Nonfiction | An Unquiet Mind

Maybe You’re Alright

The day to day adventures of a husband and father with borderline personality disorder.

Before I begin, I want to thank someone I have never met before, but inspired me to begin this journey as a way to heal myself, and possibly help many others who may be suffering. Her name is Laura Turner, and she writes many stories on her struggles with anxiety and panic. In a deep, dark place where you often feel alone (friends and family cannot even comprehend it’s depth) it is always nice to find someone who shares in your thoughts and feelings and understands the struggles. So Laura, if you ever read this, thank you for being the catalyst to me beginning to share on this open platform. 

To someone on the outside looking in, mental health is scary as hell. Images of  psych wards crop up, straight jackets, padded rooms, bottles of pills or burly men dressed in white holding someone down long enough to administer some sci-fi injection that magically knocks the person out, rendering them less of a danger to themselves and those around them, if only for a little while. I see it. I see it in the eyes of my wife. I, sadly, see it in the eyes of my children. I see it in the eyes of family members and friends. They all claim to understand, but deep down inside they are scared to death that you will make a scene. Become the monster under the bed that they fear so much. Unleash your demons on them like something from a possession film they watched once on a rainy, dark day. People fear what they do not understand, and for some reason, no one on the outside wants to understand mental health. It is a dirty little secret. Tell someone you have cancer or need a new heart and you get all kids of  pats on the back about how you are a survivor, a fighter, that you will make it, that you can beat it, that you are strong enough to fight it. Tell someone you have mental health issues and they either run like hell or ignore everything you have attempted to share. It is a battle we fight without “atta-boys” or “Get Well” cards.  And all too often we fight these demons alone. 

To those of us on the inside, it is nothing like that. As someone in the struggle, fighting to breathe as you sink under the waves, you sometimes wish it was. You sometimes wish they would take you away and put you somewhere and medicate you until you shuffle around in hospital socks, drooling uncontrollably and babbling incoherently.  You want to hide in your bed, under the blankets, away from the world that neither understands you nor wants you a part of it. I don’t want to be a monster. I don’t want my demons to be set free. I would let them eat me from the inside out and end this shit if I could. That is the part about mental health that many do not understand. It is a disease.  But it is not a disease that will kill you, unless it overtakes you to the point of ending your own life. It just takes giant bites, then disappears as you fight to heal. Just when you feel like yourself again, whatever that is, it is there to take another bite from the same wound. Still tender, still healing, still sore. This bite hurts more. Each bite does. But maybe you’re alright. Maybe this time will be different because you have been bitten before, and you always bounce back. “Think positive!” my therapist always says. In her defense she is excellent at what she does and really has helped, but just like the rest of the world not sinking, she really has no idea what is going on. 

“Why can’t you just take medication like everyone else?” I have heard that so many times I want to let my demons out to play for awhile. There are a few things people without mental health issues do not understand. First, medication really does not help borderline personality disorder.  Medication works great for depression, sometimes. It works great for psychosis, sometimes. But for those of us blessed with borderline, all they can do is bounce meds off the walls and give advice on how to “think positively”. Keep in mind, medications designed to help those of us with mental health carry many nasty side effects. I have been through the gamete of  meds. The last one I was on, Cymbalta, not only did not work, but after a couples years at 60 mgs a day, coming off of it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Now I assure you, I am pretty much a square. I don’ drink. I don’t smoke. I have never tried any illegal substances, as crazy as that sounds. When ever a doctor would prescribe me pain medication for a surgery, I never got hooked. I never needed more. I just do not have that addictive gene in my body. So I thought coming off Cymbalta would be easy. Over 150-days later I still had those wonderful “brain zaps” that would come one like a lightening storm inside my head and leave me confused and disoriented. With bottles of Cymbalta in my medicine cabinet I had to rush and get rid of all of it so I did not begin taking it again to get rid of the storm. Spend a week full of nights lying in your bed, your brain firing off like the 4th of July, and try to sleep. Add mental health to no sleep and you get a bad mix. The demons feed off a weakened body and mind. And the bites hurt more.

Another part of borderline that many do not understand is there is always this giant, gaping hole right in the middle of you that you cannot fill. You have amazingly happy times, and the feelings last a day or two at the most. You live in those days, cherish them, and do all you can to be the best husband and father possible in those moments because they are gone as quickly as they arrive. And your demons do not allow joy and happiness to stay, because they whisper in your ear that something bad is going to happen, soon. Instead of enjoying the moment, you fear the falling down, the bites, that are soon to follow. No good comes without bad. And nothing is ever good enough to fill that hole.  Not job success. Not academic success. Not money. Not the successes of your children or spouse. Nothing. The gaping hole is never filled and it never heals, it just adds to the pain of the bites. 

My therapist once asked me to describe how I feel on a daily basis. I thought about it for some time because every day is different. Every morning I open my eyes I have no idea what the demons have in store for me, so explaining how I feel is nearly an impossible task. The more I thought, the more I formulated a picture in my head. Anyone who has worked with or around gasoline knows just how dangerous it is. In an enclosed container, gas in it’s fluid form is certainly flammable, but it is not half as dangerous as the fumes that emit from gas. Next time you fuel up your vehicle, stand back a few feet on a sunny day and look closely at where the pump inserts into your car. You will see the fumes permeating the air. There is a reason you shouldn’t smoke or use your cell phone or leave your car on when you fuel up. It isn’t the gas going into the tank, it is the fumes engulfing you as you holding the pump handle down. That is where the danger lies. Place a closed can of gas in an enclosed room and the chances are very slim that a spark, or even an open flame, will cause an issue. Now, place a five-gallon bucket of gasoline with no lid in an enclosed room for 20-minutes and cause a spark. Make sure you are about 100-yards away because there will be a giant explosion. I am rambling here, but to go back to my therapist’s question, as I shook the cobwebs I had an answer. “Every day feels like I am walking around carrying two-five-gallon buckets of gasoline with me, just waiting for a spark.”

But then my mind rests for a minute and I think, “Maybe you’re alright”.