Mind Matters: Fiona Kennedy Talks About Living With Borderline Personality Disorder and Depression
Changing minds about mental health, one conversation at a time.
Many people hold negative opinions towards people with mental health problems because they don't understand the issues involved and are relying on myths and misconceptions.
"I want to make mental illness something people aren't afraid to talk about, and encourage anyone struggling to realise they're not the only one", writes Fiona Kennedy, who's living with Borderline Personality Disorder and depression. "It works both ways - on a bad day, hearing from others helps me, I hope I can do the same for them".
Here, in a powerful post, Fiona talks about living with a mental illness. Warning, some people may find this post triggering.
Do you know what's absolutely wonderful? Waking up, and actually feeling happy to be awake. I had genuinely forgotten what that feels like. I have clinical depression, and for so long now, I've been crawling into bed as early as possible, confident in the knowledge that medication would put me to sleep and give me a break from my brain.
Waking up has been horrible, like trying to pull myself out of the deepest hole, while all the while being pulled back down, and not only that, fighting against the urge to give in and allow myself to be pulled down. Giving in would have felt like such a relief. Everything, absolutely everything, has been the most monumental chore. Actually, no, chore isn't nearly a strong enough word. Hoovering is a chore. Unloading the dishwasher is a really tedious chore. But waking up, surfacing from the relative peace of sleep, into yet another day with a depressed mind tainting absolutely every thought, and every action? That's so much more than a chore. It's a waking nightmare.
Someone asked me recently why I'm depressed, how can I be when I have so much going for me.
On paper things sound great - I’m young(ish), married, have two gorgeous kids, dogs, good friends, a supportive family, a secure job, and the privilege of living in a really beautiful place.
Yes there are stressors, but not really more than the average young family - juggling work and kids, time pressure, finances etc. I think finally, I have come round to the belief that for me, there is no great underlying reason. No childhood trauma, no bereavement - it's an illness, biochemistry, something slightly wrong with how my brain is wired. Call it what you want, the end result is the same.
Yes, there are triggers - tiredness, isolation, stress, financial stress etc etc - but these are things that for the majority of people, while difficult, can be overcome. For me, they start a process that unless I'm really vigilant, will spiral out of control and into depression.
I have long wrestled with the idea of medication. Do I really need it? Is it changing the essence of me? Am I ok, or am I only ok because of the medication? Will I need to take it forever? Adding to these questions was the fact that no medication was really giving me any consistent period of stability anyway, so it didn’t even seem to make sense to be taking them.
As a result of all this, I was recently taken off them for a trial period to see how things would go. In short, they didn’t. It was an absolutely horrendous few months for me and my family, both while I was tapering off the medication which was challenging in its own right, and then the subsequent spiral into depression the longer I stayed off it. So to answer my question - do I really need it? Yes!! Finally, there is no longer any doubt in my mind. The diabetes analogy is a good one, and used frequently. Diabetics need insulin. It doesn't change who they are, but they physically need it to be well. Apparently my brain doesn't generate enough serotonin, and I need that to be well. The medication helps. I was going to say I'm resigned to the idea of having to keep taking it, but that sounds defeatist. I'm not resigned. I've accepted that for now, I need it, and I’m so grateful to have struck on a combination of drugs that works for me after more than two years of trial and error. It may need tweaking in the future, and my triggers will remain. But certainly right now, there’s no doubt - the medication is helping.
A year ago I started writing a blog to help me find my way through life with a mental illness. Since then, I've explored the idea of depression being a strange kind of gift, a teacher, one that will keep coming back until the lesson is learned. It seems I have a lot to learn!
I think the lesson this time was one that I have always struggled with - acceptance. Acceptance of who I am, what I have, and what I need. I am not depression, nor does it define me, but I have it, and one of the things I need to help me manage it (there are many), for now and the foreseeable future, is medication.
If I can finally rest easy with that knowledge, then the last few months haven't been wasted. I'm starting to breathe again.