My life now is a thousand miles away from what it was when I was undiagnosed and my mental health was suffering. People who know me can’t imagine that it was ever that bad. After all, my emotions are regulated and I live a good life besides the chronic pain. I still have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder but it no longer defines me. My friends and family only know me as a stable man.
It’s mental health awareness week, and I wanted to give you a day in the life of a younger me. Just to paint a picture of what mental illness was for me.
If you need a trigger warning, this post includes mentions of suicide, alcoholism, hallucinations, mental distress.
‘I awoke in my decrepit flat in the afternoon. It was cold as it had no heating or carpets. I needed to get out as I felt fearful after a long night and morning of paranoi and not much sleep, I felt daylight would help me. I sneaked past the squatters, the heroin addicts who lived below me and who’s front door was open. I think they were more frightened of me, because of my erratic and sometimes destructive behaviour.
As I walked through town I could hear my name being whispered, and occasional shouts of abuse. This was normal and had been for a while. I was 19 years old and my mental health had been deteriorating for years. I was diagnosed with anxiety and deppresion. I had already had two suicide attempts by then and was a self harmer. The local mental health team were at a loss with me and my psychiatrist just medicated me. I was abusing alcohol by this point as a way to quieten the noise in my head. It would be 10 years before I got a diagnosis of BPD.
As I walked through the busy town centre I noticed something that got my attention. In a parked car I saw what looked like a face pushing through the fabric of a parked cars head rest. I got closer to get a better looked and also saw to faces moving and pushing through the back seats. I panicked and preceeded to stop passers by to help somehow. Getting more frustrated and manic that no-one would listen to me. People looked frightened of me as I began shouting for help by the parked car.
I ran into the pub opposite (where they already new me and were aware I was unwell) and began shouting for help to the confusion of the lunchtime punters. A man I knew came down from the bar to calm me down. I told him what was happening in the car and he looked confused and concerned. He walked me out of the pub and back across the street to the park car and looked in. “Si, there’s nothing in there”, and when I looked he was right.
I burst into tears and walked off. Made my way to the off licence and bought myself a bottle to help me calm down. I was frustrated, frightened and embarrassed by my behaviour. I headed back to my flat and back to alcoholic oblivion. It was just another experience I had to stuff down and try to ignore, I had to suppress it otherwise it would just play on my mind. Alcohol was, and would be the solution for another 16 years.’
My mental health affected me less the more I drank. So crossing the line into chronic alcoholism was a natural progression of my alcohol abuse. But there were many days and night’s of madness, fear and destruction. Too many to remember. I was ill for decades.
Sobriety and Meditation finally freed me from the madness of my own head. It was the end of a life of self destruction and the beginning of a new life of stability and peaceful well-being.
My life now is one of the joyful drama of parenthood. I live a full life with the principles of love and patience at the centre. I still suffer destructive thinking but with meditation it no longer affects me. My past experience isn’t without it’s use. It has made me useful when it comes to helping others who are still suffering. I am passionate about recovery. Especially mindfulness.
If you are struggling with mental health, never be afraid to reach out, and keep searching for solutions. There is a life beyond the bondage to darkness. Many do recover if they are willing to commit to change. Never give up the journey to wellness.