My only respite at the moment is sleep. For those few precious hours each night I don’t have to be intensely uncomfortable in my own skin. I can be in my dream away from the itching, bubbling sensations I get in my body. I’m really struggling with body image at the moment to the point where I constantly envision myself tearing my skin off my body. Peeling off my thick thighs and flabby belly. I’m at war with myself.
Getting dressed each day is horrible, trying to find clothes that don’t cling to my skin. I pull clothes that have no shape on to hide my body but nothing quite hides me enough to give me any ounce of confidence to face the day. Worse than getting dressed is showering or bathing…having to completely take my clothes off is nauseating, not to mention the mirror opposite the shower. I have my shower scolding hot so that I can get the relief of a steamed up mirror and then on my way out I can do my best to pretend my body doesn’t exist.
When I sit down my thighs distract me, every reflective surface, every mirror, every shop window stops me in my tracks and brings in thoughts of disgust and utter hatred for the vessel my soul resides in. I want to hide under a blanket constantly, that way I can cover up my repulsive self. I fell out of love with me a long time ago.
I want to go back to ballet but I’m afraid there will be an actual elephant in the room and that elephant will be me. I’m not sure I could handle seeing myself in a leotard and pretty pink tights, I feel far too ugly for that. I want to see family and friends. I miss them an awful lot but I don’t want them to see me. I’m terrified they’ll see what I see, I don’t want anyone to see that. What if they comment on my appearance? I’m not sure I could cope with that. I wish I had an invisibility cloak, then I could go out and about without any worries.
I feel trapped… Trapped in my skin, trapped inside buildings, trapped inside myself and trapped in a body I absolutely despise and then comes the urges to attack myself. I declare war on myself. I self-harm and create scars as ugly as I feel, I go to sleep wishing I don’t wake up so that I never have to see my reflection again or feel how my body makes me feel.
I need you to know that I have a personality disorder, it is the diagnosis that I don’t speak about publicly and rarely talk about to anybody because I’m scared that telling you what I have will make you think I am a bad person. I desperately need you to understand what life with a personality disorder is like. It isn’t an excuse for the way I behave, it’s an explanation.
My personality disorder makes any kind of relationship difficult. No one seems to stay long in my life and I often find that I am ‘too much’ for people as I am vulnerable and dependent. I feel inadequate a lot of the time. I struggle to fit in and often my efforts lead to me embarrassing myself. I have powerful relationships and a lot of love to give but they are full of terror and fear. I fear abandonment and rejection so much that it normally leads to the relationship breaking down. Being close to me is a challenge and I find myself constantly asking for reassurance in relationships but in the end the mistrust and need for reassurance pushes the other person away. The slightest change in a relationship feels unbearable. I find it hard to believe peoples’ excuses for not seeing me and I take it as rejection. I often end up attacking those who are close to me ensuring the very abandonment I fear. I can’t control myself. I’m like a tornado destroying everything in my path. Personality disorders are destructive. Never think that I don’t care about others, my struggles with relationships make me think I should be alone forever and stay away from everybody. Self-hatred is always with me and the hurt I’ve caused plays on repeat. I’ve lost so many people because of my personality disorder and it’s agonising.
I struggle with my identity, I don’t really know who I am, and neither do I understand myself. Things can change dramatically one moment to the next. In two minutes I can go from being full of hope to completely hopeless. I can be motivated to change the world one minute and the next not have the motivation to wash myself. I am impulsive which leads to me spending money I don’t have and getting into a financial situation that I need help to get out of. I struggle with bursts of anger that take over me and often lead to me self-harming. I struggle with suicidal tendencies but no wonder death is appealing, my world is very confusing and painful. The mood swings, paranoia and delusions on top of the confusion and anxiety in relationships is exhausting. I’m terrified of the future, what if I’m always like this? Will I ever be able to have normal relationships and get married and have a family? Will that ever be a reality for me?
I can explain my personality disorder to you but I can’t make you understand it. I just hope that somehow this piece of writing helps you to understand how complicated life with a personality can be and I hope that the people in my life that read this can give me their time and patience to remain in my life.
I’m sitting on the end of my bed in hospital. Numb but in pain. I don’t understand anymore. Utter confusion. Dreaming of a future like a child, imagining I’ll be a vet or a teacher but seeing reality like an adult…I am just a psychiatric ward patient….I probably don’t even deserve the word ‘just’ in front of that. I’m a nothing, a no one. Three months locked away has completely detached me from the world around me. I belong nowhere and with no one. The world outside the window doesn’t feel like mine. It’s like I don’t remember what the rolling hills look like, nor the supermarket aisles or petrol stations. My ballet shoes disintegrated when my life turned into compost. Maybe new flowers will grow out of the soil but I doubt it. It feels like I’ll never feel the sun on my skin again and that my heart will never vibrate with the bass of loud music. Will I always be gone? Will I ever find me again?
One of my biggest worries when I am being admitted to hospital for my mental illness is that I will have to share a room. It’s not fair on the other patients and it’s not fair on me because when I am unwell I try to harm myself or take my own life in whichever way seems possible. It isn’t fair that other unwell people have to see that and neither is it fair that they have to witness me being restrained and injected. Shared rooms make patient’s dignity and confidentially difficult to maintain. I was unwell at the time and it didn’t bother me at that moment but looking back now I am upset that someone saw me in that state, that someone saw my buttocks and staff holding me down whilst a nurse administered an injection. I would’ve rather that stayed private.
People are not admitted to psychiatric wards for mild symptoms, everybody on the ward is very unwell and each patient needs their own space. If I need a good cry then I would like to have a wall between me and the other patients. If I need to talk to staff I would prefer it if I didn’t have to whisper and constantly worry that the other people in the room could hear what I was saying.
