closed psychiatric ward where I spend the next seven days observing those who are even more mad than I. Women are screaming at invisible foes, tearing their clothes off and banging their heads against the wall, pissing themselves. It’s at once terrifying and entertaining, like being in some kind of TLC series: I spend the majority of my time chain-smoking in the ‘Barbie Club’, an acrid smelling lounge with a bird’s eye view of the crazy scenes unfolding at all hours. I’m again blanketed in love, nested in the center of a caring circle: my best friends spend every second of visiting hours with me, my brother flies from across the ocean to hold me close. I’m shaken by his fear, by seeing him choking on fierce tears. And still I cannot be reached, I cannot fully understand – I have one foot in the dark and one in the light.

The time right before night, when light is escaping and darkness takes her place, is the most uneasy state of all. The neuroscientist Richard L. Gregory reminds us that “between the brightness of sunlight and the dim light of the stars is the intermediate light from the moon, giving uneasy mesopic vision, which should not be trusted.” This unsteady mesopic space becomes my safe haven; the only familiar color (or lack thereof) whose habits can be relied upon. Grey does not split or bend, blackness does not scatter or fracture. It wraps you up, covers your flaws, softens the edges so that the ceaseless forward motion of being is bearable.

I move cities to start an out-patient program: I need a fresh start, a new season of growth. I quickly find a tentative foothold in the queer community and meet a brown- headed stranger, an artist with a genius IQ and an uncommon braveness. This boi, this summer bird who I fear will fly south as soon as the days grow darker, extends me unexpected and undeserved kindness. “You are not your illness,” they tell me, “I refuse to see you as a one-dimensional and broken being.”

I hold their words close like a security blanket. They don’t rip me open, they unwrap me slowly, patiently, gently removing my opaque layers until all that is left is the rawness of me. I tell them my truths and they tell me theirs, and because we are both a little damaged, we agree to take it slow – it’s better to go at a steady pace when you are dragging bags behind you. They court me, taking me out on a real date with wine and dessert and a goodnight kiss. They ask me to be their girlfriend in the frozen pizza isle of the grocery store, and my heart grows three sizes. That night I fuck them, intimate caresses followed by hard thrusts, and when I touch this butch’s chest they don’t pull away – they trust me, and we stay in the moment together. This boi, who can reach my bruised interior underneath my exoskeleton, their touch is not a violation, it’s an affirmation. For the first time in what feels like eons, my heart and my body walk hand in hand.

And then, like always, I fuck it up. They’ve come too close to the beast within, they’ve touched my private parts, and my defense mechanism kicks in. I wield my words like a sword to sever our ties; I lash out at them with an unabated and violent fury usually reserved for myself. And when I succeed, when this boi has fled for safer pastures, I’m left with a gaping hole that cannot be sealed. Loneliness fills it like winter winds might carve into a mountain, but I’m not in therapy, and so I have no patches to keep out the chill. My mother never taught me how to sew, how to repair the emotional fabric that suffers the inevitable wear and tear of everyday life. Inexplicably, the brown-headed summer bird does not fly away — they offer me a chance to explain myself, to try and make sense of what I have shattered. Again, I’m confused by this unshakable will to put things back together.This boi, this gentle person whose olive branches I’ve burned, teaches me a new word — solipsism — and it echoes in my brain as I clumsily try to replant seeds of trust.

Sent into a tailspin, I again find myself on autopilot, not trusting my crazed brain to make new or better decisions: I faceplant in a pile of stimulants to shake the deadness from my soul, I drown in bottles of liquor to dam the mental bile that threatens to projectile vomit across my carefully crafted and controlled surroundings, I dull the sharp edge of emptiness with unnamed bodies in my bed. Bodies whose life I pray will bring my own back into being. And all the while I wait for my sins to be washed clean by fierce tears.

“Light can run a person’s times and moods,” observes Ellen Meloy in The Anthropology of Turquoise, and I soak up her truths because I’ve watched them unfold slowly, painfully, shaping the contours of of my own reality. Those fascinated by the relation between society and language have observed that black is the first color to enter a language, and blue among the last. Are they then opposites, blue and black, day and night, hope and the lack therein? Light is the absence of darkness and the essence of color, that fictive space created by the tenuous connection between eye and brain, perception and reality. But what about when light lies? From afar, the ocean and sky appear blue; when this blue is confronted up close, it is clear, colorless, empty – neither air nor water can be captured or clung to, they are too mighty to catch in the palm of your hand. Only in vast amounts do they reflect color. Life, in color, must be embraced as an onslaught in order to be experienced. It must be faced in tidal waves, tornadoes, incomprehensible masses of terrifying strength, enough to destroy the participant. Even the end of the rainbow is a mirage, a trick, a cruel taunt to keep you caught up in the chase for closure.

