Stigma Fighters: Amanda Green

Borderline Personality Disorder – my experience

This article was written by me in April 2011. So much has happened since then, and I have recovered from BPD and OCD (coping with anxiety and depression),but I do not stop fighting to beat the stigma surrounding mental health issues and am currently studying to be a counsellor so that I can help others’ in mental turmoil. There is always hope – we sometimes need someone to show us how to find it again, but once we have hope, we can do things we never dreamt we could.

Before I start, I would like to acknowledge that, despite the diagnoses and problems I have had in the past, I have had a fulfilling and exciting life with lots of fun interspersed with my issues, and am in no way trying to portray a dreadfully unhappy existence – at times it has been, and at others, I have thoroughly enjoyed my life. To be diagnosed with any mental illness does not mean that the illness is prevalent at all time – on the contrary, there are often big gaps in between with no problems at all.

I also do not blame anyone for my problems and am fully aware that it is up to ourselves to ensure we are happy and healthy, not other people. Any symptoms I had when a child were not acknowledged because I was an expert at secrecy, and didn’t want to raise awareness of my issues at the time. No parent can look out for their children 24/7, as this would be stifling and virtually impossible to do.

Over the years, I have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and I definitely abused substances.

I have experienced very severe depression, panic attacks, loss of self esteem, self destructive behaviour, anger, distrust, paranoia, eating disorder, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and extreme happiness, interspersed at different times in my life, since I was a schoolchild at 15, and I did not find the help I needed within the NHS. Of course, these issues were not with me all the time, and I have been able to enjoy a fulfilled and exciting life too.

Throughout the years, I have coped by myself and had many different private therapies for depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, but none that have ‘cured me’. I have had destructive relationships with some boyfriends, due to bad choices, and the urge to commit suicide scared me into doing something about myself instead of continuing to blame everyone else for my problems and being in denial. So I decided to embark on a two and half year journey of writing my life story in order to understand myself, and close the box on my bad memories and past that haunts me. I had started this before in 2006, but after 3 months I found it too painful to continue. So, by the end of 2008 when I saw a private psychiatrist and was given this BPD diagnosis for the first time, I started to research the condition and decided to take on my book again as a form of self therapy, as I could not get help from the NHS at the time, and I didn’t have the funds for the recommended treatment. I was also offered a-typical anti psychotics at that point, and the fear of taking such medication pushed me to write even more.

With diagnoses such as clinical depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar depression and borderline personality disorder being thrown at me, it was time to look at the symptoms, not the names, and tackle those one by one, as all the names, diagnoses and negative prognosis were too much to deal with and I felt hopeless, which made my situation and thought processes worse. I was better off when I didn’t know anything – I could cope and it didn’t have as much effect on my life.

The main thing getting in the way of recovery is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. It is very hard to talk about with others as they may either not understand the problem, not want to understand the problem and talk about it, or may even shy away from talking about it at all. This can make life a very lonely place and I experienced all sides of the spectrum of people’s reactions when I first decided to talk about it after years of silence. I admit I was not impressed by some of the reactions and they were most unhelpful to me. Having depression or mental illness doesn’t mean that one is mad or antisocial – on the contrary, many sufferers are kind hearted and docile. The media doesn’t help either. For example, they have been known to suggest a person with schizophrenia is violent and a menace to society, which is utter rubbish. In fact, sufferers are more likely to harm themselves than others and are not violent at all. Mental health illnesses portrayed in film and news are most often sensationalised, and this really should be stopped, as it is so unhelpful to sufferers and those around them who are getting the wrong idea.

I am getting on with finishing my memoir, and it has been an awful two and a half years, but worth it for the outcome so far. I have logged my progress all the way along so that the path to getting better can be seen. Due to my obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), I had a loft full to the brim of diaries since childhood, mementos, letters and photos. I have kept my in depth childhood diaries, text messages since 2004, emails and many thousands of photos on my computer hard drives. I have been through every detail of my life, to understand myself and others, and have managed to put the whole story together using a mixture of narrative, SMS, dated diary/journal excerpts, emails, letters and a little dialogue. I have not seen this style done before, but it really does ‘show’ my story unfold on my journey through the thoughts of me as a child growing into an adult, and how I affected those around me.

My journals contain in depth descriptions of the state of my mind, written at the time of extreme moods, so that the reader can understand what it feels like to be me. It is not a self indulgent memoir other than to show the desperation of the lack of control of oneself, and the loneliness this disorder creates. Often the disorder is not completely outlined by BPD symptoms, and is often accompanied by other disorders, particularly those based on anxiety, such as paranoia, social anxiety or panic disorder and also depression. If it is found alone, then there is a good chance of recovery, some say, but when other disorders are present, the chances are greatly reduced. This is because the amount of symptoms can be excessive and the intensity of them make it much harder to break through, as these are strong personality traits. Doctors/therapists are renowned to find those suffering with BPD are some of the most difficult to treat, particularly as they have the feeling that nothing is their fault and blame everyone else. I have been through that, and know that I am over that major hurdle already. It is hard to differentiate from what is real and what is fantasy at first and takes a huge effort to separate them and take on the responsibility for oneself.

I have learnt an awful lot about myself writing this story. Sometimes I disassociated as it was like reading someone else’s diary, and at times, when I made some unwanted realisations about myself, I felt completely helpless and suicidal. I also did not have a strong support network at times. However, the story continues with my efforts to tackle my problems and aim towards recovering enough to lead a more normal life for myself and those around me.

It certainly isn’t all doom and gloom though, as I travel around the world, have various relationships, jobs, friendships, therapists, bankruptcy and much more, so the story has many twists and turns.

Through writing, research and cognitive behavioural therapy, I was finally able to beat depressive symptoms enough to start working on my other symptoms, and gradually chipped away at each one to lessen their effect, occurance and length of time, to a good outcome.

