On living the stereotype of psychotic bitch

I have borderline personality disorder.  That was a pretty hard statement to make in public.  It’s been a year since I was first diagnosed, and a decade since I realised that something was very, very wrong with how I experienced the world, and yet I still find it hard to come to terms with the fact that I have one of the most terrifying disorders in the world.

I’ve had to wonder what makes it so hard for me to admit to having my personality disorder.  I’ve been able to be open about my depression, my anxiety, my bouts of psychosis (for months I was friends with a girl named Alia until the psychosis wore off and I realised she was just an auditory hallucination… the delusions are even more fun – by which I mean heartbreaking…), but admitting that I’m borderline seemed insurmountable.  It took the destruction of one of my romantic relationships before I could publicly acknowledge in any real way the extent to which my personality disorder pervades my everyday existence.

The obvious answer: I’m afraid to admit to myself that I have BPD because I’m afraid I’m going to be just like my abusive mother.  But that fear exists anyways; abuse survivors are more likely to grow up to be abusers.  The perhaps less obvious answer… There’s a fairly common trope in TV dramas and things like that of a girlfriend/wife (and it’s almost always a woman) being unreasonable.  Obsessively clingy, almost psychotically accusatory, mercurial… You know the type.  I’ve been in enough social justice circles to have seen that trope torn apart as sexist and unrealistic.  And it’s hard to admit to myself, and even harder to admit to anyone else that that’s me.  That I have so little sense of self that being alone is intolerable, that I have to have someone around me because my own perception of myself is defined by the perceptions of people around me (I can only love myself if I’m surrounded by people who love me, etc).  That I experience sudden, rapid, intense mood swings, deliriously happy one moment, furious the next and then intensely depressed.  That the emotions I experience are unbearably intense; I wear myself out letting myself feel anything at all.  That the slightest thing (an almost imperceptible yawn, a glance at a clock, the weather…) can send me spiraling into rage/sadness/terror.  The slightest hint of abandonment and I’ll crash.  The slightest hint of affection, and suddenly I’m ecstatic.  That when someone makes an offhand comment, or even chooses a less-than-appropriate word to use in a particular statement, I might be sent into a panic, fearing that the other person secretly hates me, and I’ll end up doing something drastic to stop the abandonment from happening (often, by trying to be the first person to leave: declaring that I hate the other person, insisting that I’m going to run off and kill myself, etc… For some people, this can manifest as accusing the other person of cheating etc, and thankfully I haven’t gotten to that point yet).  That I sometimes get into a strange almost surreal state, where I do incredibly self-destructive or dangerous things (taking a late night walk through an unfamiliar place where there have been known bear encounters, walking down the median of the road, stepping into traffic – these are all actual real-life things I’ve done on more than one occasion).  That most of the time I’m not actually as in-control of my behaviour as I’d like to be.  I’ve thrown the most humiliating public temper-tantrums as a 19 year old… and no matter how awful I feel afterwards, the next time I’m confronted with unbearable frustration, I can’t stop myself from doing it all over again, even when I think of the humiliation of the last temper tantrum I’ve thrown.

When people see the psychotic bitch trope on TV, they laugh at it.  When I see it, I internally cringe, because that’s the reality of the life that I’m forced to live.  I have to live with the constant terror that something tiny will set me off and I’ll lose control of my behaviour again, and end up feeling like I’m watching myself from outside of my body again as I end up doing something that even in the moment I know I don’t want to do.

Just a Few Thoughts Bouncing Around in My Head

I’ve just finished my exams (that’s why I’ve been gone for so long that I ran out of scheduled posts).  Oddly enough, I actually feel worse now than I did during my exams, as stressful and awful as they were.  I have no idea why.  Anyways, I just wanted to write about a few things I’m starting to realise/question:

1. I’ve known I am asexual for a while, but I always considered myself to be hetero-romantic.  I’m having complicated feelings for a girl, and that’s making me question my romantic orientation.   I might be biromantic or panromantic.  I’m not sure about that yet, though.  I guess I’ll see what happens.

