Tracy Barker, author of A Sad and Sorry State of Disorder, is an expert by experience on how to live with and manage borderline personality disorder (BPD), now a happily married home maker committed to raising awareness of BPD, she has written an emotional and honest piece on how it feels to have BPD, the struggles and how to deal with it; one step at a time.
One step, then take a break –
a few days, to recover.
One step, then rest
before embarking on another.
One step, then catch your breath
regather your composure.
One step – you can’t give up –
grit your teeth and take one more.
One step – that’s all you need
to make it to the next one.
One step, and soon you’ll see
how far you’ve nearly come.
I chose the first stanza of this poem as the epigraph for A Sad and Sorry State of Disorder – A Journey into Borderline Personality Disorder (and out the other side), my book that is publishing in June. Today, the poem has been brought to my mind as I find myself feeling besieged by waves of panic, anxiety, self-doubt and self-loathing. When I was in therapy, I was encouraged to take tasks or situations which felt overwhelming and break them down into manageable bite-sized chunks. Although the poem was written to illustrate how hard it is sometimes to take one more step and how important it is to keep going no matter how hard it can be, I am now using it as a base to ground myself, slow myself down and face one hurdle at a time.
I am beginning to question whether I really have what it takes to be a writer. By this I mean that I have already written all the critiques and reviews for my book (and they are not pretty) and the thought of seeing them in print written by people who see the flaws even more clearly than I do, and can write them more eloquently, is nothing short of terrifying. I am seriously questioning what possessed me – someone with borderline personality disorder – to think this was ever going to be a good idea.
Criticism is hard to take at the best of times and rejection is a red-rag to a bull. I have considered cancelling my book launch before I’ve even planned it properly – I can’t plan it because every time I think about it I feel like the biggest fool I ever knew: I will be the laughing stock of everyone who comes across my feeble attempt to make a difference. I have even wondered whether it is too late to stop the book being published at all.
It is hard to decide if I’m more worried about people not reading my book (because I really do want them to read it) or people reading it and not liking it (and I really do want them to like it). I am having difficulty differentiating between what is unrealistic paranoid ideation and what is acceptable suspicion and fear in these circumstances. I am fighting back tears when I think about the catastrophe (the publication date of my book) that is about to unravel, that is less than 6 weeks away. I am scared and I am sinking slowly back into the familiar rut of ‘stupid’. What was I thinking? Seriously, what!
What I was thinking was that too many people still believe borderline to be untreatable, and that people who suffer from borderline will never change. I was thinking that people with borderline are still treated like vermin, quite often, when they present with self-harm or suicidal thoughts, and they are written off as attention seekers. I was thinking that it is often difficult for family and friends who don’t always know what is going on, and don’t know how to help their loved one. I was thinking back to how it felt when the concept of hope was as real to me as a unicorn, and how alone I felt because nobody could ever possibly understand what I was feeling. And I was thinking of the fear I felt when I first received the bpd label, and the lack of hope I found when I began to read up on the apparent death-sentence I had been given. That is what I was thinking!
And now, as the build up to the publication of my book coincides with Borderline Personality Awareness Month, I find myself feverishly picking apart an entirely new sentiment of a poem, and finding comfort as I remember to breathe and pause, breathe and pause. One step at a time, because anything else is just not helpful. One step, then breathe and pause.
It isn’t easy to quench this sort of emotional frenzy, which is so inherent in borderline, but it is possible, and that is why I wrote my book. It is also why, before being generously drenched in a fresh wave of panic and dread, I was attempting to write a piece for BPD Awareness Month. Having been momentarily waylaid by the more pressing battle between myself and the proverbial demons within, I have managed to cobble together some semblance of a counter-attack on the lies I am fighting.
This is how it is with borderline, as anyone who has experienced it from either side will know. A swing, vacillating between intense highs and desperate lows – a swing you can’t get off. But you can slow it down and you can lessen the impact of the emotional extremes experienced.
With the right help and a lot of hard work, there is hope for people who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and that is the message I would send again and again to sufferers, family, friends and professionals: there is always hope, please don’t give up!
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