therapy posts

Are You Purposely Avoiding Achieving Your Potential?

November 13, 2019
ebony-nash-mental-health-life-writer-blog

Thanks to that arguably click-baity title, if you’ve even landed on this article – chances are you’re not feeling 100% fulfilled in your life. Whether that can be attributed to different areas (e.g. career or relationships), or you feel your life has just become a demotivated veritable shitshow, something is clearly awry. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself trialling self-care measures with gusto, then – after a measly couple of weeks – loudly vilifying them for doing ‘shit all’, only to fall gladly back into the self-destructive patterns you’d tried to replace. Then stubbornly wondered why something’s still wrong.

After all, those self-destructive patterns are just that – patterns – which are, by their very nature, familiar and comforting. And hey, it’s freezing out there right now, so why wouldn’t you want to settle back into the routine of necking bottles of wine under twelve blankets, whilst the life you want passes you by? Hitting the gym at 7am in this weather? Girl, you really are cray.

With a predisposition for being a mood-hopping mardarse (thank you, BPD), I understand this pull back to the messy familiar more than you know. Pessimism was (and sometimes still is) my lifeblood – you’d find old me judging a sober person in a bar, or scoffing at the concept of mindfulness whilst dragging on a cigarette – so, where exactly do I get off writing something with a semblance of self-help to it?

For about 13 years, I spent my time acting like nothing mattered. Nothing apart from my achievements – which I saw as my only true value to the world – and whether or not I was deemed as desirable meant a jot. And when either of those pinnacles of ‘worth’ crumbled, so did my entire sense of self.

Feeding a sense of self on achievements and morsels of affection from inconsistent lovers, unsurprisingly, does not work. When those lifeboats sink, you’ve not built up enough of a foundation within yourself to stay afloat. So you clutch at whatever’s nearest to numb the pain – enter alcohol/drugs, more toxic relationships, avoidance of self-care and most damagingly, the inability to take responsibility for your own destiny. 

By using a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure to distance myself from the fact I wasn’t getting where I wanted to in life; I was miserable, but I was safe. You can’t fail if you don’t try, right? You can’t fail if you’re too busy drinking your evenings away or chasing relationships like your life depends on them. You can’t fail, because you’re not trying. 

It isn’t the nicest sentiment to swallow at first. There’s definitely a wilful percentage of you who’ve just mentally flipped me off and told me to mind my own business. But unfortunately, it’s right. 

When I was living in my ‘fuck it’ bubble – where mental illness and its self-destructive pals ran the joint – I deluded myself over and over that it was okay not to be trying, that I’d been dealt a shit hand, so I should just continue wallowing in the destiny I thought I had no control over. That just surviving was enough – anything else was a bonus. Resigning myself to a life of feeling misunderstood and isolated? That’s just how it was.

With the help of therapy – which has come as a giant stick up the arse – and the wonder of hindsight, teamed with a desire to unravel the person I’d been smothering under self-hatred; it became clear that I was the only person in control of what happens in my life. Hand over the reins to your poison of choice and it’ll do a great job of distracting you, but – in the cold light of day – you’re on your own with this big scary life thing and you’re the only person who has the power to make it better.

This process looks different for everyone. For me, the hardest part has been growing up and taking ownership of myself. Realising that as much as I let myself fall off the rails – nobody else can fix my life for me and the only person I’m truly hurting is myself (and the people who really do love me). Quitting drinking has been another eye-opener, as Drunk Eb took a lot of responsibility for time-wasting and life-ruining. 

Whatever you need to do to reassess factors within your life – and whether or not they deserve a place in it at all – it’s your fight. People around you can help and champion you along the way (and if they don’t, fuck them off and message me on Twitter – cause I sure will) – but you’ve got to put the legwork in and take responsibility for your own happiness. My past was fucking terrible, but as of earlier this year, I’m finally learning that my future doesn’t have to be too. 

If this piece resonated with you, drop a comment below and share a) what you want to achieve and b) what’s in the way of you doing it. Alternatively, you can share with me on Twitter @Ebzo.