2. My therapist thinks that obsessive compulsive disorder might be a reason for my symptoms.  I’ve been provisionally diagnosed with ADHD.  Neither diagnostic label seems to fit me particularly, well, though, and reading about the experiences of people with either OCD or ADHD have really convinced me that I most likely don’t have them.  I’ve been considering the possibility that I might be autistic.  The more I talk to people who are autistic and read about their experiences, the more convinced I am that my life finally makes sense.  I spoke to my mother, and she says that she can see that I might be autistic.  I’m pretty convinced that I am autistic, and I think I’m reasonably confident in self-diagnosing myself as autistic.  I’m currently trying to consider the advantages and disadvantages of professional diagnosis.  On one hand, it would be nice to deal with the self-doubt I have about my self-diagnosis and I might want support and assistance at university, but on the other hand, I’m concerned about the very real consequences about having a label like that attached to me.  It’s a difficult decision, and one I’m going to take a while to carefully consider before I do anything.

3. Superficial vs actual insecurities.  I realised that some of my insecurities are things I genuinely believe (for example, that I’m overly sensitive and have deficient social skills), but some of the insecurities are things that logically I know are not true, but I am somehow insecure about anyways (for example, that I’m bad at chemistry and that I’m fat).  I find it interesting that I can believe that I’m not good enough in some areas even though I have sufficient evidence to logically show that I am not, in fact, as bad as I believe myself to be.  It’s strange.  My brain is weird.

4. I’ve had depression for about three years.  I’m wondering if I might have psychotic depression.  Not that it would actually make any kind of a difference at this point.  I’m just wondering.

5. Recently, I’ve been having a recurring thought.  I keep thinking of a needle in my heart, and all the blood draining out until I die.  I have no idea why on earth I’d be thinking of that since I absolutely hate needles (despite being 17 and a half, I still act like a 3 year old when it comes to having blood drawn).  I guess more evidence that my brain is weird.

In Which I Ramble About Anxiety and Self-Diagnosis

I’m in the hospital so I now have a lot of free time to write stuff so I can get a few things off my chest. Wednesday was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me. A lot of stuff happened and because I’m not currently in a depressive episode, I felt a lot of it pretty intensely.
I finished my mock exams. Chemistry. Three papers of it in a day. I was feeling really, really apprehensive about it because I feel a lot of pressure to do well because I’ve always been good at chemistry and therefore people have high expectations, or at least I think they do. I was also feeling a bit excited because my chemistry teacher had said that he thought I’d find the questions fun (which in his language, means they’d be really hard, but interesting…that didn’t help with the apprehension much). Anyways, the exams were fun, as promised, but because I hadn’t studied and because I missed a week of school right when we were doing the chapter on carbonyls, I found there were quite a few questions I wasn’t confident about answering.
Cue anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder enters stage right. Honestly, I was kind of expecting that I’d have anxiety about the chemistry exam afterwards no matter what. That’s how my anxiety disorder works. I worry about everything, but particularly about things where the public perception of my intelligence and/or ability might be at stake. Reason and logic do not play a role in anxiety and even when I know how to answer a question, I worry about getting it wrong, or writing a technically correct but silly answer. Couple that with having to be assessed in a subject taught by my favourite teacher and it’s a near certainty that I will spend a great deal of time worrying about how I did.
Lately I’ve been having a new kind of anxiety. In addition to my performance/social/scared-of-the-dark/checking-behind-doors anxiety, I’ve started to have anxiety about my identity. Specifically about appropriating struggles of other people. I was initially self-diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Having that self-diagnosis made it possible for me to ask for help from a therapist (otherwise I would have thought my problems were too insignificant to deserve help) and it allowed me to accept that certain things are difficult for me due to my mental illnesses. The emotional validation of a diagnosis, even a self diagnosis was, for me at least, a major part of self acceptance and taking the steps I needed to take to improve my life and move forward. I didn’t take self diagnosis lightly at all and I carefully considered my symptoms against the diagnostic criteria and against the stories of personal experiences of people with depression and anxiety. Even so, I did have a certain degree of self-doubt, wondering if maybe I was overreacting and exaggerating (professional confirmation of my depression and anxiety made this worry go away, thankfully). More recently, I’ve been wondering if I might be autistic. On one hand, I see a lot of myself in some of the autistic people I’ve met, I identify with many of the things autistic bloggers write about and as far as I can tell, I meet the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder according to the DSM-5 and ICD-10 (I don’t meet the criteria according to the Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service, but on that one, the only criteria I don’t meet are the ones for lack of imagination).  My mother has mentioned that she can see why I might be autistic.  A few autistic individuals I’ve met online as well as my counselor who has an autistic son believe that I might be autistic.  Despite this, and despite my previous self-diagnosis having been confirmed to be correct, I worry nearly constantly that I’m appropriating the real struggles of real autistic individuals.

