Mental illness recovery and self-love struggles

I was a mess when I was younger. It’s gradually dawned on me over the years that I needed to get better. I had some traits that definitely fit within the borderline and histrionic personality disorder categories.

As an aside, I’ve written a lot about the demise of my longest friendship, which was ultimately very destructive for me. I had a very unique link with her that I could never quite understand. And I’ve finally put my finger on it: we both had tendencies toward borderline and histrionic personality disorder when we met.

I figured it out and was ashamed of my past behavior but I wanted to get better. I made the changes I could and still work on it, although that has so far been limited by my lack of access to good therapy. I changed a lot and took it upon myself to also help her, which wasn’t my job and wasn’t appreciated. Part of that is that I enjoy helping people, but part of it was also a bit codependent (assuming I believe codependency is real, which I’m not sure I do.)

On the other hand, she doubled down on those attention-seeking and dramatic traits in herself. Defended them. Avoided therapy. Her life got more chaotic, her personality more outlandish, her closest relationships more broken.

I felt like being in frequent contact frustrated me immensely to see how little positive growth she had made. In many ways, she was still looking back to her teen years as the best time of her life. Even though she got married last year, it seemed afterward like she wanted to recapture the freedom of youth rather than settle down.

I’ve read a ton of stuff about these personality disorders over the past several months; I could probably write a book about the subject. I know that few people with these disorders want help or seek it.

I also know that people with these disorders are not bad people and they often feel a great deal of pain about the thought of hurting others. So instead of dealing with it and trying to change, they’re more likely to shove it down deep and pretend it doesn’t exist.

I’ve never been officially diagnosed with this, so maybe they’re just a couple of selfish traits I have (and had to a greater degree when I was younger.) I do know that I have gotten better and I want to continue getting better. But I also feel a lot of shame over how my actions affected people I love and it’s hard to forgive myself for that.

Interestingly, though, I got a lot more attention when I was less aware of what I was doing to others. I was less self-conscious. I was actively a much more selfish person, but I had a lot more people I regularly interacted with, especially online.

I don’t know if that’s just because the internet itself has changed so much since the early days. When my kids were small, blogging was still very new. It wasn’t as hard to get an audience as it is today. Now everything has moved to social media and is a lot more visual.

Ironically, being narcissistic and putting your life on display is way more acceptable now. It’s nearly impossible to get much of a following unless you do so. Only now, what people want is to see selfies and pictures and YouTube vlogs and to hear your voice rambling on a podcast.

Even traditional old-school blog entries are now supposed to be short and interspersed with lots of pictures. It’s way less introvert-friendly now. And I just don’t have the desire to put myself out there that much. I’m not big on attention-seeking.

In part because I am self-conscious and in part because of the damage to my self-esteem from that one friendship, I’m isolating myself. I feel like I don’t know how to be the kind of person people want to be around, especially because I’m still often so depressed.

I don’t know how to get better until I can find a good therapist, which I have no hope of affording any time soon. I know that cognitive behavioral therapy is my best bet. I also have a dialectical behavioral therapy workbook that helps with emotional regulation, but to be honest, that’s the part I had already done a lot of work on.

I’m in this weird space of not being enough of a train wreck myself to be interesting anymore, but not yet healed enough to be wise and ready to heal others.

At the same time, I also wonder about how many of my issues were or are related to my brain illness. Was I mildly personality disordered just because I grew up in an emotionally neglectful home? Was it that I was relatively normal and just way too young when I got married (since my worst behavior was in my teens and the first five years of marriage) and I’ve grown up since then?

Or was it that my brain was already damaged by the MS? Based on when I first felt like I had symptoms, that was 18 years ago. My brain could have been damaged all along.

I guess ultimately it doesn’t matter why I am the way I am or even if I have a diagnosable personality disorder.

I need to learn how to forgive myself and love myself, first and foremost. I’m not sure how to do that. My husband used religion to heal himself, but it’s not completely connecting for me in the same way. Faith is a component of my healing and sometimes a source of comfort, but I’m not internalizing it as giving me a sense of self-worth.

And while the fact that he is treating me much better than he did before is helpful and appreciated, he can’t fix me. It’s still my job to learn how to fix myself.

Considering the fact that he is both my best friend and the caregiver for me in my illness, that makes us a bit enmeshed. But I don’t want to be dependent on him in an unhealthy way and sometimes fear that I am a bit already. I want to be healthy and independent and self-actualized, to whatever degree my illness will let me. Finding that particular balance is tough.

I have to learn how to get better. I know what needs to be done, and I’ve already made a lot of progress. But I’m not sure how much more of this can be a do-it-yourself effort. I think I need some help.

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