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Taking Control of My Moods
Erica H.

I was sent to get a psychiatric evaluation last year, at the request of the family court. At the psychiatrist’s office, I sat in a black chair and began to bite my nails, thinking about what to say and what not to say to the doctor. I didn’t want to say anything to make me look loony or I’d be leaving there in an ambulance to the nut house. I stopped biting my nails when the psychiatrist stepped into the room.

He asked questions about my childhood experiences, personal information that I’ve been trying to block out because I don’t want to remember. It was like opening up the gate to hell in my brain.

Afraid of My Anger

In Represent, I have written about those childhood experiences—being beaten and neglected at home, raped and locked up in a psychiatric hospital for two years. Writing gave me a sense of closure about the memories. For the psychiatrist to ask me to bring up my childhood experiences again made me feel like my brain was burning inside.

I answered each question the best I could without losing it. I talked at a fast pace and in a high voice, alert to my reactions. I have limited patience and staying there long would have triggered my angry side. I get violent and harmful when I become angry. I didn’t want to attack the psychiatrist.

He had a mini book that he was checking things off in every time I answered a question. It was a book to determine if I had a mental illness. About a week later I received an evaluation in the mail. It said I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and explained that therapy and medication could help.

I looked up borderline on the internet and found out it is a serious illness that creates powerful mood changes. Typical symptoms include anxiety, distress, lack of confidence and mania. I read that borderline can interfere with interpersonal relationships, self-image, work and an individual’s sense of dignity. The illness may lead to suicide attempts, weird thoughts and many hospitalizations.

Those descriptions fit me to a T. I switch in a heartbeat from manic happiness to impulsive aggression and self-injury. I saw myself when I read that “people with BPD often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. They develop intense but stormy attachments. Their attitudes towards family, friends and loved ones may suddenly shift from enormous respect and love to intense anger and dislike.”

Those descriptions of borderline also scared me. I thought, “After all I have gone through, now this?”

Being labeled made me feel like I didn’t know myself, like I was a stranger in my own body. I knew I had trouble with my feelings switching up, but I didn’t take it seriously. Come to find out I don’t have all my screws in my head.

I was relieved when I read, “Mental health services can eventually help a person with borderline live a productive life.”

‘Now This?’

But then I saw that on my evaluation, the psychiatrist wrote that I should see a therapist, and that medicine might help but not much. There is no way to change my personality. The medication can only help slow down my moods so they’re not changing abruptly.

Soon after I got the evaluation, I began therapy. My therapist was a young woman who was not yet fully a therapist. My first impression was not good. I thought, “This is a wanna-be therapist from college who figured she’d like to play pretend.” First impressions are not a good way to judge, I know now. My therapist turned out to be cool peoples.

In the Hot Seat

Sometimes during my visits I felt like I was in the hot seat, because all the attention was focused on me and my issues. But it didn’t bother me to tell her about my feelings and experiences. It felt as if my therapist was reaching out to help me, not like she just wanted to get paid and didn’t care what I’d gone through.

image by Ruda Tillett

One thing I really liked was that she had flexible hours and days. She didn’t cut my conversation short because of time. Sometimes we stayed past the time limit. She also allowed me to come more than once a week when I was feeling down or when I was excited to tell her something and felt I just couldn’t wait until my session.

My therapist and I talked at first about how I ended up with such a serious condition. She said some people believe borderline is the result of negative experiences and others say it’s just your chemical make-up. I assume it’s both. Both my mom and dad have moods that change quickly, from loving mother to depressed mom or angry mom and from loving father to angry dad.

Showing My Wild Side

At first, my therapist and I just talked about things I wasn’t upset about at the moment. We paid attention to my behavior and moods outside the office and found out that I end up having emotional collapses when I have a small negative experience and don’t deal with it right away. As my hurt builds into anger, I start to feel like I’m not in control of my body anymore, and my behavior becomes intense. I learned that I can help myself manage my outbursts by opening up and letting out my feelings in positive ways.

During most of my early appointments, I was smiling and calm. Then one day I was feeling suicidal and I was honest with her about it. She really helped.

I was feeling suicidal because my ex-boyfriend was treating me badly. He often borrowed money from me that he didn’t pay back, and he wasn’t faithful. I had broken up with him, giving him his Christmas gift and telling him, “Merry Christmas, but I’m at my new boyfriend’s house.” After that he got angry. He kept calling me, arguing and hanging up, expecting me to come back to him.