BPD A-Z: FAVOURITE PERSON

April 27, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

ebony-nash-bpd-favourite-person-borderline-personality-disorder

Did you ever have that crush in high school, where the person became the focal point of your entire hormone-fuelled universe? Where there was just never enough room to adequately profess your love for them on your notebook? Where the days when you didn’t hear them call out for the morning register became instantly flat and pointless to you?

That time old teenage crush is a bit like the phenomena of the ‘favourite person’ in BPD. They become everything; a walking manifestation of your mental lifeblood: your happiness balances precariously on how they feel and, most importantly, how they feel about you.

With the above analogy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that FPs are only romantic in nature, but this isn’t the case. For those with BPD – who struggle to create healthy attachments after generally chaotic upbringings – these hallowed loves can arise from any guise of relationship: therapists, friends, teachers, coffee shop baristas – you name it, FP doesn’t discriminate.

On the surface, this seems quite harmless for all parties involved – what’s the harm in a bit more love in the world? However, the emphasis has to be placed on quite how much of an impact said FPs can have on the mental (and often, consequentially) physical wellbeing of their BPD counterparts.

Often, we can come across as obsessive. Our FPs become living, breathing drugs to us and simply being in their presence is enough to sustain a high. Given our tendency to be quite amiable and fun to be around at first, we usually gel seamlessly with our new connection and begin spending a lot of time with them. Friendships and relationships bloom and, more often than not, this period is blissful for all parties involved.

This harmony lasts until the FP does something that knocks them from the pedestal they didn’t even know they’d been elevated to. Sadly, this doesn’t have to be a significant slight – nor does the FP have to have done something intentionally to upset the person with BPD – it could be as simple as cancelling plans, or not replying quickly enough to a text. In a bad period, these slights can begin sounding deafening abandonment alarm bells for the BPD sufferer, that only they can hear.

Once something ticks off this highly sensitive alarm system, it’s often a slippery slope to friendship/relationship doom. Our fear of abandonment can still preside in what – to a ‘normal person’ – would be perceived as the healthiest, most loving pairing, but those with BPD are so hardwired to expect the worst that we’ll sometimes create it ourselves.

One of three things happens at this point in the FP relationship. Some people with Borderline will lay it on very heavily in a bid to stay as close to the person as possible, hoping to make them stay. Inevitably, the person receiving this barrage of attention and neediness can begin to feel smothered and may back off. The killer here is that this then just perpetuates the BPD fear of ‘everyone leaves’, even though it was technically by their own hand due to this debilitating fear.

Alternatively, the sufferer may attempt to distance themselves as a defence mechanism, presenting as cold and distant seemingly out of nowhere. At this point – whilst the FP may be feeling confused and even hurt – the person with BPD is struggling intensely and may begin exhibiting self-destructive behaviours. This is often – subconsciously – done in a misguided attempt at conveying their fear and dysregulation to the FP after backing off; hoping they’ll pull them back in.

Where romantic relationships are concerned, this can develop into something called ‘triangulation’, where the person with BPD keeps an old flame on a back-burner in case the new person leaves them. It isn’t done from a place of greed or a desire to cheat; purely as a desperate means of ensuring they don’t end up facing their biggest fear of being alone.

Naturally, this all adds up to a veritable shitshow when it comes to holding down any friendships or relationships, when a person is still in the throes of untreated BPD. With the help of DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy: a course of talking treatment in which the patient learns how to reconfigure the flawed or non-existent coping strategies they have formed in childhood), this can be improved and many with the disorder form healthy, long-lasting connections.

Interpersonal relationships have been one of the biggest struggles within my diagnosis and I’ve done a lot of things in the past that I’m ashamed of; hurting people in a frantic attempt to avoid being hurt myself. Now I’m on the path to recovery, I try to be as mindful and self-aware as possible when it comes to how I react with, and to other people.

One of the most effective strategies I’ve implemented is spending more time exploring my own hobbies and strengths – this blog included – where in the past I’d have wasted hours trawling my (then) partner’s social media, or wondering who they were with if they didn’t reply to a text in a set amount of time.

