This guest post by Sue Sibbald is reposted with permission from Sue’s blog Borderline Personality and Me. For more information about Sue, see below.
I collected postcards. They are miniature moments captured in time: stories and pictures. Encapsulated – people’s precious moments. I collected those moments. I like to see those happy times. I like the texture, the touch, the landscapes, the feelings. People are happy and I smile. Every picture tells a story… postcards.
When I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder I remember the psychiatrist asking: “What are you feeling Sue?”
I remember stopping and thinking, and trying to feel, but nothing came. “I don’t know.” “I’m not sure.” “I’m… I’m confused.”
One of the diagnostic manuals that gives us our labels is called the DSM IV. You need five of nine criteria listed to be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder – no wonder there’s confusion. I just want to mention two. These two mean I don’t really know the answer to who I am.
1) Identity Disturbance, markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self.
2) Chronic feelings of emptiness.
Intrinsically linked, I think: I feel empty because I do not feel anything. I don’t know who I am, what I like, what I want in life – I am lost. I am one of those people in the postcards, walking along, living my life in a single frame, in a snapshot, repeating myself over and over, divorced from reality, just a figment of my own imagination. Lost.
I realised I watched people so I can be like them. I learn how I think I should feel and how I should be. I’m not happy, I’m not me. But I know about people – I feel their sadness and it hurts, I feel their pain, I cry lots. I see their happiness. I see.
Life isn’t like postcards.
Life is like postcards.
Recently I came across a black and white postcard dated 1964, from my mum to my auntie. My mum had been diagnosed with schizophrenia the year before. This is an extract:
“Susie has just learnt to pull herself up to standing in her cot. She doesn’t like the sand, cries when she sees it. I feel as though I’ve been here a month already!”
Postcards can tell a certain truth, a reality, a sadness, of how things can really be. I can guess what my mum was feeling, but I do not really know – but I do know that makes me feel sad. There’s a story behind every picture. Was your holiday all sun, sea and sand? Or a false grin, to mask a pain.
As for me, I am now beginning to get a sense of who I am. I use mindfulness to name and describe my emotions – I’m beginning to know me and what I want, and I’m willing to put up a fight to get it. Helping people with BPD get the help they deserve and supporting them is my mission.
The past may be sad, but I am here in the present right now. I can make my own postcard, I don’t have to live my life through other people’s pictures.
I still like to look, though, at people’s precious memories. It makes me feel warm, it makes me feel I can feel.
I stopped collecting postcards.
Sue Sibbald campaigns for better services for people with borderline personality disorder. She runs #BPDchat on Twitter every Sunday at 9pm BST 4pm EDT. She trains CMHT staff in BPD awareness and delivers psycho-education for people with BPD. She is a governor for Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust.
Sue blogs at: http://bpdffs.wordpress.com/
and she is on Twitter at: @bpdffs