Kirsten Shonle shares her journey through life while battling Borderline Personality Disorder. Writing, especially using psychoscribble, is a tool that motivates her to fight, and she hopes that it can help others do the same.
Psychoscribble: Is defined as pieces of writing that help to gain clarity. It is a structured form of journaling. It is raw and comes from within. It is both creative and constructive. It can help you figure out what is truly going on in your mind especially if you like to go back and forth from reason mind to emotion mind all in a matter of seconds. It is what you want to make of it.
My psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Price M.D., coined the term Psychoscribble. It was a joint effort to actually put Psychoscribble into action. For me, writing is where I can find my answers and look at things from all sides without judgement. In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), the wise mind is often discussed. The wise mind is the middle ground where both your emotion mind and rational mind have equal say in the outcome. It is a place where you accept your emotions and yet look at them rationally. You are in a place where you can make wise decisions. I can reach wise mind through my writing. Everyone’s recovery looks different. I am just sharing my journey and maybe it can provide ideas for you to journal about or explore on your own. If you are not planning on taking away any writing ideas from this book, I still think you can benefit from reading about the struggles and small triumphs I have gone through with my mental illness.
I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Anorexia, Alcoholism and PTSD. Throughout the book I will be touching on these parts of myself and the type of writing I did to help me gain insight. There is some overlap with what I write as everything is bound together. It’s a web of my emotions and my disorders which have a lot of overlap. My major issue at this time is dealing with BPD. Some of my other issues such as suicidality and alcoholism are directly related to my BPD. This is both a memoir and a book of suggestions. I am not a trained professional. I am a person with mental illness who is working on gaining control of her life. I am still working on my journey to recovery. I am hoping writing this book will help me immensely. I am writing through my ups and downs. My psychoscribble pieces are glimpses of a BPD/addict mind. I believe that mental health providers can gain insight from my book as well.
I had started to write the psychoscribble pieces in July 2018 starting with letters to my emotions. I started to write the chapters to this book to go hand in hand with my psychoscribble the first week of October 2018; I finished the book in January 2019. The book is very raw as it takes you through my journey towards recovery. I do discuss the past in my memoir pieces. The past does affect the present. I am textbook case of BPD. I have taken bits and pieces from many forms of therapy. Writing is my favorite form of therapy.
I have been told throughout my years of therapy that journaling is a great tool to use in recovery. I have been journaling since I was twelve years old. For me, my journal looks like my monkey mind vomited on the paper. It is a stream of conscious that can lead down the path of negativity all too easily. This form of journaling can sometimes be helpful to me, but it usually isn’t as I do not have direction. I am a person who doesn’t like others to tell me what to do, but I found Dr. Price’s writing suggestions to be very helpful. I also came up with several ideas myself. I hope you, the reader, can find your own form of psychoscribble.
I have decided to not edit any of my psychoscribble writings. I like the rawness of brain and heart to paper without judging the grammatical errors (for me it’s brain to keyboard as my handwriting is worse than a chicken’s). I feel that if I were to edit, then everything would be a skewed version of my thoughts and emotions. I would overthink what I wrote and would then fall down the path of perfectionism and everything would feel phony. These are basically journal ideas. Who edits their journal? I am sure there are people out there who do so. Maybe you? I try to include the dates where I can as I have grown from my first psychoscribble to the ones I am working on now.
Happy reading and journaling.
I swear like I get to take coins out of people’s swear jars every time I do so. I wish. I’d own my own private jet to get to my own private island. So this book isn’t one you would read to your kids at night. There are sexual undertones throughout the book as well. That is what works for me. You need to find what works for you.
My Relationship with
Borderline Personality Disorder
I diagnosed myself with Borderline Personality Disorder when I was seventeen. I had read Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, and she included the criterion for BPD from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition. I thought, oh my God, this is me to a tee. I was still young and did not have the interpersonal relationship issues (yet), but I had every other criterion. I did a little more research on the topic and finally thought I had a reason for my emotional outbursts. My brother would often say, “Kirsten is going crazy again,” as I would be ripping posters off my walls. I would also tear apart a drawing or poem I had created if it was not appreciated the way I wanted it to be. My mother always said I was too sensitive. In my mind, reading about BPD made me feel like there was something wrong with me other than my depression and eating disorder.
