Self-Medicating And Me - My Story

Self-Medicating And Me - My Story

3 Jun 2019

My story of self medication starts at the age of 14. For many youngsters, probably too many, those early teenage years mean experimentation: booze, weed, cigarettes. It’s time to explore life's forbidden fruit.
That was my experience. But where my peers dabbled with the odd drink, spliff or cig, I headed straight for the harder stuff. Why? I don't know. Opportunity maybe. Or maybe I found a way to break free from the boring person I thought I was; the person my peers thought they knew.
Drugs were a gateway, they brought the real me to the surface. Or so I thought. They lit me up and turned me inside out. When I was on my game I was chatty; fun; funny; the life and soul. The dull kid who got bullied at school was, for a precious few moments, a faded, distant memory.

My peers responded positively to the new me, they liked me and wanted my company. Regularly and reliably I’d get the validation I'd always wanted - with chemical courage, I was a winner.

If we were to call my behaviour then self medicating, it's easy to see what symptoms I was treating. As a kid I veered towards depression, dark thoughts, and self harm. But chemicals brought light. They made me weightless and balanced; they put the best bits of my personality in overdrive.

But by my mid teens, while others were scaling back on their partying to knuckle down for exams, I was hitting it even harder. When I scored As for those same exams I got a false sense of security. It seemed I was on the right path.

Any wins I had, however, were always short-lived. Unaided, the default me still felt worthless and dull. Only my medicine helped. It helped me be me. It helped me to feel.

Still living at home; still under my parents' watch, I soon got found out. At the age of 16 my parents caught me red handed, an explosive discovery for people who never took drugs and barely drank. In truth, they missed signs which were glaring.

When I wasn't chemically enhanced I thought I belonged in a toilet. I couldn’t shift the dark, dull, undeserving person I thought I was. I'd stay in my room for days, unable to meet life head on. I wanted to be back to my buoyant, capable, real self.

With my parents keeping tabs, I couldn't access my medicine - so I had no remedy to rediscover the awesome me. It was excruciating. I had attempted suicide the previous year, and I was making plans again. I began looking at roads and bridges differently.

I tried to find escape and validation via a string of unhealthy and abusive relationships. Needless to say, that didn’t work and the hole in my soul got bigger. I hit a new low. But thankfully before taking the ultimate escape, I discovered alcohol. 

Booze was an obvious, socially acceptable go-to and once I found it I used it to excess. Booze did exactly what it said on the tin – it lit me up and shut me down and brought me back from the edge.

Around this time I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a condition that's characterised by “extreme emotional reactions, impulsive behaviours, and unstable relationships.” As you've read, all three are me to a tee.

Initially, the diagnosis offered a fresh start. After all, I was handed a solution to help explain why I was how I was. Some people hate labels but at first I was glad of mine – it explained everything, or so I thought. Looking back, however, instead of seeking a new path to health all I did was grab the medication and continue business as usual.

Looking back, I had trouble reconciling the fact that there’s no cure for a personality disorder, only management. But I had been medicating and managing my personality all my life – it was all I knew and I’d gotten pretty good at it. Or so I thought. 

Instead of trusting in a new regime, I reverted back to what I knew. Old habits die hard.

For a brief time I kept to my medication regime and things got better. I held down a job and enrolled in college. But I soon retook control of the wheel – and then veered off-road. I'd go five days without pills and then take them all at once. I mixed booze and no-meds then I mixed booze and fistfuls of meds. Neither did me any favours.

The manic episodes started again. I was back to doing crazy things like giving all my money away to beggars. One time I stripped to my underwear mid-morning in the college car park.

I'd come full circle. I was self medicating. Only instead of illegal drugs, this time it was booze and the prescription meds that could, would and should have been helping.

I was later told that I developed coping mechanisms. Instead of trusting and investing in mental health treatment as a whole, I self medicated only my problem symptoms. Some people take their medication, hit the gym and meditate thrice a day. My way of coping was to drown my symptoms and do myself damage.

One day, truthfully it wasn’t that long ago, I made a decision to get responsible - and I was taking my meds as prescribed. But after all the fluctuation plus a booze habit, it triggered a psychotic episode. And I made another attempt on my life.

I was rushed to hospital, wearing only a tee-shirt. And to add insult to injury, I was sober – or at least lucid – on the hospital gurney.

Sober and naked in public – it's never a great combo.

Aside from the drama, the embarrassment and the fear factor of the episode, a doctor later told me how poorly my liver was functioning. Drugs, drink, previous overdoses, infrequently using and abusing prescription pills - it wasn't a big surprise to learn I was in bad shape, but it was the wake-up call I needed.

I was at a crossroads. That old chestnut. I had to take myself and my mental health more seriously or these patterns would keep happening. 

By this time I had been living with diagnosed BPD for about a year but I had only tried to treat it my way; with quick fixes and short term gains at the expense of my health - and my true self. At that point, I was about to do something I hadn't ever before.

Talk about it.

Talking still is a huge part of my treatment and recovery. When initially diagnosed, I took the pills and ran. Today I engage with others in group therapy sessions to give my anxieties and problems air. It's so vitally beneficial to hear other people do the same - people share their experiences of self medicating and dependence and mental health. And of coming through the other side.

It's a huge shame that many people won't or feel that they can't speak up. I get the reasons why, but after waking up in a hospital bed those reasons - which often centre in pride or embarrassment - seem insignificant and mild. I had to talk to get to a better place.

That place? Life today is alright - it's under control. Even on a really bad day, life is bearable. It's a far cry from where we were some years ago. Of course, sometimes I wish I could still take the edge off and self medicate my problems all away.

But I don't. Instead I talk to others in the knowledge that the bad times won't last forever.

I took self medicating to extremes to manage my mental health but it's not a long term solution. For now, I'm all about the talking cure – I just wish I'd tried it sooner.

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