May is Mental Health Awareness month, and it’s a good reminder to take a peek into our own mental health, especially in a time and place where we are in a public health crisis. We have learned that our material, fast-paced, competitive culture is not conducive for health and happiness. This awareness inspires us to wake up to what's important--we must shift our priorities and how we spend our time. From a soul level, we are being asked to BE instead of DO. To help better understand why self-care is so important to our overall mental health, we've published a FREE interactive e-book. Download now!
This month, I want to introduce one of our Self Care Club® members and advocates, Marie Hernandez. A mother of a child with a diagnosed mental illness, Marie shares her story of struggle and how they take care of themselves through the ups and downs of borderline personality disorder.
As an overview on the topic, people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may experience mood swings and display uncertainty about how they see themselves and their role in the world. As a result, their interests and values can change quickly. They tend to view things in extremes, such as all good or all bad. Their opinions of other people can also change quickly. An individual who is seen as a friend one day may be considered an enemy or traitor the next. These shifting feelings can lead to intense and unstable relationships.
The first time my daughter showed signs of depression and sadness, she was only nine years old. I knew something wasn't right but everybody would just say, “Oh, she's a girl ... they are always so full of emotion.” School for her wasn't a good experience. She began to experience bullying so we decided to transfer her to a different school but it never got any better. Like a river running wild, so did her feelings. I felt so helpless.
She cut her own hair and was hiding it from us. I had no idea what that even meant. Then she started to self-harm. I can't even begin to tell you the emotions I felt when I found her the first time she self-harmed. She had cut her face … I held her and sobbed. I was at a complete loss. I love her so much, yet I couldn't take her pain away. Plus, it was hurting me. The moment your newborn baby enters the world, you have so many plans for that child, and seeing your child in pain is not one of them. As time went on, she became increasingly depressed, sad, and would lash out at me … pushing me away. It was so hurtful. I felt like a bad mom and would blame myself, ‘What was I doing wrong?’ I thought.
By then, she had been in psychiatric hospitals and one residential stay for three months. And then, one meeting during her treatment stay would change everything. They met with us in a tiny office room, which normally would give me so much anxiety. But this time was different--this was the day we would learn her mental health diagnosis. The therapist was so matter-of-fact with us: “She has borderline personality disorder, major depression, anxiety, and is on the spectrum." What does that even mean!? I retreated in tears with SO many questions. What did this mean for her future? I was confused and struggled to wrap my head around everything. Three days later she was released. What now?
I had heard rave reviews about a place that offered therapy along with DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) so we started the process--together. After so many years of struggling, it was highly encouraging to be able to learn and use skills to help my child. It was a blessing and made us both more aware of our own emotions and how to handle them. I finally had hope. However, during this time, it was incredibly difficult to talk to anyone about what we were going through. No one understood. The stigma that comes with mental illness was so real. I felt judged on so many levels for so many years, so I became silent. I was tired of being put down. But during this process, I learned the behaviors she was going through were part of her mental illness. All in all, she loved me and I loved her!
Once we knew her diagnosis, like a mother with a newborn baby, I read every book and research article about BPD. I filled myself with knowledge because I wanted to have a voice and be her advocate. It was important I understood what she was going through and for me to reach out to others who are struggling.
Here are some things I want you to know about mental illness.
- You are not defined by your diagnosis. I tell my daughter she is beautiful and brave to wake up every day and deal with some really hard shit!
- If you or a loved one are dealing with BPD or any mental illness … DON’T GIVE UP.
- Love yourself where you are at as hard as that might be. You're doing a great job!
- Self-care in this journey is key! You will feel tired and sad but you need to take care of yourself, be forgiving to yourself, and find space to give yourself some self-love. You must take care of your soul through this. What would you tell a friend going through this situation? Give yourself the same love you would want for them.
- Find a tribe of support. I thought I could do it alone but I couldn't. Don't be afraid to reach out to other people who are going through the same struggles as you. Support groups are a safe space where you won’t feel judged and will be surrounded by amazing people who can relate. I've started my own support group on Facebook for parents with a child going through BPD. You can join here.
- Find a trusted therapist you can talk to. Therapy has been very healing for me.
- Join Self Care Club®! I found my tribe with this community - they have been so loving and supportive and I thank God every day for these individuals.
- You are not alone. I hope that by me sharing my story we can begin to heal and break down the stigma associated with mental illness!
Our mental health is impacted by our physical, emotional, and spiritual health, as they are all interconnected. A negative impact in one area affects all the other areas. So overall, this month is a good time to check in on our health and wellness all around. What are we doing well? What could be improved? What needs to change? What's being ignored? What needs more attention and nurturance?
Wishing everyone love, healing, and self-care,
Dani Ashley, Founder