Young woman with backpack hiking
Young woman with backpack hiking

The coronavirus pandemic and my lived experience of borderline personality disorder

This article was originally published by SANE Australia. To chat with other people who understand what you're going through, visit the SANE Forums.

Sometimes we need a little shake up, to remind ourselves we CAN be okay. 

Oh dear. I thought it was all coming back. The panic attacks were present again. The periods of dissociation throughout the day. The trembling crying. The isolation.

COVID-19 really had thrown a spanner in the works for someone like me.

When you have lived experience of borderline personality disorder (BPD), it’s so easy to jump back to the mindset of defining yourself when old symptoms start to show. My brain was slowly trying to convince me that I was sick again.

I started to picture myself like I used to be. Slow and lethargic. Angry, confused and fearful of the unknown. I had worked tirelessly for the last three years to have a life worth living. My stability was thrown and all of a sudden, I felt a lost sense of self. All my coping strategies were disappearing one by one and I felt myself heading towards another crisis. The scariest part for me was the prospect of reliving some trauma I believed I had healed from.

Experiencing BPD has its complexities, and I had to remind myself that my experience is going to be felt in waves. I was so used to the stability I had created for myself that I wasn’t prepared for the effect isolation would have on me. I had to remind myself what it felt like when I did experience total isolation, and to build from that.

The severity of isolation during a global pandemic can be felt on many levels. However, the first thing I did to make sure I kept myself safe was reach out to my support networks and to check the privileges I have established for myself.

Being aware of your privileges can really turn your perspective around when you feel like you are heading towards a crisis. Mine look like: a stable home, a stable job (as an essential health care worker), a supportive partner and technology to keep me connected with my peers.

The second step I took to look after myself was to become adaptable. I believe one of the main key things that kept me alive today was learning how to be adaptable when you feel like everything is crumbling around you. The adaptations at first feel uncomfortable, however you slowly start to grow more comfortable with the changes. Life is ever changing and ever flowing, and one of the biggest survival tactics for me is being able to be so adaptable and flexible.

Lastly, I learned how to be alone again with my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes healthy coping strategies can be taken for granted, as life can work in overdrive – and you forget how quickly time can pass you by.

Life feels a lot slower for me. Being able to sit with the stillness of it all has really reminded me how important it is to be okay in your own company. I had to remind myself that the feelings and emotions I am currently experiencing are valid, and to really tap into my skills and tools that help regulate those thought patterns – a vital practise during this time of uncertainty.

Even though I live with BPD, and no matter how challenging recovery can be, I know I have survived some of the hardest parts of it. This year marks three years of living a life in which I don’t experience suicidal ideation or self-harm. Sometimes you need a little shake-up to remind you how far you have come, and how okay you will be moving forward.

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