TW - Suicide
Hello, I'm Holly and I live with my gorgeous boyfriend Joe, who I love very much and who has Borderline personality disorder (BPD), a severe mental illness and our Corgi, Mrs Winifred Waffles. My blog is to explain why I think mental illness and mental health are different and how one persons mental illness can affect another persons mental health.
I view mental health and mental illness as different things. Mental health is your state of wellbeing, states can change relatively frequently, you can get from New York to Michigan in 1 hour 15. Whereas, mental illness is something that you live with throughout life trying to cohabit with it the best you can. Going for a walk can't cure mental illness but it can help mental health.
Before meeting Joe, I had been around people struggling with their mental health but never mental illness. Therefore, the only time I had heard of BPD was in murder documentaries, not a great advertiser for it! Although there's lots of information online about BPD that I could've researched, I wanted to get to know HIS mental illness and learn it at a rate that Joe wanted me to. Generic knowledge is always better than no knowledge but you wouldn't say a woman was a Robin just because she had red breasts.
We personify his BPD and call it, Mick and Mick is an arsehole (don't know if I can say that on a work blog, but here we are...) Micks only job is to make Joe feel isolated and unworthy of being loved by himself and others. Because we have been together for a few years now I can often tell when Mick is at the forefront of Joe's brain and has taken over his feelings, emotions and actions as I can recognise the physicalisations such as his shoulders being lifted and his reaction time being delayed. This can be hard as I know that I'm no longer talking to 'my' Joe but his BPD and know that anything I say will be twisted and construed negatively. In this situation I often go quiet, which then gives Mick ammunition and can validate Joe's paranoia that I don't want to be around him/don't love him etc. It's basically a viscous cycle that I haven't quite learnt how to get out of yet.
Alot of the time, I find people listen to be able to speak. However often Joe just needs me to listen. Mick makes Joe have feelings that are quite irrational, I find the best thing to do is to listen, validate that he's feeling like that and then wait until I feel like 'my' Joe is back and then talk through it.
On days where Mick is at his worse, Joe can be completely debilitated by him. Joe loses all concept of time and all train of thought, it's very hard to have to leave him on days like this, if I have work etc. But if I am there I constantly have to remind Joe of what he is doing i.e. going for a shower or brushing his teeth, which can feel like I'm being more a carer figure than a girlfriend.
Joe talks about suicide as often as I say 'Gear 19'! So as strange as it sounds, it has kind of become more normalised to me. Don't get me wrong, it still upsets me greatly that Joe feels this is an option for him but I would much rather him speak about it as it helps him and many others! This was one of the hardest symptoms for me to cope with at the beginning but Joe has always promised me that even though he thinks about it, he never would kill himself and I trust him with everything else so why wouldn't I with that. If I weren't to trust him and left the house every day worrying that he was going to hurt himself then we wouldn't be able to be together today. Now I have learnt to live knowing that about my boyfriend I would say that the hardest symptom to live with on a day to day would be his paranoia which also plays in with his fear of abandonment.
Communication is key in every relationship but it is vital for us, and Joe being as amazing as he is at letting me know how he's feeling and if there's anything I can do to help, really helps me. Something that I used to feel selfish for but now understand how powerful it is, is trying to prioritise MY happiness. I know that Joe is going to have more days that he struggles than I do but that doesn't mean that I have to be struggling too. I can be sad for Joe, but still happy within myself and happy within our relationship. I find I can help alot more and bring more happiness to his darker days when I am happy.
Joe is the most selfless and caring person I have ever met and I feel so lucky to have him in my life. And although I can't help Joe's mental illness long term, I can repeatedly help, short term, for a long time.
Here is a bit more info about the 9 symptoms of bpd but in the form of rap!