Ashleigh, who has borderline personality disorder, blogs about how skydiving has empowered her, and helped her raise money for Mind.
I always knew I was ‘different’ and always felt out of place. But it wasn’t until I reached high school that things went downhill. I was bullied and started lashing out, acting impulsively and recklessly. I left school at 15 to attend college but dropped out and started working by the age of 16. The pressure of studying and exams just wasn’t for me.
In the workplace, things seemed to be going well. Then I was sexually harassed; a frightening blow to my confidence.
As I began to experience ‘the real world’, I grew and flourished. I was always more mature than my age - an old head on young shoulders. But things weren’t great at home; I was bullied by my stepdad. In the workplace, things seemed to be going well. Then, I was sexually harassed, a frightening blow to my confidence. In my first relationship, I was introduced to drugs and was sexually assaulted. I never told anyone about the assault. I was embarrassed, ashamed.
You don’t think about anyone else’s feelings. You just want to escape the demons screaming in your mind.
Life moved on fast. I was constantly changing job; I just couldn’t settle for boredom after a short while. I moved on to my next relationship and re-located. This is when the domestic abuse began. Eventually, I escaped. I lost myself, my identity. I lived in daily fear. My mind spiralled out of control and I began self-harming. I attempted to take my own life. It was a close call, but I pulled through. I felt like I was watching myself from the outside. I felt overwhelmed, degraded, worthless. I felt I had no purpose, that I wasn’t loved by anyone. You don’t think about anyone else’s feelings. You just want to escape the demons screaming in your mind. You want to escape the pain.
Eventually I was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), otherwise known as borderline personality disorder (BPD). I was also diagnosed with post-traumatics stress disorder (PTSD), body dysmorphia and an unclassified eating disorder. This is when I discovered Mind. I spent a lot of time researching these conditions using Mind’s online tools.
Suddenly it all started to make sense. I began to understand why I always felt ‘different’. I began to understand the fear of abandonment most likely stemmed from my parents’ divorce. I began to understand the overwhelming emotions, the impulsive and reckless behavior, the unstable relationships, the loss of identity. Mind’s resources provided me with more of an understanding of who I am and why I feel the way I do. I was on an emotional rollercoaster and if it wasn’t for Mind’s support lines or grounding tools, I wouldn’t be here to share my story today. As well as Mind’s support, I received support from my local hospital and crisis teams. I was given therapy after therapy to learn how to cope with my diagnosis.
I re-located to my hometown and was doing great for some time before I suffered a bout of glandular fever and chronic fatigue. I spent years with mental health professionals trying different courses of therapy, but nothing seemed to be working.
I struggled with addiction. My emotions were all over the place and I attempted to take my own life once more. I felt I had lost everything, that I had no purpose. I felt so overwhelmed by painful, negative feelings. The pain wasn’t just mental, it was physical. I was physically and mentally drained. I had no fight left, no care about how my actions would affect others around me. I was supported by my GP and my local hospital. A crisis management plan was put in place and a new course of therapy was introduced.
One day, I decided I needed to turn my life around. I needed to learn how to live with this disorder. I needed to learn how to be stronger and not let my mental health beat or define me. I wanted to help Mind in a way that it helped me, so I decided to sign up for a skydive to raise awareness for mental health problems and raise money for Mind.
It was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced in my life – I hated it, but I loved it!
Eventually, the day of the skydive came around. I had raised more than 200% my initial target, so there was no backing out. After a 5.30am start on World Mental Health Day, I reached the airfield around 8am for registration and training. I was all suited and booted, ready to jump before the weather turned and the skydive unfortunately was cancelled. However, after a slightly later start the following day, I headed back to the airfield with the weather on my side and got re-suited and booted.
I’m so thrilled to say that I took the big leap of faith and I have completed the charity skydive! It was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced in my life – I hated it, but I loved it! I can’t put into words what the experience was like, but I am so proud I’ve done this for my own mental health and in the support of others. The skydive has changed my outlook on BPD and I feel if I can take the big leap of faith, I can do absolutely anything! It’s changed my attitude towards my mental health and made me feel empowered, strong.
I will learn to overcome BPD. I will not let my mental health beat or define me. Thank you very much, Mind for supporting me through my illness.
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