“Help me – I’ve fallen further in myself. I’m stuck here again. And I can’t see that I’m not digging my way out – I’m digging my grave. I’ve become my own demise. Paralyzed inside my mind. Arms are weak from holding up this front. No escape and no surprises. Complicated compromises. Hold me down when what all I really want is just to break free. Break free. Break free from everything. Break free before it breaks me. There’s got to be another way to start again. Tell me how you can be the brightest star and light up the sky? Well I can’t seem to even light up my own way and I’m burned out from trying. I’ve become what I despise. Paralyzed inside a lie. Arms are weak from holding back the flood. Sinking as the waters rise. Drink myself to sleep each night. I’m going under and all I really want is just to break free. Break free. Break free from everything. Break free before it breaks me. There’s got to be another way to start again.” ~ Like A Storm
I’m sure you’ve heard me say that I have suffered from, battled and overcome a mental illness. I’m not sure however that I’ve ever said which mental illness it was. “So, which mental illness was it?” DRUM ROLL PLEASE … wait for it … wait for it … wait for it: Hi! I’m Cat Williamson, f/k/a “Girl Interrupted“. I HAVE BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (“BPD”). Well, I did that is. This month marks the seventh year of my recovery, and I’d like to tell you about it.
WHAT IS BPD? The National Institute Of Mental Health describes BPD as “an illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships. People with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days.”
WAS THIS ME?
WHAT MAY HAVE CAUSED MY BPD? As with most mental illnesses, many doctors believe BPD is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. I strongly believe that my diagnoses was indeed genetically and environmentally predisposed, especially inasmuch as I was exposed to many adverse childhood experiences (“ACES”) that may have triggered the development of my symptoms. Although I don’t recall being sexually or physically abused as a child, there were a vast number of instabilities that may have contributed to my illness.
I was ripped away from a closely interactive paternal family when my parents uprooted us from our home at a very young age. Keep in mind that because our family was somewhat enmeshed, my grandparents, aunts and uncles were “consistently present and close caregivers” at that time, such that the immediate, unexplained loss of them literally overnight was deeply traumatic to me. Likewise was the damage to my very impressionable psyche from both the inconsistent emotional and physical presences of my parents and different points in time due to issues of their own that were out of my control.
THIS REALLY HAPPENED?
Check √ Check √
WHAT WERE SOME SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS? Most adolescents and adults with BPD lack the healthy coping skills required to handle even minimal amounts of stress or emotional discomfort and therefore often present with these signs and symptoms:
- Intense fear of abandonment or rejection;
- Extremely unstable relationships;
- Distorted self-imagery that influences moods, decisions and priorities;
- Impulsive actions like reckless driving, binge eating, spending sprees, job instability, leaving relationships or unsafe sex;
- Chronic feelings of boredom, restlessness and emptiness;
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts while under stress;
- Intense feelings of anger followed by extreme guilt and shame;
- Self-harm and injury, such as cutting, drug or alcohol abuse;
- Disassociating (“splitting“) that can last from a few minutes to hours.
DID I DO ANY OF THESE?
Check √ Check √ CHECK √
Someday I’ll revisit the somewhat comical story of how my clinical diagnoses came about, but sufficed to say that when I first realized “what the HELL was wrong with me” I was shaken to the core! Not only did I have a mental illness, but it was one of the most stigmatic of all. Borderlines already think that “everything is wrong with them”, so having a brand like THAT on my forehead? IT WAS KINDA LIKE A STORM! A dark and looming torrential fucking rain cloud pummeling me 24/7, complete with lightening bolt voices in my mind screaming “YOU’RE BAT SHIT FUCKING CRAZY”!
There is a very cruel woman in this world (who I believe is a narcissist) who after being made aware of my diagnoses took full advantage of having that information by bludgeoning and emotionally blackmailing me with it in an attempt to socially posture herself while I was in a weakened state. SHE WAS A NURSING STUDENT WHO CLAIMED TO HAVE STUDIED CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY AT ONE POINT, someone I truly considered a friend and trusted with my precious vulnerability. She set out to destroy me by not only threatening to report me to the Texas Real Estate Commission to have my license stripped, but also to “expose me” to our small school community, which for the record, she did end up doing, and thus became my daughter’s descent into social ostracization, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts of her own after being surrounded by her classmates on the playground one day and asked, “Is it true that your mom is a sociopath who’s been in a mental hospital and is unsafe to be around children”? Yup. That happened. That really fucking happened! The “first do no harm” medical professional made good on her promise to level me with my “girl interrupted secret”.
Meanwhile, here I am, nine post-diagnoses years later. I did the work, know who I am, where I’ve been, and exactly where I’m going. That part of my journey is but a distant memory, except to say that moving forward I have and will take any opportunity that avails itself to share my “little girl interrupted” secret, as in below when I did so in a very public forum recently. It’s the one thing I’ve published that I’m proudest of so far, because just as “saying the words out loud” to those closest to me was the most healing part of my journey, so too was “writing the words out loud”:
“HOW CAN YOU COMFORT A FRIEND WITH BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER?”
