In the open water - Eloise's story
For Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Awareness Month, Eloise shares her experience of recovery. Despite the stigma around BPD, Eloise has made leaps and bounds in her journey and is now able to see the positives within herself. She speaks about her new passion for outdoor swimming, how it has become a mindful practice that keeps her well.
I was referred to mental health services seven years ago. After a few different diagnoses and a few different psychiatrists, it was eventually decided that I had BPD. I then went straight to Google and found that there's tonnes of information on borderline personality disorder online, and a lot of it is pretty awful. Although I did absolutely resonate with the symptoms and those sharing their experiences, I also noticed that there wasn't a lot of first-hand accounts of recovery. So, despite sharing some dark times, I also wanted to share how those have turned around. I can now say I appreciate what's around me, and even myself a little bit.
I guess, looking back, my symptoms started when I was quite young. I've always had quite a strong attachment to certain people and have been through a fair share of rocky friendships. I'm very all-or-nothing, can be quite impulsive, and my emotions have always been super intense. In 2016, I had what was initially diagnosed as a mixed-episode and that offset several situations where I wanted the world to stop, or I wanted to get off the ride completely. That summer is still a bit hazy.
People with BPD have heaps of empathy, passion, loyalty, and resilience.
From 2016 to 2020, I had countless visits to A&E after what were referred to as suicide attempts, but I still can't explain my intentions at the time. I know I wanted a break from reality. I hated myself and had rock-bottom self-esteem, dealing with very constant and very loud intrusive thoughts telling me I was gross and useless.
Eventually, the A&E visits turned into hospital admissions, with the latest being February 2020. I was there for a month and discharged just before lockdown...brilliant timing as the only following support was two phone calls. I can't say I had any moments of clarity in hospital, they're not the nicest of places to be in but absolutely did the job of keeping me safe. I would say it felt more like a holding pool of unwell people rather than somewhere to recover, and sleeping on what felt like a crash mat, with someone shining a torch in the room every hour, didn't do much to help my sleep!
So really, I attribute my recovery to the brilliant community mental health team, my partner and those around me, as well as my own determination to start enjoying life. I started on a depot of antipsychotics which kept things stable whilst taking part in DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy). This taught me how to communicate and manage stressful situations far better than I had in the past, and I liked how it was a skills-based programme.
I'm very all-or-nothing, can be quite impulsive, and my emotions have always been super intense.
After this, I moved to a new town and gradually began to fill my time with a stable routine of work, the gym, running, seeing people and trying new things. One of which was outdoor swimming, which has been incredible for my anxiety and intrusive thoughts.
If you’ve been dabbling with the idea of trying open-water swimming, then you really must! Jumping (or tentatively lowering myself) into the fresh water, and having 30-40 minutes where I only need to think about regular breathing, is a form of mindfulness that works for me. I can put my head down and thrash out some front crawl, or leisurely breaststroke my way around the lake whilst taking in the scenery, sounds and smells. My negative thoughts find it pretty hard to fight through all of that! There's also such a sense of accomplishment once you're all wrapped-up and warm afterwards. It honestly is such a great way to start the day.
It's now been three years since my last hospital stay, and even though there's no guarantees that life and BPD won't collectively bring some tough times in the future, I now know how to manage these a lot better thanks to DBT. Gosh, I even see the positives in being so emotional sometimes! I read that people with BPD have heaps of empathy, passion, loyalty, and resilience - all things I now have the confidence to tell myself on a down day.
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