I chase because I am taught to rage against the dying of the light, yet even the wisest of men know the dark is right. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, I try to remember my favorite things but the memories are burnt and the singed remnants fall through my fingers and blow away. The ashy dust fills the sky, and darkness falls yet again. But this time I know that darkness cannot exist without light, and that telling my truth will split the darkness open. And when I cautiously dip my toes into the world of color, into an ocean full of possibilities, I will look at how the blue waters are honeycombed with light, and I will be free.


Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.

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67 Comments

  1. Thumb up 8

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    This is so relatable to me. I’ve spent a lot of time in psychiatric hospitals lately for numerous suicide attempts, where I found a lot of support from other patients. They were actually remarkably normal for the most part, just really sad.

    I was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Does anyone else feel like that’s a label they just put on you when they don’t really know what’s wrong? I honestly don’t even fit a lot of it–I have no addiction issues, anger problems, chaotic relationships, am not “promiscuous”, etc. I’ve just got the suicidality, self-injury, and eating disorder issues. I went through all this with the psychiatrist and he agreed with me eventually and bumped me down to “Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified with Cluster B Traits”. It still bothers me that they’re so quick to diagnose such a serious and stigmatizing disorder. I’ve even encountered some who assume that everyone who self-injures must be borderline.

    Okay, borderline rant over. Thanks so much for this piece.

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      Yes. If you are a woman with a history of abuse and suicidal ideation or self-harm, you get the BPD label. I think BPD is a sexist catch-all trap for ‘crazy’ and ‘hysterical’ women who seem to be out of control. There is also this idea that BPD can’t be treated, so women who get stuck with the label are bounced around by psychiatric professionals who don’t want to take the time and effort to fix someone they believe is a lost cause.

      I’m not Borderline (I’ve been diagnosed with C-PTSD), but I had an on-staff counselor attempt to diagnose me as such when I checked myself into a hospital because I was having strong thoughts of suicide. She knew nothing of my history or personality, but she was sure I was BPD and was determined to section me for months. Now there are rumbles by some in the community to reclassify all women who have been diagnosed with Complex PTSD as BPD, despite the drastic differences between the two. It’s bullshit.

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        I had a weird opposite reaction. When I read up about BPD way too much of it was uncanny – the unstable sense of identity, the volatile relationships, the unstable emotions. I also have good friends with BPD and related to them very well.

        Yet every therapist I talked to about it seemed to doubt my diagnosis. One said “why are you trying to convince me you have BPD? You’re not enough of an asshole, you’re too likeable”. Which I thought was unfair because my BPD friends are very likeable! And I get the stigma; it seemed to me like a condition that comes out of experience beyond the diagnosis-holder’s control, yet seems like another way to screw the person over one more time. “Oh we abused you! so you got BPD! too bad, now we will abuse and ignore you more because BPD people are BAAAAAAAD!”

        ><

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      Yeah I feel that. I got that diagnosis for the self injury behavior and after my last suicide attempt and talking to some of my family members My doctor sort of did a little map of my history and landed on my actual mental illness which is more stigmatizing and scary, and even more so because I’m just sort of managing it myself. I think how we discuss mental illness has to change right along with these blanket diagnostic issues because part of the reason it has been so hard for me is that with each new diagnosis and subsequent Google search I just felt sort of doomed.One doctor even told me there is nothing wrong with me at all, which I loved and hated. Now I just take it a few minutes at a time, and police my feelings, and try not to think about what it means I am and more about the chance to be less of that and if I can’t I just don’t let people see it.

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      I was diagnosed with chronic depression and went to a therapy group for people with BPD. It kind of is a catch-all. This whole piece reflects a lot of what happened to me, the crazy madness that they put me through, that I put me through. The condescending nurses, the medical regimes, the hospitals were enough to have driven a cheerful and healthy person to despair, much less someone with a suicide attempt or two under their belt. And yet finally some thing settled down. When I came out something in me changed. I became stronger. i spoke louder. I stood taller. And today I can finally look at the light and feel contentment.

  2. Thumb up 7

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    I am absolutely floored. Wow, and thank you. This is by no means my story, but it makes so much sense nonetheless.

    Editors – is there any way a suicide trigger warning can be added to the top of this? This felt terrifyingly – and perfectly – oh so real.

