Me With the Label, and Me

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My name is Louise and I have BPD

I have been in services all of my life – under the care of social services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and adult mental health services. Although social services let me down, I should be grateful that I had a system to look after me. I shouldn’t talk about the cover-up that happened. They at least had one meeting with NSPCC to ‘learn from their mistakes’. The past is in the past; no need to talk about it.

Even though I’ve had decisions taken away from me all of my life, at 18 years of age I should be able to cope in the big wide world.  It doesn’t make sense that I can’t budget, cook or, most importantly, take care of my son. Clearly, I’m not trying hard enough.

When I take an overdose, it’s only natural that I should be locked away in a hospital for almost a year. It’s not the fault of the hospital, or their staff, that I find a place of safety within those walls. It’s not their fault that when they try to discharge me, I escalate.  Clearly, I’m attention seeking and deserve to be treated as such. When I finally leave, I should be grateful for my freedom and it’s perfectly understandable that they don’t give me any support in the community. Any help I ask for is simply attention seeking. The past is the past, and I should move on.

It’s my fault that my son has been removed, and it will be my fault when he grows to be messed up. It does confuse me that I was once a child without parents, and people seemed to want to help; as an adult, it’s not the same. I must not allow that confusion to confound me, however – everything is my fault and I must take responsibility. I am a bad parent, a bad person, and I deserve everything that comes my way. My son deserves more than me – he should not have been cursed with me as his mother.

When social services decide that my son will not be returned to my care, I choose to tell my son the decision. As a child, I never had the answers I wanted, and I don’t want that for my son. I should feel the pain of my actions. I did. I do. I have no one to blame but my own stupid self.  My pain isn’t real; it doesn’t matter.

Every overdose, every act of self-harm and every suicide attempt is not genuine – I am doing it solely to get back into hospital. I refuse to take responsibility. I am a burden on services, I do not contribute to society, I am a waste of space. If I die in the process of my actions, then it was a risk that lays entirely with me. My death will be my fault alone.

When I fall and hurt my leg, I walk into A & E the next day. I walk because I don’t want to make a fuss; my leg hurts so much, but I must not make a fuss. I’ve left it almost 18 hours before seeking help. Even though this was an accident, I don’t deserve any more help or treatment. The doctor agrees with me. She can feel ‘something sticking out’ on my leg, and she says it’s swollen. She asks, ‘how is your mental health, Louise?’ She says I don’t need an x-ray as it’s probably my mental health; I’m imagining it all. I agree with her, but my friend doesn’t. She demands I am x-rayed. The doctor reluctantly agrees and has me walk to x-ray. After the x-ray, the radiographer comes out and tells me I must go back in a wheelchair as my leg is broken. The doctor blushes, but reminds me that my ‘history’ will mean assumptions will be made. She’s right, and I thank her for looking after me.

When I jump out of a window, it’s because I was drunk; no other reason. The crisis team did tell me to have a cup of tea, and I should have listened. When the crisis-team nurse comes to see me in intensive care, he’s pissed off and he has every right to be. He tells me there’s no point in offering me support now – I’ve already jumped, the moment has passed, and they can no longer stop me. He’s with me for around five minutes. I should be grateful he took time out of his day to come and see me. My broken face is my fault and I deserve nothing but contempt and judgement.

Every choice I have made has culminated in my chaotic life. It is all my fault and, if only I would take responsibility, it will be ok. My name has been flung around offices, accompanied by eye rolls and grunts of frustration. I understand, though.  I am a nuisance, and I cause paperwork.  I am an attention seeker, it’s ‘just personality’, and there’s nothing that can be done to help me.

I learn to put up and shut up – it does not matter that I have crippling pain inside, because no-one wants to hear it, let alone see it. I am programmed to throw myself into activities that will allow me not to think. Don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t self-harm. My feelings do not matter, and my behaviour is irritating. I must not talk about self-harm, or the scars, as that means I am romanticising or glorifying it. I must live my life from this moment and erase the past, as remembering the past is not healthy. I know others are allowed to reminisce about their lives, but I shouldn’t. Ignore it. Distract. Don’t be a burden.

My name is Louise and I have BPD

My name is Louise and I am a survivor

I have been abandoned, abused, used and mistreated. I have had to parent myself and find my way in the world without a map. Sometimes my responses and reactions have not been helpful to either myself or those around me. Where I’ve been able to, I’ve apologised for my behaviour and tried my hardest to make better choices. I’ve still to apologise to myself, and that part is hard. I’m working on it, though.

I’m battle scarred, from my actions and those of others. I carry my scars, not with pride, but as a reminder of where I’ve come from. If people ask questions, I gauge how I think they will respond; my answer is dependent on that. I understand that not everyone wants to hear my life story, and I am ok with that.

I’ve tried hard to be a good parent to my son. He is simply the best thing about me and he is more than I could ever have hoped for. He is calm and settled, wise and kind. We have an amazing relationship. The pain of not raising him is still there, as raw as it was the day I told him he couldn’t come home, but I know I did the right thing. He is not me, and he has not had my experience. He is ok.

CAMHS smother you. Adult mental health services lead you to want to smother yourself. I tried so hard to get their help, and I would use any means possible. I cared so little about myself and my body that I was prepared to go to great lengths to be seen. Really, I just wanted a mum and the only place I could look was within the familiarity of services. That doesn’t make me a bad person, it makes me a sad person.

I’ve developed behind my peers – for many years, my chronological age increased, yet I stayed 14. Fourteen is when I disclosed and when my world fell apart. I went from being controlled and in control, to more secrets, sneers, and accusations thrown at me. Not only did I survive the first 14 years of my life, I survived what was to come: social workers insinuating I was lying; social workers placing blame upon me; social workers angry that I had shown their failures. Now I hold my head a little higher, upon my still tense shoulders, and know that I was brave. Braver than any of those social workers.

I am now 37 years old and approximately 30 years mentally. I’m catching up and, each year, I am closer to those around me. I am married to my long-term partner, I have a job, I drive. I function just like everybody else. If you met me on the street, you wouldn’t know unless I told you.

I didn’t know that the anxiety I experience was anxiety until I was 27. Twenty seven. I thought it was normal to feel terror walking into a shop, or to feel immense shame and embarrassment when getting on the bus. I thought it was normal to stay on the bus until the end of the route because I was too self-conscious to stand up. I thought it was normal to hide behind the sofa when someone knocked on my door.  I managed to plough my way through the first 27 years of my life without anyone addressing the anxiety I experienced. That’s pretty incredible.

What actually is normal is my response to my situation. I was hurt in ways I should never have been, and that wasn’t my fault. When a child falls and runs to her parent, she wants love and care. I spent so many years falling, then looking for a parent to run to. The parent never materialised, and there was no-one to fix my wound.

I still carry pain. I do not know if it will ever really go. I have guilt and shame, sadness and fear. Sometimes, the pain is a comfort as I know it so well. It’s there, like a weighted blanket, pinning me down. But importantly, I can now choose when to put the blanket on.

My name is Louise and I am a survivor

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Up until 2017, Louise Brinton-Clarke had been under services for most of her life. Growing up in care, then entering the mental health system aged 14, Louise unwittingly became dependent, and that dependence was initially encouraged. Whilst these services helped shape Louise the service user, they also denied their responsibility in the dependence they helped create. Louise has received multiple diagnoses since the age of 14, yet not one of these labels has acknowledged the trauma Louise experienced. Louise was finally able to break free and live her life independently, and continues to do so. Louise now hopes to inspire and educate others through her words and the sharing of her experiences.

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