I’ve written a couple of times before now about #TimetoTalk day, a national (now international?) initiative designed to encourage conversations around mental health, and battle the stigma that often accompanies a diagnosis.
This year I’d like to talk about my new diagnosis, what it means for me after more than 20 years with an inaccurate diagnosis, and point you to some fantastic free resources for mental wellness.
One important thing has changed since 7 February 2018: my own diagnosis
I wrote about my ‘new’ diagnosis in July 2018. I first spoke to my GP about my mental health when I was around 15 years old, back in 1996 (or thereabouts). Around that time I was also referred to a psychiatrist at my local hospital, an appointment I only dimly recall. I do remember that the (older, male) consultant I saw was incredibly dismissive of the troubled teenage girl in front of him. In hindsight this was a disastrous approach as BPD sufferers struggle particularly with emotional invalidation. The result was that I settled into my diagnosis of depression/anxiety and have been medicated appropriately and consistently for the last two decades. I’m not ashamed of this; the combination of medications I take currently keep my symptoms under control around 85% of the time and I’m tremendously grateful for that.
Over the past few years, though, some of my ongoing struggles with regulating emotions and coping with distress have been niggles I could never quite dismiss entirely. I felt sure that there must be a way to work on those repeating behaviours, something I’d never had time to do in any depth through any of the very short courses of counselling sessions I’d had over the years. The issues and problems seemed nebulous and hard to pin down too. I found it difficult to articulate my feelings (or lack of feelings) or be consistently mindful and notice the symptoms I was experiencing.
|Read my previous #TimetoTalk posts:|
I was attending another one-off counselling session via my employer in early July 2018 when I mentioned these concerns. I explained that I wanted to ask for a referral to explore my history and my symptoms and be sure of my diagnosis and treatment plan, and hoped that two referrals in 20+ years wasn’t too much to ask. But mental health services are pretty dire in my region, and I wasn’t feeling too confident about my chances. My counsellor very kindly referred me to the in-house psychiatrist that I didn’t know was in weekly residence at my employer’s counselling service, and I saw him just a few days later.
Borderline Personality Disorder
After a very lengthy and in-depth consultation my diagnosis was amended to Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (aka Borderline Personality Disorder) with co-morbid depression and anxiety. I’ve found that, even within mental health services, the stigma of a personality disorder is particularly unpleasant; BPD sufferers have a reputation of being manipulative and dependent. This is a short-sighted and unfair assumption; BPD sufferers often struggle intensely with catastrophically overwhelming tides of emotion, symptoms of dissociation, and the very real and potent fear of being mistreated or abandoned. I often describe this as being like a hallucination of emotions; feeling your feelings extremely intensely, even when they are ill-founded, damaging, or illogical. Fighting them can be very tough!
In the meantime, I now continue with the combination of medications that help to manage my symptoms, but the deeper issues do need addressing via a particular kind of behavioural therapy called Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
DBT is basically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy adapted to suit people who experience emotions very intensely. I’ve now been on the waiting list for longer-term DBT since August of 2018, and I’m continuing to experience BPD symptoms in the meantime. This is because there’s a lot of complex stuff I haven’t addressed in the right environment and there are a lot of coping skills that I simply don’t have or know how to use yet.
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Read through my mental health archives.
DBT is often very difficult to access, so cheap and self-help or DIY resources are super important and helpful to folks like me. Actually, DBT resources are useful for anyone who struggles to regulate emotions to a serious degree; I don’t think you need to have a BPD diagnosis to find these helpful!
If you struggle with a mental health diagnosis I hope there is something useful in here for you 💚
My recommended resources for mental wellness
- Talking About BPD blog
- This is my favourite BPD blog. Rosie talks about life with her diagnosis and how she’s used DBT to develop better and healthier coping skills and mechanisms. I love that she is so honest and upfront and her Twitter feed is particularly inspiring.
- Free distress tolerance handouts (self-soothing, body scan meditation, improving the moment & sensory awareness)
- Free “Deciding Which DBT Skill To Use” Cheat Sheets and resources
- Free Borderline Personality Disorder Worksheets
- 22 Emotion Regulation Worksheets & Strategies: Improve Your DBT Skills
- Free distress intolerance self-help programme worksheets
- Extensive free mental health resources in Google Drive
- 11 Hours of Ocean Waves & Nature Sounds for Relaxation, Meditation, Reading, Sleep (YouTube)
- Book recommendation: Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder
I will also always always point to my friends at Crazy Creative Cool who create wonderful resources for mental wellness priced from FREE to £16.99.
How about you? Do you struggle to access the care or treatment you need? What self-help resources do you use to work on mental wellness?
Header image credit https://unsplash.com/@andrewtneel
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