Think more “if shit happens, it’s going to happen”: you can’t control what people do, you can only control what you do. If you’re being a paranoid partner who’s negative and picky – often without any legitimate reasoning – you’re only going to encourage your FP to want to spend their time elsewhere.

Having ended up alone in the past – almost always by my own doing – and realising that I’ve always bounced back eventually, has been an influential learning curve for me. I’ve seen rock bottom, lived it several times, but I’m still here and arguably, stronger than ever.

These days, the aim is to take the energy I wasted on looking for any clue – real or imagined – to suggest that my FP is going to fulfil my warped belief that nobody is to be trusted, and to plough that into bettering myself. The goal is to become someone that I’m proud to be, and someone that my partner is proud to love.

If you feel affected by anything discussed in this post, or know someone exhibiting similar symptoms with their mental health, feel free to follow and contact me on Twitter @Ebzo. Please bear in mind that I am not a professional and any advice given will be taken solely from my own experiences and research (I am also still very much a BPD sufferer too, as much as I may be high functioning!).

BPD A-Z: ABANDONMENT

January 16, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

When you think of ‘abandonment’, what springs to mind? Children in care? Puppies dumped at a shelter? Simba after Scar takes out his dad and makes him think it was his fault? Probably.

Does the concept of abandonment ever really show up in your day-to-day life?

Does it – often subconsciously – affect 99% of all decisions you ever make?

Does it influence to you push people away before they can leave you – even if you have no evidence that they’re going anywhere?

Probably not, unless you have Borderline Personality Disorder.

There are two sides of the coin when it comes to ‘abandonment’ in the BPD understanding of the term; as conveyed with the above meme. We live life on an emotional buoyancy aid, fuelled by the love of those we let into our little worlds. In the rare event that we get close enough to someone to trust them, we float on that feeling like it’s the first time we’ve ever gotten close to anyone, or anything.

However, if we think – for even a second – that that person is going to deflate that buoyancy aid and leave us flailing in the deep: we’ll pop it ourselves so that we decided to drown, goddamnit.

The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) describes this symptom as follows:

“Frantic attempts to avoid real or imagined abandonment”

Which brings us to arguably the saddest and most frustrating part of this symptom, one which plagues our minds, then ultimately destroys our relationships: “imagined abandonment”. I like to think of myself as a reasonably rational person in day-to-day life, but once my mental health starts playing up and paranoia kicks in – anything goes.

This can be as ‘trivial’ as panicking that someone hates you because they haven’t replied to a text, or – with added stressors that have already heightened your episode – taking an overdose because your boyfriend didn’t get in touch with you and you forgot he was playing football (unfortunately a true story).

When I was diagnosed and learned about the 9 criteria of the illness (of which a patient must exhibit at least 5), this was the one that I initially identified with the least, namely as I’m not a particularly social person. As with all symptoms, however, this manifests in different ways. I usually only react as explosively as mentioned above when it comes to romantic partners, whilst other sufferers will lose sight of reality similarly if a friend cancels plans, or a family member says something that they perceive as a slight.

If you’re reading this as someone who knows somebody with Borderline Personality Disorder and would like to help alleviate any of these quiet fears: just be open with us. Be present and understanding, but ensure that you set some form of boundaries. Tell us that you’re busy doing x, y, z if you can’t talk – please don’t just ignore us if you can help it, as that’s usually a surefire ticket to crazy town.

With occasional reassurance and consistent love, these symptoms lessen in their intensity, but it isn’t an easy ride. Factor in a good support network, medication and DBT – we learn how to spot the tell-tale signs of spiralling before they cause damage.

If you suffer with BPD, know somebody with the disorder, or would simply like to discuss anything mentioned here further – don’t hesitate to find me on Twitter @Ebzo.

Also, on behalf of myself and (I’m sure) much of the BPD community, I apologise for asking “do you still love me?” about 5 times a day. It drives me as mad as I’m sure it does you.

Anti-Depressants: A Love Affair

October 13, 2018

If you’d told me even six months ago that I’d be writing this, I’d have undoubtedly scoffed and begun reeling off tales of how Sertraline made me hallucinate white-noise and blew my anxiety off the charts; staunchly proclaiming that I wouldn’t “touch the shit with a bargepole” again. Until about three months ago, medication just wasn’t a plausible option in the arsenal against my wonky brain. The Sertraline stint had seen me living on the constant verge of panic attack; completely dependent on my ex-boyfriend – around the clock – for the entirety of the fortnight I stuck with taking them for.

