*TW This post mentions self-harm and suicidal thoughts*
By offering this fictionalised account of a day in my life I hope to give a glimpse into what living with this condition can be like. Rather than describing what a bad day for me might look like, this attempts to portray an average day (although of course there is no such thing as an average day, especially with BPD!).
Wake up. Last night I had a dream that I lost control of my emotions and was screaming and crying in front of my colleagues. It's quite common for me to have nightmares. I then grab my phone and see that I have a text. The sight of a friendly, affectionate message and a cute Whatsapp sticker makes me feel so good. Time for breakfast. I feel great.
I eat breakfast and take my medication (antidepressant). Before I leave the house, I check that I have my book, extra medication, DBT skills cheat sheet, phone charger and headphones. I listen to my Harry Potter audiobook as I walk briskly to the station. Without something comforting to focus on, I usually start worrying that my friends don't like me or that I have said something to upset someone I love. Distraction, self-soothe and improve the moment are three DBT skills I use everyday.
I arrive at work & get started on my to-do list. I work in a charity with a health/social equality focus. I do some video editing, attend a meeting about digital transformation & take phone calls from clients and health professionals about referrals. I’m feeling effective and confident- I derive a lot of satisfaction from helping people who want to access our services.
I ask my colleagues if they would like a coffee and, when someone doesn’t respond to me, I begin to panic that she is upset or annoyed with me. Whilst I make coffee, I'm flooded with fearful thoughts: ‘do people like me?’ ‘am I a good person’? ‘Have I offended my colleagues?' When I return to my desk, I manage to focus on my work but inside I feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. These are familiar feelings.
I take a short lunch break. I try to use mindfulness to ground myself, noticing the sounds and smells around me. I notice that I'm having anxious thoughts about people I love: 'do they know I care about them?' 'am I a good friend?' 'do they still love me?' Thinking over and over about these things is what my therapist calls rumination and it's very much linked to my fear of abandonment. It's hard to stop. I get a sweet text from a loved one and I feel instantly relieved.
I have to leave work early for a medical appointment (unrelated to mental health). The guilt kicks in when I leave the office an hour early. I start to think: 'how dare I leave work early?' 'everyone must think I am so lazy'. I feel both anxiety and guilt rise up in me. I know these thoughts and feelings have been happening for many years so I use the DBT skill 'radical acceptance'. It helps.
During the medical appointment, I am triggered. Something that the nurse said has sent a huge wave of shame crashing over my body. I feel so disgusted with myself that I want to self-harm. I am flooded with horrible images and memories. It's as if all the words in my head are shouting at me. It's really scary. I manage to fight back my tears until I can rush into the bathroom. Once inside, I begin to sob. My suicidal thoughts start to tell me that I can't cope and that I'm unlovable. My whole body hurts. I wish I could feel safe once more.
Although these thoughts and feelings continued for nearly an hour, I managed to calm myself down on the bus home by focusing on my audiobook. These days- thanks to DBT and lots of support from others- I'm able to calm down much quicker than I used to. I also no longer resort to self-harm like I used to in the past. I'm feeling fragile but I manage to tell myself that these emotions will pass. I'm used to crying a lot (even in public) because my emotions come quickly and intensely. I have a small cry and almost instantly feel better. Suddenly I notice so much beauty all around me and feel intense joy. My thoughts race: 'Ah! I love everything! Life is amazing!'. Such intense mood changes are really common for me.
When I get home I manage to throw myself into cooking. My therapist has taught me how to participate in what I am doing; noticing smells, colours, sounds, rather than focusing on others around me. This is a helpful way of managing my BPD because it means that I am not looking at people around me for potential signs of rejection or abandonment.
I sit down to watch TV with my close friends who I live with. Instead of listening to the programme, I keep replaying the events of the day in my head: 'Did I upset someone? Did I do the wrong thing at work?' I keep quickly checking my friends' faces for signs that they are annoyed with me. I love being with friends but when I have had a difficult day sometimes it is easier to be alone. I head upstairs to my bedroom which I have decorated so it is extra-calming...
I've taken my evening medication and I've got some soothing music on. I play Animal Crossing which helps me a lot. I exchange some texts with a loved one and feel a little more relaxed. I know that I go through a lot each day with my BPD and I attempt to validate my experience. Thanks to the therapy hat has helped me so much, my nighttimes are much better than they used to be. I no longer fear how I will survive the next day.
Can you relate to my day? I would love to hear your thoughts.