I mentioned the idea that I might have BPD to my therapist of three years. She did not think I had the disorder. I was upset by this as I thought there was a name for the fact I would sometimes act so crazy. There was an answer to my constant need for attention and the huge fear I had about abandonment and rejection. My therapist didn’t acknowledge my thoughts. I felt rejected. She was my therapist and she obviously knew better than I. I thought maybe I wanted to have BPD to help give me a sense of identity. Aside from being thin, I had no idea who I was, trying on all kinds of different personas and never finding one that fit. My therapist and I continued to just work on my eating disorder and talking about superficial bullshit.
After a suicide attempt when I was twenty, I ended up in a mental hospital. The psychiatrist at this mental hospital validated me and diagnosed me with BPD. I was like, finally. I am not just crazy in my own head; I really have a reason for my fears and screaming fits. Of course, he also invalidated me by saying that I was intelligent so I should be able to beat BPD, no problem. What the fuck does being intelligent have to do with getting better? This is a question I have fought with for over twenty years as other professionals or crisis hotlines have said this same thing to me. If being smart could make me better, then wouldn’t I have used this intelligence to do so by now? It’s not like I woke up one morning and was suddenly smart. However, my busy brain being the way it is, would think, well if my intelligence cannot get me better, maybe I want to remain sick and miserable? I would then get very angry at myself and cut or burn my skin as both a way to ground myself, feel something other than the empty pit, and to punish myself.
I was still seeing the same therapist I was seeing at the age of seventeen and told her that I do have BPD. A psychiatrist diagnosed me with it in the hospital. She said that I do not have BPD and the psychiatrist only saw me for a week a had jumped to the diagnoses prematurely, probably because I cut and burn myself. Again, I wasn’t validated, and I just went back to talking about my eating disorder and why I got really pissed off at a driver on the road. I was so pissed I drove recklessly and ended up tailgating the driver at ninety miles per hour before I swung around him and dropped down to sixty-five miles per hour. One would think that telling a story like this would be validating of my disorder, but it wasn’t.
I went years of knowing I had BPD, but I also kept telling myself that I was wrong. I told myself that I just made it all up. I read a book, and I thought it was a good personality to have because I did not know who the fuck I was. I truly thought I was mimicking the disorder like some kind of insane copycat. I am a person who needs validation from several people as I cannot self validate. I need for people to agree with my thoughts, in this case having BPD, or they are not true. This is probably one of the reasons why I have cheated on everyone I have ever been with. I need more than one person telling me I am beautiful or I really am ugly. I need several people to tell me I am smart or I am very stupid. The list goes on and on. I have definitely put my significant others in a sewer pipe of shit. I needed another professional to tell me I had BPD to validate it, and I was not getting that support.
I had gone through a couple of therapists after my teenage/early adulthood therapist. We just talked about my daily life stressors and things along those lines. I had mostly recovered from my anorexia at this point in time. I had started dating women, and they didn’t care if I was fat or thin. This was a breakthrough I had finally made on my own after years of being in and out of eating disorder clinics. I liked the two therapists I saw as people. I never mentioned the idea that I had BPD to either of them, fearing that I wouldn’t be validated yet again. Both of the women ended up moving away, and I cried for days that I no longer had a friend I paid to talk to me. When the second therapist moved away, I had decided to give up on therapy as all therapists will leave me. I felt incredibly abandoned and knew rationally that they were just moving away and they weren’t leaving me, but my emotions took over and made me feel as if was my fault and I should never have a therapist again because she would leave me too.
My intense emotions always led me to screaming and hurting myself. I kept trying to run away from my intense emotions. It is impossible to run away from yourself though. I found ways to ease the pain, such as working up to eighty hours in a week. I also found relief in a bottle. These were just masks hiding my pain. I was still very sick. I thought I was better as I was rarely cutting or burning myself. I figured a lot of people drink and this is a great way to numb out my emotions. I stopped believing I had BPD at this time. I mean, in my many years of treatment only one professional diagnosed me with the disorder, so he and I were obviously wrong.
I got pregnant and married when I was twenty-six years old. I was a workaholic during this time as I knew I couldn’t drink. I met my husband, Jason, at work and he was married to another. I got pregnant before he was divorced. Even though he did leave his ex, Kelly, for me, I still felt like he loved her more. I would fantasize about beating Kelly up. I would have this thought multiple times a day. My jealousy took over my life. I would make up all kinds of things in my head to validate my feelings that he did not love me. He was going to leave me at any moment. Being a workaholic wasn’t enough to keep me distracted. I started to have some of my eating disorder behaviors come back. When I mentioned to Jason I was becoming bulimic again, he slapped me across the face. I felt like I deserved it and this was another reason why he loved Kelly more than me.
