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*The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and communicated without reference to supporting documentation. The writer also recognizes that BPD is a disorder that affects both males and females, and uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias. Breakaway MHE Disclaimer
I write this article out of compassion, not only for myself, but also for the many young kids and teens I will never meet, but who I learn go missing/run away from home for one reason or another. I see the posts in social media about “runaways” (seemingly every other day) that typically includes a young person’s picture and parents pleading that the young person be found. Most of the time the individuals are found shortly after the post shows up in the newsfeed, but sometimes they are not.
I can’t help but wonder if these kids are facing similar emotional, thought-related, and behavioral struggles that I faced while I was in the same stage of life. I also can’t help but wonder if the runaway (and his or her family) has learned anything about the mental health challenges so common to life in modern society, such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I strongly suspect that the level of mental health ignorance these individuals (and their families) are experiencing is a “carbon-copy replication” to what I experienced for most of my life. In other words, I strongly suspect these families share a lack of understanding mental illness in the context of common circumstances, and that this has the potential to escalate into unnecessary drama and heartache, and sometimes complete devastation.
I’ve heard of people writing a letter to their younger selves as a way of healing old wounds, and then I realized that I’ve never done that for myself. Therefore, my purpose in writing this letter (plus sharing openly in a blog post) is to further heal my own wounds, but also to reach people faced with similar mental health challenges and offer them words of experience and wisdom that may prove useful as they proceed along their unique path of discovery and growth.
I am aware that no one BPD experience could possibly represent them all, and thus I understand how this letter could be limited in it’s meaningfulness and applicability. Nonetheless, I also realize that many BPD experiences have similarities, and so articulating these ideas could go a long way for being helpful across the board. Indeed, it is the shared experiences that can offer comfort to those afflicted by awful things. That being said, here is what I would say to my teenager self if I could go back in time and be heard.
Since you never asked for this letter, you have every right to ignore every word written. That being said, you might want to read it through because it is coming from an older version of yourself – someone who knows you very well and has experienced everything the same. Furthermore, in comparison to any other collection of words you will ever receive, these may some of be the most compassionate of all.
Your emotional suffering is more understandable then you realize. There is much that you don’t know about mental illness and mental health, and much that you will not be able to learn due to the fact that the authority figures in your life are not capable or equipped to reveal the full truth of the subject to you. Parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, clergy, counselors – they all make sense of things in pretty much the same ways, although not in ways that will help you live free from mental illness. Even though the people in your life may care and want to help, they will most likely say and do things that unintentionally aggravate the problem.
Hard as it may be to believe, the world (the culture) that you inhabit has no real interest in teaching you how to be mentally healthy. It never did and, in fact, it could care less how mentally sick or healthy you are now, or how sick or healthy you become in the future. Even though it is true that there are various health services available to respond to health issues as they arise, this never meant that matters of health (and especially mental health) have ever been a cultural priority, or particularly relevant to your preparation for adulthood. The main interest of the culture you inhabit is to get you trained to participate in producing and consuming activities (money-making and money-spending activities), and also to ensure that you remain obedient to this pattern/program throughout your entire life.
When it feels like you are alone in your emotions and like no one understands, there is good reason for this. It is because most everyone you know has not learned how to work with emotions, nor how to help others become competent in managing emotions. Again, the emphasis in nearly every person’s childhood development in western society is to become competent at producing and consuming, not at mastering emotions and learning about healthy relationships. This means that your parents will not be able to teach you essential skills about how to live in your body, nor how to exist in healthy relationships, although they will probably never admit this flaw because they themselves were never made aware of it.
And even though the authority figures in your life will repeatedly (but unknowingly) undermine your emotional development due to their impatience and lack of skill, they will remain open to punishing you for not having developed the ability to remain calm and capable. When these moments happen, you will probably feel so rejected, worthless, and ashamed, that you will want to run away from everything. This is completely understandable too, since you have probably wanted to get along and please your parents, but the conversations keep going badly and they keep getting angry and giving you consequences (as if consequences could teach you things you have never been taught about how to live in your body – they can’t).
One thing to remember in all of this is that you are in a similar situation as many other kids and teens, no matter if they are rich or poor, or somewhere in between. The ingredients for the development of emotional disorder (and eventually something more serious called Borderline Personality Disorder) are everywhere that mental health is deemed more or less irrelevant to childhood development. Wherever parents (and the system in general) is basically concentrated on matters of money-making and economy, there you will find many young individuals who “fall through the emotional cracks” and wind up short on skills for taking responsibility for their emotions throughout life.
The consequences of not being able to effectively manage your emotions will translate into ever-increasing difficulty with your behaviors and ability to exist in relationships. What makes this even more aggravating is that some people do not need as much emotional training and skillful parenting, and so they can get away with less emotional learning without experiencing the consequences mentioned above. Some people are more genetically prone to having these problems, and unfortunately you are in a genetic pool that passes these traits down the ancestral line.
The reality of your life, therefore, is that it is not your fault that you have inherited emotional challenges and received inadequate parenting, but it is nonetheless required that you find a way to get equipped with the proper knowledge and tools to live in your body. If you choose to ignore this reality, it will be at great expense to your entire quality of life. You will have to forgive both yourself and the others in your life who do not know any better what has been happening all along as pertains to mental health. It will be hard to forgive because you will most likely have to live through many days and nights of disorder before you figure out how to make up for all these shortcomings.
The excellent part of this message for you to keep is that it comes from you, and at a time and place when things have settled and essential skills have been learned. This means that you have everything already needed inside of you to continue this journey and come out on the other side. Even better than that, you have everything you need inside your body to create a life that doesn’t involve unnecessary and awful suffering. The only requirement is that you remain curious and motivated to continue discovering your inherent abilities. You are absolutely lovable and capable, and someday you will understand the full depth of this truth.”