That ended with a police escort to the local hospital.
He spent three days there, changing his medication and talking to someone for ten minutes a day. He attended group sessions, and when he came home, he was ready to be better.
It was a week before he had another episode.
And since then these episodes have been happening every 3-5 days. Some are more serious than others. The last time, he threatened to kill himself.
Unfortunately, that isn’t anything new, except that, this time, he also threatened his mother and I.
We’re going to try therapy, but right now, it feels like he’s a ticking time-bomb, set to go off at any second. From the outside, I know it doesn’t look like he’s trying but he is, he really is.
So this is where I need help, The Band:
Do I stay, or do I go?
Do I walk away from my husband because he’s sick? Or do I stay, even if it’s to the detriment of my sanity, and my child’s well-being?
I don’t know what to do and I have no support network.
My son’s father was never in the picture, and my mother is a recovering addict – currently incarcerated. My godmother, the woman who raised me, is dead. I have a brother, but he has no job, and no home.
My best friend was witness to the gun incident, and has mostly given up on me. She told me that I’m codependent, and making terrible choices for my child. She thinks I should leave my husband, like she did. But her husband was an alcoholic – mine isn’t.
My in-laws have been terrific. Any time we need somewhere safe, their home is always open. But they are elderly – one of them is in a wheelchair. I feel I can’t burden them with this. I feel I am making them choose between their son, or their grandson and I.
Where can I go? What should I do? Please, The Band, help me. I feel so alone. I’ve prayed to every god I can think of, and I still feel so lost.
There is no handbook for when you marry someone with mental illness.
I can only write this from my perspective, of course. I can’t tell you what my family goes through. I don’t know what my friends experience. I could guess, but that would be it: a guess. But here is what I go through, living with Borderline Personality Disorder.
First is the rage. I can literally see the switch in my head flip from peaceful to ready to explode; I only wish there was a visual clue to those around me. I fill with rage in an instant, and it just explodes out. I’m not violent with it, though that is an impulse I fight every second. My only real hope of it never getting that far is to find the right combination of medications.
From there, impulses. Everyone has basic impulses. Gut reactions. Instincts, even.
The thing about my impulses is that they can be very less than helpful: the impulse to quit a job because of a hard day; the impulse to hurt myself because of a rough week.
I am very lucky that I’m through the job-quitting phase. Every one I’ve left has been for a solid reason. But each time, it was the final straw-impulse that put me there. I’m just lucky my love of current job is stronger than my impulse for self-defense that leads to the “I quit.”
As for the impulse to hurt myself, that started right before I was in the hospital for the first time, and it ended before I got pregnant with my second baby. It lasted less than 6 months, and I don’t plan to do it again. Another impulse that isn’t worth it.
Not all impulses I have with Borderline Personality Disorder are that extreme.
Most of them are standard – not thinking before I speak or act. A lot of it can be brushed away as minor. But words and actions do hurt, and not everyone is so quick to forgive. Worse yet, years of verbal impulses can chip away what patience there is. And I see what I’m doing – I know the pain – but I’m powerless to stop it. I honestly don’t know what I’m saying until it’s out of my mouth.
I know, I know… think before you speak. I’m getting better. I wouldn’t be married otherwise. Here’s the kicker: I can usually convince myself something is harmless or can be explained to be harmless in the two seconds it takes to think before I speak. I’m not usually right, though.
I think splitting is one of the worse parts. Imagine your entire world is black or white, where black is evil and white is godly. Everything is one of the two, no half and half, and NO gray.
That’s splitting. It mostly pertains to people who have Borderline Personality Disorder, but does not have to.
My husband, Pat, has been flip-flopping between the two for years now. He can flip ten times in one day, or he can go days or months before a flip. It has a lot to do with how we are treating each other.
One minute he can be making me dinner and he is white as hell.
The next minute he used instant mac and cheese, not the regular, and he’s suddenly evil. True story. My defense? He knew I wouldn’t eat the instant shit, so why did he bother making it?
Not everyone is one or the other, but this doesn’t mean they are gray. We’ll call them transparent. I don’t think there is a better way to describe it. They are the random people in the world you come upon who leave little impact beyond the few minutes in their presence. A cashier who wasn’t bad or good, just transparent.
And my kids, we’ll call rainbow. It’s like a whole different way of thinking.
As for myself, I’m usually black or transparent.
That’s just how life with Borderline Personality Disorder works.
Sometimes I wish what I had was as real and tangible as alcoholism or drug addiction: there is something real to battle and win. Instead I have this intangible illness – this personality disorder – that affects everything I do. I can never be cured of Borderline Personality Disorder, that hurts everyone, and I just have to deal with it until it eventually kills me.
I wonder how many people who have Borderline Personality Disorder die of old age? I know it isn’t impossible, but I wonder what the odds are. Even if they don’t commit suicide, borderline habits can lead to early demise.
Don’t worry: I don’t intend to turn to alcohol. I can’t mix it with my medication. And I won’t turn to drug addiction. I rattle enough as it is, with my daily meds. No, those aren’t the only reasons. My illness hurts those around me enough as it is – why purposely add to that?
All I’m saying is that “15 years sober” sounds better than “15 years off my rocker.”
I was the girl people didn’t want to be around. I was too “weird” for the goth crew, but too “goth” for everyone else. I had the dyed black hair and dark clothing, but I stuck to mostly satin, lace, and velvet skirts and long dresses. I was “Romanti-Goth” where the rest of the goth crew was “Manson-Goth,” and the rest of the school wasn’t goth at all.
