Friday, December 22, 2017

Guest Post - Feeling Like a Fraud - By Personally Borderline (@personallyborderline)

I’ve never been bullied. Sure, I’ve encountered people who haven’t particularly liked me but I haven’t experienced my peers having decided at an elementary student conference during recess that they would no longer speak to me unless it was to poke fun at any and everything I did. I wasn’t popular either, but I was cool with 95% the people I was stuck with for six and a half hours a day.

I’ve had my share of childhood trauma and mishaps, but who hasn’t? I have a house as well as access to food, education, and healthcare. I have a family and a group of really supportive friends. I do well for myself, I can hold a job and go to school 85% of the time. Objectively, you could argue that my life is fine. Yet I’m still mentally ill and I feel like a fraud.

My name is Pers and I’ve been diagnosed with major depression, generalized anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. There are times when the symptoms hit me like a ton of bricks and I know that I’m going to have a moody, tiring day walking a tight-rope in order to be productive without acting out on others. Those days are always exhausting and I’m never as productive as I had hoped, but I’m also higher functioning and there are days when my illnesses are more like background noise instead of principle actors. It is on these days that I sometimes question my diagnoses and wonder if my issues stem from me just not trying hard enough.

The two illnesses that I carry with my all the time are the depression and anxiety, I find the BPD to be most manageable when I step back from close relationships and focus my time on education and work as a distraction. When I’m having a BPD episode, it’s deafening and debilitating enough to have me vomiting and facing waves of panic attacks. I experience irrational thoughts about friends and family plotting against me, I’m constantly overanalyzing myself and poking at all of the attributes I possess that could possibly have driven someone else away (spoiler: the answer is always that every attribute that makes up who I am is what drives people away), and I become defensive whenever anyone disagrees with me about anything because that somehow translates into them hating me as a person rather than them disliking my viewpoint. When it’s under control, however, it turns into my most mild illness.

The depression ebbs and flows with its influence. There are days when I feel heavy, like my entire body is a weighted blanket, and I can’t muster up the energy to go to the bathroom or to eat, never mind go to class or finish assignments. When it’s at its worst I’m researching ways to end my life and staring at blank white walls. When it’s at its best, I just feel empty. A persistent feeling of numbness. I’m not in a negative place but I’m not feeling positive either, I’m just neutral. Nothing is particularly exciting, and life is just a procession of an overfamiliar daily routine, but I’m not angry about that as it just is what it is. I’ve learned to live in this state of apathy for years. At first it was a coping mechanism, getting too excited or invested in things causes me to spiral into extreme moods (looking at you BPD), but now I think it’s my default. So much so that I can’t remember what it feels like not to live like this, and I wonder if everyone else feels the same and I’m just being oversensitive.

Finally, I live with anxiety. These symptoms are not only persistent but they are quite noticeable as well. I feel the faint urge to throwing up almost constantly, I never actually do but I’m stuck with this unsettling feeling that it could happen anywhere at anytime. Additionally, I have a pit of acid that lives in my abdomen and remains there, the more stressed I am the more my stomach-area feels like it’s on fire. When the acid is calm, it’s just a pit but a pit with matter. Almost as if my abdomen is filled with stones and they are dragging me away from friends, responsibilities, leisure, or anything worthwhile. Instead it’s replaced with this sense, this fear, that things are going to go wrong and everything is going to fall apart. This abdominal sensation is so heavy that it keeps me from eating, since it causes me to feel full even when I haven’t eaten anything of substance in day or two. Much like the depression, I’ve lived with these feelings for so long that I can’t tell whether this is unique to the illness or if I’m just over exaggerating sensations that everyone feels for years on end.

I don’t only feel like a fraudulent survivor of mental illness. I feel like a fraud in many other places in my life as well. I sit in class and halfway through answering a question or making a comment I get an overwhelming urge to shut up, pack my things, and run out of the lecture. I feel like I hadn’t truly earned my opportunity to achieve a degree and that my professor as well as my peers will see right through me in any second, ripping my arguments and thoughts to shreds before laughing me out of the class. Then I get back an assignment and I’m validated, one good mark might be a fluke but multiple obviously means I was accepted to my program for a reason.

The same thing happens at work. I come in feeling a little spacey since my brain refuses to process any information and would rather have me feel like I’m floating instead (thank you depression and dissociation) or I walk in ready to fight any and every customer because I am right and they are obviously wrong (BPD I see you perched on my shoulder) and I know that literally anyone could do my job better than I ever could. But then there’s a crises or a conflict and I’m a key part in helping to resolve it. I’ve had an opportunity to call the shots and my workplace didn’t spontaneously combust as a result. That is extremely validating, that and the fact that it’s been over a year and I haven’t been fired so, again, I must be doing something right.

Then there’s mental illness, my second shadow following behind me. It causes me to forget things, namely my sense of purpose and will to live, and minimizes the importance of my responsibilities. I have no concrete way of validating that what I have is affecting my life in the way that I think it is. Sure, my diagnoses have been confirmed by a psychiatrist and I am reassured each week during therapy. But how do I know the reason I’ve stayed in bed and missed all of my classes for three consecutive days is not simply laziness but truly because of an irrational fear of leaving my room (anxiety)? Where’s the proof that the spreading numbness that leads me to believe that nothing is worth doing (depression) isn’t me making excuses for not getting started on projects? How do I know that eclipsing a public space and taking extreme measures to make the area inaccessible to one individual who I feel has wronged me is because of my impulsivity due to BPD and not because I’m just generally a selfish person who won’t accept when I can’t get my way?

Yes I have mental illnesses and the symptoms show, but I’m also high functioning and sometimes the symptoms subside. It’s due to this that at times I can’t tell if my actions are a result of an illness or just me not being the best me that I can be and, until there’s a machine that can look inside my soul and tell me whether I’m an unfortunate product of multiple disorders or just a genuinely bad person, I will never know. It is because of this that I’ll never know if I’m truly the fraud that I think I am…

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