    • Thumb up 12

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      I find the light between the cracks. I focus on my amazing brother who somehow manages to make up for our lack of parents, and the dozens of incredible friends who pick me up every single time I fall down. I focus on the hot new girl I just met who doesn’t know my story yet but might accept me anyways once she knows. I go to therapy and work my way through it, because I know there is a way up and out from the dark.

      And when it’s too painful, when I can’t think straight because it feels like my past is going to cancel out my future, I write. And then I’m like FUQ YOU BPD, I just processed my feelings right there in black and white in my Moleskin, so I win this round. Then I get up the next day, and do it all over again. One baby step at a time, one foot in front of the other, till I’m free and clear in the sunshine.

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    “Why would I want to hurt myself, want to hurt those who love me? I have no answers. I only know that inside I am already dead. Where others see a magnanimous light at the end of the tunnel, I see a merciful darkness waiting to take me home.” They say it’s going to be all right. Hold on, they say, but I’m just trying to make it through these noisy nights. My brain has been commandeered by a guerilla army of twisted terrorists, a poisoned peanut gallery, asking, “Why are you still here,” and sneering at my pain, feeding on my fear. Your time is up. You have no place.

    I ask myself the same questions every day, and every day I come up empty. I hope you are able to escape this darkness and find the light. I don’t wish anyone to go through everyday, as I do, with no hope. Thank you for writing this, and in some way I hope that it also brings some healing.

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      Hi Jessie

      I want to reach out through the internet and give you a hug. And tell you that there is hope, that I know this to be a fact, even though I have yet to see it. I know it because I see it in other people, and I know it’s there for me and you also. I’m just moving forward on raw faith that the hope is there and the light is real, and every time I catch a glimpse of it I try and hold onto it, like it’s some kind of missing puzzle piece, and when I’ve collected enough pieces I can put myself together again. Our time is NOT up and we DO have a place. The guerilla army of twisted terrorists are lying assholes, a fact that I forget way way more often that I care to admit to myself or the world wide web.

      This piece started out as a journal entry. I had called a suicide hotline and didn’t get the kind of help I needed, and I knew I was losing whatever fight I’m in. So I proceeded to get even more drunk that I already was and started writing in an attempt to make sense of what was happening to me. Writing for me is a way to take the pain out of my body so it can’t hurt me any more, and every shrapnel of pain I take out is one tiny move forward to healing. What I’m trying to say is that I hope this piece can be something for people like us, who are hurting and stumbling around in the dark and can’t find the light switch and are pretty sure the light switch isn’t even there, that this piece can show that we can go all the way to the end and still make our way back to ourselves, to our truths.

      Sending you love and hope through the interwebz -H

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        mizhana,

        I thank you for your honesty, and you hug. I don’t let many people hug me, I have an aversion to touch, for reasons I do not truly understand. I’m glad you see hope in others, I am trying to do so myself. I write just as you do, to try and take the pain away. Writing, music, art, are all ways I try to manage these voices in my head. You have given me some hope in the fact that I’m not alone. It seems as though our lives are in similar places, and I found it interesting that you referenced a light switch. These are a couple of my most recent pieces. I have many more, but I thought this somewhat relevant. Thanks again, and keep fighting.

        wandering amidst the darkness
        anxiety creeps up to take hold
        every little sound brings a startled realization
        that you are not alone.
        Wandering amidst the darkness
        tension builds, fear grabs your throat
        breathing is labored, and muscles are sore
        could this be death, knocking on your door?
        No light shines through, you cannot see.
        your other senses must guide you, through this distorted reality.
        You can taste the bitterness in the salty air
        your head pounds from the, non conforming beat, of the unrelenting sounds.
        You reach out,…But There is nothing, only space.
        You turn in circles, your fear takes hold, and the tension brings you to spasms that rack your soul.
        In the last moment before you fall, you realize that you are leaning against some sort of cold blackened wall
        it’s icy shock makes you draw back,
        your trembling fingers start to glide,….over its rough edges, and smooth sides
        and then you feel it, your spirit jumps, you hold your breath as you flip the switch,
        blinded momentarily you must wait,.. until your eyes adjust and dilate
        It seems like an eternity but the moment passes,
        light shines everywhere now, and the darkness is shattered.
        your breathing slows, you have found your peace…..
        Well at least for now…
        until the switch is flipped again, sending us wandering amongst our fears, insecurities, and broken dreams.