The Columbine Massacre had just happened and was fresh on everyone’s mind. In my school, your average goth was popular enough to get through, and they had each other. I, on the other hand, was alone.
I vividly remember the day someone spit at my feet while I was walking through the halls. Yeah, it was like that.
It didn’t help that I didn’t have the high school mentality. I wouldn’t say I was above it, I just wasn’t into it. I was a mentally-ill loner who enjoyed role-play games and people older than me. I wasn’t into dating around, parties, or the latest group of girly giggles.
Even my boyfriend was eight years older. My husband, who was my next boyfriend, is six years older. Your average teenager repulsed me, so high school was hell. It wasn’t something I enjoyed; it was something I struggled to survive.
My mental health issues became obvious in high school. Most of that time is a blur, but I do remember going and seeing my guidance counselor, looking for a push in the right direction.
Luckily, a licensed therapist was in the school every Thursday for cases like mine. I only saw her seven times at school before I had to start therapy at her at her office, but that was enough to know she was the one. She was the one I could spill my guts to, the one who would be there for me. She gave me her cell phone number in case of emergencies. She saw in me what no one else at the time saw – I was special and in need of help.
At the time, diagnoses like “bipolar” were thrown around, but they never fit. The only thing she knew for sure was that I was getting lost inside my head, and our sessions were my only chance to get help.
There was one other key figure in my high school survival. We’ll call her Mrs. M.
She was my 9th grade English teacher (and then later, 10th grade Journalism 1 and 12th grade Brit Lit). Right away, we clicked. She was the type of teacher to give me a passing grade when I accidentally answered the quiz question with the key event in Chapter 4 and not Chapter 3, when the whole point of the quiz was to determine whether I’d read up to Chapter 3 or not. I had, in fact, finished the book. Yeah, I was one of those English students. And she was one of those teachers. She spent the four years of my high school life doing her damnedest to make sure I made it through and survived. She was always there for me, no matter the problem.
When I was in 9th grade, I made my first website – it was filled with my dark, depressive poetry and even darker thoughts. My mom somehow came across it and had a cow. She immediately sent the link to Mrs. M for her thoughts on it. In true Mrs. M fashion, she informed me and my mom that it was very well-written. How much I needed help was obvious without the site. Why did it surprise my mom? I’ll always wonder.
Shortly after starting my blog, I went back to the school to visit Mrs. M. I wanted to fill her in on my life and my family. I was also excited to say the words that burst out of me. “I’m writing!” I knew she, of all people, would be proud of me.
I knew she, of all people, would look past the darker times and see the beauty of my written word.
I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-
-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when its ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming.. has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings—because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her—has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which, at the time, I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much) that, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. So once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings that I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you re-connect with yourself? How did you re-connect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?
A long, long time ago, my father invented the Internet. As in, he worked for network solutions and laid down cables that later became what we know today as the Internet. A few years later, that company was bought out and the higher-ups were given a fat check and let go. That’s the official story, anyway. It didn’t really go down like that, but I’m not allowed to tell that truth. I’m sketchy on the details myself, anyway.
So, my father started plans to begin his own business. While he waited to get things set up, he did day-trading of stocks online. One thing led to another, it took a while, and then his father died. Suddenly, the money he had saved was getting his mom (who later remarried) out of financial trouble. With his money for starting the business gone, he continued to do day trading and living off of his retirement fund.
As the years went by, and the stock market started to not do so well, my father became very depressed. He had many dreams of how to support himself, but nothing seemed to be panning out. One day while painting his home, he took a bad fall off of a ladder that was located at the top of some stairs. When he fell off the ladder, he went down the stairs, as well, and the ladder went with him. This fall left him in massive amounts of pain and feeling very depressed.
Not too long afterward, my mom received a copy of his will and his suicide letter in the mail.
That was a long day.
The police in North Carolina, where he lived, entered his home to find him alive, but very sick in his bed after taking an entire bottle of morphine. He proceeded to spend the next week in the psychiatric ward of his local hospital. Around this time, 9/11 happened.
That was a long week.
The doctors at the hospital pumped my father full of antidepressants and continued to see him on an out-patient basis. That medication was not good to him.
Here is where I will never know the full truth, and I’ll explain why later.
There is a small percentage of people who can’t take certain antidepressants. The medications do not metabolize well in them. My father is one of those people. It causes psychotic breakdowns and has led to some violent crimes (for other people – my father never got that bad), as well as memory problems and seizures. When my father went to talk to his doctors about what happened, they refused to discuss it and slapped a silence order on his therapist. My father stopped seeing them – all of them – as well as going off all medications. None of my doctors in the field have ever heard of problems like that with the antidepressant they had put my father on. So is it that rare? Or is my father that messed up mentally? More on that in a minute.
My father still has the memory problems and the seizures. He talks to people who aren’t there. Always has. He does this when he mumbles. He’ll never admit to it, but you can sometimes hear what he’s saying. He also has fanciful tails of the security clearance he used to have for the government, the people he advised, the projects he worked on. These stories are all the truth as he knows it.
Have you ever seen the movie A Beautiful Mind? My father reminds me of the home game.
Will I ever know the truth?
Only if my father receives a diagnosis that points us in one way or the other. And with my dad’s paranoia of the system – any system – we most likely never will see that diagnosis.
My opinion is that while at times I think my mom might have BPD, I’m pretty sure my father does. Everything fits well, and my acorn did not fall far from that tree. If my father is indeed having delusions, that would fit in well to Schizotypal, only in his case, I think it’s been his truth for so long, that he honestly believes it. Or who knows, maybe it really is the truth. As I said, I may never know.