Rachel is confident and fun. She can also be paranoid and withdrawn. Here she blogs about how a diagnosis has helped her come to terms with her condition.
Somewhere along the way as I was growing up I learnt that my painful emotions were too big and scary for other people to handle so I started to hide them. Outwardly I am warm, confident and fun. It's not that this is a lie, but it's a side of myself that I know is accepted and loved so it feels safe to show whereas the other parts of myself feel too raw and damaged. I worry that if people can see how broken I really feel they won't want to know me.
I have a mental illness and wherever I go it comes too
Hiding my emotions on the outside created an aching hole in my chest which grew bigger and bigger over the years. When things got really hard to contain and I felt like people might start to see through my happy exterior I would move. I have lived in several different cities, I have moved house lots of times in those cities and I have been a part of many groups of friends. Each time I made a change there was a honeymoon period where I felt like 'this is it, I'm going to be ok now...this is where I belong' but the problem is that you can't actually run away from yourself.
I have a mental illness and wherever I go it comes too. It might go into hibernation for a while but feelings, like water, always find a way. Every time I came out of the other side of my rose-tinted glasses phase I'd become withdrawn and spend more and more time at home not seeing people and living other people's lives instead of my own by watching films and listening to audiobooks.
Last year I was referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with a mixture of borderline personality disorder and avoidant or anxious personality disorder. That doesn't mean that there is something wrong with my personality it means that I think, feel and behave differently from most people.
There are similarities with bipolar in the sense that my moods can vary drastically, but instead of lasting days or weeks I can experience four or more moods in one day. These rapid changes are usually a reaction to my interactions with other people.
There are days when I don't want to get out of my pyjamas and feel terrified of going outside but there are also days when I wake up and feel like the best mother and wife in the world, am super organised and make everyone a lovely breakfast, walk the kids to school, chat to other parents and the teachers and feel enthusiastic, capable and inspired. It can take something as small as the way someone looks at me or a text where I can't figure out what the tone of voice is to make me feel like a small child who has been scolded. I can suddenly feel vulnerable, ashamed and terrified. Does this person hate me? Have I done something to upset them? Am I a bad person? It's exhausting having all these thoughts going round and round in my head so then I start to feel tired, irritable and emotionally distant.
Managing my moods and using my energy wisely is really tricky because when I feel high I could hike up a mountain, host a dinner party and set up a new business all in one day but then by morning I'm drained and need to sleep for a week.
I made the scary decision to stay and face my feelings. It's not been easy but I feel ready to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Last year I got really paranoid and depressed and excluded myself more and more from social events, I was calling my mum and my husband obsessively to seek reassurance and he had to change his working hours to make sure he was around more. I started searching for places we could move to, maybe we could live on a boat in Essex, move up to Scotland to be near my parents, Maybe we should move to Italy?
That’s when I made the scary decision to stay and face my feelings. It's not been easy but I am still here and have just started cognitive analytic therapy with a psychotherapist and I feel ready to feel the fear and do it anyway.
In the past going to work was really difficult and I moved jobs regularly. But now I work for a friend who has been incredibly supportive and lets me work from home on bad days and take time off when I've needed it.
However the biggest change recently has been getting a dog. It gives me a reason to get up early and get outside. It's a really nice way of staying in the present. Now I can go for walks and have chats with him on my days off.
I'm still optimistic that things will get better. I told my therapist last week that my biggest goal is to be as kind to myself as I am to my children. It's a scary thing for me to come out and tell people about how things really are but so far it's been a positive thing. At times I've worried about how it might affect my future chances at jobs or other opportunities but I'm mostly relieved to not have to pretend I'm OK and that for me is progress.