        ________________________________________

        I’m sorry you don’t like me, I’m sorry I couldn’t live up to
        your expectations
        Seems like every time I try, there’s another roadblock in my way.
        I can’t go back, and I can’t go forward
        and now the ground is crumbling beneath me,
        I’m trying to find solid ground, but it seems like,
        everywhere I turn new cracks open and take me… take me down
        down into a darkness so thick I cannot see,
        a darkness so heavy, I can hardly breath
        Don’t worry though I’ll be just fine
        I’m sure it will all work itself out, just like you said…given enough time.
        So I’ll be a good little soldier, and stand straight and tall
        I’ll fight to the end, with this weight, and push up, even as I fall
        and when I Finally reach the end, when I finally hit the bottom
        as the dirt pours in, I’ll look up to see, just how far I’ve fallen,….
        My vision will be clouded, But I’ll still try to see,
        if in the end, I finally met your expectations, and made you proud of me.
        the dirt is pilling up now
        Can’t seem to find a rope…
        wait hold up, is this it?….. I guess.. It’s lights out.

        • Thumb up 3

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          There is hope! I am living proof. Please believe it…I didn’t believe it was possible to feel right again and for 10 years I lived in something very similar to what you describe here.

          For me, finding the right therapist and taking charge of my treatment and meds helped. Analyzing my abuse and early life in a fundamentalist religious sect helped. I didn’t realize that being in a cult was abuse, and that my PTSD depression anxiety and panic were from the loss of identity in leaving my cult personality behind. I had to recreate my entire identity and it was hard but it was the best most rewarding thing I have ever done, and I am proud of myself for having done it.

          It really can and does get better and I wish you both all of the dedication it takes to find the strength to want to live and live fully. It is all possible.

          For me, I am proud every day when I wake up and want to be here. When I wake up and enjoy tea. When I enjoy a warm breeze. It took so much work to be able to do these things. To just enjoy something, anything. That alone is my biggest accomplishment. That is how and what I work for each day.

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          Ms. Lucille

          I’m very glad you have found enjoyment, and I’m glad you were able to take control and redefine yourself. Congratulations and I wish you more success.
          My story is a bit different in the fact that I am also living with a Traumatic Brain Injury. It sucks the life right our of me, with chronic headaches, fatigue, cognitive problems, and limiting my ability to do the things I used to do. So Yes I have PTSD in some regards, I am severely depressed, frustrated, and angry. I’ve tried to take control and get help, but it seems I’m not “bad” enough in the TBI world to warrant help, My meds. don’t seem to help with the depression or anxiety, and I tend to react strongly to most of them. So finding one that not only works, but doesn’t cause more problems is extremely hard for me. I don’t sleep which only adds to my problems. And to top it all off I am struggling with the religious aspect of being gay. My family doesn’t know I’m gay, nor the majority of my lifelong friends. So I have a constant battle it seems on one front or another. But the battle in my head, is the most fierce. I thank you for providing me with a little bit of hope, that maybe it will get better on some level anyway.

          Thank you

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    Thank you for writing this. It was hard to read because 6 years ago I was right there and part of me feels like talking about it is the scariest thing because what happens when people know? what then? Sometimes they can’t handle the crazy and leave, sometimes they want to know how you feel all the time and you don’t even know how you feel and that makes you feel worse and sometimes they treat you like you’re broken altogether and you become a piece of furniture which for me has been the most common reaction. I have rapid cycling bipolar disorder II and it is harder to say than “I’m gay” most of the time because I don’t want to be it all. I want to be whatever normal is. The drugs made me slow and fat and the shame made it much worse. So I quit taking them and now I spend weeks alone because I’m unbearable and I can feel it and then I get happy again and I have to ask myself if I’m too happy and it is really hard, but apparently very possible. I’ve made lots of wonderful friends and I try to only let them witness “Happy Lanie” because that is what they deserve. Thanks for finding the words to describe the things I can only seem to tell people I really trust (which today I guess is anyone who reads this website) I hope you find a level and the light.

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      “I have rapid cycling bipolar disorder II and it is harder to say than “I’m gay” most of the time because I don’t want to be it all. I want to be whatever normal is.”

      Although both of them cause me problems. Saying I’m “depressed, or suicidal” feels Like I’m saying “yep Ii’m a complete fuck up’, and feels as though I’ve just been beaten down once again. So basically I just wanted yo to know you’re not the only one.

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      Saying I have bipolar disorder is 100000x harder than saying I’m gay, always. I face so much more stigma. I’m pretty stable and well medicated, but the ups and downs still come sometimes. And it’s rough, because when I’m manic, it just seems like super happy fun times to people who don’t know how much it’s fucking me up inside. I can’t explain what’s wrong with that without explaining my whole disorder, and I don’t want to invite anyone else into the complete wreck that is my past. I’m never the type to hide the truth, but the truth is just so damn complicated. You are nowhere near the only one.

