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You get hurt by them so easily. You feel you're doing your damnedest for them all of the time, but they don't text you when they should, they don't appreciate your efforts and they make insensitive comments. This is so painful to you, and you respond with the kind of rage you witnessed and absorbed as a child. It happens so often you feel like leaving altogether. One moment you love this person fiercely, the next you loathe them. You run away into the night. Maybe you cheat on them in desperation and confusion. Your perfect dream life falls apart.
So ashamed and wanting to be perfect, you confess what you have done. They're deeply hurt, but they forgive you. But soon another fight happens. Rage, abandonment. Eventually they tire of your craziness and you break up. You're left alone to try and cope with the loss. They were your everything and you're left with little to no identity on your own. You're depressed. You pull yourself together somewhat, try a new relationship or two, but it's always the same. Why are they so insensitive?! You love them, you hate them, you cope by engaging in reckless behaviour. It's ugly.
You've spent your whole life trying to be good, polite, self-sacrificing, romantic, generous, loving, and it just seems like everyone else is a selfish, thoughtless bastard and it hurts like hell. And then here you are failing to handle it well, handling it miserably in fact, and there's so much time and effort and money wasted, and so you seek pleasure where you can - booze, drugs, sex, gambling, speed racing... Sometimes you just don't give a fuck, sometimes you care deeply. You start to feel suicidal. You scramble desperately to keep things going and people call you manipulative for it.
Of course this is all going on before you've been diagnosed with BPD so you're just kind of sitting there with your broken relationships, your intense moodswings, and your inability to take criticism, and you're at a loss as to why everything is so frustrating and painful. You may have never even heard of BPD let alone consider that you have it. You can't take criticism because you're always doing your best, you have a huge perfectionist ego, and even the slightest negative feedback makes you worry that you're unlikeable and you will be abandoned or fired from your job.
So your home life is shaky and you're tired at work because you smoke too much weed and your boss gives you some arguably unnecessary feedback and your underdeveloped BPD-related amygdala doesn't prevent the fight or flight response so your anger level goes from zero to ten in one second. You might yell or swear or storm off in a huff like a five year old child. You might calm down after a bit but your mood is likely to be shitty for the next few days. You cope by relying on your vices. You're losing hope. Thoughts of suicide.
No, I got that wrong. You don't have an underdeveloped amygdala. A quick fact check on Google says it's overactive and it causes your fight or flight response to kick in too easily. Either way, under stress your thoughts and behaviours are abnormal and this gets you into a lot of trouble and turmoil. You become depressed. You've been told antidepressants might help in the past but you resist because you've also heard how terrible they are. You stick it out for more suffering. Thoughts, attempts. Sooner or later you wind up on a psychiatric unit for the first time.
Maybe your roommate finds you unconscious and calls 911, maybe your latest domestic dispute had you on the apartment balcony ready to jump. The police come and roughly twist your wrists and shoulders into handcuffs, maybe you finally bravely walk into emergency on your own. Whatever the case, after a short wait after triage, you're called into a private room and told to change into a gown and slippers. They collect your clothes and belongings. Maybe you're crying harder than you ever have in your life as they wheel you down to 1A. It has come to this. You're terrified.
Got a bit too vividly anecdotal there. Haha. So generally speaking, you go in for maybe ten days. It's not nearly as bad as you thought. Your fellow patients are interesting, you get some well needed rest in. What's really terrible is the amount of time you get to see your psychiatrist. They pop in every few days for maybe ten minutes max. You see more of student doctors and angelic nurses. You attend group sessions that teach wellness. Why isn't anyone asking about your childhood? You can't offer clues you're not aware of yourself. You're misdiagnosed with Major Depression.
Well, maybe you do qualify as depressed, but there's another monster lurking quietly underneath it all. Their philosophy upholds the least invasive solutions at the beginning, so it's a let's-try-this-more-easily treatable-diagnosis kinda deal. They send you off to the month-long morning wellness classes, they also offer a prescription and a follow up session with a psychiatrist in a few months. You attend half the classes but then you just want to go back to work and put it all behind you. The pills make orgasm impossible, and it was just
depression anyway. No more meds, you decide. Yeah!
Two years later, the continued myriad stresses of working, volunteering, studying, and relationships, combined with more unsustainable ways of coping with them and other exhausting, BPD-exacerbated trials, has rendered you an addict of some sort. Maybe you've become addicted to the VLT's you find in some pubs and bars. You've hit rock bottom: you've alienated everyone around you, you've committed crimes to feed your addiction, you're feeling suicidal again. Maybe they can help you again at the hospital? They admit you again. Verdict: Major Depression with Pathological Gambling. They refer you to 12-Step groups and a gambling counselor, another prescription.
You go to the gambling counselor, she tells you all about the very, very low probability of winning, the way the machines are programmed to trick you into thinking you're about to win, how gambling is just a fun activity for rich people, but you're not really there. In your head, you're in front of the machine, feeling all sorts of thrills and chances. Big wins that you feel are owed to you after such trials and losses. You've forgotten your family and friends. But look at you - still kicking! Haha! After your session, you head straight to the bar.
You go to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting and these regular strangers are the ones to make you realize how crazy you've been acting. Mind blown. Tears of shame. But soon it happens again. You put all your money into the machines. You're late on rent and phone bill, debts go unpaid. Suicidal but you can't bring yourself to do it. Maybe somehow you can be normal again? Back to the hospital. They admit you but you're given the tiniest partitioned corner of a room for your stay. You're costing the government a lot of money. You miss your grandmother's funeral.
After turning yourself in at work for stealing $200, you're so humiliated that you resign and take out your pension savings. You've decided to use that money to start a new life in another city across the country. You stuff your whole life into five suitcases and buy a bus ticket. You check your luggage at the depot and then skip across the street to the casino and blow half of your new life money in an hour. The government is costing you a lot of money. You still won't relinquish control and it makes for a long bus ride.
Your abstinence doesn't last long in your new city. Only a few days, in fact. As they say, wherever you go, there you are. You're more isolated than ever, you still have more cash than you have in a while, and the machines in the bars here have different games! You gotta try them, plus maybe beginners' luck is a thing in a new location? You find a decent in room in a shared apartment and an exhausting job that's too far from where you live. Four months later, you're in bed for two weeks, exhausted, depressed, unemployed, broke, suicidal.
You spend your days sleeping and the chatting via text message with the volunteers on crisis lines. They're sympathetic and tell you to go to the hospital but you're afraid to go to an unfamiliar hospital in an unfamiliar culture here. So you're about to do it. You've got a lot of insulin at the ready and you don't know your roommates well enough to feel bad about burdening them with the discovery. You're writing your note, listing the names of all the people you forgot in this madness, your resolve breaks as you write the names of your nephews.
Your back is causing you incredible pain. Weeks in bed without eating much have weakened your core, and your vertebrae are locked out of place. But still, with your last ounce of strength you shamefully traipse a path through the snow to the hospital. You're met with fresh kindness and concern. You gobble down what's given to you and fall asleep. It's so easy to sleep. In the morning they transfer you to the mental health hospital for your district. You get a bed in the emergency wing there - one of twenty cots lining the hall of a single hallway.
You spend a few days there and then they organize for you to go to a rehabilitation center for your gambling addiction. You're astonished and so grateful that this province provides rehab for gambling! And now, even though you think you might benefit from medication and would commit to taking it for a long time, they send you off in the taxi without medication. They say they tend to treat the addiction and then work on whatever mental health issues remain. For the first time in a long time there is hope for you. Rehab! Things are gonna be okay.
The first few days of rehab are bittersweet and bewildering. It's Christmastime so a lot of the staff are on holidays. Altered services, but you have nothing to compare it to. You wander around the facility in a fragile fog. You get your own room, which is nice. The mattresses are laughably thin, a running joke among the clients and staff. Your mood is really low - understandable for what you've been going through. The meals are good. You can take as much as you want. You're assigned chores for each morning. Everyone walks laps around the building twice a day.
Your mood is incredibly low. You're the only gambler among the other addicts and they downplay your situation. You didn't bring indoor shoes or any extra clothes so you have to wear communal Crocs and the nurses complain about you being sent here so unprepared. The hospital that sent you apparently has a bad reputation for this. Your back is really hurting so on day three you decide to do yoga in the activity room instead of joining the others for the morning walk. Some dude returns from holidays and his first words to you are "You're supposed be outside."
