How I feel about the show ‘Crazy Ex Girlfriend’ as someone with a BPD diagnosis.

Crazy Ex Girlfriend is a TV show that started running in America in 2015. It only recently became known to me because it was put on Netflix and a few of my friends were watching it. To be honest it came up as suggested a few times but I ignored it, assuming it would just be another rom com about a girl trying to get back with a boy and eventually doing just that. What Crazy Ex Girlfriend actually is, is an exploration of relationships from the perspective of Rebecca Bunch. The protagonist struggles with her mental health and coping with the effects on her every day life. Her story is told through comedy, musical numbers and some intense moments. In season 3 Rebecca Bunch is diagnosed with BPD, borderline personality disorder. As someone with that diagnosis, I generally think they do it as well as possible. Comedic musical theatre TV is, I imagine, a difficult genre to cover a series mental illness so let’s allow some artistic licence. That being said there are still some parts of the show that made me cringe.

What I think was done well –

  1. Ok, so I’m kind of starting at the end here, but this is the part of the show that made me think “I’m so glad they did this.” When Rebecca Bunch googles BPD the show goes into the answers you find on google about the illness. It shows the characters response to these (and it was exactly the same as my response). It shows on the screen how when you google BPD, the internet will tell you that those who suffer are unstable, manipulative, untreatable and 10% will eventually kill themselves. The show talks about how misunderstood the illness is, and even follows the googling scene with a scene from a Rebecca Bunches therapist, talking about how the internet is full or misguided and uneducated information on the subject. I’m so glad this was addressed, stigma and BPD is a massive issue, and this raised it as just that.
  2. Can we just praise the show writers for actually using a BPD diagnosis. This is hardly ever done in TVs and film. If you google shows about depression, anxiety, bipolar etc, a lot of films are suggested (I’m not saying they are correct in doing so, or that they are accurate, or that they haven’t caused damage and stigma in themselves). If you google shows about BPD, you get a list of 1, Girl Interrupted, the rest of the lists consists of fans that have suggested certain characters have the illness but it’s never mentioned. So just using the diagnosis, giving it a name and talking about its symptoms is amazing.
  3. The instability of BPD mood changes fits in perfectly. I’ll admit in the beginning it annoyed me, I felt like the show didn’t portray how long it can take to get over small events and how debilitating it could be. However the nature of TV is that things are resolved in an episode, which fits perfectly with BPD. In an episode of the show we can see a full mood cycle, which is how quick mood cycles can be in real life. It also showed how the little issues that caused instability build on each other if they are not dealt with correctly and how catastrophic that can be.
  4. The show explores moods other than depression. BPD is not mood changes between depression and “normal” it’s also anxiety, hyperactivity, over excitement, impulsiveness etc. Rebecca Bunch is a character that experiences all of these things. The show explores them, there impact and how characters deal with them.
  5. A massive symptom for most people with a Bpd diagnosis is fear of abandonment. This is the focus of the whole show, and it shows how different breakdowns in relationships can influence mood, or how successful relationships can heighten moods.
  6. The show makes reference to anxiety, delusions and disassociation. I particularly love the idea of Rebecca’s anxiety manifesting itself as a hallucination of her younger self. I also love that the show didn’t chicken out of this and made it obvious that it wasn’t just a dream or staying in Rebecca’s head but was actively effecting her ability to function and the other people around her.

The show picks up on some of the small issues that generally get missed and go untalked about. In fact the whole are of BPD is often a silent one with little discussion in culture and media. This show is a step forward, it’s hilarious, brave, entertaining and educating. Also, Rachel Bloom, the actress playing the protagonist is one of the best I’ve seen, both in her comedy and in the depth of the character, she also helped create and produce the show, so you know, genius all round.

That being said, there are some issues I have with the show.

