Addiction and borderline personality disorder: "I don't know where this disorder comes from but I had an unusual childhood."
Published 1 Sep 2021 • By Candice Salomé
Charlotte33, a member of Carenity France, has borderline personality disorder and depression. Having lived on the streets for several years, she became addicted to drugs. She is currently receiving treatment in a psychiatric clinic and shares with us her life and health journey.
Discover her story below!
Hello Charlotte33, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us here on Carenity.
First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
First of all, hello everyone. My name is Charlotte, and I am 30 years old. I come from a broken home: my parents split up when I was 2 years old, and their break-up has deeply affected me. I have a sister who is 5 years older than me.
My father looked after my sister and me well until he met his girlfriend when I was about 16 and decided that she and her new child were worth more than us. So, at the age of 17, he put me out on the street.
The short time I lived with them was hard: I was not allowed to touch the boy, the mother thought I was too dirty to be allowed to, and there was a lot of emotional abuse.
My sister left my mother's home when she was 14 to go and live with our father, but it was a horrible period with emotional and physical abuse.
She was able to find refuge with our paternal grandparents who took care of her.
For my part, I alternated between my mother's home, my father's home and the street since I was 14.
You were homeless. Could you tell us about that time in your life? What impact did it have on you? How did you find your way out of it?
I started running away at the age of 14. I had a lot of problems staying with my mother and I preferred to run away. I had periods where I alternated between staying with family, living on the street, in squats and flats rented in my own name from the age of 14 until now.
The problem with the "sink estate" is that drugs are king. So, I quickly fell into them.
Moreover, I lived between my mother's house and the squats from the age of 14 to 18. My mother would declare me a runaway to the police, who would start looking for me and find me. As soon as I returned to my mother's house, I would leave again immediately!
Once I was of age, I stayed in a squat for quite a long time, not to say all that time, until what I call "my mystical revelation". The name may make you laugh, especially as I am an atheist, but one day, in that squat, I woke up and said to myself that I didn't want to end up like the old people on the street.
So, I called my sister to escape from the squat and she immediately took me in, happy to see that I wanted to get out.
Until then, I was a big drug user and I used to go to parties every weekend. I used to take everything I could get my hands on in order to get as high as possible: heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, M-CAT (mephedrone), LSD, ketamine, even pharmaceutical drugs: morphine, benzodiazepine, sleeping pills, Concerta® (methylphenidate)...
I the took a two-year break: I managed to stop, and I got care in a CSAPA (Addiction Care, Support and Prevention Centre) for opiate substitutes and I was taking my treatment well and, as my friends were no longer the same, I held on.
But afterwards I returned to the previous town and found myself back in a squat and taking drugs. Taking drugs had such a negative impact on my life: family problems, self-esteem, putting myself in danger, petty theft to buy a fix, selling my body once again for drugs... I was completely removed from reality...
Then, despite my drug addiction, I managed to pass the DAEU (a French Access to Higher Education diploma) at the age of 25 and I now have a bachelor's degree in psychology.
I am currently being treated in a psychiatric clinic, and I am being treated with opiate substitutes. When I get out, I will go back to live with my sister until I find a flat. I'm applying for aid from the local council, I didn't know about it before, so I'm only applying now.
You have borderline personality disorder (BPD). Do you know where this disorder comes from? What may have triggered it?
I don't know where this personality disorder comes from, but I do know that I had an unusual childhood, my mother did the best she could with the means she had but I think there were gaps in certain educational areas such as learning to recognise one's feelings. And I think I had a very hard time with the separation of my parents, that feeling of abandonment was very hard to bear, especially because at that time my father was taking good care of my sister and me.
How does BPD manifest itself in your daily life? What impact does it have on your social and professional life? Does it impact your relationship with your loved ones?
I can't stand frustration. As soon as I feel oppressed, abandoned, rejected, frustrated, misjudged, I tend to hurt myself, which relieves me at the time but brings its share of guilt afterwards.
I do a lot of self-harm, all over my body. I have this panic-ridden fear that the people I love will abandon me, I often imagine patterns where this happens, and it brings me intense emotional pain just thinking about it. Also, when I am in a really bad place, I go through phases of dissociation.
I have created a 'false self', a mask that I put on in public to give me the role of a happy, problem-free woman living a good life. But this mask is so heavy to wear that I can't keep up the act for very long.
This is where we come to my professional problems: I have never been able to keep a job for more than 6 months and I have gaps of several months between each job because it is extremely complicated for me to stay focused while at work. I always manage to find a job because I know what employers want to hear, but the duration of the jobs I do get is minimal.
My day-to-day life is delicate - my emotions are constantly on the ups and downs, and still, thanks to my medication, I'm managing a little better, but I can go from laughter to tears several times a day.
And finally, the impact on my private life is so gargantuan that I do everything I can to avoid falling in love, I know that with my disorder, my addictions and my personality, it always ends in a break-up. Sometimes when I'm in a relationship I often worry about cheating, I'm uneasy that I'm not the person's priority, that my partner cares more about his friends than about me...
When were you diagnosed? Have you been prescribed any medications? If so, is it helping?
I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost 6 years ago by a psychiatrist at an addiction care, support and prevention centre after only 5 appointments. All this without going to another psychiatrist or an expert centre. I was on Abilify® (aripiprazole, an antipsychotic medication), but after 6 months of research on bipolar disorder, I realised that the diagnostic criteria did not fit. I then broke off my follow-up and my treatment.
Finally, in the summer of 2020, I was followed up again by another psychiatrist who, after a lot of time, questions, etc., diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder, among other things. Basically, I went to see him for severe depression, accompanied by abulia, diminished motivation, anxiety, suicidal thoughts...
Are you currently being treated?
To date, in hospital, my condition is improving thanks to different dosages and new drugs: I am on 600mg of quetiapine and 30mg of diazepam and 25mg of cyamemazine.
I'm doing much better but obviously, although the risk-benefit ratio is leaning towards the benefit, I'm still dealing with side effects that don't necessarily help me in my daily life.
You also have depression. Do you think that it could be linked to your borderline personality disorder? How so?
Yes, I think that my illnesses are linked. The fact that my borderline personality disorder leads me to a quasi-constant state of mental discomfort, a permanent questioning... Depression naturally follows.
Are you also being treated for depression?
I am no longer being treated for my depression because the basic problem that needs to be addressed first is borderline personality disorder. Soothing my ailments related to BPD has eased my depressive symptoms.
You started a YouTube channel in June 2021. Could you tell us about it? What prompted you to create your channel?
My YouTube channel is doing me a lot of good. I use it as an open journal for everyone to discuss our problems together. The channel helps me a lot to feel better, I meet some really kind people through it, and I get a lot of encouragement.
What are your plans for the future?
I have recently started sewing. It's an activity that I can do from home, so I can manage my time as I see fit. It's a good compromise for a job. You can visit my online shop here!
What do you think about online patient communities like Carenity?
I think it's great that these platforms and forums exist. For one thing, you realise that you're not alone, and that's a big step towards accepting your illness! