Recovery Part 2: My Saddest Moment
*WARNING* This post contains mental health and suicide themes.
I had been sitting on the floor of my studio, drawing an eagle.
My partner (who I will call J) was due back in a couple of days after us being apart for 5 months while he worked away (except his one week visit in June). He is writing a fantasy novel and when he'd visited me, for the first time he suggested we do a children's book and me illustrate it.
I was so excited about being able to see him again, have some days out to the coast in our campervan, now that Lockdown had been lifted, and had been making plans for his birthday. J's return was what had been keeping me going through a difficult period, and I was looking forward to showing him the art I'd been creating in his absence.
Then J emailed to tell me he was leaving me.
My 10-year relationship, gone in a flash, and the biggest shock I've ever experienced.
It sent me into a rage - a torrent of denial, anger and verbal abuse, which I pummelled his inbox with until I was worked up into the worst emotional pain I can remember.
This email communication went on for hours, while I hugged my knees to my chest, wailing loudly, rocking back and forth, and actually prayed for the first time.
I was being brutally ripped apart from the inside out by an energy that completely engulfed me.
I looked up from inside the tent, unsure who or what I was talking to, and pleaded just three words.
Help me please.
I looked around hopelessly through bleary eyes as if some part of me had expected something magical to happen.
It was unbearable.
Despite my hysteria, I managed to keep hold of enough awareness to see I was dangerously close to hurting myself - perhaps fatally - as I found myself looking around for ways to try and end the pain.
If this sounds like a extreme reaction, you'd be right.
Aside from the very shocking way the news was delivered, I also have BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). I'll be discussing this a lot more later on.
BPD abandonment, even when done in more compassionate circumstances, can bring on sudden and extreme panic, loss of control, self-harm, and suicidal thinking. In fact, 1 in 10 people with BPD go on to successfully kill themselves.
It's a heartbreaking statistic.
J's emails and subsequent call, where I didn't even get to see his face one last time, had blown my mind. It couldn't accept or make sense of what was happening to me, and went into complete overdrive. Nothing like this had ever happened before.
I clambered out the tent into the house where I walked into my mother's room while she slept. She woke up, pulled me into bed and cradled me as I cried loudly until I fell asleep, utterly exhausted from the extreme emotions. About an hour later, I woke up, having forgotten momentarily. Looking around the room, wondering why I was here, it all came flooding back and set me off again.
This continued for hours.
My mother got hold of some Diazepam from my GP and for the next few days, I was tranquilised. The pills helped, but didn't stop the teary breakdowns or sudden bursts of anger. But mostly it was deep grief.
*Please read on with caution* I've decided to include this since suicide is still somewhat of a taboo subject, but one that needs to be talked about.
I begged her to take me to an assisted end-of-life clinic in Belgium, which she of course refused. Then the following night while she slept, the despair was suffocating and I couldn't see how I could get better or recover from the shock. I had already been struggling to manage the BPD in the last 12 months, so what hope did I have now with the one person who I thought accepted me gone?
Images of J with another woman flashed into my mind and it sent me into another frenzy. I got online and started researching methods and equipment to order to end my life, something I'd done many times in the past.
Aside from being cowardly, the thought of destroying others with my actions had stopped me from making any suicide attempts since my early 20s. Instead, I had got used to having these thoughts in the peak of a BPD meltdown, but with enough awareness that the acute feelings would eventually subside and if I had appropriate support - often a hug would suffice. Two days after feeling this way, I can be laughing and making plans like it never happened.
But never had I experienced such intense emotions and excruciating pain...possibly apart from an incident in my teens. It's hard to tell and I have a lot of memory gaps.
I went downstairs and sat on the floor in the kitchen with a plastic bag over my head to see if I could breathe that way without panicking. I sat there for about 15 minutes and felt strangely calm.
When I finally got up, I felt ashamed so woke my mother and told her what I'd done. I'm sure that if I could have pressed a button, I would have been dead long ago, but I was still able to cling onto the idea that maybe things would pass. It seemed like a ludicrous thought but just perhaps...
The other thing I've always been able to keep at the back of my mind is that with suicide is that there is absolutely no guarantee that what will be on the other side is any better.
That was a terrifying prospect.
Every time I closed my eyes, I saw J's face. When I tried to sit outside in the sun with encouragement from my aunt, memories of our travels came soaring back. I couldn't spend more than 5 minutes alone and I couldn't leave my mum's room. My studio was completely out of bounds.
I felt frightened and like a small child all over again.
The thought of not being able to feel J's long hair tickling my face in the mornings, or the sound of his snore when I used to loudly pat the bed as my indication to turn onto his side, or the joy of setting off to the woods for the day out in our camper van...