  1. Paula – Paula is Rebecca’s best friend throughout the show and although I love her on an entertainment level I have some issues with how she is portrayed. It is very clear that Paula has some faults, she’s not perfect, non of us are, but she is displayed as a positive and helpful person. This is where I disagree, Paula feeds into Rebecca’s behaviour and struggles to see it is unhealthy until a while into the show. In fact, as someone with BPD I relate to a lot of Paula’s actions and feelings, maybe even more so than Rebecca’s. The need for approval, need for excitement and the need to try and make everyone happy are all things that can also be part of BPD. If someone asked me for advice on a similar friendship I would be encouraging them to limit the influence of that person.
  2. The lead up to diagnosis, if you’ve not seen the show, before the event that leads to diagnosis everything is chaotic. Rebecca does some, well as in the title of the show, crazy stuff. I felt like this went too far, obviously there’s always going to be an entertainment aspect to a show, but watching the things Rebecca did left me in a panic of “people are going to watch this and think that’s how we actually behave. ” Although everybody’s illness is different, people with BPD are generally not stalkers, kidnappers, threatening or prone to psychotic laughing while standing outside someone’s house.

3. Now, I am not one for being adamant that recovery language is the only way we should speak to each other. If I want to call myself crazy, I will. If that’s how I talk about myself or how someone else who struggles wants to talk about themselves as a way to cope that’s also ok. If someone else wants to refer to me as crazy, that’s not Ok. Essentially that is what the title of the show does, by calling it Crazy Ex Girlfriend and then diagnosing, it insinuates that those with that diagnosis are crazy.

Finally, I wanted to separate this point because I believe it is a general issue with Netflix and other streaming sites rather than just the show itself. I found parts of the show difficult to watch. Not in a stereotypical triggering way but in a “this show is so close to home it’s sending me into my own panic” kind of way. I saw so much of myself in Rebecca’s character that it sent me into similar thoughts stemming from ‘that’s so accurate, I probably am going to be alone forever’ and ‘it’s true I have no idea who I am without that certain person as well.’ And ‘what am I doing with my life, maybe I should run away.’ In fact on the back of watching the show I applied for loads of different jobs all over the country and googled how much I’d need to save to be able to run away and start again in my own search to be happy. As dramatic as that all sounds, that’s the nature of the impulsivity, thought spirals and emotion changes of the illness the show is dealing with. Yet there’s no warning on the shows description, there’s no indicator that it may be triggering or that the show deals with a serious mental health issue, or that the show may touch on sensitive areas. Come on Netflix!

5 Songs…

I’ve neglected this blog recently. I keep seeing it in my diary that I’d planned to post on a specific day and then ignoring it. I guess that’s partly because my beauty and lifestyle blog and YouTube channel are growing and it’s exciting so I’m putting a lot of work into that. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

Truth is, I find it really easy to blog most of the time, but right now I really don’t want to. I have a style of writing, it mainly involves overcompensating for anything negative I write with humour and positive cliches. I write that way because I think it’s more enjoyable to both read and write and I can cover up what I actually think by typing a well timed pun, comment or fuck. It’s difficult to write like that when you can’t see the positive and don’t have the energy to pretend to be witty.

So anyway, last night I left work and went in my diary to make sure I had my next shift correct and I saw on today it said that I should post. Past Naomi was trying to be organised and had even chosen a theme to write about. Thanks past Naomi, that really irritated me. My immediate thought was “maybe I can blow that off and write a new eyeshadow palette review on my other blog and still feel productive.”

The theme I was going to write was “5 songs that help me in recovery.” But fuck that, because right now I don’t care about the songs that help me in recover, I care about the songs that help me feel sorry for myself. So here it is “5 songs that help me feel sorry for myself and make me even more likely to ignore the world and get back into bed” (catchy blog title I know).

Sometimes, and by sometimes I really mean sometimes, I think it’s OK To wallow maybe even healthy in some ways but it’s also important to recognise it, move on and work on it. Logically, I know that. However, right now I’m really good at the wallowing part, the rest not so much. Let’s just note that this is also quite a sarcastic post, it’s partly written to help me recognise how stupid I’m being and partly written as a sarcastic look at my own behaviours, I’m going to sound like a dick at times, but I’m ok with it.

1 – Empty Apartment by Yellowcard

I have no idea what some of these songs actually mean or are talking about. Sometimes it’s just a line or a phrase that catches me and helps me in my self indulgent spiral. The line in this song that hits me right in the broken bit of my brain is “how’s your life, what’s it like there, is it all that you want to be, does it hurt when you think about me and how broken my heart is”. I mean, I’d write about why but I think it’s pretty self explanatory.

2 – I Can’t Do Anything About It by Felix Hagan.

