Crossing the Border: A Journey with Mental Illness

Crossing the Border: A journey with Mental Illness

Please be aware that I am not a clinician or an expert on mental health, rather I am a patient and I am writing my experiences and perceptions.

Borderline Personality Disorder is notoriously a difficult mental illness to deal with.  It is hard.  The disorder has caused many people to live a desolate and isolated life.  The prevalence of diagnoses of Borderline Personality Disorder among the general population of the United States is 1.4%.  I have lived with this illness all my life, yet have had a good life for the most part.  I call this Blog, Crossing the Border.  I will be sharing both difficult and wonderful memories and coping skills I have learned in the journey of Crossing the Border to mental healthiness.  I am so glad you are here.

I’d like to introduce myself.   I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and a child of God.  I have been married for 49 years as of August 13, 2020.  We have 3 children and 11 grandchildren.

I have enjoyed a life of blessings beyond measure.  I’ve enjoyed a wonderful homelife and a seriously committed relationship with God, even though there have been ups and downs: sometimes extremely dramatic ones.  I have also been a pastor’s wife for over 40 years.

I have thoroughly enjoyed a successful career. According to the testimonies of some, I have been able to be a blessing to many students as a teacher, a principal, a consultant, a superintendent, and a Professor of Educational Leadership.

I do not create this list to brag or to make anyone think that I am better than anyone else, I share the list of accomplishments with you because by many predictions, I should not have been able to enjoy such a blessed, happy, sometimes sad, and successful life.

You see, I have accomplished many things, but I and those I love have lived through some hard times too.  Because, in addition to the list of things that I am which I shared above, I also have mental illnesses and a personality disorder.  I have Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  There is medicine available for Depression and Anxiety: I have been on those medications for 35 years and they have allowed me to function in this life.  I don’t stop taking my medicines like some people do because I do NOT like to be depressed.  The medications that I take also help with the symptoms of PTSD; but Borderline Personality Disorder is different.  There is no medication for this personality disorder.

I can tell you why I have depression and anxiety.  It runs in my family.  It’s hereditary.  I can also tell you why I have PTSD.  I lived through a lot of trauma as a child: physical, emotional, and sexual.  I can’t tell you why I have BPD because the causes of BPD are unknown.  According to the National Association on Mental Illness ( https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Borderline-Personality-Disorder)  scientist think that the cause is probably related to three factors or perhaps a combination of all three:  genetics, environment (especially trauma) and a possible malfunction of the parts of the brain which regulate emotions.  I think it as all three in my case.

I have been aware that I have depression and anxiety all my life.  I remember passing out from anxiety at 4 years old because I believed every wrinkle in my clothes had a snake in it.  I spent a week in the hospital, and they called it a nervous breakdown, and yes, I do remember it.  I remember being depressed in the 10th grade.  I was a good English student, but when my first boyfriend broke up with me, I was depressed and made an F in English one semester.  Looking back now as an educator, I can tell you someone should have caught that and reached out to me. I was also depressed in the 11th grade and I went to see the school counselor.  I didn’t know I was depressed, but I knew I was sad. I was at a new school.  The counselor patted me on the leg and said, “Don’t you worry, those thin legs will fill out and you will be pretty soon.”  Great, now I had skinny legs I had not known about.

One of the most difficult aspects of living with a mental illness, especially if you don’t know what your diagnosis is, is the millions of questions that you ask in your mind over and over concerning why you act the way you do.  Why, Why, Why, did I say that or do that?  The guilt eats at you and you think you are unworthy of happiness, not realizing there is something wrong and there is help available.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at 35.  The hardest part was people I loved telling me to just decide not to be depressed. I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was in my 40’s after I had my first flashback experience.  I was diagnosed last week at 67 with BPD.  I have suspected that diagnosis for quite a while because I have spent many hours studying the personality disorder because a loved one was diagnosed with it.  As I read it, I thought, “That really sounds like me.”  But I didn’t tell a soul until a Psychiatrist looked at me and said, “You have Borderline Personality Disorder.”  I immediately thought of a friend who told me once that many therapists do not like to take BPD clients because it is near impossible to make enough progress in treatment that BPD’s can lead a normal life.

Yesterday I met with an APRN, my practitioner and I have also met my therapist.  I look forward to this work– Living happily even longer despite Mental Illnesses and BPD.   I shared my story with the Nurse Practitioner: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  She commented that I was an anomaly in the BPD world.  First because I have been married for 49 years.   She said most BPD’s would have been married 10 times by 67.  She also said, BPD’s don’t usually enjoy the successful career you have either.  I knew she was right; remember I had spent a lot of time researching this disorder and the diagnosis didn’t surprise me.  Well it did surprise me a bit because I knew the odds have been against me and yet I have had a happy (for the most part) life and I have had a successful career which is ongoing.  I am a dissertation coach and I work with doctoral students who are writing their dissertations. I love encouraging others.

When I got up to leave the practitioner’s office, I turned back and asked her, “What do you attribute it to, the fact that I have BPD, but have lived a happy and successful life for the most part:”  She didn’t hesitate, she said, “It’s  very obvious.  It’s your faith in God.”  She was right – and very astute.

Well, there you have it, I have come out of hiding so to speak.  I have tried to hide these things for years because I didn’t want to hurt my family or jeopardize my career.  But now I want to tell the story in order to bring praise to the ones who have made it all possible: my family, especially my husband, and my Savior.

I hope you will follow me through this journey of healing, and I hope that it will be an inspiration to someone with BPD, or someone who loves someone with BPD.  Next time we will look at the characteristics of BPD and I will share how they manifest themselves in my life.

Yes, I am a wife, mother, and grandmother, and a mother again, as well as an educator.   Most of all, I am a princess, a daughter of the God of Glory.  He is in me and I in Him, and by Him do all things Consist.   He is my guide and my sustenance as I continue CROSSING THE BORDER.

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”   Colossians 1:17.