In the first in a new series of posts on Soundsphere magazine centred around mental health awareness, Joey Holmes discusses her own experiences discovering Borderline Personality Disorder, and how she is able to cope, with the aim to inspire others.
I was told the initial hospitalisation after removal of said appendix via keyhole surgery was 24–48 hours. 72 hours later I am still in crippling pain, morphine wasn’t touching it and my consultant was both confused and concerned.
Something to note is the fact my keyhole scars are placed as followed, my belly button, right above my pubic bone (thank God I shaved before my appendix went rogue!) and on my left side above my hip. Now, I’m no doctor but I am pretty sure (and Wikipedia agrees with me here) that your appendix is on your RIGHT hand side, so I was a little perplexed as to why my scar was on the left. I am beginning to question my left and right at this point due to the sheer amount of pain killers being pumped into me.
Flash forward to November 1 and I have been discharged and readmitted the same day around 3 times now, I was at my wits end. I was depressed, I had a catheter in so I couldn’t even go outside the house. I was taking a mountain of pills every 4–6 hours and as a result I was doped to the eyeballs, to the point of putting bread in the fridge and wondering why it wasn’t toasting.
While looking back now it seems funny that it was a precursor of what was to come… I was in agony that day, more so than usual. My catheter was uncomfortable and I was feeling incredibly antsy. I called my roommate to say I was feeling depressed and what time would she be home, as something didn’t feel right.
And then it happened, without thinking I mindlessly emptied my paracetamol (acetaminophen for US people) 64 pills, then my Gabapentin, 336 pills, and a box of Nytol (dipenhydramine), 12 pills. In total 412 pills. I didn’t touch the morphine as I figured 400 odd pills was probably enough to kill myself. And I took them, laid down on the sofa covered myself in a blanket and awaited oblivion. It’s important to note two thirds of all suicides don’t leave a note, and because my decision was so split second I didn’t. Half an hour passed and I began to feel the effects, I felt drunk and began having hallucinations, I forgot I have overdosed and called 999 (911 in US).
I explained as best I could to the woman on the phone who asked what happened and I said I didn’t know but I said there were pill packets scattered around. Before I knew it, drowsy as hell an ambulance arrived and the male paramedic stayed with me taking vitals and trying to get an IV line in, the female paramedic went to get some things for me like PJs and underwear (and my teddy bear). I was treat with nothing but respect, the male paramedic being the one to stay in the back with me and try and keeping me awake, I don’t remember getting to the hospital.
The next thing I know is some lovely lady waking me gently to ask if she could take some blood, me curled up with my teddy and catheter hanging off the end of the bed must have looked a sight. I couldn’t walk, I could barely sit up without feeling so dizzy I was going to puke.
In walks a consultant, and to be honest I am dreading the tirade of telling off I am going to get, instead he sits down next to me. He talks to me like a human being and tells me a story of how his wife had overdosed at my age so he understood what I was feeling. He asked me what I wanted to happen and all I said was “I want the pain to go away” to which he replied, “the pain in your head, or the pain in your stomach?” Boom, like a brick to the face I was aghast he had actually acknowledged my chronic pain…
I was admitted onto a really nice ward with a private room more like a hotel suite than a hospital room. I was on several IVs of various things to reverse the effects of my overdose. There was one nurse who always brought me my controlled drugs and always commented that the amount I took should floor an elephant but it kept the pain at bay for 20–40 minutes before I became uncomfortable again.
On the November 3, I remember being particularly snappy for no reason, and looking at my catheter bag when emptying it I noticed blood and weird floaty things and called for the nurse, she said everything was fine and “it happens when you have urine collecting in a bag” and I went to sleep.
5am a nurse came to take my blood pressure and temperature, I had been cold all night and was snuggled down into my three blankets. All of a sudden alarm bells are ringing and my blankets are being dragged off me and a fan is turned on high even though I am still saying I feel cold I am sweating. I had a severe bladder and upper UTI infection and my body temperature was dangerously high. The catheter was removed and I was placed on IV antibiotics. Later that day, I self harmed by scratching at my own skin with my long nails at my lack of visitors, and several nurses came in cutting my nails and dressing my wounds, also removing anything that could be used to harm myself including my razor.
Around 4pm a man and two women came and knocked on the door and asked to talk to me and I asked who they were, before they answered they’d shut the door and sat down with one woman stood behind writing constantly. The man introduced himself as the on-call consultant psychiatrist and the lady sat with him was a student, she looked terrified. I was due my pain killers and was becoming irate and asked if I could have them before they started doing whatever they were going to do. The nurse walked in and gave me my pain killers and I instantly settled, so they began questioning me. I can’t remember what they asked but I remember NOT liking him, as he was implying my pain was psychological and perhaps I was “exaggerating my pain levels to be taken care of” I knew he was barking up the Munchausen by proxy tree and he was wrong.
They leave and the next morning on the usual consultant round my consultant, the psychiatrist and my nurse all come in and close the door, I am told by the psychiatrist I have Borderline Personality Disorder; emotionally unstable type, severe anxiety disorder and psychotic depression, and acute agoraphobia.
It was a lot to take in, but what he said next changed my life. “We don’t think your pain is real, but a manifestation of your mental pain”, or ‘We think your making it up’ I was FURIOUS. I, and the nurse pointed out that if indeed the pain was psychosomatic as they were implying it would respond to the pain medication, and as it wasn’t and I was unable to move around much to hear that was a slap in the face. I noticed two ambulance staff outside my room and became suspicious, my consultant sat on my bed (rude) and said bluntly and patronisingly “I just think we need to fix your head (and taps my head with his pen) and everything else will go away, so we’re transferring you.”
Before I had chance to think I went for him, pulling out my IV in the process screaming like a banshee that I had spent three months in hospital and if it were imaginary someone would have noticed before, to which he noted at how I had lunged for him seemingly without pain. There was pain alright, but smacking his smug face was more important.
The paramedics walk in and I hadn’t noticed the little grey tray in the nurses hand, I knew what was happening. I was held down and sedated and wheeled off into an ambulance with a paramedic holding my discharge papers and a letter stating I was to be sectioned.
Shift to July 2017, and four more suicide attempts, I am still suffering with said ‘imaginary pain’ which has since been named as chronic pain syndrome. A slight victory, I am still on the same amount of pain killers. But after researching BPD and constantly quoting ‘Girl Interrupted’ in my head I have a team of people to help me. I have days, weeks, and months where I feel hopeless. And some days I feel better. But we HAVE to talk about this, if someone on Facebook or any other social media platform posts something vaguely worrying, message them and ask if they are okay. This small kindness could save someone’s life.
Living with late diagnosed BPD is a battle, I have to try and retrain my brain of thirty years of overreacting and using self-harm as a coping mechanism. I won’t be cured of this, and 1 in 10 people will kill themselves due to this illness. I am not the emotionally manipulative, promiscuous, drug using psychopath Wikipedia makes me out to be, another problem is the information on the internet being worst case scenario, people read it and it’s off putting, hell I wouldn’t want to know me.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. My story is complex and constantly evolving. I will try and write up what a bad day feels like. But I guess the long-winded message here is, don’t watch people suffer in silence. Mental health isn’t something to be scared of, it could happen to you.
If you have any questions, or comments for Joey, you can e-mail her directly here: firstname.lastname@example.org.