Growing Up

Growing Up

Written by B.M.

Growing up, I was a happy child.  Two parents, one household, disciplined when needed but not a sufferer of abuse. It baffles people when they learn that I have a personality disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD) to be specific, because most cases of BPD are individuals who suffered from a traumatic childhood.

However, my mental health journey started long before my BPD diagnosis; in fact, eleven years before I would be diagnosed with a personality disorder. When I was seven years old, I had my first severe anxiety attack.  I landed in the hospital due to dehydration from vomiting and severe chest pains.  But I wasn’t sick - all my symptoms were the result of anxiety. Nothing was done then because it wasn’t chronic or hadn’t become chronic yet.

From the ages of seven to nineteen, I had major body dysmorphia (where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance, and these flaws are often unnoticeable to others.).  I mean, I was an overweight child so calling myself fat and thinking of dieting didn’t seem like an issue. By the time I was twelve, I had been bullied for years for my looks and my weight (cue the “Hey, Mustachio!” comments I got from my peers, because I had a little bit of peach fuzz on my upper lip and because of my Italian background, it was more noticeable on my pale skin).  I was called fat and taunted with comments like, “You’re fatter than a hippo and Mount Everest” (I’m still trying to figure out that last reference, 10 years later). 

This triggered the intense dieting, daily self-hatred, and the severely restricted calorie diet…oh and the self-harm. For years, I struggled with an undiagnosed eating disorder (I was never ‘enough’ for that diagnosis—however it could’ve been classified as atypical anorexia, but I’m not the health official).  My weight fluctuated from 180lbs, to 145lbs, to 170lbs, to 138lbs, to 230lbs.

The self-harm and the restrictive eating slowly stopped when I was sixteen, but when my Dad went into the hospital for a life-threatening brain injury (thankfully he survived!), I would look after my Brother while my Mom was visiting him.  She has to travel to St. Mike’s in down town Toronto, so she was gone a lot. This fuelled my ability to restrict my eating again and triggering self-harming again from the stress of everything. 

Going into College, my eating disorder and self-harm tendencies stayed put.  They lingering in the background coming out to say “Hi” when things became too much. It was in my first year of college when I finally saw an adult Psychiatrist who diagnosed me with ADHD, dysthymia (fancy word for chronic depression), general anxiety disorder, and BPD.  My Psychiatrist was aware of my para-suicidal behaviours (potentially life-threatening acts of self-harm) which was one of the biggest indicator’s for diagnosing me with BPD—among others.

Following my diagnosis, I had the notion that I was a bad person and that I was destined to be this way forever (think of the classic BPD stereotypes).  This was hard on me, which increased my behaviours and negative mentality. The next few years were a blur.  I got mixed in with the wrong crowd, developed a dependence to marijuana, and had been mentally and emotionally abused by my (at the time, now ex) boyfriend.  He was a narcissist, alcoholic, and substance abuser. I had been lied to, manipulated, and cheated on for six months, and by the end of six months, he ended up conning me out of $4000 (from my education fund).  Money he used for his addictions. 

This almost ruined my relationship with my parents. I look back now and I ask myself so many times, “Why didn’t I believe everyone else who saw this?”.  But I’m reminded that I have grown, and I learned so much from this experience.  My parents say I’m a different person now, and our relationship is stronger than ever.

Some people suggest that I have PTSD from that experience, which I can believe. It’s been over a year since that relationship ended, and it’s been about two years since I last self-harmed.  Although I still have an eating disorder mentality, my actions are no-where near as severe as they have been in the past.  Sometimes I look back and remind myself how much I’ve been through and I use that as a way to push myself to getting better.

I still suffer from depression.  I still fit some of the criteria for a BPD diagnosis, but the severity has diminished drastically. My anxiety still bothers me, daily, but every day I am working through it.  I push myself to get through that brick wall of anxiety instead of letting it stop me from what I want to do. It took a lot to get where I am now, and I still have a lot of work to do but that doesn’t take away from the progress I’ve made.

Surrounding myself with a positive environment, learning from my experiences, and taking a step back when I needed to, were the tools that ultimately started my journey to getting better.