When trying to recover/thrive after mental ill-health, everyone accepts you need a support network; friends and family who can come round for lunch, take you out for the day, bring round a motivational DVD or simply phone for a chat. All those people need to understand your condition enough to know when to help out and when to get out before they get something thrown at them. It’s a fine line and not everyone’s able to get it right first time. Some people try too hard. Others, not enough.
But, eventually, you’ll have a support network of people around you, all trying to help you move on with your life. It’s great that all these people are trying to understand your condition and help you through to the other side.
But if YOU don’t understand the day-to-day contents of your head, you’re going to have an existence but not a life. The diagnosis is simply the first step out of dozens YOU need to take. The best way to get on with having a life is to understand your own condition 110%. Read whatever you can about it, and then read it again. Read some more. Talk to medical professionals. Find some more books. You’re not going to agree with the opinions in all of them, just as you’re not going to tick every single box for your particular condition. Not all of us with BPD are manipulative b*tches, for instance. But take the bits that are relevant to YOUR particular manifestation of whatever condition you have, and work out how YOUR brain works.
It won’t happen overnight. It took me 2 years to finally understand exactly how my BPD manifested itself. I’ve then spent a further 2 years trying to put all my reading/learning/listening into practise. I’m now at the point where for the vast majority of each day, I’m handling my BPD rather than it handling me. Of course I have my moments. It’s the start of the Easter Holidays and I’ve had a busy weekend with The Porglets. I’m tired. They make a mess. They push my buttons by refusing to eat their dinner, even though it’s their favourite. They whine about the black & white cat licking its lips at them (seriously – Porglet Minimus has just interrupted with this ground-breaking and clearly terrifying news). It’s hard for me not to lose it with them. Not to snap. Sometimes I do snap, but I’m aware as I do it that it’s my BPD talking. So I apologise, explain that it’s just my “broken brain” being silly and ask them to help out. They do, because they also understand my condition to a certain extent. But only because I understand it enough to explain to them.
I’ve digressed…basically, this post is in response to several blogs I’ve read over the past few weeks where many people with many mental health conditions have talked about their condition without any UNDERSTANDING of what they can do to make themselves better. It’s not their faults; the medical profession seems to think it can get away with saying “you have X, Y or Z” and leave it at that. There are sometimes vague promises of “therapy” at an unspecified date. People are left hanging with a diagnosis but no idea of what it means. This is my urge for the diagnosed to become their own expert. Learn more about your condition than your doctor, because you’re the one who has to live with it. Learn what makes a good day and do more of that stuff. Learn what makes a bad day and do less of that stuff. Learn how you react under certain conditions and work out better ways to react, or at least ways to warn people about what will happen the next time.
YOU are the best person to understand your particular illness. Not an overworked GP, or a consultant who sees you for 15 minutes every 6 months. They might know more about the symptoms and causes, but what’s to stop you learning the same information? If you can understand WHY you have the diagnosis of BPD/Bipolar/OCD/Depression, and what it means for YOUR life, YOU can start to change it into something manageable. You can ACCEPT the difficulties you’re going to face and DEAL with them when they arise. You’re no longer completely at the mercy of your brain because you have knowledge. Know thine enemy, then take great joy in blowing a raspberry at it.