My mind kept casting back to the last time he made me eggs for breakfast, picked me up, rubbed my shoulders...that they would never happen again, and if I'd known that it was the last time I would enjoy those moments, how much I wouldn't have taken them for granted.
It killed me.
I wondered what he was doing, who he was with, was he thinking of me and did he even care?
But he had said he still loved me.
I couldn't give up hope so I messaged the next day, apologising, and promising to be medicated again, to go to therapy, to work through our issues, together and individually.
Things had been crazy. There had been a pandemic on. I'd been stressed from starting my website and business. I'd been stuck in a toxic environment without him for months. What about the things he's suggested back in February? Our quality time away? The meditation retreat? Could we try properly and honesty.
Just 6 more months?
It was a no.
I tortured myself with all manner of scenarios, trying to piece together what had happened since I last saw him. Was there another woman? Had the whole thing been fake and he'd been staying with me purely out of guilt? When he'd come back to visit for a week, did he know then?
I couldn't trust any memory as being real and I felt like I'd been betrayed in the worst possible way.
Though she was trying to protect me, my mother in her anger threw numerous incidents and memories into the mix, and I started to question literally everything, feeling a mixture of stupidity, weakness and shame.
I hadn't just lost the love of my life, but also my best friend, and my camper van home which I treasured very much.
I didn't have a clue as to how to even begin rebuilding my life.
What would happen about my art? Where would I live? How would I transport anything anywhere? How could I even work? Who would accept the BPD issues? Was I doomed for good this time?
But friends and family were amazing and I'm so thankful for that. I don't know what might have happened if I'd been alone. Many of them haven't even been aware of the BPD, or at least how much it can impact on my life. For the most part, I've become an expert at putting on a front and being highly-functioning where I need to be.
It's probably no surprise that I don't come from the closest family, and it's also very small and fragmented, so I was very grateful for just how supportive they were.
My aunt comes around almost every day to cook and to make sure I'm not alone. She washed my hair, my mother listened to me, my friends sent me some gifts and mini challenges to stop me staying in bed, and my dad who's very upbeat came to visit as a source of distraction. They rearranged and cleaned my studio and removed portraits I'd drawn of J from the walls.
I got confused as to how much distraction was a good thing, and how much was just delaying the inevitable pain. Some said to keep busy, others said to cry...I'd never been in this situation before - what was the best thing for me?
I realised I had no idea how to soothe myself at all without resorting to drugs or J. I've always battled with self-neglect and self-sabotage and now was no different.
Followers and subscribers were incredibly forthcoming and kind with their support and reading the messages made me cry - sometimes in a good way, but also for their own pain. I had gone from being broken and totally alone with no hope, to surrounded by people who cared for my wellbeing.
That isn't something I've experienced before. In fact, it made me reflect on my own behaviour and I suddenly realised that in some respects, I've been a terrible friend.
After the first week, I was still not taking basic care of my physical self, but I began trying to keep a gratitude journal, at the suggestion of one of my Subscribers.
I tried again with an audiobook I'd bought some time ago called "Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts" by Richard C Schwartz. It's a system similar to Gestalt therapy where you ask parts inside of you questions and seek to resolve the conflicts - a typical part you might know is the "Inner Critic". I've used a similar technique with clients when I used to work as a therapist.
I started listening to Eckhart Tolle, who I'd found out about from a guy I'd met in Germany, though I couldn't concentrate at all. I also contacted a number of organisations offering retreats, one of which I had sent to J a few months as a suggestion for us to go together. Unfortunately, I discovered that all of them were closed due to COVID. The despair kicked in again.
The timing of it all... the very thing that helped enable J to break away was the same thing that I felt was blocking my path to getting better. It felt like such a cruel twist of fate.
Despite my own therapist experience, I have no idea how to even put together any sort of care plan for myself. Right now, I'm willing to try anything. Shadow Work is something one of my Subscribers kindly suggested so I'll be looking into that.
In the next post, I'll tell you a bit about BPD to help raise awareness. I'll share how it affects me personally and my ability to make art, and why this recent loss was especially devastating. It plays a pivotal role.
I was also encouraged to learn more about BPD by my mental health team so it's also a way to help me "test" my understanding as it were.
If you, or someone you love or close to you is affected by any of the issues I've explained above, please do reach out and get support. There are a number of free crisis lines (the Samaritans is just one in the UK) as well as free online chat run by volunteers online such as I'm Alive and Suicide Stop where you can keep completely anonymous.
Thank you for reading and if at any point you want to get in touch to ask questions, you can message me at any time or leave a comment below. I'll see you in a bit :)