I was 16 years old. I went to a concert with some friends. Arms linked with my best friend, we were jumping up and down, singing at the top of our lungs. Suddenly, this guy pushes through the crowd. He lays his hand on my arm to push me out of his way. His hand was wet. Germs. The world starts to spin. I grab my friend because I feel like I’m about to fall over. My head begins to pound. My eyes start turning black. I can’t breathe. I begin to sob. I was having a panic attack. I just didn’t know it. I called some friends to take me home.
As soon as I got home I immediately started a rigorous decontamination routine. I poured rubbing alcohol over my arm and waiting for it to dry. I got in the shower and washed my hair and soaped up 3 times, scrubbing the skin on my arm until it was bright red. Once out of the shower, I poured more rubbing alcohol over my arm. I picked my dirty clothes up with a towel and threw them in the wash. Finally I washed my hands again and sanitized my hands and arms. This had become my normal. I knew other people didn’t do this, yet I never sought to get help. Germs were my nightmare. I washed and sanitized my hands so much, my knuckles cracked and bled. I couldn’t use public restrooms. I couldn’t eat food other people had touched. It was crippling.
Eventually as I got into my 20s, these symptoms started to ease. But as they did, other symptoms started popping up. I started having unpleasant heart palpitations. Afraid that something was physically wrong with me, I finally sought help and I was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD. Over the next few years they would put me on and off different medications trying to find something that would work for me. It never did.
As years went on I progressively got worse. Social anxiety caused me to withdraw from others and severely impacted my relationships with friends. Depression began affecting my work life. I would stay in bed for weeks at a time. Not showering. Hardly eating. Completely crippled. But then the symptoms would ease. I would feel better. More confident. I would sleep less. Talk faster and louder. Spend too much money. I felt like I was out of control. I sought help yet again. Finally, I was diagnosed with bipolar II. I was relieved. I had a name for what I was experiencing. I now had a community of other sufferers to empathize with and learn from. I’ve been able to connect with people I never would have otherwise.
But these are the things that are easy for me to talk about. These next few things are much harder.
The symptoms that became the most distressing to me, were things I didn’t even realize were symptoms until very recently. But they were by far the most detrimental. I thought it was just me. That I was naturally a horrible person. So I wouldn’t talk about them. But I understand now. And I hope my words can help someone else going through the same thing.
I first noticed something when I made a new close friend named L. I had this constant fear that she was going to leave me, or like someone else more than me. I would get insanely jealous. When a major issue came up with her best friend, I almost felt relieved to be moved up in the ranks. Relieved? I thought I was a horrible person. When she would spend time with her family I would text her to tell her I was having an anxiety attack and needed to talk because I craved her attention.
I used L to regulate my emotions. I couldn’t do it on my own. My happiness depended 100% on how she was treating me.
Later, this became much worse. I met O. She was like no one I had ever clicked with before. In my mind I felt myself becoming completely obsessed with her. I wanted to text her every day, and not doing so was complete emotional torture. If she didn’t text me back I would have anxiety attacks. I would go on Instagram and see that she liked something so I knew she had been on her phone. I was bordering being a stalker. And knowing that made my already intense emotions 10 times worse.
My relationship with O grew much more intense. She began asking for space. I knew she was catching on to how obsessive I was being. But. I. Couldn’t. Help. It.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the details but I eventually took up habits like self harming, talking about having suicidal thoughts, and even making threats. I did this all because of perceived abandonment. If O saw how sick I was, she would have to stick around to help me. And ultimately, those self destructive behaviors weren’t just manipulative, it was also a way for me to practice regulating my emotions myself when O wasn’t there to do it for me.
One day, a friend of mine, E, who also has bipolar II, was listening to a video in my car. It was discussing the difference between bipolar and borderline personality disorder (BPD). My mouth dropped. That. Was. Me. I immediately took all my embarrassing symptoms to my psychiatrist and was diagnosed with BPD along with the bipolar II, since you can have both at the same time.
Since coming to this realization, I’ve done so much research on BPD and I’ve never felt so validated in my life.
I’m not obsessed, I’m not a horrible, manipulative person. I’m not a stalker. I am just a human that happens to have a disorder.
Even though I suffer every single day of my life, I wouldn’t change a thing. Maybe sometimes I’m too sensitive and clingy, too angry, numb, even dissociative, but I am also powerful. I feel things deeper than many. I am empathetic. I am self aware. I am capable of doing things I’ve only ever dreamed of. I can carry on normal relationships. My relationship with my husband that has lasted 16 years and my friendship with my very closest friend that has lasted 27 years are living proof.
The one thing I would want to tell everyone about mental illness is this: having mental illness never ever invalidates the sufferers feelings. Ever. Period. I’ve had moments when people have told me I only feel a certain way because I’m hypomanic. Or that I’m only saying something because of my BPD.
When I express myself and my feelings of that moment, they are valid. Those are my feelings. That’s not my disorders. That’s me. A human. With feelings.
#dontcallmecrazy. My name is Breanne and I have #bipolar2 and #BPD, but they do not have me.
- Breanne Weber, 2018