I live in black or white

Guest Author: Marie

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

I was once a strong, motivated woman, and according to my friends, people looked up to me.

I say « according to my friends » because I never believed this. In my mind, I have never been good enough. If I reached a goal, whether it be athletic or academic, it was never enough. I needed to push myself harder.

However, at the first signs of struggle or *gasp* failure, I would quit. But being a quitter isn’t great either. I would beat myself up, thinking how shitty a person I am. It has taken me 36 years to realize that I am a perfectionist, and that I hate it. I used to think being a perfectionist was awesome, but it’s not. It’s a curse. Being a perfectionist is being eternally dissatisfied with yourself, and sometimes with others. I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), and one of my traits is that I live in black or white : there is no gray in my life.

In my mind, I have never been good enough.

Things are right or wrong, nice or shitty, smart or stupid, good or bad. I either do everything or nothing: a few years ago, within two weeks’ time, my adult daughter moved out of my house, my son started daycare, I started a new course at university (in the hopes of finishing a BA I had started years ago), went back to work and finished my training for an upcoming half-marathon. Just writing this made me dizzy.

What am I doing now you ask? I’ve been off work for 17 months, and have idea when I’ll go back. I also happen to be a paramedic. Having always demanded perfection from myself, imagine my anger and disgust when following THE call, where I was stuck, unable to move on. That « pillar of strength » was bawling in her truck. Not exactly « perfect » behaviour.

Two months later, I was diagnosed with complex trauma post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), severe depression, panic attacks, and later with chronic anxiety and BPD. For months I was angry : angry at myself for being so weak, for being a shitty paramedic, and for now being a shitty wife and mother. I’ve wanted to kill myself too many times to count, for many reasons. Tired of getting up after being knocked down. Wanting to rid my family of my dark cloud hovering over them. Wanting the pain to end. I was fed up with the nightmares, the paralyzing anxiety, the hyper-vigilance (apparently it’s not normal to cover your head and duck under a table when a baby lets out a scream at a restaurant), waking up from a nightmare so sweaty that I had to change my pjs in the middle of the night (that’s just the short list of my symptoms, there’s more…).

There is no gray in my life.

I was tired of being told that it was impossible my C-PTSD had anything to do with my work. So when I drank, I drank to numb the pain. To forget how shitty I felt. During a particular panic attack, I dissociated. When my brain and body came back together, I had a fistful of pills. I was counting my meds to see if I had enough to die. I handed all my pills to my husband and told him to hide them.

After that evening, I made the smarted decision of my life : to go to a treatment center for first responders and military personnel, five hours away from home. It was the worst being away from my husband and my son for one month, but it was worth it. He was five at the time, and it was hard on him. I told him that it was important for me to get even more help for my « difficulties » (that’s what we call my diagnostics). He knew I had a psychologist and a psychiatrist, but I needed more intensive help.

I do things that I like, and that makes me happy.

Being surrounded by peers was amazing. I quickly realized that I was truly not alone with my bullshit, and that it was okay to cry in front of others. In one month I learned more about myself than I ever had. One resident shared something with me, and I think of it often. He told me that his mother died by suicide when he was two years old, and that her death has scarred him forever. He asked me to not kill myself for the sake of my son.

I still take a bunch of meds daily, but I’m okay with it now. I’ve graduated to seeing my shrink bi-weekly now, and I’m proud of that. I’m kinder to myself. « Good enough » is now part of my vocabulary. I meditate and go to the gym. I do things that I like, and that makes me happy.

I’m not all better, but I’m working on it.



Thank-you..for your honesty this really helped.

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