BPD and PTSD
Rosalind, 27th October 2014
In my previous post I wrote a little about emotional oversensitivity, just writing this post I am pondering on an ‘oversensitivity’ that affects both the ‘physical self’ and the ‘mental self’. Yes, I know, I have titled this post ‘PTSD and BPD’, I will get to that later on in the post. Upon the topic of oversensitivity I mentioned that it is my view that oversensitivity alongside a lacking framework depriving the learning opportunities/ skills that help one manage oversensitivity, can be a recipe for disaster. Alongside ‘acquiring’ BPD (affecting the mental self) on my life travels I have a host of ‘issues’ that have affected my body (the physical self), one of which is Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS.. I know it may appear that I love these abbreviated three lettered dis-eases, if I could add a ‘PhD’ to that list I would not mind so much, but I can’t.
IBS appeared to me to be similar to my initial view of BPD, a ‘default’ diagnosis, one that is given when all other considerations appear to be ruled out! Basically, a trash can that collected the remnants of individuals not fitting the more treatable of disorders. I know that not to be true now, but only through my own research and reflecting upon my own experiences.
What is ‘strong’ anyway?
In my lifetime I have heard the words ‘you are so strong’, ‘I don’t know how you have got through that’… from some of those who ‘know’ me..in fact the opposite has been true. Not that I would consider ‘sensitivity’ to be weak, rather it has been my coping skills that have not come from a strong or confident place. One example would be how I have ‘worked through’ painful situations, rather than accepting and feeling the pain, my survival technique would be to ‘sweep it under the doormat’ and just get on with it, how very British of me?
There has been a lot of heartache for both myself and my husband, I began my ‘sh*t list’ before meeting my husband Carl so that is one thing I can’t blame him for, more’s the pity. Together we have endured lost pregnancies, Infertility, failed IVF attempts, financial hardship alongside other very sad times.
What I found after being ‘battered repeatedly’ by unkind events, is that the ‘skills’ I had learnt to ‘cope’ with my unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviours over the years began to fly out of the window. The skills albeit rather ‘pathetic’ had been keeping me alive and above water (just). ‘Post Trauma’ and the stress attached to the events literally left me like a rabbit caught in headlights, in shock, awaiting what felt like impending doom.
The end of the world is nigh?
For me, part of my difficulties that have been attributed to the BPD diagnosis are the ‘the end of the world is nigh’ outlook that often sits on my shoulder, way before a shrink would have even touched me with a barge pole I boasted that outlook on life. One of the unhelpful ‘survival skills’ was the ‘expect nothing and you can’t be disappointed outlook, if I expected the world to end then most disappointments wouldn’t match up to that, so I suppose it served a purpose in a very warped way.
BPD and PTSD
So, having an oversensitive disposition without learning the skills to cope with disappointment, unhelpful thinking and behaviours, for me has led to the debilitating symptoms that qualify me for the BPD diagnosis. It has been the traumatic events that have contributed to my inability to use the ‘skill set’ that had been keeping me afloat previously. I have been, and in fact still am, in a constant state of ‘fear’ and ‘dread’, a long term response to trauma that has compounded and almost superseded the difficulties already present.
When in danger, it’s natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger.
Trauma in Oxford Dictionary
1A deeply distressing or disturbing experience: ‘a personal trauma like the death of a child’
[mass noun]: ‘many experience the trauma of divorce’
1.1 [mass noun] Emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may lead to long-term neurosis: ‘the event is relived with all the accompanying trauma’
late 17th century: from Greek, literally ‘wound’
Sharing my soul, my experience and sharing me
One of our most difficult times revolved around loss, infertility and IVF. What happens when you already suffer with mental health challenges, experience loss and infertility and then come up against a complete lack of support from a Healthcare Trust? My hubby and I after a long, hard struggle with our Healthcare provider received the treatment we were entitled to, by that stage we were completely exhausted, spent, broken. We were so disappointed by our experience that we started working on a website, we still own that domain name, we were creating a resource that would serve as a sounding board for patients to share both helpful and unhelpful experiences. The website name is ‘Real Patient Voices’, whilst we never reached ‘launch stage ‘, we are holding onto that in the hope that it might be put to good use one day. I wrote a short e-book, it was my intention to share that book upon the launch of the website in 2010.
One door closes, another door opens!
So, whilst Real Patient Voices has not been launched, we have launched Monarch Butterfly, it feels right and it feels as ‘close to good’ as it gets with me. Below I have shared a couple of excerpts from the e-book I wrote, ‘The Wind Taken Out of Our Sails’. It is about our disappointing journey leading up to IVF, written to what would have been the ‘Real Patient Voices’ readership, if you read it I hope it helps in some way.
Here I sit, still ‘numb’ and still very much confused by the last year and that has unfolded. I have been waiting for ‘that day’ that I wake up and feel ‘normal’ again or at least not that exhaustion that has crept up upon me. My husband and I have experienced what one might consider to be an unnerving year, we know we are not alone and would like to share our journey with you if you are feeling that you need a little encouragement right now.
I have decided to write our story in ‘magazine column’ form in order to make for a relatively easy read. I won’t pretend to be a seasoned ‘author’ of any kind, I am not, and you’ll soon find that out for yourself. What I will do is promise you that I will share honestly and would like to do so as if I am talking to a friend, a good friend. If that is alright with you, then go ahead and read on.
Our story revolves around a 9 month struggle with our local Primary Care Trust, my husband and I encountered service failures on multiple levels. We have had the ‘routine’ apology, and we have achieved an outcome to our case that months ago we would be dancing about. Unfortunately, we have had the wind taken out of our sails so rather than being able to rejoice we are in recovery mode, licking our wounds so to speak.
We continued with life, our previous experience had been swept under the carpet and any hope of pregnancy was a distant, dull, ‘maybe’. It hurt. The months that passed moved into double figures and were filled with a lot of sadness. Looking back I know that the pain was that of confused grief. We had no baby to mourn. Was there a baby? If there was where are they, did they go to heaven? That has been the worst pain of all, not saying hello and not saying goodbye. Just.
Deliberating on whether to actually speak to our new GP about our past was more than daunting. As explained in the previous chapter we had buried our heads in the sand in order to ‘function’. Reflecting on ‘reality’ was difficult, bordering the impossible. The only way I can explain that feeling to you is to say that it was the nearest I could imagine to actually being dead.
This was a very dark tunnel that we knew could surface emotions that one would rather remain buried. I have read all sorts of ‘positive thinking’ books, been to all kinds of ‘breakthrough’ seminars, whilst they helped the outer me progress through my career and stay relatively positive, I was deeply unhappy. I was what some might call, a ‘living dead’… I say ‘I was’, to be completely honest with you I still feel broken and have got some way to go.
Click the image above for access to our e-book ‘The Wind Taken Out of Our Sails’