I desperately clung to Jason even when he had physical outbursts and I would be bruised. I am not easy to live with as I regularly scream at him that he was or is going to leave me. Still to this day I question his love for me. I constantly questioned his motives and not trusting what he said to me that I was his only true love. Sometimes I would scream at him that he got physically abusive. I had a love-hate relationship with the abuse. I felt like I deserved it, and yet I also thought I was justified in throwing it back in his face. He told me the abuse was because he has never felt so much passion for anyone and he feared for the life of his child. The abuse wasn’t frequent, but after five years I had enough and called the cops on him. Per the court, he had to take a year-long class to help regulate his passionate outbursts towards me. The class changed him for the better. The only other times he would lay a hand on me was when I was suicidal and he had to keep me safe.
I continued to try and run away and throw a blanket over my emotions. After my third and last child was born, my alcoholism really started to posses me. I was working at the phone company at the time. It was a good union job, and it paid better than I would have been paid even if I got my masters degree. The golden handcuffs is a term frequently used by the union workers. No one cared for the job especially with all we were put through, but the pay could not be beat. I truly believe I have PTSD from working there. I have nightmares and everything. Not only was it a sales job (not my thing), but it was a business that was managed by sheer incompetency. Our systems were a mess, and we had to disappoint customers on a daily basis. “I am sorry, the tech will not be out today, we do not know when the tech will get out there.” As an empathetic person, I really felt bad for these customers as the company would continue to abuse them over and over again. A lot of my coworkers were able to become numb to the situation and could nonchalantly say, “Oh, there won’t be a tech out.” They would say it in a way that was so matter of fact and that since it happens all of the time the customer shouldn’t be so upset.
I mostly worked as a service assistant at the phone company, as I hate sales and pushing products that people do not need. As a service assistant, I answered other representative questions or took over escalated calls. When a customer asked for a supervisor, that was me. I really had no more authority than any of the sales representatives there. I took a lot of angry customer calls. Many customers swore and called me names. I could hardly blame them; we have pushed off their installations multiple times. I would profusely apologize to the customer and agree it was not acceptable. If they apologized for swearing, I said, “I would be carrying on more than you are right now if I was in the same boat.” I really wanted to help people, but if I am not given the proper tools it made it impossible to perform my job well. I felt like a failure all because of the system issues and lack of technicians. I took it to heart that I couldn’t help. I couldn’t do anything correctly, and I was an incompetent jerk. If I asked a manager for help with a particularly difficult situation, they would tell me to use an inefficient tool and I would be in the same place I was before. Picture needing to chop down a huge tree that is completely blocking your path. You ask for a tool to chop down the tree so you can continue on your path. Someone hands you a spoon, “Here, try this.” “Ah, thanks, I guess.”
I would go home every night and drink my emotional pain away. I had an empty void within me that needed to be filled. I would imagine killing myself in various ways. I would drink until I was blackout drunk and pass out. I would go into work hungover the following day. Rinse and repeat. This was my life for years. I was hardly cutting myself during this time, so I thought alcohol was a magical cure. I actually thought I was doing well. My fears of abandonment and rejection were at an all-time low as liquor made it all go away. I stopped fantasizing about killing Kelly. I still had extreme emotional outbursts when I was drunk. I attributed my screaming matches with Jason as a part of being drunk. I thought it had nothing to do with my mental health. My biggest regret while drinking was that I would sometimes yell at the kids. Even worse, when I was blackout drunk, I announced at one time that my youngest child was my favorite. What kind of parent does that? The following day I had to say that I was misinterpreted. It was hard to skirt around the issue as all three children heard what I had said. I did not remember when this happened but from the following conversation I had with my children, I know I said it. One of the things I wish I could take back, but now I just have to accept it happened. I hated being such a mess but the fact that I felt my soul was ripped out of my body, I was coping the best I could. The drinking helped with my emptiness and everything else I did not want to feel. It kept taking more and more alcohol to achieve the same results. I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t an alcoholic by limiting myself to six pounders a night (I allowed a lot more Friday through Sunday). They were not having the same effect so I stopped eating and only drank. I dropped down to 89 pounds before I finally checked myself into rehab.
