My struggles with my mental health began when I was in high school. As far back as I can remember I was always “moody” and “sensitive,” but when I started high school those two traits seemed to move to an extreme. I was highly emotional and I didn’t know how to cope with how I was feeling. I was 13 the first time I cut myself. I didn’t even know what I was doing. I was just a kid.
When my mother finally found out she decided I needed to start seeing a professional. Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, mental health nurses, crisis workers, I saw more mental health professionals than I can remember but no one seemed to be able to tell me why I was feeling this way, and no one could tell me how to fix it.
As high school wore on I got worse and worse. My eating habits became worse and I lost weight off my already small frame. I developed anorexia. My lack of nutrition caused my hair to fall out and my skin to become dead and lifeless. I began fainting from lack of food. I was suffering from severe depersonalization and mild psychosis, which terrified me. I was acting impulsively and recklessly, but I didn’t even see the problem. All my relationships were stormy; I would go from loving someone to wanting nothing to do with them so quickly. I was self-harming more frequently and more severely, landing myself in the ER more than once. I was hospitalized for a period of time at the end of the 2013, which caused me to miss my exams.
When I was 16 I tried to kill myself. I had decided that no one could help me, that I would always feel miserable, and that life wasn’t worth it for me anymore. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, and no one else seemed to know either. I felt hopeless. I ended up being hospitalized for that entire summer in a pediatric psychiatric ward before I was able to move home. My medications were changed until my team finally found a combination of antidepressants, anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers that worked for me. Slowly, with the help of professionals and my loving family and friends I began the road to recovery.
Recovery isn’t black and white. It’s not a simple classification of sick and recovered. It’s a spectrum, and a lifelong battle. It doesn’t come overnight. Every day I still battle with my mental illness. Some days I struggle to get out of bed, sometimes I dissolve into a puddle of tears when someone looks at me wrong, but those days are outnumbered by the days that are easy.
Over my high school life I was diagnosed with depression then generalized anxiety disorder then childhood bipolar then disruptive mood deregulation disorder and then PMDD. I was diagnosed with bulimia and then it was changed to anorexia (purgative subtype). Then I was diagnosed with cyclothymia. After 8 different diagnoses I still really didn’t know what was wrong with me. Finally getting a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in 2015 was the best thing to happen to me, which I know won’t make sense to a lot of people. But for the first time in a long time I felt validated, I finally knew what was wrong.
I’m Caitlin. I have borderline personality disorder. Personality disorders are a little different from other mental illnesses; they are characterized by enduring maladaptive patterns of behavior, cognition and inner experience. That basically means that my personality causes me severe distress and impairment, which probably doesn’t make sense to many people. This means I am impulsive and a little unstable, I experience emotions in extremes, I have a terrible self-image, I am extremely sensitive to rejection and abandonment. I often feel unsure of my personal identity. I sometimes dissociate, which is scary. People often call people with BPD “difficult,” “manipulative,” “demanding,” “moody,” or “sensitive.” I prefer to use different adjectives to describe myself, like kind, friendly, passionate, funny (even though my boyfriend will dispute this one I swear I am funny), charismatic and smart. I am all these things and more despite my mental illness.
I am a sociology major, a friend, a daughter, a girlfriend, a sister, a latte enthusiast and lover of sleep. I am a student with rich girl dreams and a university student budget. I am a cactus mom and a big fan of wine. I am a Lush-a-holic, passionate activist, fuzzy sock fanatic, aspiring lawyer and a Dean’s List student. I am so much more than my illness.