Greenville, SC - 2018-01-16
Dawn: I’m a certified peer support specialist. I work with the chronically homeless population with severe and persistent mental illness and/or substance use.
I am diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder is really all about an inability to manage emotions and mood instability. Very much black and white thinking, so you’re either all good or all bad. There is no gray; we are extremely impulsive.
If somebody’s leaving because you’re crazy, that just makes it even more insane, which runs them out the door faster. It's just this giant gaping hole in your soul and no matter what you do, everything you try, it’s just impossible to fill.
The one word that comes to mind is the word manipulator. It’s great if you’re a salesperson, so I’ve been very successful in sales.
October of 2015, I was coming out of multiple hospitalizations. It had been a really rough few years, and one day I decided I couldn’t bear the thought of going to work that day. I’d already called in quite a few days up to that point. So, instead of going to work, I ended up taking about 80 pills, all kinds of them, and went to sleep peacefully. I was in the house for eight hours before my fiancée came home and found me unconscious. I was unconscious for three days in the CCU.
At that time, I was hopeless. There is no cure for BPD and there are no medications designed for it. All I can think of is, is this all my life is gonna be? I’d just come from working as a merchandise manager. I was managing a few hundred employees at a company where we’re bringing in millions of dollars of revenue and making almost $70,000 a year to a giant fall from grace working as a banquet server for minimum wage, part-time, and I hated it. And, I thought, well I’m useless now. What the hell am I doing here?
Most folks who have been diagnosed have had some kind of childhood trauma, and mostly it’s sexual childhood trauma. That was no different for me. I had a family member who began molesting me when I was four years old, and that lasted maybe four years. His friends did as well.
The family member stopped but his friends did not, and it lasted all the way till I was about 16. About eight different folks sexually abused me on a recurring basis, multiple times a month.
I ended up dropping out of school because I wanted to piss my mom off. I was very mad at my mom because I did tell my parents when I was younger and nothing came of it. That’s when my family member stopped, but there were no conversations, there was no therapy, there was zero acknowledgment, like zero.
I told nobody else and I carried this burden, this giant monkey on my back and I’d come to terms with it and just accepted it as, well, it happened, and I’m not a victim, and I will not have that mentality, and I’m gonna be successful regardless, and this doesn’t define me. Right? So I thought.
So I threw myself into everything and tried to be a perfectionist at everything. In the process, I went through multiple relationships. I always managed to be in long-term relationships because I was clinging on for dear life, very co-dependent. And, when they would threaten to leave me. . . I remember one time just holding one of those giant carving knives, and threatening to stab myself if they left me. I mean, you’re straight-up insane.
BW: Are you on medication?
Dawn: I am on seven different medications.
BW: You said there’s nothing made specifically for BPD?
Dawn: No, that’s why I have so many. They throw things at you and say, “Hey, try this. Hey, try that.” And, you go back and you say, “Well, this isn’t really working or it’s causing this.” And they say, “Well here, here’s another one and that’ll take care of that.” It’s always treating the symptoms, not treating the actual issue. It’s always Band-Aids.
Dawn: This is how I really turned the tables completely around from me suffering to me taking control of mental illness. When I was in the hospital for the suicide attempt an NA group came in. Well, nobody wanted to go. I’ve never had an addiction to anything but, I felt bad. These volunteers came all the way out there, so I went.
This woman stood up and put all of her ugly out there. I mean, like nailed herself to the cross and owned it. Her story was so powerful. She had so many more lows than I had, yet somehow she managed to get to the point where she could put it all out there. I, on the other hand, had been hiding it my whole life.
I decided right then and there I wanted to do for other people what she did for me. I went back to my room and fell on my knees, and I cried, and cried, and cried. And, gave my life to Christ, and it was amazing.
So, I began. I went to NAMI. When I got well enough I started volunteering and then applied to this job and six months later got it.
The big difference between who I was then and who I am now is that I went from always thinking about me to thinking about others. When you get to a place of recovery the next step is to turn around and help the next person up. And, that’s what has kept me going.
People are either going to take me or leave me and that has been very hard to accept because all my life I’ve only wanted to be accepted.
So now I put it out there. My friends know. When I was initially starting on this giant uphill road to recovery, my good friends would go with me to NAMI. The only way I’ve been able to maintain my recovery is with the support of others.
BW: What about healing family relationships?
Dawn: After that suicide attempt I was talking to my therapist, and I got some courage. I decided to confront those people and my family member as well. I had him and his wife out to lunch and accused him of it.
He started crying and apologized. His wife was flabbergasted. But once it came out, it was done. You let the beast out and it goes; it flies away. He and I have a fantastic relationship now.