I spend a lot of time surrounding myself in mental illness. Not just my own mental illness, but just the topic as a whole. It consumes your every thought. Every action you make is controlled and dictated by this inner demon who makes your life a distorted mess. Naturally you want to seek out others who have similar experiences to you. While being in hospital this has become very apparent to me. You are suddenly in a world were you make a reference to an obscure book with a loose theme of mental illness and everyone knows the relevance of what you have just said. We all spend a great deal of time searching the internet for ‘positive recovery quotes’ scrolling for hours at a time through countless cringeworthy quotes that we have seen numerous times. On the off chance that we may find a quote that has a slight resemblance to our current situation. When we do find an appropriate quote it is printed off on the black and white printer that we have access to in education and by the end of the day it will be plastered on peoples walls and in our scrapbooks. It’s not as if we need any reminding as to what depression feels like or the way social anxiety impacts hugely on your life. Yet we will sit for many more hours scrolling through pages and pages of quotes. All because we crave the confirmation that we aren’t alone with these feelings. We crave it even though everyone surrounding us has the same feelings that we do. We just don’t have the words to give each other the safe feeling of belonging.
Disclaimer- I wrote this piece whilst I was an inpatient. As I’m sure you can imagen hospitals of any kind are transient environment, and a very intense one at that! A common symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder is having issues with maintaing relationships and struggling with the overwhelming feeling of abandonment. That being said not all people with BPD will struggle with these symptoms, but for me I find people moving on and change in the people who surround me incredibly challenging and that is how this piece of writing came about!
The reality of an attachment disorder is that every goodbye is intensely emotional. I’ve been in the same position time and time again. Eyes sting as you hold back the tears the best you can. You let one tear slip out but don’t let another one free because before you know it they will be streaming down your cheeks and you will be unable to stop them, unable to push a final goodbye through your gritted teeth. Inhale, exhale repeat. Focus on anything other than the person leaving because as soon as you look at them, they will see how your world is crumbling around you. They will see the way you are holding the label ‘BRAVE’ close to your chest, gripping it so tight you couldn’t let anyone past. No hands reaching to grasp mine, no comforting pats on the shoulder, no reassuring words, nothing is getting past. It comes to the final hug. I put my head in there shoulder inhaling the light fragrance of their shampoo, deep lungfulls of their personal smell that will soon no longer linger on my own clothes. I squeeze a little bit tighter for the final moment; inhale, exhale. The final step is sharing eye contact after the hug. You share one more inhale. “thanks for everything” “you’re going to do great” “stay strong”. Sometimes all you can give is a moments pause were words could have been, but not always were they should have been. The final step is to get out, leave and get as far away as possible before the unstoppable flood gates open again. I cry and cry and cry and cry. I get left alone by the majority of passers by but there a few brave people who attempt to talk to me. They struggle to make sense of my end of the conversation, its all clouded with frequent sobs and my long hair is stuck to my pink face, all of this is hidden behind my hands which are resting on my knees. The hole in my chest is taking over, I don’t know if its getting bigger or if it’s just sucking the rest of my body into it. Attempts to stop crying fail. INHALE, EXHALE. Feeling slightly calmer and then the realisation washes over you again and again that they have left you. Deep sobs continue for hours at a time. I can’t breathe.