Patrick, 33, has taken back control of his life
I was diagnosed with depression in 2003 and then, in 2007, with BPD. It took a really bad relationship break-up, and being hospitalised in psych wards, for that diagnosis to come around.
In a way it was a relief to find out that this is what I had, and how to manage it. And it helped explain a lot of my behaviour in relationships and with friends, which to this day I feel bad about and really regret. I had a lot of trouble with boundaries; saying things I shouldn’t have said, doing things I shouldn’t have done, getting ‘up close and personal’ with people too quickly, taking advantage of people, emotionally manipulating people.
Fear of abandonment was also a big thing. With BPD I was always presuming someone was about to abandon me or break up with me. I was always anxious and worried so it was really difficult to maintain friendships and relationships and hard to get comfortable in social situations and at school and university. It’s a really intense feeling and the emotions are always there. That was what led to the diagnosis.
While being diagnosed helped in a way it was hard as well because so few people knew about BPD, and that’s still the case really. But it’s a bit easier for me now. I was diagnosed 10 years ago when I was 23 – so I’ve had ten years of learning about myself. And therapies like DBT and CBT (dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy) have helped me so much. And I’ve been so lucky because I have had some really good doctors and mental health clinicians who have helped me over the years. I’m at a stage now where I can reflect on things I’ve done but also on the opportunities I’ve been given. I’m grateful now for the things I have.
This may not be for everyone but sharing my BPD story publicly, and not hiding behind my mental health issues, has helped me too. ‘This is what I have,’ I tell people, ‘but it’s not the end of the world.’ Life goes on and you can get better. It’s been challenging but I’ve learned to manage it over the years and get better with it and I’ve made so many friends this year.
Therapy – and medication – has made a huge difference, though it was hard the first few years. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. I thought I could overcome my issues myself, by researching on the computer. But you’ve got to work with your doctor and psychologist. It really helps to find one you click with, one you trust, one who understands and validates you. There are still ups and downs but I can now support myself and I know what my triggers are, and I can accept my emotions and not take them out on other people.
But you need more than therapy or medication to improve your life. You’ve still got to take control and responsibility for actions. So I don’t drink or take recreational drugs. I don’t have a mobile phone either. This allows me to keep boundaries with friends and not burden people with my emotional issues on a day-to-day basis. Yoga and meditation also help. Then there’s Lego therapy! I’m so lucky because I’ve found something I’m passionate about. I’ve got back into collecting Lego and Transformers. One of my jobs is selling Lego and Transformers on eBay. I could spend all day playing with Lego, assembling sets and selling them. I enjoy this, I can make money from it, and I’m passionate about it. A lot of my friends work 9-5 and aren’t passionate at all about their work. I’m grateful I get to do what I want to do.
No-one is perfect. I’ve got a lot of mental health issues and physical health issues. But all I can be is be the best person I can be and minimise the negative effects I have on myself and others. To just be mindful of who I am and what I say and what I do. I don’t want to make excuses for myself, or feel sorry for myself, or go back into hiding and block people out of my life. I’m proud of who I am. I like who I am and, despite the issues I’ve faced, I want to be the best person I can be.