This post contains powerful material; including mentions of self-harm, eating disorders, medication overdose and distressing accounts of a mental health crisis.
Please read on with caution.
Living with Fibromyalgia and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has always been a wave that I’ve had to surf carefully. Each day is different. Each day arrives with its unique challenges, pain, anger, frustration but also moments of happiness. Thankfully, I’m able to feel more of those moments lately. This time two months ago, I didn’t think joy would be a feeling I could ever experience again. Today, I live in the moment, I can hold onto a smile for a few more moments than back then.
A few months ago, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, more commonly known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. I decided to go on long-term sick leave from my job within the NHS, to focus on attending weekly psychotherapy appointments and complete my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Months later, in desperation, I requested a change in my medication. I felt that I didn’t need to be on antidepressants. I needed a mood stabiliser, to mellow out the tsunami-sized waves of emotion that controlled me. I thought things couldn’t get any worse than crying daily and feeling ‘not right’. I was wrong.
My request was granted. I was put on a low dose of mood stabilisers. Saying I am sensitive to medication is an understatement, and this new medication pulled the rug from under my feet. Doctors always warn of the initial, ‘you may feel worse, you may have bad thoughts or feel suicidal’. I always nod, take the prescription and discard the leaflet as not to obsess over potential side effects.
Nevertheless, a few weeks in, and the tears were the least of my worries. My temper would go from zero to ten within moments from things that would trigger me (of course, these were trivial in hindsight). I knew I was in trouble when the intrusive thoughts began to overwhelm me with;
‘You piss everyone off.’
‘You’re a failure.’
‘You’re going to be suffering in pain for the rest of your life.’
‘What’s the point of fighting?’
The list goes on, and the more I listened to that train of thought, the more it derailed me. I was soon physically self-harming after years of abstaining. My eating disorder was once again out of control, and I was isolating myself from everyone. I even felt like a failure when I couldn’t harm myself enough due to the pain it caused.
Desperate to make the pain and the thoughts disappear, I gave in. I ran to where I kept all of my prescription tablets and begun to pop dozens of blisters packs. I didn’t count. I didn’t want to. I grabbed another box of something else and did the same. When I had a pile, I put them all in my mouth at once and swallowed. The intrusive thoughts immediately went away. My mind was quiet.
What is strange is what came next: euphoria. Not from the overdose. It was almost as if the silencing of ‘the malevolent voice’ brought me back to myself. I felt grounded. As the tablets kicked in, my physical and mental pain disappeared. I felt normal. I felt happy. But then a different more rational voice kicked in;
‘What have you done?’
‘What’s going to happen to me?’
‘I’m an idiot.’
After phoning an ambulance in tears, I sat on my stairs, wallowing. My emotional/ impulsive brain had gone quiet, but my rational brain could also make me suffer from the truth. I had poisoned myself and then called the NHS for help, wasting their time and money, knowing someone could be having a heart attack. I felt selfish and vowed to never do something so stupid again.
By this time, the overdose was well on its way to causing havoc inside of my body. I don’t remember much of getting taken into Resus. Paramedics tried to speak to me, but I couldn’t stop crying. More so, I couldn’t stop itching every inch of my bare skin. Even my asthma was flaring up. Low breathing rate. Nausea. Dizziness. Tiredness, Tachycardia, Low BP. Waking up every now and again, a medical team was continually surrounding me. I had given myself no choice but to ride out the consequences to my actions.
For the most part, I was terrified. Still, a small piece of me that I later found out in psychotherapy realised I craved the attention, the feeling of being cared for and listened to. I can now admit, I felt safe. But this was an addictive feeling. I had relied on various forms of unhealthy coping mechanisms since I was eleven-years-old. At this point, I realised they had become so ingrained that I regarded them as a failsafe coping mechanism to get me through triggering events.
The medication changes and difficult discussions during psychotherapy led me to overdosing another four times that same year. What stopped me from overdosing a fifth time? It was the reality of remembering the obscene amount of time lost in the hospital, hooked up to an infusion machine that was trying to stabilise my body. I am lucky to not have permanent damage. Medicine harmed me and medicine saved me. The lonely hours I spent, lying in bed, watching the infusion clock count down gave me a lot of time to think of how much I didn’t want to be in this situation again.
Unfortunately, mental health is sneaky, and the suppression of my oldest coping mechanism led to others rearing up. I began to physically get violent with myself if I became upset, causing, concussions, fractures, and stitches. After the stitches, I was told I would have scars that would likely never disappear. I am not proud, and I am in no way encouraging my behaviour, but I am not ashamed of the scars. They tell the story my invisible illness cannot.
Like the scars, I am writing this testament of my truth to break the stigma around mental health issues. I am writing to the person who feels alone, the person who is curious but doesn’t yet know how to ask the hard questions, and to tell my story for my future self. It happened, and I can never change that. Still, I can use the memories and the scars to understand myself more and be more compassionate when I feel the old shadows creeping in once more.
I consider myself lucky. I have managed to come out of my crisis, having learned a lot about myself. I am alive. My medication is still a pain in the ass sometimes, but that is why I have regular medical reviews, health appointments and therapy sessions. The support I now get from the NHS, friends and family has had a significant impact in helping me climb out of the black pit of despair. Although the support has helped, the hardest thing in the dark was to reach out for it. I don’t think I would be here today without help from others. But I was the one who asked for it. Once I allowed myself to be vulnerable to outside help, I started safely looking inwards, to heal. That makes me feel as though, even in my bleakest moments, part of me was still in there, clawing towards the light.
© 2019, Daniella May Little, All Rights Reserved.