Tuesday, December 18, 2007

About a Dog

Sometimes we just have to pause, catch our breath and remember the important things in life. I've been struggling, trying to find the right words to explain what has made me believe that I can be a part of the generation that change things. I've looked everywhere for inspiration and suggestions but sometimes everyday, ordinary things happen and you just say, f____ it. Life's too short to search high and low for the right words.

And so, my dog died today. We knew we had to let him go as it would be selfish of us to have him suffer any longer. Sunday night as I said my goodbyes and kissed him on his forehead I whispered to him, hey, you come and meet me when I get up there, okay? You promise? That night I crowned him to be my very own Virgil as I sail along into the next world. It comforted me to think I'd see that bugger again. But somehow those few words also meant I would have to live out my life. Not that many people think of things like that — even if your very own dog dies — but I do. It wasn't too long ago that I couldn't see anything but the very end.

My outlook was bleak. Each day was an internal struggle to keep myself alive. The pain was so great I was no longer safe. I began to drink heavily. Even if I was sober, I would be afraid to drive. I stopped wearing belts and pens, pencils or kitchen utensils became potential weapons. I was in such utter turmoil I began telling my dear friend all my passwords to my finances and personal matters. She had the wisdom (or fear) to tell me I needed help, help more than my usual the once-a-week therapy sessions and daily antidepressant could do. And at that, I checked myself into the hospital.

A month and a half later my social worker took out what looked like the bible for shrinks: the DMS-IV. She began to read these sentences aloud, asking me if I identified with any of them. One by one, she read each criteria and by the ninth bullet point I thought she was reading my autobiography. Amanda, she said, have you ever heard of borderline personality disorder?

From twelve years of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and meds I have never heard those three letters, BPD, put together in front of me. Yet it has only been eight months since I left that hospital (the one place I thought would swallow me whole) and my life has completely turned around. The program has helped bridge the gap of what once was to what I've always thought was within me. They have given me the tools, confidence and understanding i could have not otherwise known. Without the fellow patients, social workers and doctors working together i wouldn't be able to identify my emotions, understand my triggers and work through my urges. It is here that I listened and was listened to with compassion, kindness and good will. It is here that i let my guard down and let people in and be strengthen by them. It has truly been a complete and total experience and i will always take it with me. So much so, I've begun to help others in the same predicament I had found myself in. I still struggle to get through the day, some more difficult than others, but it can never be as worse than the all those years before my diagnosis.

If it weren't for my crisis (and for my dear friend), I don't believe I would have received the proper treatment. The hardest part of living with BPD is getting the diagnosis. Many end up misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, over-medicated and even worse, receiving treatment that exacerbates the very symptoms it is trying to manage. This is why I've been wanting to be an agent of change. There is so much that needs to be done in this fairly new field. We ourselves are the only ones who can make that first step. I know now that I am not alone in rebuilding my life, learning new coping skills and yes, just plain and simply, living.


Rebecca said...

This isn't about a dog. It's about courage. Which you obviously have a lot of. I admire your courage to get through these tough situations, and admire you even more for being able to share it with others. Stay strong. And thank you for sharing.


Thanks for sharing Amanda...you must feel like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders. I'm so excited to watch you make a difference and knowing you - I'm sure the impact will be unimaginable.

Amanda, NYC said...

Thank you Rebecca and Marichelle. It's been a long and winding road and I'm happy I can finally share it with you. Thanks for believing in me!

Amanda said...

You've made me cry.

Thank you for telling your story. You have no idea how happy I am to know you.

Thank you, Amanda, for your desire to help others.

Zandra said...

You have come a long way and how excited i am for you and the person you have become. Your courage and strength are admirable. It touches me that you were finally able to share your story with others. I support all your endeavors. You are now doing what you have also wanted to do..help others!