“As the walls are crumbling I am tumbling to the ground and I can’t do anything about it”

“Give me the keys and I’ll wait outside and I’ll smoke myself into a hole”

Because why take responsibility for my own wellbeing when I can ignore it and sing “I can’t do anything about it” repeatedly and pretend I have no power over my own life so as to avoid any work on my own health I should be doing?

3 – Same As You by The Fray

“You can stand if you want to, fall if you want to, I’ll do the same as you”

There’s something really beautiful in this song, it talks about compassion and how someone is willing to do the same as another person for comfort. I like to twist it and use it to fuel my anger at people in general by listening and thinking about how no one would be willing to do that for me (actually a lot of people would but that doesn’t fit in with my feeling sorry for myself attitude)

4 – You Should Be Here – Cole Swindell

“Everything’s just right except for one thing, you should be here”

There’s nothing to make you feel more sad than a song that makes you think about your dad who died last year. Although on a alternate note when this song does make me sad it also reassures me, like hey, look at you having normal emotions for a valid reason, you can be a normal person.

5 – Plain Sailing Weather – Frank Turner

“Give me one fine day of plain sailing weather and I can fuck up anything”

Well yeah, that’s just me in a sentence isn’t it? However having this on repeat also get me of my arse because I think if I carry on, that sentence really is going to be true.

Anyway, that’s all for now, I promise next week I’ll get back to scheduled blog posts with a happier overtone. Sometimes it’s just more fun to be a negative dick, you know?

The problem with my birthday…

My birthday is on the 9th November. For those of you who never know the date like me, that was yesterday.

To celebrate, me, my mum, her boyfriend and my biological mum packed up our bags and got on a first class train to London. We ate a fancy dinner, saw a show, drank fancy wine and went on a river cruise. We set up everything to be the perfect experience, and in many ways it was. We saw all the sites and we enjoyed each other’s company and yes, we had a great time, I had a great time.

(Disclaimer : it gets a bit darker from here guys, if you suffer with suicidal ideation or depression it might be tricky for you. Please turn around and find a different post, may I suggest one of mine that isn’t triggering? I’m also going to get pretty honest but don’t worry, I have good professionals working with me and I got this 💪🏻)

But there was a little problem. Yesterday my sole focus wasn’t only my birthday, it was also the depressive episode I’m currently in the middle of and the relapses that have come along with it.

I mean, my birthdays bring along the normal existential crisis a lot of people have, like “fuck, when did I get so old?” “What have I done with my life” “what is the meaning of my fastly passing existence.”

In a depressive episode, these normally valid and normal thoughts turn into something darker. Instead of thinking “what have I done with my life” and then Laughing it off over some alcoholic beverage, it turned into “what have I done with my life, nothing, I’m worthless and so is my life, what’s the point.”

I spent moments through the day terrified that someone was onto me, someone would notice the sign of relapse and it would lead to horrible conversations. I spent some of the day hoping that someone was onto me and would come and save me, not my family, you see I have this over the top and ideal fantasy that one day someone, a stranger will come to me and tell me they know what’s going on, and then they’ll save me and fix the parts of me that broke. You see, on depressive days it’s difficult to accept the fact that I am the one who has to fix the broken parts in me.

I sometimes see my life as a smashed mirror, I look at the pieces and try and put them together or I give up and leave the pieces on the ground, or I wait for someone else to put them together, or I get in a strop because I want a fucking new mirror. Mirrors reflect and in some ways I think that’s what a birthday is, we reflect and celebrate the year before and then look to and plan the next year (after partying a lot). But what if I’m in a state that means looking back is to painful and looking forward is full of anxiety? Then, it becomes all about the now, and we’ll now is my birthday, and now is meant to be a celebration.

Birthdays are a celebration of being alive. I am proud that I am still alive, it was touch and go for a while. I didn’t think I would see this birthday, or the birthday that went before it. That I can celebrate, even on my darkest day.

But, I can also question, what if I wasn’t here to see this birthday? Would that be so bad? Do I really want to be here for another year? Do I really want to put the effort in again to fight through this? Would it be so bad if 26 was the final year?

Well, I guess at the core, birthdays are about hope for the next year and so for now, I have to stick to that until things get better, because despite all the shit, things do eventually get better.

Maybe it’s worth the 6 months of depression for the month of stability.

Maybe this will be the last 6th months of depression I get.