Part of that self-doubt comes from the fact that I realise that I have a certain bias in this.  I want an autism diagnosis.  That sounds like an odd thing to say, because who would want to have a disorder?  But if you look at it another way, whether or not I have the diagnosis, I am who I am.  Getting a diagnosis won’t make me magically and suddenly autistic.  The only thing a diagnosis can change is how I approach who I am.  An autism diagnosis could help me learn to accept why I am the way that I am, and that is really important.

Some people don’t get that labels can make you feel like you belong. They can make you feel you have a place where you fit in. And that means a lot when you’ve felt like you don’t belong, like you’re disconnected… Everyone deserves to feel like they belong. Please quit attacking people for labeling themselves when it helps them to realize they’re not alone. What others label themselves really doesn’t affect you.

lirpaiswolf

I don’t know if any of that made any sense, and I don’t think I really have a point I was trying to make.  If it didn’t make sense, I apologise, my painkillers are making the world feel a bit distant at the moment so my reality is distorted.

Executive Function

I rarely if ever cry, but a while ago, I read a blog post by Alyssa at Yes, That Too, that made me cry, partially because it brought back painful memories, partly because for the first time, I’d found someone who understood, who was able to articulate my experiences.  You can find it here.

The blog post dealt with something to do with getting stuff done.

It’s a skill called executive function.

I don’t have it.  Or at least I don’t have enough of it.

That’s one of the several reasons why I have a provisional diagnosis of ADHD.

“My record for most homework assignments completed between getting on the bus to school and the end of the day? Seven.”

I used to do almost all of my homework on the bus going to school, or during the 10 minutes or so before class started.  Now that the number and length of homework assignments has increased, that doesn’t really work for me, and I’ve found that if I do the homework between midnight and 4am the morning it’s due, I can generally get enough of it done to pass most of my classes.  Even so, though, with larger assignments, or on days when there’s homework that really isn’t made for doing at odd hours in the morning, I can’t get them done.  Not because I don’t want to do them, and not because they’re difficult.  Because planning to get an assignment done at least a day before it’s due takes more effort than doing the assignment itself.  It’s fine for daily assignments, to do it like that, but with projects that are meant to take weeks or months of work, that’s when my inability to plan and organise my time becomes a grade-threatening problem.  Sometimes I have someone help me create an hour-by-hour calendar with reminders, but even with that, it’s sometimes difficult.  And incredibly frustrating especially when the project in question is something I find really, really exciting, and it’s something I actually want to do but somehow can’t.

“[Including] an after school extra math class I was in because my school wouldn’t put me in my level of math class until I got organized and that’s a thing I’m not capable of doing myself. (No, they did not offer any help with doing so or methods I could use. Because if I’m so smart, I should be able to figure it out. Or something.)”

When I was in the fourth grade, one of my teachers (who was very, very awesome on the whole and just didn’t really understand my difficulties and because I was eight, didn’t think to ask me, not that I could have articulated it at that point) decided that since I wasn’t doing the work because I was bored in class, what I really needed was a little incentive.  So she talked to some other teachers and I don’t know who else, and they decided that I could have a pull-out class and spend some of my lessons working on something interesting my classmates didn’t get to do with another teacher in another classroom.  Which was absolutely great.  I was really excited.  And then they said that the condition for this was that I had to hand in all my homework.  On time.  I tried.  I really did.  And I still couldn’t manage to get every piece of work done on time.  So I didn’t get to join the pull-out class.  Because special ability-appropriate education is only for students who have age-appropriate organisational abilities which I didn’t have then and still don’t have now.  The school had a couple of study skills classes where they taught methods that students could use to get and stay organised, but they all assumed a certain basic level of organisational ability that I didn’t really have, so yeah.  That didn’t work either.

“I had no trouble whatsoever grasping the academic content. It was not a challenge. Getting the work done was because the attitude was still “if you’re so d*mn smart just do it, god, what are you stupid or something?” I’ve been there. I’ve been there so much it’s not even funny. No one said it in exactly those words, but I’ve been there. Usually I was lazy, which isn’t true, bad at time management, which is kind of true but doesn’t get at the root of the problem, or doing too much, which has sometimes been true but also wasn’t the problem.”

