This blog is part of my recovery, and I would like it to remain a safe place for me to share parts of myself and my life that people close to me may or may not know. As a result, while I'm not going crazy with privacy settings, I do ask that if you find this on your own and suspect you may know me, please respect my privacy by checking with us before reading any further. This obviously doesn't apply if one of us has given you the link!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

#HeartOnMySleeve

It's time to revive this blog, and I'm going to do it by talking about the #HeartOnMySleeve movement. If you haven't already, go watch this video on youTube. I'll wait.

Tonight I drew a heart on my arm, wiped off my mask, and took a photo to share on social media. I am one of the faces of mental illness. I live with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder... and all the extras that come with complex trauma. My mental illness sometimes incapacitates me to the point of disability.


While my mask is off, I'm going to lay some of it out for you, because I'm not the only one. All around you people are going about their lives and statistics say that 1 in 4 of those people are living with mental illness -- and probably hiding it behind a mask.

So please, if you've got some time, let me tell you a little about what it looks like on the inside. Walk, as they say, in my shoes for a bit. But then please give them back, because I don't want to be loopy *and* have to buy new shoes. ;)

I split this into two halves, those of my conscious and un/sub conscious selves. Some things may seem to, or actually, contradict themselves, and these tend to be survival strategies and my brain approaching things things from weird angles that confuse everyone (including me). One example of this is that I am consciously not aware of things in my surroundings, while being hyper-vigilant about them. In that instance it's a case of "if I don't see what's going on, I don't have to decide what to do about it"; but the hyper-vigilance means that my body's ready to decide for me, should the need arise.

Just a quick note to add that I'm not proud of my symptoms, and I do often take a "bright side" approach to things, but today I want you to see the mess behind the mask. I want you to see that mental illness has left its mark on me, that the struggle behind the smile is real


Occurring mainly in/to my conscious self:
I'm blind to the nuances of my surroundings; but overaware of the nuances of our conversation. If it is one way now, I will probably think it has always been that way. I probably will not notice that you shaved your head, got a tattoo, or pierced your nose. I will, however, stress for days over the tone of your voice when you said "goodbye".
I experience severe depression. Sometimes I lose all motivation and it's a struggle to do anything. Sometimes I cry too easily and too often. Sometimes I have no tears at all.
I have near-constant anxiety. Sometimes I experience panic attacks - some appearing out of nowhere, some due to known triggers.
I self harm. You may have noticed that the skin on one of those hearts looks a little weird. That's because it's scarring -- a self inflicted wound five years ago resulted in a skin graft that covers approximately half of my forearm.
I have disordered eating.
I have massive problems with personal hygiene (and this is probably the thing I'm most sensitive about, in terms of admitting). Dental visits are rare and a big deal when they happen, and usually require hospitalisation afterwards for my own safety.
My self esteem is nearly nonexistent. Some days it is better than others, but I don't think I'd ever rate it above 50%.
I experience flashbacks and relive past experiences as though they're happening in the now. It can occur with partial memories or full memories. Sometimes when this is immersive, I can't tell that I'm experiencing a memory at all.
I hallucinate. I see things that aren't really in the physical world around me. These things are generally benign and sometimes a little bizarre. Occasionally something I see will be frightening, such as when things that shouldn't move, do. I hear sounds and I hear the voice of a male who seems to be mid-30s (ish). When he appears, it is generally after a period of prolonged depression, and he tells me that God is telling me to die. Medication silences him. I also frequently hear things from the internal world. I experience this differently to my thought-voice, and to the aforementioned male voice.
I think about suicide several times a day. I enter "actively suicidal" several times a year, and sometimes require hospitalisation to keep myself safe.
I lack healthy boundaries. Sometimes I'm not sure where they should be, other times my self esteem stops me setting them where I objectively know they belong.
I have terrible self care. I eat poorly, sleep poorly, and generally do little to look after myself.


Occurring mainly in my unconscious or subconscious self:
I am hyper-vigilant. I scan for exits every time I enter a space, and I note who and what is around me. I have an exit plan made before I take even two steps.
I pick up on subtle emotions and body language cues that my conscious self doesn't know how to interpret. The un/sub conscious self interprets it as some form of threat (generally an emotional one; such as "you are upset with me").
I dissociate. Sometimes I 'switch' and another personality experiences the outer world, and sometimes I simply experience life through a fog. Sometimes, when things are particularly bad, I go into dissociative shut-down. When this occurs, it's as though my body is inhabited by a muted ghost. The lights are on, the door swings open at your touch... but nobody's home. In this state I could easily walk under a car without even registering its existence.
On a related note, there is a team of insiders (alters) constantly monitoring what's going on, in order to ensure our physical safety as much as possible. This is exhausting, even with all of us helping out, and sometimes things fall apart because everyone's too tired to monitor effectively.
I pick at my skin and pull out my hair when I'm distressed. My face and my chest are where I most pick (leading to people asking things like, "what's wrong with your face" & "do you have the chicken pox?") hair comes from my scalp when subsconscious, and legs when I'm consciously fulfilling this need.

**
This is not a complete & exhaustive list. Neither of us has time for that. I hope, though, that it's given you a bit of an idea what lies behind the mask, and maybe given someone else the courage to speak up as well. This is not my story, it's just my symptoms. My story is made up of so much more than this; it's more than mental illness, it's even more than the sum of my parts. So this is not my story, these are simply some of my symptoms, and I'm not proud of my symptoms, but I'm trying not to be ashamed, either.

Although the ways mental illness affects me might look different to the ways someone with heart disease, or lupus, or cystic fibrosis are affected by their illness, I have as little choice in my illness as they do. I didn't choose my mental illness, but every day I wake up and work to make my life better.

2 comments:

  1. I am currently in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder. I also used to pick at my skin. I rarely do that now. I have done Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and it changed my life. I am not ashamed of my BPD. I think that the more we talk about it, the more we can erase the stigma associated with it.

    Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I found this on internet and it is really very nice.
    An excellent blog.
    Great work!

    ReplyDelete