"Guilt and shame completely engulfed me" - Liam's story
Liam reflects on his journey, from witnessing his father’s alcoholism to coming to terms with his passing. After experiencing intrusive thoughts, paranoia and overwhelming feelings of shame, he was diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and BPD (borderline personality disorder). With therapy and a supportive network, he has regained hope for the future.
I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in my late twenties. I had been in therapy for four years prior to my diagnosis, where I learned to embrace what was a difficult childhood.
My dad was an alcoholic, his addiction rendered him completely unable to forge relationships with people, including his family. To try and understand my environment, which fluctuated from quiet to chaos seemingly at random, I began to internalise responsibility for his alcoholism.
I started to believe my paranoia, that I was put on this Earth to save him. When I was twelve, his sister succumbed to the same addiction and what could have been a turning point, quickly accelerated his drinking.
My mind couldn’t understand why someone would choose to do this to themselves, seemingly without awareness of the damage it was doing to himself and our family.
One moment would be panic inducing, the next overwhelming.
By nineteen, my father passed away, the summer after my first year at university. Mingled into the grief I was experiencing, was the resounding message that I had failed in my mission. Guilt and shame completely engulfed me. To cope, I started having counselling sessions at university.
After a handful of sessions, I maxed out the support available and was sent away on my own to figure it out. I buried myself in a strict routine for several years to give me a sense of control.
It was around this time that I began experiencing violent and visceral images. Unpleasant scenes, where I was often the culprit, would arise at seemingly innocuous moments, completely unprompted. These experiences deepened my depression and sense of shame, creaking against the fragile boundaries of my routine.
I’d wake up in the night drenched in sweat, already crying, gripping my pillow to ground myself against a mind that I felt was eating me from the inside out. This pain would crescendo, and what would follow was a total bodily numbness, a complete void of emotions.
Please do not give up on yourself, you are not your past experience and you are worth fighting for.
One moment would be panic inducing, the next overwhelming. I’d oscillate between these states for many years, disassociating daily before suffering a breakdown whilst at work. I could no longer fight against the swelling tide of grief. I came home after work feeling physically weak, breaking down the moment I locked my front door every night.
I’m 32 now and still go to therapy twice a week. I’ve found this practice lifesaving. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to embrace my mental health. As I’ve chipped away at the grief and uncomfortable emotions, new ones have given rise, of hope and acceptance.
I’ve been through a fair few storms on my journey to know that they pass eventually. I can ground myself in these moments, which is a helpful support mechanism I learned in therapy. My wife and I have adopted a retired ex-racing greyhound and she has been incredibly helpful, getting me outside and staying active, as well as learning to practice giving and receiving love safely.
Sadly, I know my journey is not unique. There are many people who are struggling with the same challenges I’ve faced. If I can reach them with my story, I would say: please do not give up on yourself, you are not your past experience and you are worth fighting for! With the right support, there is nothing you have been given that you cannot overcome.
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