Monday, 12 December 2011

Mental Illness: My Gift

Today I attended a 'Wellness Workshop'. It was a day-long seminar run by a fantastic organisation here in Ireland called S.O.S. (Suicide or Survive). I really connected to the speakers and feel that it came at just the right time for me as I haven't been coping that well lately and needed a boost. 

I took so much out of the day, but what I found myself being drawn back to all day was quite a controversial topic. And that is; that my mental illness has been the greatest gift I have. I came to this conclusion because, I feel that BPD has gifted me the power of understanding, of empathy and hope, of motivation and passion for change and most importantly; a desire and a drive to help others, to care and to reach-out.

I really want to explain what I mean without sounding patronizing or Pollyanna-ish. I haven't gone into much detail about my personal story on this blog yet, and I am still working up the courage to post about it. But I will share with you a wee bit now for the purpose of explaining myself properly.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I suffered the loss of my twin babies during pregnancy. This loss was far from an easy blow to absorb. If you have not experienced grief or shock to that degree, let me tell you, it hurts. Emotionally obviously, but also physically. It's a pain deep in the pit of your stomach, in your core. Its a suffocating agony in your lungs and a sharp stab to your heart. It is not a feeling I would wish on anybody, not even my enemies. 

Here is where I could dwell on that awful chapter of my life, I could describe that horrible day to you, but I don't feel it would help you if I did, so I choose not to. Rather, I want to focus on how I feel this period has shaped me into who I am now, how I live and how I view the world I live in.

Without that perpetrating event two years ago, I would not have faced up to my problems. Some people call it their 'Rock-Bottom', or a breakdown, or their breaking point. It changed me from the person I was then to the person I was after. Without it, I would never have sought help and would still be using the extremely destructive coping mechanisms I had so successfully developed. I would go as far to say I mightn't be alive today, if I am being totally honest. 

The accessories to grief; shock, confusion, despair, anger, sadness, etc. are what saved me from myself. I FELT something finally. I was smacked in the face with emotion for the first time really, and I couldn't deal with it. I needed help. Since getting that help, I have questioned everything, I have left no rock in my life un-turned.  I have searched for answers and explanations and most importantly, I have never accepted 'no'.

You see, that blow of grief provided the foundations for my survival.  I learn't my hardest lessons from that period of my life.  I am now more mindful of my emotions and my triggers. I can recognize when I need help, and can actually ask for it. I am grateful for my blessings and have learnt who and what are the most important to me. I am not too sure I could have done all those things without the bitter foreknowledge of my grief.

I actively use RADICAL ACCEPTANCE here. Yes it was such a horrible thing to have happened to me. Nobody should experience the loss of their own children's lives. But oftentimes, we learn the most valuable lessons from our hardest and most devastating experiences. I still have not fully accepted the loss just yet, only yesterday I was sitting in Mass screaming at God 'WHY ME!!!!', I so often baulk in the injustice of it all. But I let myself feel that way sometimes, because that's OK too.

Back to the workshop, one of the facilitators coined a phrase 'Think in Ink'. I loved it. He made us put our biggest hopes and dreams and goals down on paper. In ink. Mine is to go back to University and get my degree in occupational therapy. When I wrote it down, I thought to myself; 'I am going to a damn good occupational therapist'. I haven't been that positive about myself in a very long time. And most importantly, I BELIEVE it. I am not just affirming to myself. I know I will be a great O.T. some day. My personal experience is going to help me to help others.

It excited me and motivated me to kick my disorder up the bum, to rid it from my life, to accept that these thing happened but to wave goodbye to them and look forward to what is around the next corner.


  1. your writing is so touching, so clear and crystal. thank you for sharing this. i don't really know what to say. i hope you still remember this S.O.S. day and think about all those things you've learnt! I'm sorry to hear about your loss, but the way you write about it shows how strong you are! and this mental illness will make you stronger than ever!! <3 God hears your cries, and will give you peace and joy instead dear Andy! God bless you

    1. THank you for your kind words darling. This day will stay with me for a long time. xxx