Angela Bayley with Father Christmas

Here I am with Santa. Many children are traumatised by meeting Father Christmas (Santa Claus). However, what caused my complex post-traumatic stress disorder (or borderline personality disorder) was far more disturbing. In this posting I discuss these diagnoses. I hope healthcare workers will read it.

Hi, everyone.

I hope your weekend has been as good as mine.

Off like a shot

I didn’t tell you in my last posting, but I had originally thought I would be leaving the ward at 10 a.m. yesterday, not 1 p.m. I was set ready to go home at 9.30, full of excitement, and so I was absolutely horrified to hear that my section 17 leave was to start at 1 p.m. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, time passed slowly, but Andrew eventually appeared at 12.45 and as soon as the clock struck one I was off like a shot.

A cuddle and a whirlwind

I arrived home and the first thing I did was cuddle Laura. Her face was a picture of happiness to see me home. I felt motivated to crack on with the chores Andrew hadn’t managed to get done due to the pressures of work, caring for the girls and visiting me. It’s been a long since I felt interested in my surroundings or motivated to look after the home we have built together. Yesterday I was ready for action and determined to get back to normal, put my Mum and wife head back on, and make up for the things I had overlooked. I went through the house like a whirlwind, cleaning, washing, ironing and changing beds. The house felt clean and fresh and I was looking forward to getting into a nice clean bed.

Mid-afternoon, Sarah and Charlie (my childhood social worker and her husband) came to see how I was before they went on holiday, and they brought me a lovely scented candle for the lounge. We all sat together in the kitchen, putting the world to rights, and we also discussed my current situation with the police, social services, mental health services and work.

Positive – no flashbacks or alcohol

For once I managed to engage in a positive conversation and not be haunted by flashbacks and avoidance tactics, like medication, self-harm and alcohol. Andrew had bought me a bottle of wine, based on our agreement that I would only drink at weekends. I managed to forget it was sat in the fridge.  Compare this to a few weeks ago when I’d have finished it within hours of it being bought and would be well onto my second bottle! With Andrew’s support, I was determined to stay focused and positive as well as tackle my problems head-on.

My stepmother is harmless now

Not long after Sarah and Charlie had gone, a blue car pulled up outside the house. My heart sank as I saw Lillian (the stepmother whom I describe at length in Disruptive) get out the car with her mother. I didn’t want anything to ruin my weekend, and I knew her presence could trigger bad thoughts and feelings. Although she is harmless now, and has certainly repented her sins, she is a clear reminder that I had a troubled childhood and that my father abandoned me on more than one occasion.

Not swamped by uncomfortable feelings

Anyway, I opened the front door with a big smile and told myself that Lillian’s visit was with good intentions and she wasn’t going to trigger my emotions or cause me any harm. She handed me some beautiful flowers and I led her and her mother to the kitchen for another cuppa. We had a good natter about “this and that”, and then she told me my father had been in touch with her to tell her about my book Disruptive, which she hasn’t read. This was the first time it had been mentioned since I had started writing it. I managed to push my anxieties to the back of my mind and explain the process of my writing and how useful it had been. I told Lillian what my aim was – that it wasn’t to apportion blame but to help me understand things that had happened to me in the past as well as help other survivors similar to me. I really stood my ground, whereas normally I would pussyfoot around Lillian, feeling guilty if I upset her and caused any disruption. It was an achievement to believe in myself and not be swamped with uncomfortable feelings and maladaptive behaviours.

Enjoying the moment

Andrew, Laura and I managed to sit down on the sofas with our pizzas round about 8 p.m. Andrew cracked open my bottle of wine as well as getting himself some pear cider. Laura wanted to watch “Casualty” so we selected the film we wanted which we put on at 9.30 p.m. It was so nice to just relax all evening with my family, climb into my own bed and enjoy the moment instead of dwelling on my difficulties.

The diagnoses of “Borderline Personality Disorder” and “complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” and health workers’ reactions

Talking of difficulties, one thing I struggle to get to grips with is the label I’ve been given: “Borderline Personality Disorder” (BPD). One of the kind comments on the blog talks about mental health workers only able to care for those with simple mental health diagnoses, such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.  My consultant when I was at The Retreat, Dr Chris, was very sensitive about the label BPD, and would use a kinder label “complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (complex PTSD). My experience of mental health workers’ reactions when I tell them of that diagnosis is so different – it’s a lot more sympathetic! This just goes to show how discriminated against we sufferers of BPD are, and why there is such a lack of care.

Stigma: “attention-seeking and a nuisance”

NICE guidelines for some years now have included clear instructions for people with PTSD. However, it’s only recently that NICE recognised BPD, and, whilst they suggest that people with BPD are the highest risk group for suicide and that they can have terrible mental health symptoms, they are not very clear about treatment and appropriate care. Sadly, there’s a limited number of establishments that specialise in BPD, and they are usually private hospitals. The stigma of mental health is bad enough and workers are always wanting negative opinions to change. However, many mental health workers frown upon people with BPD, labelling them as attention-seekers and a nuisance. It’s clear that they have little training in this area of mental health and find it hard to understand or implement treatment. The feelings of not being understood are raw for people like me with BPD. I think services should start educating workers more in this area of mental health to prevent ignorance, discrimination and judgemental attitudes.

Please read about BPD!

As an NHS worker myself, I realise that many of us would like more training to deal with difficult situations and diagnoses but it’s seldom available due to cost implications and lack of resources. Therefore can I ask anyone who has an interest in mental health or works with people with mental health difficulties just to take a few moments to read up on BPD, and on how you can help? You would be amazed what a difference it makes to someone’s mood when they feel understood. Only 1% of people suffer with BPD but it would be useful if those 1% were taken more seriously.

User-friendly complex PTSD?

Maybe we should ditch the American label “Borderline Personality Disorder” and change it to the more user-friendly diagnosis, “complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”? I would be interested to know what your thoughts and views are. I hope you can help.

Promised to be home soon

Today has been an easy day. I’ve done some more chores to ease the burden for Andrew. I also cooked a huge Sunday lunch, finished off with homemade apple and blackberry crumble and custard. It felt good to look after the family without considering it to be a big effort or chore. Time passed so quickly and before I knew it, it was 5.30 p.m. and time to go back to the hospital ward. I kissed Laura goodbye and promised I would be home soon.

Abusers have controlled my life for too long

Andrew dropped me off at the hospital and spent an hour with me. He seemed pleased that I was feeling better and encouraged me to stay in a more positive frame of mind. My abusers have controlled my life for too long and at times nearly beaten me. However, I’m still fighting and I am going to try and keep doing so.

I look forward to hearing your comments.

Love and best wishes

Angela x