When myself and others are too unwell to stay at home and have to come into hospital then personal space is needed, calm and quiet is needed, confidentiality is needed. That patient needs to feel safe, supported and comfortable. Shared rooms don’t meet the requirements of the patient.
Looking through my Section papers makes me feel so much sadness. I can’t help being poorly and I know I would’ve never chose to be like this but I wish things were different. At 23 years of age I would love to be looking at certificates from higher education, or paperwork for a job or reading through a book I’ve written but instead I’m sat here reading words that doctors have written about me. Words I don’t want to believe and papers I wish were never a part of my life. I wish I could rip them up and the memories could be torn up with them. I wish I didn’t feel unnecessary shame for what’s written but I just feel so wrong for this society, a disappointment and a let down.
Reading these words are so difficult. I want to cross my name out and pretend it isn’t me:
“Claire Greaves is known to the CMHT with a diagnosis of personality disorder NOS and eating disorder. She was attending the DBT group today and expressed suicidal ideation later attempting suicide. She is unable to guarantee her safety and refuses an informal admission to the ward. She has been non-compliant with prescribed medication telling her family it was contaminated. She requires a period of treatment in hospital”
“Claire attended DBT session today but her behaviour was withdrawn and she expressed high anxiety with active attempts to harm herself. It is reported that she has refused to take medication prescribed for her mental disorder and her diet has been poor. She describes having low mood with persecutory and command auditory hallucinations to kill herself.”
I feel like I’ve barely lived since July. Time and life are just flying by whilst I stare at walls and battle to not hurt myself. My life has become a timetable of medication. A life contained within four walls. I miss the outside world, sometimes it feels like a punishment to be so contained for so long. I wanted to be successful and live a life that helped others but right now I need to accept that I am poorly but that’s easier said than done.
I wish mental illness would stop stealing the precious time we have on this earth, I wish it would hand my life back to me.
It’s like the world has lost all colour, everything seems black and white. The orange in the Autumn leaves has faded to a dirty grey, the grass is no longer green. Did I even notice the grass? Did I even notice the ground I was walking on? It’s claustrophobic, like the whole world has collapsed onto me and I can feel it’s weight restricting me, laying heavy on me and making any motion difficult. The ten fingers I write with no longer have anything to say. Even breathing feels like too much hard work.
There’s no enjoyment anymore. I can’t concentrate on anything and when I do the pleasure is no longer there. Sometimes I do things like allow myself a chocolate whilst my mind acknowledges that it might be the last time. Every activity feels like the last time because surviving is so difficult. Living feels so unbearable.
I don’t feel like me anymore, I wonder if I even look like me. I feel a million miles away from the Claire I was a few months ago and I’m certain nobody would recognise me anymore. The make up bag has stayed zipped up, showers rarely happen and clothes are no longer about style, they’re just about hiding the body that I detest strongly.
My lips are often sealed shut. I cannot relax my face and my lips stay together as though my mind is telling them to shut tight so that they don’t tell anyone how bad things are. My glasses remain unworn as I no longer notice what is around me. My mouth is dry and my stomach is empty. My smile has ended up in lost property somewhere in this world.
Emptiness. Darkness. Closeness. Heaviness. In pain and yet numbed. Quiet yet so loud. That’s what it’s like to feel suicidal.
This is genuinely one of the most difficult things I have ever written about because it’s the one label that I rip from my skin and pretend it isn’t there. I really struggle to accept it as my diagnosis because of the stigma and shame surrounding it. I have Personality Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) and it is incredibly difficult to live with.
I’ve not accepted the diagnosis before and always told myself that my diagnosis was wrong but reading through my Section papers made me realise that actually it is a problem and that realisation is heart-breaking. I guess I’m scared of who I am. I’ve never really talked about it before but some of the symptoms that come along with my personality disorder include:
- Avoidance of everything that is uncomfortable. I avoid the scales at my eating disorder appointments, I avoid awkward or difficult conversations, confrontations, subjects I don’t want to talk about, social situations and so on.
- Believing I am inadequate and worthless.
- Low self-esteem.
- Relationship difficulties. I have an intense fear of abandonment from those who are around me and I have intense positive emotions about them but this often leaves the other person feeling under pressure and strain and then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy as real abandonment often happens.
- Confusion over what happened, what was said and who was at fault.
- Finding it difficult to trust others. I am always suspicious that people are trying to hurt me.
- I feel that as relationships cause problems, I am better off alone.
- Acting impulsively, for example spending lots of money that I don’t have.
- I have a lot of issues around anger.
- Auditory hallucinations. I hear voices from time to time.
- Self-harm and suicidal tendencies.
- I feel dependent on other’s approvals and struggle if I do not get this.
- I’m easily influenced by other people.
- I’m very sensitive to any type of criticism.
- A need for order and control.
- Catastrophising hugely when small things go wrong.
I think my difficulty with accepting the diagnosis is that I feel I cannot control the personality disorder and I often feel like a bad person for the way I handle difficult situations. I fear that people will see me as a bad person if they know my diagnosis. I hate the term ‘Personality Disorder’ too, it’s like with an Eating Disorder the flaw is with eating, with a Mood Disorder the flaw is with the mood but with a Personality Disorder it is a flaw in personality, of who I am and who I was made to be. I want to be a good person but stigma and shame makes me feel as though this diagnosis makes me a bad person. I mean who would want to hang around with someone sensitive and dependent on others, someone with trust issues and relationship difficulties? It makes me fear that I will be alone forever or that I’ll hurt those I love by accident. Having a personality disorder makes me want to run away from myself but that’s not possible. I fear enduring another 50, 60 or even 70 years like this. That seems unbearable. I’m scared of who I am and what is wrong with me and I’m terrified that I may never be alright.