anxiety · bpd · mental health · Self Improvement

Mental Health Progress is Not a Straight Line

The past week has been… a ride. It reminded me that recovery is far from linear, and things might set you back, but all you can do is keep moving forward.

One of the more notable things that has happened is my recent contact with my ex, Pisces. Our conversations have been cordial with some clarification happening regarding our past relationship while primarily discussing mental health. Two things made themselves clear to me after a while spent in conversation with them: one, that were it not for Nicholas, I probably would be in a similarly emotionally fraught position as them; two, that Pisces is uncomfortably similar to my father.

Like, “wow, you have the same diagnosis and poor coping mechanisms and family background and career interests and and and how did I not see this before” kind of similarities. Even the drunken texts late into the night, the wall of text greeting my still sleepy eyes the next morning read like Lloyd ranting about his ex-wife. It’s… unsettling.

But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about.

The reason I brought Pisces up is because the most recent particular series of texts I received from them ended with them more or less saying “fuck you and anything that makes you happy.”

It was very triggering.

When we dated, I was probably the most awful person I’ve ever met. I was selfish, cruel, manipulative, and a liar. I abused this person both mentally and physically. From what they say, it sounds like sexually as well. I phrase it in this manner because the end of our relationship is almost an entirely blank spot in my memory. I can recall literally two memories from that summer with him and I. The reason being, I assume, because at the beginning of the summer I suddenly stopped taking the lithium, paxil and a supplemental anxiety medication I had been prescribed all at once without a taper. I lost my adolescent mind. This doesn’t excuse my behavior one bit but it’s the reason why I can only accept what I’m told happened during that time. My memories don’t really come online from that time period until about halfway through the summer, at which point I was already drinking heavily and smoking weed whenever I could get my hands on it. Not much of a reliable witness, unfortunately.

Reading these words crushed me. I hadn’t truly thought back on that part of my life in a long time. And with their damnation, the guilt stole the wind from my lungs like a black smoke and unfurled in my heart. All at once, I believed them – I didn’t deserve love or pleasure or happiness. All at once, I felt like that angry, suicidal teenage girl all over again. I curled into a ball on my bed, hid under the covers, and started to cry.

I wish that I could tell you I eventually wiped my tears and picked myself back up again. That would be much more inspirational than the truth, I think. But I will never lie to you here – I vowed a long time ago, after looking at the smoldering ruins of my life following that summer, that I would be truthful even when the words stung me. I’ve lapsed from time to time but the one place I’ve always found it easiest to be true is in my writing. So, the reality of what happened is that I didn’t pick myself up alone. I had help.

My fucking angel of a husband, having read these messages and watched me draw into myself like he’d seen so many times before, was simply quiet and present. He put on a video of one of our favorite YouTubers taking his cat for a walk. I poked my head out of the blankets and watched silently. The part I can take credit for is the fact that I didn’t push him away, I didn’t plug my ears and close my eyes. Instead, I allowed myself to be distracted for a few minutes from my freshly reopened scars. And if you’ve read any of my posts on CBT/DBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy, respectively), or been through some halfway decent therapy yourself, then you know the ultimate tool that is Distraction.

Distraction gives you distance. You take a time out from your feelings. Doing this makes it so much easier to be rational when you return to what upset you. And this is what I was able to do. Once the video was done, my husband looked at me and asked, “Did that help?”

It sure did, baby.

Like I said before, Pisces is a reminder to me of what my life would possibly be like if I hadn’t been so blessed to have Nicholas as my rock. Whenever people comment on how healthy I seem now compared to a decade ago, or ask me why I was able to work through my anxiety and become technically not fit the criteria for a BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) diagnosis anymore, I always tell them it’s because of Nick. His unwavering patience, consistency, and unconditional love taught me to trust again. He made me believe that I was worth loving, that my life was worth living.

As a side note, this is why the whole “if you can’t love yourself, how are you going to love somebody else?” sentiment is well-meaning garbage. Are you saying a depressed mother can’t love her child? That a self-loathing adolescent bears no love for their siblings? That a mentally unwell person whose own worth they doubt is incapable of seeing the worth of others? It makes no sense. If you can’t love yourself, then by all means, love someone else. Love them and when they love you in return, they will act as a mirror for you to see your own light.

The other side of the equation is that I’ve done years of therapy. I’ve cycled through countless medications. I’ve read stacks of books on BPD, anxiety, CBT, DBT, trauma, meditation, and addiction. I’ve gone down the list of coping mechanisms and found the things that help me. I’ve done the research and I’ve done the work. I might not have gotten started on this journey were it not for the strength that Nicholas lent me but at the end of the day, I was the one who sat down and literally remapped my neural pathways. I am not the same person I was 12 years ago.

I’m far from done, though. And the climb to the mythical peak of Mentally Well Mountain features plenty of unsteady ledges that I’ve tumbled from, dead ends that made me have to double back, and other unsafe features. But every once in a while, it is nice to stop and see how far I’ve climbed.

I can peer down the mountainside and see where I struggled: times when it was too hard to leave my house or talk to anyone, so I hid from the world; the winter that I asked for a divorce, drove drunk, quit my job and tore my hamstring; the night I hit my eardrum with a q-tip and panicked so hard I had to call my mother; an embarrassingly high number of times I mistook a panic attack for a heart attack or stroke or some other life threatening emergency and called 9-1-1 or made Nick drive me to the hospital or sped to Urgent Care alone while hyperventilating and sobbing hysterically; the suicide “note” video I recorded in New Jersey; almost checking myself into inpatient care because I was so riddled with panic I could barely function; cutting myself in Ludington literally last week… I could go on, but you get the idea. The really wild thing is that literally all of this occurred within the last year.

Despite all these times that I lost my footing, I still weirdly feel healthier and happier than I ever have before. Every day that I wake up and don’t have a panic attack, don’t mope around my apartment crying sporadically, don’t stir up trouble to sate my bored and troubled mind is a blessing. I’m so very grateful for the peace that I seem to have found in the past few months and the fact that my bad days are more brief as well as far and few between than they’ve ever been before.

It is winter now so we’ll see if Seasonal Affective Disorder kicks my ass and turns me into a depressed, anxious mess again. But every time I fall down, it gets a little easier to get back up. Because I have the tools, I know what to do, and perhaps most importantly I’ve learned the ultimate secret: nothing is permanent. No sadness or fear can last forever. I just have to wait it out. Hopefully, my sharing this can serve as an affirmation to you, as well. If you’re going through a tough time right now, I promise you that it will end. Things will get better. They always do eventually.

Sometimes, all it takes is a cat video.

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