When I was younger I noticed that I had a lot of passions. My friends tended to pick a couple things and stick to them but I was always shifting my attention. I would get incredibly obsessed with a new hobby, let it become all encompassing, and after a little while I would completely lose interest. I’ve always had trouble finishing things. If I’m really depressed I have a hard time starting things too, but when I’m balanced I still have no follow through. I picked up instruments, art (photography, drawing), sports, even foods. I become obsessive and that hobby becomes my sense of purpose. I am that hobby. When I was horseback riding all the time, I was a horseback rider. When I was running all the time, I was a runner. I got into cycling, I was a cyclist. I got into school for Medieval Studies, I was a Medievalist. All of these things become my identity. The trouble is that I finally lose interest in almost everything and with it I lose the idea of who I am.
This is incredibly common with BPD. It’s a shifting pattern of obsession and dispassion. I don’t want to credit BPD for too much of my personality, but that’s hard not to do when you have a personality disorder. I am a swirl of myself and my issues. Whatever the reason, my follow through is terrible and it’s something I’m trying to work on. I still find myself switching quickly between really interested in something and incredibly bored by it. The last few weeks I have been desperately searching for something to do, to hold my interest. Sometimes I have these spells where absolutely nothing is able to hold my attention. I had to force myself to do stuff because my inclination was to give up and do nothing or keep looking for something else to do. I finally managed to play through the story mode of two video games, after much back and forth. And I studied enough math to pass my placement exam.
I wanted to mention this because I think it is a bigger problem for people with BPD or bipolar than others realize. I’m in my 30s and have just now begun a track that will lead me to a real career, mostly because I couldn’t decide what to do with my life before and every time I tried I ended up backing away from it. Even my jobs never last long because I cannot fight through and stay places where I don’t want to be. Granted most of my jobs have been retail and that is soul crushing, but I should still have stayed longer.
My 20s were also interrupted, repeatedly, by depressive episodes and substance abuse. I ended up in the hospital a couple of times in college because I was so suicidal, once because I had overdosed on Ambien, booze, and cocaine. Later I went to work and tried NA but that only made things worse and I ended up using more to the point where I needed rehab, which I did for 90 days. It made a huge difference and I haven’t had a relapse in eight years. Then I moved, went back to school for a master’s degree and didn’t finish because I got so stressed out and depressed. At that point I was off of meds and out of therapy so I didn’t really have any professional support system to speak of, but this was when I found my current therapist, who is awesome. My GP prescribed me Lexapro and, because I have a high sensitivity to these things, I went manic as all hell for over a month. I did everything. I read a dozen books, or more, I traveled all over the Northeast to see friends, I never slept, I barely ate, I was constantly doing something, and I was interested in all of it. Finally, finally, I realized that Oh, maybe, just maybe, I was some kind of manic and needed more help than just Lexapro. This was also the same time that Therapist started hinting at Borderline and I caught the drift.
When I first suspected BPD, I did a ton of research on it. I read everything I could get my hands on, including Marsha Linehan’s textbook (yes, the whole thing). In short, I became obsessed with the diagnosis. It explained everything that BP2 never quite covered. In particular black and white thinking, this pattern of obsession and dispassion, an unstable sense of self, etc. It made sense. It makes sense.
The silver lining to all of this is that I learned a lot about myself and my patterns and with that knowledge I can recognize things before they go south. All of my shitty experiences have led me to where I am now, which is a fairly stable state of mind with a focused track of education and work ahead of me. I have faith that I will be able to stick this one out because I am passionate about wanting to become a nurse. It’s something I’ve wanted, albeit on the backburner, since I was a teenager. When you spend a lot of time in hospitals, you get close to nurses. They are the ones who help you every day, whatever you need. I love that relationship and I want to be that person for others. I think my experiences will improve my empathy and help me connect with patients on a level that helps them. The trick will be keeping myself healthy as well: taking meds, seeing Drs., not overdoing it. If I can prevent utter obsession, I can prevent total shutdown.