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        Yes it is almost impossible to explain. I still take xanax for the anxiety that comes with both the mania and the depression which is what has been my saving grace time and time again. I haven’t had a major episode in about 5 years but I also sleep 8 hours a night and I have to take “social energy naps” which my Mother thinks is a funny concept for a 24 year old, but I understand is vital to being able to function. It sort of feels like a wall.

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          Lanie,

          I agree explaining to anyone is like talking to someone in a foreign language. The words can get misconstrued or completely negated. Half the time most people aren’t really listening anyway, because the truth, and it’s hardness are too much for some people to handle. So they live in this fairytale bubble. It’s great that you are doing so well, and congratulations on sleeping for 8 hours. I do not have that luxury. But I like the idea of “social energy naps”, might have to use this myself. You see I also suffer from a Traumatic Brain Injury, which causes all sorts of added problems. So instead of just the Depression/Anxiety, I also have PTSD, memory issues, cognitive issues, chronic headaches and fatigue; and the biggest one right now is the fact that i’m still living a very closeted life due to my circumstances. Even these medical terms, people just don’t understand. It is like beating your head against a wall. I can’t tell you and everyone else here how much this sight has helped me in the past couple weeks. Thank you for your honesty, and willingness to listen, as well as to be heard. Keep fighting!

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    Thank you so much for having the courage to speak about your experience. So many times I’ve felt similarly and did not know how to communicate it to others, creating a web of chaos and confusion. You are strong. May you continue in your journey to find inner peace.

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    I had been feeling really off the past week, numb and hollow and overwhelmed, and some particular incidents over the weekend made things worse. I figured it was, yet again, the monthly one-week-before-my-period hormonal mood madness; severe enough to warrant a suicide warning sometimes, but not much I can do about it.

    This morning I woke up in fear and terror, with the sudden realisation that I am about a footstep away from a mental breakdown. I don’t really have a reason to be: I am surrounded by love, in a city that cares for me, busy with fun fulfilling activities. But I felt so overwhelmed by the things I did not want to do but have to, from the stresses of practical survival, from why this horrid dire mood is back to haunt me.

    The strongest warning sign, the canary in the mine? I read this article and thought “I wish I was there”. Not there as in your ending, where you sound much more hopeful – but there as in the middle, running and found, down and out.

    I’m worried my ability to front is fading away, yet I’m at a time where I need to front more than ever. I know the specific things that would make a huge difference – but they are not things I can have or do right now as they will sabotage everything else, including everything else that is so good for me. I find myself back at that horrifying spot of being on the tightrope, too tired to balance, still so far away from the other end…and wanting to fall, let go and drop into nothingness, maybe there is a net maybe there isn’t maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.

    I happen to have a therapist’s appointment this afternoon so maybe she can give me some insight. I’m trying not to spook myself too much. Maybe it is all in my head. Maybe it’s all in my hormones and I just need to wait till this period is over. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

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      this. “I find myself back at that horrifying spot of being on the tightrope, too tired to balance, still so far away from the other end…and wanting to fall, let go and drop into nothingness, maybe there is a net maybe there isn’t maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.”

      i hear this. so hard. i don’t have any “tomorrow might be better/brighter” words for you, though i guess maybe it will be. i just wanted you to know that i feel you.

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    you guys. YOU GUYS. I’m feeling overwhelmed and honored by your comments and I wanna high-five and hug everybody who is sharing their stories, and this is why I love Autostraddle and I have SO. MANY. FEELINGS. right now.

    I didn’t realize this was being published today (checked Autostraddle before checking my email) and nearly sharted myself Al Roker style when I saw my piece was up. And then panicked and was like why did I think it was a good idea to talk about my deepest darkest secrets on the internet?

    And then I read your comments and remember why I submitted this in the first place: to share and connect and reach out and lay my truths out there and try and heal in the process. And you are all helping me and giving me hope and breaking down the dark walls around me.

    Also also also here is an amazing track (my friend sent it to me after reading this essay) and I love it because it resonates with me so enjoy: Jamie Woon – Night Air (Solomun Edit)

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    I identify with so much of this. I had a complete mental breakdown last year at the age of seventeen. And you know, I was naive enough to think that living with mental illness would someday be an easy thing. That it wouldn’t be so difficult once I got the right pills in my system.

    It’s still hard. It’s a day-by-day struggle. But pieces like yours remind me that I’m not fighting this battle alone.

    So thank you for that.

