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!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Musings from Hospital

There are a lot of misconceptions people have about Borderline Personality Disorder, and unfortunately, many of these stereotyped images and misconceptions are just as active in the psychiatric care community as they are in the general population. One of these, the idea that someone with BPD is a shameless manipulator who doesn't feel guilt, forms the basis of a piece I wrote in the hospital.

You see, my first day, the day they gave me the graft, I had a rough few hours. As I came to, my body began to go into convulsive shakes from the anaesthesia. I could hear the woman asking me for my pain level, administering something, then telling me, "just breathe deeply, the shakes will stop soon," and I was trying so hard, but my body just kept shaking and shaking. Barely conscious, I was frightened, and the shaking was aggravating the pain from the graft. By the time I was wheeled into the 23 hour ward, I was in tears from the pain, and I was terrified. I'm someone who deals best with small spaces: I was in a huge, open room - given no privacy curtains, and every other patient in there at that time was male. To make matters worse, I discovered that the paper underwear they'd given me to wear had been cut off me.

I lay there, crying, for an hour before anyone thought to come to me. I asked again for pain relief, then I asked to have my bear returned. I was told I wasn't allowed my phone on the ward, that I was on the 23 hour ward and would be going home tomorrow. And then I was left. And during that time, I heard the nurses talking about me. At one stage, I heard them divvying up the patients, calling dibs on this patient or that, until someone chimed, "well, SOMEONE has to have the self harmer...!"

After another two hours, the nice lady I had seen down at the clinic came to me. She checked on me, let me know what was going on. I asked if I could please have the curtains closed, she explained why it wasn't possible but that she would let the other nurses know I was concerned about the lack of privacy. She did everything in her power to put me more at ease, and it worked. It's amazing what a little kindness, a little bit of humanity, can do. After that, I must admit, every nurse that I have dealt with, bar one scary lady here on the burns ward, has been absolutely wonderful.

I hear you asking, "How does that tie into misconceptions and guilt?", and the answer is quite simple. Those first nurses made assumptions about me based on the little bit of information on my chart. They decided that as a self harmer, I wanted all of this attention. I was only crying so that they'd give me attention - so they decided to combat it by ignoring me completely. I'm sure they had the best of intentions, but by ignoring me, all they did was exacerbate the situation. As for guilt... I'm fairly sure they "bought into" the stereotype that I was incapable of guilt for my actions. After all, I only wanted attention - why would I feel guilty? Why indeed?

Lying here in the burns ward, I am filled with guilt, with shame, with a deep sense of loathing for this person I am. In the bed beside me is a man whose tractor exploded while he was mowing. Has to hop to the bathroom. Across from him is a young fellow whose feet and legs are so badly burnt he uses a wheelchair to get around, and beside him is a man who struggles to eat, with an arm bandaged all the way to his fingers. And me? I have a couple of small grafts from burns that I did to myself. What on earth gives me the right to lay here, in this bed, surrounded by these people?

WISE mind reminds me that what gives me the right to medical treatment is the code of human rights. It doesn't matter that my wound is self inflicted; it matters only that as a human being I deserve treatment as much as any other human being... and yet...

And yet, and yet, and yet. The rationalisations of minimalisation and self hatred. Can I see the girl in the hospital bed through new eyes? See her as a person? I can at least try.

She looks tired. Not ready to sleep, just tired deep inside herself. She has books, toys, papers; scattered neatly around and she's writing on a pad, using a pencil. She lifts her arm to wipe a hand over her eyes, surprised to find moisture there, then winces slightly as her other arm goes to scratch her leg, aggravating pain that had been mainly dormant. She seems surprised often, always at little evidences of humanity in herself. Her eyes look sad, now that no one is watching; sad and old and tired, but she seems almost small in the bed. Her hand is bruised where they tried (and failed) to insert the anaesthetic needle and there's still a cord stuck in her inner elbow. It annoys her and she fiddles with it unconsciously between bouts of writing. She's restless, agitated, but she doesn't want to bother anyone. She knows, unlike the others here, she doesn't deserve this good treatment. She's no right to ask for anything.

No. I can't get enough distance to feel much compassion, still. Choices have consequences, these are mine.

Perhaps guilt is like a puppy. I've trained it to stand at my side; so many times I've worn it that it thinks, now, it's rightful place is on my shoulders like a shawl.

It is both easier and harder to think in here. It is both easier and harder to breathe.

I could have chosen to use my interpersonal skills, that first morning. I didn't: I couldn't see past the guilt, the shame, the pain. There'll be other chances to use those skills. I'll do better, on my next opportunity.

Cheer-leading statements for in the hospital:
The human rights charter applies to me. I have as much right to medical treatment as anyone else.
Just because I am a person who uses self harm to cope does not make me less of a person. I deserve to be treated with basic respect.
I do not need to drink. I do not need to self harm. I can choose not to engage in those behaviours.
It is not weak to be afraid. It is not weak to accept treatment. It is not weak to allow others to help me when I need it. It's not weak to admit when I'm in pain.
It's okay to allow myself compassion.


  1. "And me? I have a couple of small grafts... "

    watch your minimalizations, girl. this is an opportunity. seize it.

  2. oh sweetest! i'm soooo sorry for your hospital experience!!!! those nurses were TRAINED better than that, they were WRONG in shaming you!!!!! we carry enough shame that we don't need to be helped along by judgements, especially from those in the medical profession :O i'm shocked! i only wish i had been there, by your side, in your defense! lol, i suppose i would have been brutal to them. i can't tolerate that kind of behavior from that profession and HAVE "gone off" on ppl before.
    even if YOU don't feel worthy of being on that unit, i am telling you, you are AS worthy as the man who got blown up by the machine, and the others!!! i know you said you have a choice whether you drink or do self-harm, but sometimes, we are soooo dayyum overwhelmed that those behaviors just kick in, as a coping mechanism.
    i wish you peace and much LOVE,
    write me ANYtime! can we private msg here on Blogger? still getting used to this place :)
    <3 Jiinxsay