It took an unplanned pregnancy for me to seek help for my borderline personality disorder

We don’t talk enough about the impact of dealing with mental health issues while carrying a child. In my experience, it taught me far more about myself than I ever anticipated

Hattie Gladwell
Sunday 17 November 2019 13:49
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The UN study found the coronavirus pandemic could dramatically weaken headway to meet long-standing global health targets due to clinics being forced to close or run skeleton services
The UN study found the coronavirus pandemic could dramatically weaken headway to meet long-standing global health targets due to clinics being forced to close or run skeleton services

I was 22 years old when I was first diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It came as a shock. I had been seeing my psychiatrist for my bipolar disorder, when he mentioned that a lot of the symptoms I was describing also aligned with BPD. I didn’t know much about it, but the label scared me. He referred me to a psychologist and after an hour-long, invasive assessment, I was diagnosed officially.

I am now 24, pregnant, and only just accepting help for the first time.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was offered help. A sort of ongoing therapy group, almost like a class where you learn coping mechanisms and life skills. But I declined. I would say I was too busy and just couldn’t fit it in with my work schedule. But the truth is I was terrified.

Bipolar disorder I could handle, but there is a huge stigma attached to borderline personality disorder. Look anywhere on the internet and you’ll see us described as toxic. As narcissists. As manipulative. As dangerous. Even knowing this wasn’t true, I didn’t want to attach myself to the stigma. And so, I suffered in silence.

There are lots of symptoms to borderline personality disorder, but mine mainly include a strong fear of abandonment, no sense of who I am, unstable relationships, intense emotions and feeling paranoid.

The abandonment fear is probably my biggest issue of all.

It’s especially hard in relationships, and is what led to me becoming single and pregnant – a break-up that only lasted for a short time, but long enough to make me realise that I needed to change.

When I am with someone I love, I get attached. They are my whole world. I care about them so deeply that my affection becomes suffocating. I’m terrified they’ll leave. It’s like I’m safe when I spend time with the person I love, and when they walk out the door, I panic that they’re never going to come back. That they’re going to realise they don’t really love me and then it will all be over.

In the early stages after being diagnosed, I struggled to be alone at night. My mind would race and I’d feel uncomfortable being alone with my own thoughts. Normal conversations would leave me questioning whether I’d done something wrong. I would become sensitive to whether a loved one’s tone had changed; whether they sounded angrier or more distant than normal. I would focus on every little detail because I was so petrified of being abandoned.

And when I would convince myself I was being abandoned or that I’d done something wrong that could lead to being abandoned, I would get upset. Not just disappointed with myself, but genuinely upset. The amount of guilt I would feel would consume me, and I’d obsess over the things I’d said, or the things I could have done differently, until it was all I’d think about.

After several months of being with me in this state of mine, the father of my baby left me. And I was alone, single and pregnant. I was terrified. I couldn’t stand the thought of being without a partner, never mind while carrying a child.

I was devastated. I think it’s the most petrified I have ever been. And although at the time I would have told you it was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me, I can now tell you that actually, it was probably the best.

After spending a little time on my own, I sat down and reflected on my actions. My emotions. My unavoidable guilt. And instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided it was time to change. I couldn’t carry on like this. I had another life to think of now. And I had to be the best mum I could be.

A week into being single, I had a mental health appointment with the antenatal team, something I will be continuing throughout my pregnancy. I spoke to the psychiatrist about what had happened, and explained the entire situation. I stopped thinking about how awful I was feeling, looked straight at the psychiatrist and told him I wanted help for my BPD. That it was time. That it absolutely needed to be done in order for me to be the parent my child deserved.

I was referred for dialectical behavioural therapy, which is a type of talking therapy which helps you learn skills to cope with difficult emotions.

I haven’t yet started, but while waiting for my referral I have also been doing research on the condition and gaining knowledge on things I can do to help myself while I wait.

A month after splitting, my partner and I got back together. We talked things through and I feel like a different person. After a month of being single, focusing on just me and my baby, I’ve gained some independence and have realised that a lot of my need to never be alone was simply because I was not used to it. But now I’ve got used to my own company and I’ve actually learned to enjoy it. And I think that, whether you’re pregnant or not, it’s important to enjoy your own company, because it’s the best feeling in the world to not feel codependent.

I underestimated the satisfaction of staying in for an evening, running a bubble bath, watching my favourite movie and not having to worry about anyone else. Not having to rely on anyone else. It’s freeing.

I’m not saying I’m a changed person overnight, but I definitely am making changes. Positive ones. I’m doing the absolute best I can for my baby, my relationship and myself. And that’s all I can do.

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