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      Day by fucking, tiresome day. Someone told me once that I won’t conquer my demons but I will learn to live with them. And I’m ok with that. I’m not there yet. I still wake up every day and look at the guerilla army and say ‘Not today, assholes’. But I’m not alone, and you’re not alone, and we’re gonna make it. xx

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    When I was diagnosed with cyclothymia, it made me completely question who I was. Like when am I being the true me and when am I being wacky Diane? So it was a long journey to finally be okay with myself. Honestly, there are still some setbacks but I think the worst parts are over. It was and still is hard making that speech to the person you’re dating or people close to you and sound like a prescription drug ad, giving out all those side effects. And it still sucks and doesn’t get any easier when people are like I’m sorry but this is just too much. And you really can’t blame them.

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    This story really speaks to me. I have bipolar disorder myself, and my partner has BPD. Mizhana, I hope things get better for you. My partner’s really struggled with her illness, but things keep getting better for her. So there is hope. I find there’s so much stigmatizing literature about BPD, you might want to read my article here: http://queermentalhealth.org/narrative/my-partner-with-borderline-hanners/ for a fresh look at BPD.

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    This is such a brave piece. Thank you for having the courage to share your experiences with us. All of you guys in the comments too. It’s a rare and wonderful thing to find an actual safe space on the internet, and to find it here, with some of the best queer writing in the whole universe, it’s just a beautiful thing to behold.

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    “I wield my words like a sword to sever our ties; I lash out at them with an unabated and violent fury usually reserved for myself. And when I succeed, when this boi has fled for safer pastures, I’m left with a gaping hole that cannot be sealed.”

    This post [and that passage] was so powerful to read and I can relate to it so well. The emptiness, the suicidal thoughts, the lashing out, and the intensely deep visceral grief and self-loathing of knowing what you’ve just done.

    It hurts to have words like BPD hurled as an insult, as a warning: don’t even bother. This person’s too far gone, already lost, and will bring nothing but pain. There’s another word for BPD: trauma survivor. Instead, society seems to essentialize BPD’s as “that crazy ex-[lover, friend, family member],” frozen forever as a fucked up mess.

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      I didn’t mean to end this comment on such a pessimistic note. I think it’s important to give a voice to mental illness and enlighten others that it’s a process, and that those with BPD are not “victims” or “damaged” but dynamic, living, breathing human beings capable of growth and discovery, which is what I think this post did.

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    This article is beautifully written, and as a queer person who has struggled with mental illness himself, it really resonated with me. Thank you for posting this, and hang in there. Dan Savage may voice platitudes like “It gets better,” but I think the truer message is that you get stronger. And there’s…sort of a bright side, if you’re an artist? (Which you are. This piece is more than enough evidence of that. It’s poetry.) The whole “angst inspires art” thing. It does. Maybe not the way you think it will. And it’s not like you HAVE to go through shit to create compelling art, but going through shit gives you a lot of richness that you’re already intimately familiar with. Um, if this sounds really callous, I apologize. I think it kind of does. But it helps me out to think of it this way sometimes. It’s like, “hey, there’s an upside to everything horrible that has every happened to me.”

    Everyone who involved with this article – author and commenters and website editors alike – is beautiful and I love them. Peace be with you.

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    Thank you for your beautiful honesty in this piece. It resonated with me in a way that others’ words have not, in part because we share similar experiences stemming from the intersection of queerness and mental illness, but also because it was just so incredibly well written. You articulated the feelings in the base of my very soul, the feelings that I have known but haven’t found the way to voice so precisely, so eloquently. Thank you.

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    this is amazing and beautiful and i can relate to this so much. I’ve had chronic depression since I was about 12 and while a lot of our experiences are not the same, it is very good to know that these feelings aren’t just me being fucked up. i’m not saying i’m glad that you’ve suffered like this, i’m saying that i’m glad you are sharing your story. just, thank you.

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    Thank you for sharing this. I’m glad that Autostraddle has finally started covering the topic of mental illness (unless I’ve missed other articles) It feels really good to see people post similar experiences.

    So much hope in this article. I experience ocd and often think that I’ll never find someone who I can feel close to, enough to open up to. The vulnerability is frightening. When I read the part of you finding that boi, it made me tear up. It’s what I want, and never thought it was possible.

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      I never thought it was possible either, and was/am floored that this boi exists. And for the record, since I’m airing all my dirty laundry, after we broke up I got black out drunk and threatened to kill them, and they STILL understood where I was coming from and forgave me, and now we are slowly starting to talk again. It was uber scary to be vulnerable. And it was the first time in years that I let myself do that. But it paid off. And I regret nothing, I mean apart from the black out drunk threatening part…

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    Loved this, really well written and heart wrenching.