Fast-forward seven years and the situation had hit a breaking point. My mental health was plummeting, what with balancing a full-time job and learning to navigate a brain I’d been told was fundamentally broken, without the cognitive tools needed to begin fixing it. NHS mental health waiting lists became ever-more astronomical: I’m still, to this day, waiting to start Dialectical Behavioural Therapy over a year after my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

The avenue of medication was scarcely even considered, given the uneasy marriage of my past bad experience and the fact my diagnosis was borne off the back of an overdose that had left me hospitalised a year prior. Medical professionals offered a mixed bag of opinions, ranging from the endlessly helpful “if you won’t take medication, you’re not trying to help yourself, so how can we help you” assessors, crisis team psychiatrists who tried to put me on Mirtazapine before discharging me to cope with side effects alone, to my own GP, who expressed decided hesitancy whenever we even danced around the subject.

By this point, I was a high-functioning wreck. Frequenting A&E fortnightly, experiencing an absolute rollercoaster of emotions within each mere hour, struggling with self-harm and putting such considerable strain on those around me that people were beginning to throw the towel in, as I’d already done on myself. Imagine living with and loving someone who can go from unnaturally hyperactive and giddy in one moment, to scathing and moody the next. To whom you have to posit every sentence with learned consideration, lest they take something out of context and fly off the handle. All whilst trying to remind yourself that they’re not the living nightmare that increasingly inhabits both their tongue and their actions. Something so desperately had to give.

My GP offered me 10mg of Citalopram, an SSRI anti-depressant that I’d actually heard good things about, in the smallest available dose to lessen the impact of side effects. The first couple of days were surprisingly smooth-sailing – a bit of tiredness here, arguably psychosomatic anxiety there – then it started getting interesting. The tiredness became exhaustion; rendering me essentially bed-bound for nearly a fortnight, with anxiety that morphed into creeping nausea that saw me lose almost a stone in the same timeframe.

I won’t lie: it was hell for almost a month. Once my appetite came back in the third week, it brought with it a pervasive sense of doom that sat heavy on my chest at all hours of the day – warning against absolutely nothing. I did nothing but sleep, watch bleak documentaries and convince myself that I was never going to get any better. Until one day I did.

Day by day, I began to feel that the world became slowly more manageable as my energy returned. The heavy, rotting sensation in my chest that had presented so regularly for as long as I could remember waned, until one day it just wasn’t there anymore. Neither were the occasional bouts of mania that had led to stupid impulsive decisions and the guaranteed decline into heavy self-harming episodes. The easiest way to describe it is that it feels as though someone’s taken the edges off the dangerous sides of my emotions, like the aspect ratio crops itself when the cinema switches to a letterbox-style film; the highs aren’t as high, and the lows most definitely are not as low.

It’s almost three months since I began taking Citalopram and I can quite confidently say that I’ve never felt as consistently mentally well since I was a child. The only danger with this inviting sense of new-found normalcy, however, is that it can make you complacent. ‘Oh yeah, I’m cured now – I can definitely get completely blind drunk, or knowingly mess up my sleeping pattern, or skip meals – without fearing consequence’. Not quite. The only occasion of relapse since I started my medication was due to drinking far too much on an empty stomach.

With said lessons learned, life looks so much brighter since I started taking Citalopram. Not the garishly supermarket-bright of anxiety, but a welcoming lightness filled with prospects. One that uncovers enjoyable things that had lost their shine to my illness – such as writing this post right now – something I haven’t done in over nine months. But most importantly, it’s a light that illuminates the future that I’d so desperately tried to end.


Ebony. 25. Manchester.
Marketing Manager who likes to mouth off on here about stuff she cares about. Expect mental health, Borderline Personality Disorder, and reviews - from restaurants, to books, to fashion. Talks to cats more than people, but seemingly has a lot to say.
ebonylaurenn@gmail.com