Why I finally decided to try rehab was because I was told by a psychiatrist in a mental hospital, Spring Harbor, that if I stopped drinking I would feel better. I had to admit that I did feel like my drinking was causing a lot of extra emotional turmoil. I had befriended someone online, and we had an intense emotional affair that was ripping my marriage apart. I was so caught up in drinking I did not see what was wrong about this affair. I was stuck in my own little world and was shutting out my family. I needed to do something. I tried but could not get sober on my own.
The triggering event for this hospital stay in August of 2017 was the fact that I threatened, on social media, to kill the management team at work if I had a gun. One of my union sisters brought what I wrote to management’s attention. If the phone company was not a union job, I am sure I would have been instantly fired. I was not fired but put on indefinite suspension. I explained I was suicidal and an alcoholic. They told me to get help and that would shorten my time off without pay. I ended up in the emergency room that afternoon and Spring Harbor the following day. I had mentioned in the hospital that I was diagnosed with BPD when I was twenty, but I wasn’t sure if I still had it. The psychiatrist put it down in my file; he did not see the diagnoses as being far fetched. The more pressing issue at the time was my alcoholism and my suicidal and homicidal ideation. This was the focus of this first visit.
In November of 2017, I ended up going to detox and then rehab. It was easy to be sober in rehab. When I got out in December, it was very difficult to remain sober. Through hard work, determination, and just being purely stubborn, I was able to talk myself out of running out for a drink every time I had a craving. I played a game with myself. Every time I did not give in and have a drink it was a win for me. AA did not work for me but I found SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training). It is a recovery program that focuses on science. There is involvement of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) as well as REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) in the workbook. Doing many cost-benefit analyses really helped get me through. For me, the only time I can see clearly is when I write down something and it is in black and white, clear as day.
After being sober for about 100 days, my mental illness slapped me in my face. I was back to feeling suicidal and worthless yet again. It was really hard to be at the phone company and not have an escape to run to afterwards. I ended up suppressing a lot of my rage and sadness. I was a shaken seltzer water bottle and ready to explode. I told myself that the best place to kill myself would be at work. I concocted a whole plan where I would go out to the woods and take a bunch of pills and wrap a plastic bag around my head. By the time they realized I was not coming back from my lunch break and that my car still remained in the parking lot, I would be found dead. I wrote a very brief suicide note, and I was going to leave it on my keyboard at work. Life was too hard. Killing myself at work would be poetic, showing that it is a toxic environment and management needed to make some changes before we all just die. The thought of my suicide was so clear. I knew it was a matter of time before it would actually happen.
I barely made it through the month of March. Luckily I had taken a couple three-day weekends to get me through. By April, I just could not take my pain any longer. I brought several bottles of my anxiety pills to work with me. I couldn’t trust myself; I texted Jason from work and told him how suicidal I was. He called management, so they pulled me off the phones to talk to me before Jason could come and pick me up. I went straight to the ER and ended back at Spring Harbor. In my mind, it was just going to be a refresher before going back to being a tortured slave at the phone company. I mean, I was sober and I had started to practice mindfulness and meditation techniques. I felt like I should have been doing a lot better than I was. I felt a little relief at the hospital. This stay was ten days. I ended up doing a ten day partial hospital program afterwards. Partial hospital is an outpatient program with intensive classes for five hours a day. This was my second time through the partial program. I had gone the first time at the end of August. In August my brain was floating in alcohol, so I didn’t gain what I could have. I thought the second time at partial was going to cure me. As on paper, I should have been doing awesome. I was sober and had a lot of coping skills already. I felt better, but that was only when I was actively in the program. As soon as I was back to work, I pictured new ways of killing myself. Again, I really wanted to do it at work because fuck those guys.
It wasn’t long before I ended up back in the ER and then blue papered to go to Spring Harbor. My insurance company must have hated me. I could not stop the thoughts of suicide. My life was supposed to be better as I was sober, but my life was worse with every waking moment. This time the psychiatrist deemed that my biggest issue was having BPD and being chronically suicidal. I was white papered at the hospital and only became a voluntary patient on my court date. It did not help when I would say things like, “The hospital was a life support machine keeping me alive, and I should be able to leave so I could pull the plug and die.” Sometimes I cannot help being overly dramatic even if it would hinder me in the long run. The psychiatrist at the hospital reached out to Dr. Price who specializes in BPD. Dr. Price agreed to take me on as a patient. It was only on this condition that they would let me leave the hospital as my chronic suicidality was not decreasing.