This is the paragraph that made me cry.  Because after years of being called lazy, stupid, stubborn, uncooperative and all kinds of other stuff, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone, and that this isn’t entirely my fault.  I’m not stupid, even now, with the IB programme, which is supposed to be hard and whatever, the material itself isn’t challenging.  I learned most of it myself from the textbook the summer before school started.  What’s hard is getting the work done.  All of it and on time.   It happens sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it happens but because I’m willing to make sacrifices and I feel drained for days afterwards.  And what’s the hardest?  That nobody, not one, thought to ask me why I was struggling before they assumed I just didn’t want to do the work.

I read blogs primarily to find some reflection of myself in them. And normally I see bits and pieces of me. This blog post, though, for the first time I felt like someone understood something that has been destroying my confidence in my ability long before my anxiety came along.

Executive function. There’s a word for it, there’s a word for what I’m going through.

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Disclosure: The quotes were taken from the post I mentioned and linked to and are not my work.  They collectively make up 14.8% of the original post (by number of words).

Handwriting

This is in response to this post written by Alyssa of Yes, That Too.  Or rather, these are just my rambling thoughts that were inspired by her awesome post.

When I was in fifth grade, students with nice handwriting were allowed to use pen on homework assignments.  Almost everyone in my class, by the end of the year, had managed to get a ‘pen license’.  Except me.  Beyond the embarrassment of being the only girl in the class not to have one, I got increasingly frustrated with myself for not being able to write neatly.

At the end of the sixth grade, my parents took me to see an educational psychologist who said that since my fine motor skills were/are less than stellar, it might be a good idea to let me complete assignments and stuff on the computer.  Because my handwriting at that point was so bad that in order for anyone (including me) to read my writing, I had to write so slowly that I’d forget what I was trying to say before I reached the end of a sentence.

Since I don’t have a disability, just rubbish fine motor skills, nothing happened.  Except that in seventh grade, I finally did get around to learning to write neatly (peer pressure etc. etc. etc.).  And I can actually write very, very neatly.  It took me pretty much the whole year.  I found a girl whose handwriting was nice and copied and copied and copied until I could write the way she did.  It took a long time, but I made it.

One of my teachers has spent pretty much the entire year telling us about how important it is that we have neat handwriting in exams and such.  In my last test, I wrote with the neatest handwriting I could manage.  It was legible and clear.  I was actually quite proud of myself.  And my teacher’s comment on my test was “You need to improve your handwriting!”.  I was really quite disappointed.  I thought my handwriting was very neat, and was proud of how neat I’d managed to make my writing in the past 5 years.  And then this.  Which was not nice, but fine.  I can deal with not nice.

Another thing we have to do in my school is take notes in class.  Handwritten notes, not computer ones.  Last year in my end-of-term report, one of my teachers said something about how I needed to take more notes in class.  Which is great.  Because taking notes in class doesn’t do me a lot of good.  I can’t write and listen at the same time, because the mechanics of handwriting take up too much of my concentration, and trying to filter out background noise in a classroom takes too much concentration, and I’m only one person.  So I can either listen and process everything the teacher says in real-time, or I can write down everything she says and read it later.  If I choose to listen, she gets upset because I’m not taking notes, but if I take notes, I have to write very quickly because if I’m not listening, I can’t filter out things I don’t need to copy down which means I have to write down every word.  My handwriting when I’m writing at a normal speed is barely legible to me and illegible to some people.  When I’m writing down every word?  Even I can’t read over half of it.  Which means over half of the things she said, I am missing.  Not good.  I can manage, because she happens to teach my best subject and I can read the textbook, but it just seems really counterintuitive to copy down notes I can’t use, when just listening in class would be more helpful for me (despite the fact that I’m very un-auditory as a learner… at least I can process nearly everything she says).

In Alyssa’s blog post, she talked about accessibility for kids who can’t do the handwriting-thing.  But I’m a little more concerned with the grey area in which I fall.  I can do the handwriting thing, and I do get by in a school where I have to use handwriting all the time.  It’s just something that makes school that much more difficult.  It means when I write an essay, I forget things I meant to write about because I can’t write anywhere near as fast as I think.  It means I run out of time writing on tests sometimes if I’m writing neatly, but if I try to finish in time, my handwriting isn’t the most legible.  It means I’m missing out on a lot of information in class.  But because I’m not disabled, I can’t not handwrite.