    I apparently have “cluster B traits” which is the nice way of saying that I show hallmark BPD.

    I hate the diagnosis and so I ignore it. It’s only a label after all..

    The feelings portrayed in this piece of writing are so real and emotional and relateable :)

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    This is beautifully written and extremely evocative, and I relate to it 100%.

    Thank you for putting your experience into such powerful words.

    Thank you for opening up this dialogue.

    I am on the light side of the darkness now, and I would never have believed it was possible. I have depression with psychotic features, anxiety, and panic disorder. I have also been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder although I do not feel these diagnoses truly fit me.

    Anyway – they do use BPD to sideline people when a therapist has too much trouble working with them. Of course it is a real disorder, and a very difficult one to go through, but I know for a fact that some therapists use the label when they themselves can’t handle the issues a client brings up for them. Basically if the therapist gets uncomfortable with your “stuff” they might say “oh, you have BPD.” A therapist said this to me when, after 4 years of successfully working with her, I began talking about being sexually abused as a child. Suddenly, even though she never mentioned BPD before, she says she can’t work with me because I have BPD. Whatever. I found a better therapist.

    I have all kinds of symptoms ranging from extreme depression, suicidality, cutting, dissociation, panic attacks and hallucinations. With the proper therapy and meds, I function like a 100% normal individual (well, if anyone can say what normal is). I hold a steady full time job as a journalist and am well-liked by my peers and colleagues. This, after struggling with a darkness very similar to the one described in this article for over 5 years without therapy or medication.

    For me, therapy and medication were and are necessary to enjoy life. It took a lot of work and many years before I could manage my illnesses with just once a week therapy and a pill every day. There are side effects but for me, being able to want to live is worth the side effects I currently have. I know side effects can be just as bad as the illness, though.

    I spent several years not feeling better but just hoping to feel better, hoping that there was something to hope for when I didn’t have any evidence. But one day, it clicked. I had real hope. Then, I was hoping for happiness. And again, it took a long while, but it came. Now, every day, I consider my biggest accomplishment to wake up happy and go to bed happy. If I’ve done that, then I’ve fulfilled my promise to myself. And of course normal sadness doesn’t count – it’s the darkness that I’m keeping at bay. The depression, the being out of control, the intense panic, etc. You can feel better. Please keep working for it.

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      Gah, you and I have got about the same bundle of stuff, it sounds like. I have nothing very important to add, just popped in to say how glad it makes me to hear that you’re doing so well with it all. You don’t hear much about depression with psychotic features — in fact, I only learned that this was a recognized diagnosis about a year ago, when some temporary worsening of my symptoms prompted me to do some research and realize that my former treatment plan and medication combo had precisely matched up with what’s recommended for psychotic depression. The people who oversaw that plan were not big on letting me in on what they thought was going on in my brain — which is too bad, since I’d always assumed that I had a weird, marginal form of some more common thing rather than a pretty textbook form of a rarer thing. Sort of added to my guilt about draining my family’s resources and my worry that some subconscious part of me was “faking it.” It was such a relief to read other people’s accounts and recognize my own experience. (And in retrospect, I’m really glad that I hid my self-injury habit even as I sought treatment for the other stuff, given the widespread misunderstanding even among psychotherapists.)

      I am pretty okay too these days, though I often do worry when I feel myself slipping into darker frames of mind: how bad will it get? When is bad enough to do something about it? I sought treatment when I was 16, soon after my symptoms started, and it was really just a disaster, except inasmuch as it gave me the willpower to do whatever I needed to stop seeing clueless, condescending psychiatrists/therapists and taking medications that made me totally exhausted and foggy. So I haven’t sought treatment again since then (though I was briefly forced into it in college due to an embarrassing self-injury incident). That is probably not really the smart thing to do, but I’m hyper-aware of my own psychoemotional state at any given time and have a pretty good sense of what I need to do to stay outwardly stable and minimize damage. Sometimes I do think that anxiety/depression meds could be helpful to me, but I am just too worried about the side effects given my previous experience — my work depends on my maintaining a sharp, creative mind, and for now, I’m not willing to take the chance of interfering with that.