Oh how I love and appreciate this question! Seriously, it means so much as a recovering Borderline to see these words out in the Cosmos in bold set black and white letters. It means you genuinely care and therefore desire to understand it, which for your average Borderline is more than half the battle! For me? The best thing anyone ever did to comfort me in my BPD darkness was to “look beyond the cover of my book” before casting unwarranted judgments, opinions or assumptions about who others thought I was: “Crazy, dramatic, histrionic, spoiled rotten Girl Interrupted Catherine.” And by that I mean this …
Obviously, as with any mental illness, there is no way to take a human brain apart and actually see the twists and turns that can “Molotov cocktail” a person into madness, but there is widely held belief that Borderline Personality Disorder tends to develop in a person with a history of: Emotional, physical or sexual abuse; Being exposed to long-term fear or distress as a child; Being abandoned or neglected (either physically or emotionally) by one or both parents; Growing up with another family member who had a serious mental health condition. [See Also the National Institute Of Mental Health’s overview in this regard.] In my case? Yup. My “childhood trauma resume” from cradle to this minute includes, but is not limited to: ALL OF THE ABOVE! Although I do not believe that any of my primary caregivers intentionally and knowingly harmed, abused or traumatized me in the ways they did, but the resulting fallout was and is still very real to me nonetheless.
I myself spent a lifetime (39 plus years) just trying to survive “me”, completely unaware of what the HELL was actually wrong with me, especially inasmuch as that “on the surface” at many junctures it did appear that my life was picture perfect. Even I sometimes told myself, “How dare you effing feel this way Catherine, you spoiled, crazy BRAT. You’re life is absolutely PERFECT”. I hated me for hating myself and being “so unappreciative” of what ultimately revealed itself to be a farce of an existence, and especially hated knowing that the emotional storm cloud that seemed to follow me everywhere was raining on my loved ones’ heads as well.
Most Borderlines truly hate themselves at their darkest, deepest core because of the words and judgments of clueless people who’ve never walked a day in their shoes. They are programmed to believe that they are weak, dramatic, histrionic, ungrateful human train wrecks whose accompanying chaos darkens even the brightest room. BORDERLINES BELIEVE THEY ARE A CANCER TO THE WORLD, as so often this is what they’ve been told. My point being this: The best way to comfort a friend with Borderline Personality Disorder is to simply “hear them”. Listen to them. Dig a little deeper and ask them: What did your eyes see? What did your ears hear? How did your heart feel when it was a child? Then say these words to them: “I’m sorry that happened to you. It wasn’t fair at all and I don’t think you’re a crazy, weak, spoiled rotten, histrionic train wreck of a human disaster. I’m sorry if no one ever told you that before.” Again, I am so thankful to see this question here and hopefully anyone reading my answer can find some value. “Girls Interrupted” are often just broken, yet powerful, very loving ANGELS that need their hidden scars and wounds acknowledged so their broken wings can finally get them off the ground. I know this all to well, because that was me: “Girl Interrupted”. I spent so much time avoiding the Sun that I DIDN’T THINK I DESERVED that I cannot even tell you. I’m just so glad I lived to tell about it and finally start using my wings! Have a good day, and again, THANK YOU FOR ASKING THIS QUESTION!
So, there you have it. I’ve said the words out loud, but I’m not “girl interrupted” anymore. I’M THE WOMAN WHO’S A FUCKING MIRACLE … the STORM that finally “broke free”. My husband used to call me “The Borderline Whisperer”, because as I’ve walked with it and through it I’ve become accustomed to recognizing it well. In the last few years I’ve “had the conversation” with no less than a dozen people, most of who have sought treatment and are now fighting their way out of the storm. HE WAS SO FUCKING PROUD ME … “HIS BEAUTIFUL DISASTER WIFE” … and everything he saw me go through to beat it. He was my NUMBER ONE supporter and NEVER ONCE threw it in my face, or mocked me, or made fun of me, or made me feel “less than” because I was sick. There is NO FUCKING WAY I’d be writing this write today if it wasn’t for that guy … I know it, he knows it … GOD KNOWS IT! He carried the torch that God Himself prepared that lead me out of the darkness and to The Light, and I know he must be smiling right now as he watches me “go public”. How bittersweet is the irony that he that couldn’t find his way out of the darkness? Nevertheless, I am no longer ashamed to “say the words out loud”, because guess what? THEY DON’T DEFINE ME. That “little secret” makes me sick no longer because it’s NOT a secret anymore!
My name is Cat Williamson.
I had Borderline Personality Disorder.
Now I’m The
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW MAY BE STRUGGLING WITH BPD: