Gary’s story – the long road to BPD diagnosis

05/12/2022

Trigger warning - diagnosis, suicidal thoughts

Gary tells us about his journey to being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), the complexities of living with the condition and how he manages his symptoms now. 

I've lived with BPD all my life, though it was only diagnosed in 2019.

All through my working life, I've never been able to hold onto a job for more than 3 years, yet you could say I was extremely ambitious, so these decisions were just natural progression.

It was only into my 40s that my other half pointed out to me that my jobs were like failed love affairs; at the beginning it would be me putting in 200% and everybody thinking I was amazing.

Then 18 to 24 months into it everything would be going wrong in my head, and I'd be seeing everything and everyone as problems and out to get me. However successful I was, I'd jump ship and go into something totally different, and the cycle would begin again. I was like that in my private life too – always looking for the next emotional and physical high!

I had a breakdown in 2012. At the time I was working as a director for an accident management company. I was also in the middle of setting up a legal insurance company, always thriving on pressure with my motto was 'Just bring it. There’s nothing I can’t do!'

It was agreed that I'd take 6 months off and then be ready to take on the world.

Things didn't appear to be getting any better. I was having treatment, but I kept on relapsing.

After 6 years, I was still off with severe depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger issues, and troubling thoughts, feeling really high one moment and so low the next.

1. My condition was worsening

2. The medication wasn't working. It was dulling the effect, to the point I was like a cast member of the 'Walking Dead' but with a roller coaster still going through my head.

At the end of 2018 and the start of 2019, I was finally given the help that I was crying out for, though I wouldn't recommend the methods I used to get that help.

After numerous appointments at my local GP surgery and mental health service providers begging to see a psychiatrist for a professional diagnosis, I was told to pull myself together.

I was told that the only chance I had of seeing a psychiatrist was to attempt suicide (and fail) or be put on the highest dosage of antidepressants for a period of 3 to 6 months and if I was still feeling the same, I would be recommended one.

After speaking with my partner and a lot of soul-searching I decided against suicide (I was that desperate). Instead I asked for the medication to be increased; this was the lesser of the two evils.

  • I was hearing voices; in my imagination I was the reincarnation of an 8th century BC Assyrian Priest.

I spent nearly six months in a virtual comatose mental state. My head was best described as a living hell. I was hearing voices; in my imagination I was the reincarnation of an 8th century BC Assyrian Priest. I felt suicidal.

At that time, I also had a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) assessment where I was told I was fit to start looking for work. Some of the reasons given were that I was wearing clean clothes, was clean shaven and though seemingly noticeably agitated and anxious, not enough.

Thankfully with a lot of support from my partner, family and friends I got through it but as I said, this is not a recommendation.

In March 2019 I was diagnosed with BPD. Sadly once diagnosed, there is little help out there for you to come to terms with being told you have a serious mental illness.

The first thing you learn is that you’re stuck with it, no cure, but with management and acceptance you can, to a certain extent, understand the triggers and try and put coping plans to counteract the feelings.

Easy to say, but tough when your head’s been screaming at you for three hours about "how worthless you are".

Not only is it physically and mentally exhausting trying to stop yourself from doing something silly, you are also very aware what your actions and reactions are doing to all of those around you, which then adds more pressure to a very fragile mind.

I became an amateur expert on the condition and was determined it wasn’t going to take over.

  • By the middle to end of 2019 I had more understanding of BPD but not really any proper direction of living with it.

I tried the recovery college first, where I was lucky to get myself onto a course called 'Living with Personality Disorders', mainly focussing on BPD, which was informative and good to meet other sufferers, as at the time I felt as if I was the only one.

Unfortunately there is not a definitive "one size fits all" solution to deal with mental health issues. By the middle to end of 2019 I had more understanding of BPD but not really any proper direction of living with it.

I knew that I'd had it for most of my life though if I had an earlier diagnosis it may have cautioned my thinking, but I doubt it.

In 2021, I finished a 12 month course with the Suffolk Mind, WAVES group and noticed there was a vacuum left for ex attendees and those who were on the waiting list, so I decided to set up my own group for men with BPD and we meet weekly both remotely and in person.

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