***

Books to read

Amazon are the only supplier of these three giants, to sell memoirs covering the Borderline Personality disorder, however, these are mainly by American Authors, not UK authors.

As an example the memoir, ‘Get me out of here, my recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder’ shows plenty of good reviews, however, there is some proof that the UK readers would like to read about someone from the UK, as it is closer to home and would cover the difficulties of living with the disorder in the UK, rather than America. Another recent, very well written memoir is ‘The Buddha and the Borderline’, also from the U.S.

I have noticed, however, over the last year, that more memoirs are being published in the UK within the Mental Health genre as a whole. For example, ‘Alice’, which is the very shocking memoir of a woman suffering with Multiple personality disorder.

***

I WILL ACTIVELY BE PROMOTING THIS TOPIC…..

I shall be actively making people aware of this disorder through every means possible.

• This subject means a lot to me, and I hope that my book will help other sufferers and their families and friends to understand the disorder and how to help oneself to feel better and also to raise awareness to the general public about this illness and the stigma sufferers have to deal with.

• Doctors and the medical industry involved with mental health will benefit from reading my story, as it unfolds what it is like from the inside out.

• Finally, this will be a compelling read for anyone interested in memoirs with a twist.

Some TV programmes are now mentioning this disorder within their storylines, bringing the name into the public domain, such as the series ‘Doctors’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’. Also, ‘Eastenders’ features ‘Bipolar Disorder’ through the characters Stacey and her mother. Now is the time to bring something to back that up and to teach people what it is all about, now there has been an opportunity to observe what it can look like.

My main goal was to feel better – they are now:

• To campaign to beat the stigma surrounding mental health issues

• To open people’s minds to understanding mental health illnesses, particularly the lesser known about disorders.

• To publish a well regarded book for the mental health genre

• To win the ‘Mind book of the year’ award’ to make my story even more prevalent and known

• To be approached for my story to be made into a successful British film – 🙂 Yes I know this is far fetched, but hey we can all dream and my dream would be to tell all about mental illness through the big screen as more people will access films than with books alone.

• Finally, to continue writing through fact and fiction storytelling, on the genre of Mental Health and love stories – facing and combating adversity as the main point. (not self help books, but reality)

I have finished my first draft, after 2 and half years of thorough work, which was an epic of 350,000 words and I have now managed to cut this down drastically, and the story continues…

*******

Christmas Eve with Titus on the balcony 2014

This post was originally featured here.

My name is Amanda Green (pseudonym of Sandra Dean, my real name). I was born and live in England, UK, and I set up a website and wrote two memoirs to share with my readers the stories of my issues with mental illness, therapy and recovery. I also write thought provoking, inspiring fiction with the theme of overcoming adversities (abuse, homelessness, mental health, relationships and more)

I regularly post blogs about coping strategies, inspirational things to do, Borderline Personality disorder, depression, Obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety/panic attacks, thyroid issues, eating disorders (Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia), alcohol and drug abuse, sexual abuse/rape, Quetiapine (Seroquel anti-psychotics) and Citalopram (anti-depressant), therapies such as Cognitive behavioural therapy and paranoia, dissociation and psychosis – all of which I have experienced in one way or another either myself or those I know.  Also info on mental health charities, forums, campaigns, the stigma surrounding mental illness, some of my personal experiences, celebrities with mental health issues and mental health in the family.

My logo is a locked box and this is because one of the main things I had to do to heal myself was to deal with adverse things that have happened to me in my past and my aim was to put them in a ‘pandoras box’, close the lid on them and lock them away, so that I could forgive and forget the past and concentrate on the future.

I realised that holding onto the past was harming me in the present time and it had to stop. Therefore, I decided this would be an apt logo for me to share and be recognised with. Plus green is for ‘go’ (‘go for it’ I thought) and is also my pen name.

I am currently studying level 4 Counselling skills at college as I would love to be able to help others’ facing issues. My placement will be with homeless people who need help to move on from their adversities.

Aside from writing and social networking, I spend a lot of time with my pets; a handsome cat called Titus, a pretty hamster called Molly and tropical fish. I strongly believe in pet animal therapy as being good for our mind, body and soul and I promote the fostering and adopting of animals as opposed to private breeding and purchase. I detest animal cruelty.

I love eating out and reviewing restaurants, travel, days out, campaigning for the precious Orang-utan and the issues of unsustainable palm oil production and seeing my family. I also enjoy reading, theatre, films, TV and cooking.

I have travelled on/off across the world, taking in twenty five Countries – living and working at times in Japan, Thailand and Australia and have enjoyed a very mixed bag of jobs.

I run five personal websites for which I write all copy and articles and provide all photography.

I have had my writing and photography work published in various magazines and local newspapers. I enjoy the challenge of getting published.

‘My Alien Self: My Journey Back to Me’ is my self-published memoir of my journey through mental illness to recovery. I want to inspire others that it is possible to recover and have a life worth living. Many people do not understand mental illness and judge people unfairly, so I created www.amandagreenauthor.co.uk where I publish articles on the topics covered in my story and campaign to ‘stop the stigma surrounding mental illness’.

My aspirations are to be successful in fact/fiction storytelling in the mental health/relationship genres. I have unique ideas and have enjoyed various writer’s retreats and short writing courses to further my writing.

Blog – www.amandagreenauthor.co.uk

Buy ‘My Alien Self’ on Amazon www.viewBook.at/MyAlienSelf

Buy ’39’ on Amazon www.viewBook.at/39

Twitter – @AmandaGreenUK

Facebook – AmandaGreenAuthor

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15840188-my-alien-self

Facebook book page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amanda-Green-My-Alien-Self-my-journey-back-to-me/268350159908283?fref=ts