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    This article was beautiful, it is words that can put into words the inexplicable pain that we Borderlines go through.
    Borderline is not a catch-all, at least, not for me. When I was diagnosed I fit every single part of the criteria.
    Though I still deal every day with my disorder, I’m now considered a “functioning Borderline.”
    Finding my diagnosis was like finding my lifeline – finally, something tangible and real to explain everything that’s wrong with me – that I’m not an asshole, I’m just sick.
    How else can you explain the pain you put through your family, while feeling nothing but pain and emptiness? My self injury, eating disorder, and suicide attempts tore my family apart.
    And it’s always for one reason with Borderlines, we emotional burn victims – making the pain stop. To quell the inexplicable agony going on inside our heads.
    I was around 18 when I finally started coming up for air. I was put on an SNRI proved to treat Borderlines’ mood swings and started taking responsibility for myself.
    I now have a lotus on my back, I got it 2 years to the day I put myself in an inpatient program.
    I wish nothing but luck and love to those suffering from BPD that haven’t come up for air yet. Don’t be that 10% that don’t make it.

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    Thank you for sharing. What an amazing and moving piece. I was diagnosed with a buttload of things when I was younger but I’ve managed to move past them… I’ve been stable on meds for 10 years and was in therapy for a while. It seems like that life was so very long ago and sometimes I tend to forget it. I often do not share it anymore. But when I read something like this, I remember and it feels good to remember, even though it was a terrifying journey to get where I am today.

    Thanks again.

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    Thank you SO MUCH for writing this. I have pretty severe BPD and relate to almost every word of this (minus the specifics, of course). Sometimes it feels like it really does take an “unshakable will” for people to stick around forever for me and all of this. I’m still in the thick of ALL of this, and I love that you didn’t try to give neat “answers,” but instead just painted it as it is. I felt like I was reading my own thoughts. Thanks so much for being brave enough to talk about it!

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      And I’d also like to speak to the “catchall” nature of BPD…while I appreciate that it’s often misdiagnosed/understand that there’s a lot of sexist background to its diagnosis and treatment, or unfortunately lack thereof, because BPD people are all too often associated with the “hysterical woman” stereotype or considered “difficult,” for me, BPD is an EXACT diagnosis. The pervasive feeling of being “unreal” or having an unstable sense of self, which often leads you to religion after religion, partner to partner, or career to career in an effort to create a stable self, is the defining factor for many people, and the factor that’s not as common in other disorders. This has particular implications for queer people, especially queer women, who are often deemed “confused” to begin with, as people with borderline personality disorder are often easily influenced and second-guess themselves constantly and may think that their queerness is another part of their ongoing confusion about who they really are (if that even exists), instead of “really” being queer, if that makes any sense. At least that’s been my experience with it. Sort of on the flip side, I’ve also been with cis men in an effort to define myself–being “the wife of a very religious man,” for example, is a very socially acceptable alternative to feeling like you don’t have any core identity, which is an insanely unsettling feeling to have day in and day out. So it’s actually led me AWAY from my real self in many cases as well. The intersection of BPD with a queer identity is an interesting topic and one that I wish more people would explore.

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        A million times this! I’m starting a clinic for BPD soon, and they asked me for a letter from my old therapist to see where I’m at (this might be awkward as I also sent this to my therapist, so L if you’re reading this, heyyyyyyy) anyways, she wrote that I displayed signs of identity confusion as I used to date males and now identify as a lesbian. And I was all, Imma let you finish but I am literally more confused about which denim chambray shirt to wear than how I feel about vaginas.

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          LOL, right?! I understand the idea behind it, but that part of the description of it has always sat incorrectly with me. Sometimes it seems like the “identity confusion” can be used/has been used as just another way to pathologize queerness, pansexuality, and bisexuality, which are REAL THINGS YALL, LIKE REALLY. I am not confused about being pansexual, I just really really AM. And in terms of a lesbian having been with men–haven’t MOST lesbians? I mean, we ALL grew up assuming we would be straight, if we ever watched television or movies, went out in society, read books, looked at ads, or heard people speak, right? So even if we had an idea that we were gay, or knew it, most of us have dated a man at some point or another. That’s not being confused, it’s practically a rite of passage in queerness.

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        That unstable identity thing has been the main reason I really gravitated to BPD as a diagnosis even though no one is willing to see me as such. I was never *allowed* a stable identity; my identity was always dependent on what other people saw me as rather than what I could assert for myself. Is there such a thing as socially-enforced BPD?

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    Wow this resonates so profoundly with me that I got chills. Thank you for being so open and honest. Definitely need a trigger warning on this though. I spent time in a psychiatric hospital (or two…) as well as an in-patient therapy program and it is oddly soothing to find others who are cracked and broken. Who truly understand what it means to want to die and feeling completely at peace with that fact. Courage and love.
    xo

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