Today is May 29, 2013, two and a half years into a life-changing course of treatment called “Dialectical Behavioral Therapy,” a program designed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, herself a survivor of the mental healthcare system, a system still operating under the insidious influence of a puritanical and damning western society.
And for folks who fit into the category of having been born with such an intense kind of wiring, it’s oftentimes a lonely road. “If you are overtly emotional and suicidal, then you must not be praying hard enough or trying hard enough to change” they tell us as if that kind of judgement would make a body feel any less alienated and strange.
For me, it’s been a chorus for years inside the walls of my brain. Over and over to the point where that tired old tune becomes the default of all thinking, the root that strangles and rambles through every nerve and neuron. The soundtrack of my life until the day I was moved to the top of a waiting list to receive this new therapy, one born of Dr. Linehan’s own struggle and study of traditional academics and Eastern spirituality. I know I owe my life to this treatment. I also owe it to the doctors and team of specialists it has taken to help me move towards wellness.
It is for them I am writing this, but also for the countless numbers of other borderlines, who must not only deal with symptoms of their illness, but also each the stigma of being categorized as someone whose personality is disordered, someone incapable of having a stable relationship, gainful employment and the list goes on and on ad nauseam, dismissed and discarded mostly by a world that would rather categorize us as manipulative as lead us to relief from the awfulness of states created by brain chemistry.
Your cries for help go unanswered. Your desperate and imperfect attempts at connection falling into a grand canyon to echo as reminders of your utter unlovableness. You are told to pull yourself up by your broken bootstraps and buck up. To grow a thicker skin and endure it like the rest of us.
Don’t call if you in the hospital. Don’t tell us if you are buying the supplies to do yourself in. We cannot bear the burden of your suffering.
We have had our fill of this illness. And we are just letting go of you and letting God.
But that was then. Now, with the right kind of help, there lies hope and healing. Help that includes validation and radical acceptance, non-judgement, inclusion, caring, compassion and kindness.
Imagine it. The universal message of every single spiritual path in existence, the core beliefs sans the politics and hatred, beliefs that unite and empower us as individuals but also as members of the human community.
So now instead of letting my illness rule my life, I am letting the love do the work. I am letting myself share that love. And surprisingly, the suicide attempts and the romanticism of those attempts are over. The stashing of pills and sharp objects, the dream of death and the sweet relief I always believed it would bring. In a life of mostly nightmares, I am beginning to dream something different. I am learning to save my life by embracing the moment and being present for whatever is born of that moment.
Last night I dreamed I was looking at this enormous glowing harvest moon taking up half the sky and upon closer observation, I could see that it wasn’t really the moon, just a projection of a map of the solar system, one that I had fed to the imagined overhead projector in my upstairs bedroom, the bedroom I had at eight, three years into the realization that I was so different I wanted to die. The bedroom where the nightmares began. The ones where I watched as the demons crawled up the blinds in flames, their pitchforks and sickles aimed in my general direction, the fake angels hovering about my bed and shaking their forked fingers at me in my sleep.
But last night, I made a new memory of what dreams can do.
The moon in the sky had my first name on it, but only because I had inked that name on the map of the universe. Without the conscious recognition it takes to find the words to describe such an experience, I had already landed, taken my first small steps towards infinity and planted my tattered flag .