Maybe the depressive episodes will get shorter and shorter.

Maybe.

For now, even if I can’t celebrate my birthday, I can celebrate the maybe.

Of all the things I could have broken.

I broke my personality.

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So today is world mental health day, a specific day in the year where all the bloggers who have had mental health struggles or have them currently come out in full force to write about it. Turns out this year I am one of those bloggers.

I am not critiquing,  in fact I think its important that as many people as feel strong enough talk about there experiences without shame or fear. What disappoints me is that we are in a society that needs a specific day to do this. However, thats not what I was going to write about, thats a whole other rant for a different time.

I didn’t know what I was going to write about for today, I had a few ideas floating around in my brain, but I thought on a a day which aims to raise awareness and combat misunderstanding, I am in a position of being diagnosed with what I believe, is one of the most misunderstood illnesses. I am diagnosed with an illness that a lot of people haven’t really heard off. When I talk about it and give it its name I’m often met by ‘what is that’ or ‘how does that effect you’ or in a few cases ‘I thought that was just a made up thing for films.’

So heres what Im going to do, I’m going to tell you about the signs and symptoms of having Emotionally unstable personality disorder or borderline personality disorder (BPD) the ones straight from a text book, then I’ll tell you what they actually feel like, well what they feel like for me. Personality disorders are a spectrum, so it feels and looks different for every person.

A quick google of BPD brings up this diagnostic criteria on the NHS website

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Emotional Instability. 

Lets just focus on that label shall we, how off-putting does that sound. ‘Hi I’m Naomi and I’m officially unstable.’ That been said, I am unstable, my mood changes rapidly based on seemingly insignificant events. The smallest comment can boost my mood or cut it down. The littlest event can send me into panic. The tiniest compliment can spark hypermania. I have worked to contain my mood changes so people who haven’t known me through my ‘severely broken brain’ stage  may not register them and I can have decent relationships and day to day experiences. That being said, I can register them. I know that my mood cycles haven’t changed that much, and, to be honest there isn’t a ‘cure’ for BPD so I am aware that they will for the rest of my life. That is a hard pill to swallow, it’s also fucking exhausting. On days I’m finding it harder to contain my mood changes, these are the things you might notice.

  • Going from talkative and funny and over exaggerated to silent in seconds.
  • Being unable to concentrate.
  • Finding it difficult to string a sentence together.
  • Being unable to follow a conversation.
  • Being forgetful.
  • Coming across as ditsy, or dumb.
  • Smoking a lot more.
  • Appearing lazy or frequently saying ‘I can’t be fucked’

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Disturbed Patterns of thinking or perception.

This phrase covers a lot of different elements of BPD. It covers paranoia, intrusive thoughts, negative thinking and psychosis. Here are some of the common BPD thoughts I have.

  • What is the point… in anything?
  • Everyone hates me.
  • The world would be better if I wasn’t in it.
  • I made a mistake, I fuck up everything.
  • People always leave, no one thinks Im worth staying around for.

This section of diagnostic criteria also covers the bizarre aspects of having BPD. It is a comment trait for those with BPD to experience elements of psychosis when there emotions are to intense. Lets have a look at some of the Gems I’ve come out with while in that state shall we. Feel free to laugh, I do.

  • ‘Am I the devil?’
  • ‘If I really put my mind to it and pray hard, I think I could stop ISIS’
  • ‘That earthquake that happened was obviously my fault because I said something horrible.’
  • ‘I can’t answer my door, theres a man with a chainsaw on the other side.’

Disassociation is also a common trait of BPD, and probably the thing that I still struggle with most, but I also don’t know how to explain it. Its basically like your brain goes to auto pilot. I can still finish tasks I can still function, but I’m not thinking. I don’t know whats real. Everything feels like that stage when your falling asleep, when your not quite asleep and your still registering part of what is going on, but your on the edge.

Impulsive Behaviour.

Impulsive behavior is simple really. Its all fun and games until you come round and have to suffer the consequences. It can be anything, shopping, gambling, sexual behaviors, drinking, self harm, suicide, the list goes on. For me impulsive behavior comes in two elements. The first is all about what will make me happy, or what will make me feel better in the moment without taking into account the consequences. Like I feel shit so I’m going to go spent all my pay check in one go. Or Im bored and its taking me into a and place so I’m going to drink until I’m passed out.

