“But you dont look crazy…”
I can’t count the number of times I have heard this said to me when I tell people I struggle with mental illness. As a first time single mum at 32 years old, somehow I manage to look fairly put together when I go out. I brush my hair; I wear clean clothes; I even put on a little bit of eyeliner to make myself look less “dead on my feet”. I dont walk around talking to myself or yelling at imaginary creatures, or obsessively opening and shutting doors. No, to look at me you would never guess that behind these faded blue eyes lies years of distress and disorder. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder officially at age 27, though it was suspected much earlier than that. It took many years and several misdiagnoses before I finally started getting the proper care for my issues. While a quick glance at me wouldn’t lead you to think “emotionally unstable”, the multitude of self-harm scars on my wrists, arms, and thighs might. I used to be so ashamed of my scars because I thought they made me seem weak. It has taken me a long time to realize it is quite the opposite. I no longer try to hide my scars in shame, but embrace them for now I know they are a sign of strength and perseverance. Just as Jesus showed his scars to the disciples to prove He had risen from the dead and overcome the grave, my scars show that I, too, am an overcomer. This is me rising again.
Of course, some scars are not visible to the naked eye. In fact, some scars are so deep that they are burned into the very essence of your being. Unfortunately, these types of wounds are much harder to heal from. Along with Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD for short, I also suffer from C-PTSD. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder develops in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma, such as child or sexual abuse, domestic violence, being held in captivity or other long term exposure to trauma where the victim has no expectation that it will ever end. This kind of hopelessness is like a slow acting poison that never really leaves the body, even long after the trauma has ceased. I was a victim of sexual assault when I was 12 years old which, along with the death of my father a year later, is believed to have been the trigger for my BPD to manifest itself. However, it was being in an emotionally, physically and sexually abusive relationship from age 15 to 17 that still causes me to experience severe anxiety and depression to this day, more than 15 years later. I have learned how to manage the crazy mood swings and irrational thinking that go along with having a personality disorder, but the fear and mistrust of allowing myself to be vulnerable with another human being is something I am far from overcoming.
So, to look at me out on the street with my infant son, or to pass me by at the grocery store with my cart full of milk, wine, and cat litter, you would never guess that behind this smile is a woman still healing from nightmares you would likely never understand. But that is ok. Because while I’m not ok yet, every day I am getting there. Slowly, day by day, with the grace of God, I am getting there. For the first time in a long time, I finally trust that I am going to be ok. I believe that everything I’ve been through, every scar – seen and unseen – has lead me to where I am today. And there is nowhere else I would rather be.