You're suddenly filled with such frustration and despair. You try to explain how your spine is crooked and you think yoga would be more rehabilitating than a walk but he says that you have to get permission from the nurse in order to be excused from scheduled activities. You try not to cry as a wave of anger and self pity overcomes you. You're not a child! You gobble to the nurse's office. You sit across from her and explain the situation. She changes the subject, tells you that the staff is noticing how you appear withdrawn, unhappy. What's wrong?
Are you still having suicidal thoughts? Yes, you admit. Do you have a plan? You don't really intend to do it, but you confess that sometimes you think about wrapping the phone cord around your neck. Before you can say anything more, she is pressing buttons out of view under the desk and soon firefighters arrive and then the ambulance and you are forced to go with the paramedics to the hospital in the nearest town for an evaluation. And hopefully a prescription, says the nurse. You are so fucking frustrated at this point. You refuse to utter another word.
You are not speaking, you don't eat anything on your tray. They ask you if you want to go back to the rehab centre and you give no response. You've given up. You hope they lock you away forever. You're not even hungry anyway. The next day they roll you into another ambulance and it's back to the city, back to the first hospital you walked into about a week ago. They admit you to the ward. You are glad. You prefer these slippers to those Crocs. No one makes you exercise. You finally get diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
A social worker helps you apply for the provincial health coverage. You were too busy gambling to do it yourself. The government will retroactively pay for your care. She also helps you apply for welfare. You must get photos taken in order to get your health card. You have no money whatsoever. Your psychiatrist insists that you borrow money from someone to pay for the photos at the drug store. You really don't want to, but she insists. Thankfully, you have a friend from back home who moved here around the same time you did. He visits, lends you $20.
Your sweet landlady also comes to visit. She's a well-to-do nurse so she's quite sympathetic and doesn't mind that the rent is late. She's also a devout Christian. You get discharged after two or three weeks. They still won't give you any medication because there won't be a psychiatrist following you in the community. You're told you've been put on a long waiting list for a psychiatrist and an even longer waiting list for BPD therapy. You walk home from the hospital through deep snow. Sunshine. For the next few months you will receive $639 each month from the government.
Your plan is to start going to GA meetings and to do what you can to learn about BPD on your own. In those first months, you go to four or five meetings per week. It really helps. Everyone at the meetings understands what it's like to be a compulsive gambler. They buy you sandwiches, they give you plastic containers of pasta and homemade soup, and they give you rides back to the Metro. They call you everyday. They really care. They don't expect a financial contribution. You go to the food banks, have suppers at the mission houses. Alive.
Your psychiatrist refused to sign the medical papers that would give you an extra few hundred dollars per month because she thinks you're capable of working. You think so too but your confidence is toast so you enroll in a workforce reinsertion program. You spend the next six months working in a charity bookshop. Social workers meet with you weekly to make sure all your needs are being met. You remain abstinent from gambling within those six months but as soon as your placement ends, the stress of your new café gig and a poor sexual choice trigger a relapse.
You have put too much faith in GA's power. It will not be able to help you with the BPD. To be fair, someone did call you a few months ago to inquire whether you were still looking to meet with a psychiatrist, but you felt strong then and didn't want to use up any more resources. You are bad at scheduling appointments, any kind of health-related administration. Being on hold makes you anxious. You are still smoking chronically, still oversexed. Time stolen, energy sapped. You feel you have let everyone in the program down. You feel so ashamed, worthless.
Your relapse lasts several months. You go to meetings and bare your soul and everyone tries to deliver the message that will hit home, but you've left yourself without money and it is so hard to climb back from zero. The compulsion is very strong. It is so tempting to try and multiply what little you bring in from the tip jar. You even clean someone's apartment twice in your free time but you lose the cash in hand both times. You have no calories to spare. You're weakening again, thinning. One day you can't bear to go to work.
You resign, admitting to your boss that you have a gambling problem. You assure him that you haven't stolen any money. You've learned your lesson in that regard. He wishes you well for your recovery. You think you should give rehab another try. You go for an assessment. You wait weeks for them to decide. It's grim, but finally you are accepted. You feel like a burden asking your sponsor for a ride out to the facility. He really doesn't mind. You're more aware of your BPD traits by now. Let the criticism come.
(Continued and concluded in March 2020)
The Tip Jar