How to function when you are deemed “broken…”

WARNING: This article contains colourful language and triggers. Please don’t judge me for what I have written. My cat made me do it……
Yeah……I lied……I don’t have a cat

“Hi – I am so sorry, my aunt just died. She has been ill for a while but it has obviously hit me really hard. I don’t think I will make it in for the rest of the week. Is that okay? I am so sorry – thanks for understanding.”

Don’t feel bad for me – that is the fifth time my aunt has died this year. Are you confused? I don’t blame you – let me explain. I have borderline personality disorder and extreme anxiety and depression and having these disorders causes me, at times, to be unable to get out of bed, makes me think or hear things or reduce me to a shaking, sweaty mess on my bedroom floor.

Why the lie, you ask? Because I am too embarrassed to ring my employer and tell them the truth – the truth being I can’t face the day today – I feel like I am dying and suffocating but I have fuck all physiological symptoms. So instead of telling the truth, I am going to lie to you and tell you someone has died so you will grant me the time I need to get myself together.  I know some of you will think that this is a horrible way of getting out of something but when you are faced with the stigma and shame of living with a mental health illness – nothing is off limits. I have said my aunts and uncles have died or got ill so many times that I couldn’t count on one hand how many family members I have killed off. It helps coming from a large Indian family – no one questions how many living relatives you have.

In my experience, no employer would allow you to take time off just because in their head you’re feeling “sad” – huh…I didn’t know sad was another word for suicidal. I must invest in an up to date thesaurus…but anyway I digress. Employers seem to not want to know what is going on for you “upstairs” it’s either too taboo for them to talk about or it brings about a world of forms and paperwork that they need to fill out to cover their arses which they simply don’t have the time for. OR the absolute worst-case scenario is you tell them and then you become discriminated against (anyone else experienced that too? Hands up!) Don’t get me wrong I am not trying to paint all employers out to be complete arseholes – I am sure that there are some great ones who really do try and understand what you are going through – I have just yet to meet them.

The problem with lying (for me) is that I start to feel guilty for the metaphorical aunt/uncle/grandad/dog/fish that I have killed off which adds to my anxiety and ruminating thoughts that I am bad person and deserve to suffer. So, before you think I enjoy coming up with these excuses, I really don’t! In fact, it probably adds to the suffering I am already going through and prolongs it. See, it’s not fun being inside the head of what some people call a “a crazy lady.”  It’s not always my go to excuse the death of Aunty Shilpa or Uncle Bhavesh – contrary to popular belief, I am not a monster. Sometimes I use the good old diarrhoea excuse. This works best when you have an obligation to attend a party or night out with a friend because, let’s face it, no one wants to hang out with someone who is chained to the loo with an arse like a broken tap. You are probably thinking: “Crazy Lady, why aren’t you just honest with your friends? Just tell them the truth that you are struggling – lying isn’t helping!” and the fact is I have told the truth before and it wasn’t received very well. I got the passive aggressive: “Wow, thanks couldn’t you have told me sooner? Now I have no one to go with,” “I am sure you are just over exaggerating, it can’t be that bad” or the ever so helpful “Just come anyway, it will cheer up you” – that last one makes me laugh the most because it is like they think that notion of “cheering up” didn’t even enter my head. I seriously think those that don’t have mental issues think it’s as simple as clicking my fingers and deciding to be happy. Believe me if I could do that I would – I have tried it, through the hysterical cries and mascara running down my face I tried smiling and laughing and I looked like a complete lunatic, but you know, I tried it so I reckon that is at least deserving of a 6 out of 10 for effort.

How can you explain to someone that you can’t attend this party or can’t come into work because you have an overwhelming feeling that you are going to die or something bad is going to happen or that you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you feel everyone would be better off if you were dead? You can’t – hence the excuses.

Perhaps I am wrong but in my experience, I am given more sympathy and shown more compassion and understanding if I have a physical ailment. I think because people can see it – maybe not the diarrhoea, I don’t think anyone wants to see that to be honest. If you can see it then that makes it okay, if you can’t it means the person could be making it up for attention and is just lazy instead of having an actual bona-fide problem.

Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there and it doesn’t hurt.

Some of my other favourites are migraines, emergency doctor’s appointments and the classic “traffic” or “my car broke down” I add these to my bank of excuses and am able to whip them out on short notice which is really handy especially when you are in a full-blown episode and can barely breathe let alone draft up an email or text.

I know this article has a slightly humorous tone but please believe when I say I wish I could tell you the truth.  I wish I could speak up and say I have a mental disorder it causes me to suffer from debilitating lows coupled with hallucinations and crippling anxiety and some days I need to retreat into my own space and stay there, but I can’t. Maybe I lie because I have been shamed too much from my past employers, friends and even family members (Not the ones I have killed off – they are surprisingly supportive, silence being golden and all that)

Maybe in the future when mental health isn’t so stigmatised people like myself can be much more honest about what we are going through and the lies can stop but until that day comes please don’t invite me out anywhere as I am pretty sure my car would have just broken down on my way to the hospital to see my dead aunt whilst I was suffering from extreme diarrhoea.

UPDATE:

Just to let you know since I have written this piece (I wrote it a while ago, saved it and uploaded it – genius right?!) I managed to get a full time job working in a school and helping out kids who need a bit of TLC. My line manager is super supportive and my BPD episodes are few and far between. I guess there are good organisations out there! So if I can find one and find a job that I love so can you, my fellow BPD-ers ❤

 

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