Having BPD has meant that I’ve struggled over the years to feel like I had an identity. From a young age, I always felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere and almost felt “ghost-like”. I can remember as a child and adolescent having the sensation of being an observer of everyone else and that I wasn’t really engaging with people. I’ve since learned that this was likely disassociation, a mechanism that I used to cope with stress and trauma, but to a young girl it was a frightening and surreal experience.
A major characteristic of disassociation involves the detaching from reality in order to tolerate stress. It can be something as simple as daydreaming to a full-blown loss of touch with reality. Over the years, I employed this technique so often that my fantasy worlds often collided with my realities and led to chaos and confusion. When we are in our adolescence, it’s a time to figure out who we are and where we want to go in life. I feel that I missed out on this important developmental step in my life and have spent a great deal of time working on this since.
For many years, I harboured a great deal of anger and resentment over the fact that I missed out on the chance to develop “normally”, but extensive therapy has helped me resolve a lot of those feelings and be able to let them go so I could move forward in my recovery. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) gave me the skills to see how I had developed distorted beliefs about myself and begin the process to undo the damage those beliefs had caused me over the years. It made me challenge my thinking and develop a new way of looking at things.
Along my journey, I’ve had the opportunity to take a great deal of therapy that I’ve used to gain insights into the person that I am inside. I’m working hard to create a stable identity that feels real to me and not like a ghost. There are still times when I am stressed that I find myself disassociating and while it can be unnerving, it’s not as frightening as it used to be.
If you disassociate, or find that you often “lose track of time”, first of all, know that you aren’t alone and you aren’t “crazy”. It’s your mind’s way of dealing with trauma and stress and it’s often done as a way to protect yourself. If this is something you notice yourself doing, I would encourage you to talk to a therapist or a psychiatrist about this as they can help you. It’s not something you have to be embarrassed about, nor should it be something that you minimize.
My hope is that I can stop disassociating and be as present as I can in my life. I want to engage in the everyday world around me and be able to resolve conflict as it comes up and not “go to that place” in my mind that I use to escape. Because as comforting as I may find that place, the fact is that it’s not reality, and I want to live in reality.
My name is Wendy Enberg and I live openly with mental illness. I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I reside near Edmonton, AB. I began sharing my story with others as a way to remove stigma and raise awareness and compassion for people living with mental illness. I started with a Facebook page where I posted inspirational messages. This grew into a blog about living with BPD at where I openly share my struggles and my successes. This wasn’t enough. In July of 2014, I co-founded a peer support group in my community for people living with mental illness that provides online and weekly support meetings. Our membership continues to grow each day and we are gaining a presence in the mental health community.