“There is no agony so deep as an untold story within.” – Maya Angelou
After wearing oversized scrubs for a week straight, my real clothes had never felt so much like heaven. I sat on a well-loved bar stool with my bag in hand ready to leave the crisis center that had five days prior been foreign but was now as comfortable as home. Actually, that’s a wee bit of a stretch. Did I want to leave? Yes. Did part of me want to stay and shut out reality? Absolutely.
One of the fellow patients that had grown quite attached sat next to me as I was waiting for my ride. She looked up at me and said, “Can I ask you something?”
“Are you a writer?”
“Um, no. I mean, I guess I like to write, but nothing special.”
“Oh, OK. I was just wondering because you are always carrying around a notepad and are furiously scratching away at it. It always seems like you are writing things down.”
I paused. She was right. My ride arrived and I got up to walk out the door. I turned around as I left and said, “I don’t like to forget things.”
It’s true, I don’t like to forget things. I pride myself on remembering intimate details of conversations, of certain situations, of particular memories, of birthdates, of important dates, of my friend’s favorite coffee drink or book. But in this situation, I was taking incessant notes because I was desperate to learn how to live again in a world where I never felt like I belonged.
For as long as I remember, I had voices in my head telling me that I didn’t have what it took to survive in this world. So I made an intentional decision not to think about the future because I never thought I would get there. I never thought that I had what it took, and that on some fundamental level, I was damaged. I couldn’t imagine my wedding day, having kids, or a bright future. I wasn’t like others who fantasized about these milestones from a young age. I never thought I was special enough or wanted enough to have that so I never daydreamed about it. So naturally, I covered up, I hid, I buried my story before it even began.
Most days, I wake up wanting to press the eject button because the emotional pain is too agonizing. My skin feels like it’s on fire and I’m helpless to make it stop. With each decision to act impulsively, each thought of abandonment, each interaction to desperately hold on to my “people lifelines,” I bring my loved ones into my flames and oftentimes cause irreparable damage in my mind. My deepest fear screams they will all leave due to the exhaustion of trying to put out the flames.
I’ve read blogs and books and heard people talk about me with words like exhausting, suffocating, damaging, selfish, traumatized, dangerous, self-centered, anxious, angry, depressed, confused, tortured, and sad.
When you live with Borderline Personality Disorder, there is no shortage of literature out there describing us as “people you wish you could get away from” or “they will drain you of everything you are” or my favorite, “it requires saint-level patience to be with them.”
Listening to these descriptors for years squelched my voice to the point of not granting myself permission to hope or dream up a life for myself. My silence trapped me in fear.
I’m afraid of what it is to live.
I’m afraid I’m never going to truly love me—a love in the sense that I really am the love of my own life.
I’m afraid I am nothing unless attached to another person.
I’m afraid I’ll always be existing with depression and fear, and never hope.
I’m afraid I’ll let my overly-sensitive emotions control me and destroy all of my relationships.
I’m afraid I’m not kind enough, helpful enough, giving enough, selfless enough.
I’m afraid to move, to breathe, to be.
Fear makes us freeze. The silence convincing us to not reveal our weakness, inadequacies, or god forbid, our thoughts that we are unqualified. Fear that if others knew the real us, they would leave. And for me, a deep terror that if I do or say anything wrong, I will be shut away. For years, my chosen way to communicate all of these things was through deep, gut-wrenching ugly cries, self-harm, and other self-destructive behaviors. Now, at the age of 30 and healing from many unhealthy coping strategies, I still become exhausted from daily battles with my fears and the incessant voice inside my head telling me I’m unlovable because of a diagnosis.
A wise, dear friend once told me:
“Sometimes a decision has to be made more than once.”
A decision to rise up time and time again despite everything telling me otherwise. Because I get to choose what I want my life to be about. I long to create meaningful relationships and feel the power to resist the voices that urge me to destroy what is and who I am. With each resolve, my own voice becomes stronger, my courage greater, and my perfectly imperfect story becomes more complete. While the tale may not have gone as I planned and is far from an edited Hollywood version—it’s something I can be and should be proud of.
For all the times I thought I couldn’t go on,
for all the times I gave up but still offered myself grace,
and for all the times I fought like hell to get up and try again.
In the eloquent lyrics of one of my favorite songs, here’s to a future of “knowing what it means to live, and not just be alive.”
Dedication from the author: For all the women who have come alongside me in this journey, for each of your unique roles and gifts that have encouraged, held, challenged, and uplifted me. This piece is dedicated to the woman who has been one of my biggest advocates, supporters, and friends; the woman who has been like my Michelangelo, helping me uncover and reveal who I truly am underneath everything, promising me that it was always there all along. Thank you for the time and effort invested in teaching me how to navigate this world, for offering a safe haven to heal, and for helping me find my voice again.
Your diagnosis is not the end of your story. You are capable of living with it. Healing is still possible. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.