Stopped in My Tracks

I felt upset because he’d hurt my feelings while we were dating but he wouldn’t admit that I’d hurt him at all. He just kept saying, “I don’t need you. It’s best that we break up. I only need you for your money.” I believed that, once again, I’d opened my heart to someone who didn’t care about me. Jerk!

I wanted him to suffer and felt suicidal because I thought I’d never find someone to love me without hurting me. Weep! Weep! I actually started sharpening my knife with the back of a can opener, even though I knew I didn’t want to hurt myself. I was feeling blue and wanted attention. I know pulling suicide attempts is not a positive way to seek attention, but I decided to act out my thoughts anyway. I felt out of control and wanted to be rescued. Sometimes I show people how I am feeling and pray they can help me. My new boyfriend stopped me in my tracks.

The next morning I called my therapist and she asked me to come in. I was relieved. Any other therapist would have sent me to the nut house. I went right to her office.

A Moment to Think

She was surprised to see me so upset. I felt a little weird that she saw me in the middle of flipping out, and I worried that she’d see me differently after that. But she’s treated me the same.

Like always, she told me to take time alone to myself in the corner of her room. She asked me to answer questions, like, “What could you have done instead of wanting to commit suicide?” And, “What could have happened if you did go through with it?”

I sat in the corner and thought about my ex-boyfriend, good times as well as bad. I realized that I didn’t need him. Over the past year dating him all I felt was pain. Love is supposed to bring joyful moments in life.

After a little while I thought, “I don’t know what I was thinking!” I told her, “I could have called a friend, spoken to staff or talked to my boyfriend.”

“Great!” she replied. She went over ways for me to get help if I ever felt like harming myself again, like calling a 24/7 hotline number, her number, or if it’s serious calling 911.

image by Ruda Tillett

Solutions Are Inside of Me

We also talked about my wish to be rescued. I learned that it will help me to think, “How can I help myself?” more often than, “How can someone help me?” I can help myself in many cases (although I can become lost-minded and act in strange ways at times).

When I left the therapist’s office I felt brand new, like I’d stepped through a warm tunnel filled with happiness. I was smiling and happy to be alive. I thought, “Boyfriends come and go. I was thinking about hurting myself over a stupid situation.”

What made me feel better wasn’t really anything she said, but what she pulled out of me. Her questions helped me put into words solutions that I had inside all along. I was blinded by my emotions, but in reality I was glad the relationship was over.

I’ve learned a lot from therapy. We’ve talked about so many things. I learned that I have an addictive nature. I’m addicted to friends and men who treat me badly and I want everyone to like me. I also compulsively buy stuff in shops that I never had but always wanted as a child.

My therapist and I decided that an addiction isn’t easy to get rid of 1-2-3! It takes time. I try to handle each problem step by step.

Pain Begins to Fade

My therapist and I also started a “Forgive and Forget” plan because I have trouble keeping a distance from people that hurt me in the past. She told me to call everybody and tell them, “I forgive you,” and to forgive myself, too.

I called a friend I once fought with. He’d called me names and I’d insulted him back. When I called, I said, “I want to end this like adults, not little children. I forgive you and I hope you forgive me.”

I also wrote letters to my mother and father. I told them that while I had issues with them in the past, I know it’s a hard thing to raise children and I know they did the best they could and I forgive them.

Both of my parents wrote back and told me they were proud of me. My mom also told me that she’d been through some of the same pain as me (she’d been raped as a child, too) and my father told me that he was struggling with his anger problems. Their words made me feel like some of the pain from my past that I haven’t been able to let go of is starting to fade.

Therapist and Friend

I also started taking new medications a few months ago to stabilize my moods. The medication is to help me be the kind and caring side of myself, not the side that gets mean and nasty towards people. At first I felt that being on medications was the most awful part of my illness. But I’ve found that it’s better taking medication than being unstable.

I’m so glad I got that evaluation and went to therapy. My therapist is more than a therapist. She lends an ear, she gives me practical help and she is like the friend I always wanted.

I have improved my ability to express myself with words instead of acting out my feelings. I have more improvements to make. But at least now I can stop when I get angry and tell myself, “Think! Think of all the ways you could react, and react in a positive way.”

As a result of attending therapy I do feel much better. She didn’t cure my illness but she helped me have many more positive days than I had before.

Are you a caring adult looking for more stories to help your youth? Go to, a resource for the front-line staff in schools and community based programs to help teens who are struggling with difficult emotions.

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