Then theres another element, perhaps a more difficult element. Which is intrusive impulsions. In English that means that I have thoughts about self harm and suicide that come out of no where. I can be perfectly happy and have a really good day, then suddenly my brain is like ‘why don’t you stop the car and jump off that bridge’ or I can be feeling sorry for myself but dealing with it and my brain says things like ‘hey, self harm, that was fun.’

Intense but unstable relationships with others.

This is an interesting one for me. I tend to not notice a relationship is unhealthy till its to late and I’ve already done some damage. A big part of BPD is fear of abandonment. Sometimes that makes me act in obsessive and dramatic ways. I also rely on certain people. I, luckily haven’t had friendships break down because of this, but that is not due to my behavior its due to the strength and compassion of the friends around me.

But, it means that my brain works over time.

Don’t answer one of my texts? Its because you aren’t really my friend. Cancel our plans? Its because you hate me. Don’t talk to me for a day? Its because you don’t really care.

Or thats what my brain tells me anyway.

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The problem with BPD.

There are so many problems with the way BPD is viewed and treated. I have had my share of shit experiences in official capacities and in my interaction with people. BPD is seen as an incurable illness, there are no meds that will stop it and therapy has limited responses. It also has one of the highest suicide rates of all mental illnesses. 2-3% of the population have BPD. 10% of these people will die by suicide and 80% of people with BPD  will attempt suicide. There are failings in our mental health systems, and most of these come down to funding, why fund treatment for a disorder with no cure? Well, I can say recovery is possible, when its done in the right way. It takes time, and effort and its exhausting and its slow. But things can gradually get better, and relapses become just relapses.

So lets talk about it, because shame is never going to lead to recovery.

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Finding A Purpose

I grew up in the church.

I didn’t just tag along or go for friends, I went because I loved it, I was fully involved, at one point a even wanted to go to school to be a full time Pastor. I am not that person any more, I wouldn’t describe myself as a christian. I wouldn’t even say I believe in God.

I left the church when I was about 19, what I didn’t know is that it would have serious effects on my mental health.

As a teenager people used to tell me I was ‘deep,’ that I thought about things deeper and harder than other people my age. What they didn’t know was that wasn’t because I was wise, or because I really wanted to think about things. It was a cry for help.

I didn’t ask what the purpose of life was because I was philosophical , I asked because I desperately needed someone to give me a reason to live. Being a christian I believed fully that my purpose was to love God. That was what I was made for. At 19, when I dropped out of churches and all that had been taught to me as a child, part of the reason was that loving God wasn’t enough to keep me going anymore.

I thought I would find something better, I thought someone, one day, would sweep in like my knight in shining armor and tell me why I was alive. Maybe we’d even run away together in search of our bigger meaning. What I found was not what I hoped, what I found was people were now telling me the purpose of my life was ‘to be happy’ or ‘to make the best of it.’ I’m not being funny, but really?!? Your telling a person with depression, a person that could not remember the last time they were happy is that the meaning of life is to be this emotion that seemed non existent.

So I set out and made my own purpose in life and with every changing season seems to come a changing meaning. The first task I set myself was to die. That one I tried really hard at, but after a year of trying and ending up going in circles of Accident and emergency, ambulances, psychiatric units and treatment groups, with friends that irritated me because they wouldn’t let me die, I found a new purpose, recovery.

Recovery is the thing I work the hardest at everyday. I work in a sometimes challenging job, but my biggest challenge every day is my mental health. I shop, I spend time with friends, I blog about mental health, or music, or beauty, I youtube, I watch Netflix, I am any other person, but at the forefront of my mind, everyday, is ‘what do I need to do today to make tomorrow easier.’

What I’ve found is that I don’t need purpose at the minute, I need to be healthy before I can make decisions about my life and within that, there is purpose. The question I ask myself most nights is ‘if I wake up tomorrow and my mood has changed will I be able to deal with it?’ My purpose is to make sure the answer to that question is yes, then i’ll figure out the rest.

I have learned, since starting treatment and recovery that struggling with purpose and identity is a big issue for a lot of people with my illness, I am not on my own in my need for existential questioning. For that reason, Im done trying to find a purpose in my life, Im just going to live it. Because theres nothing I love better that giving my borderline personality disorder a massive fuck you.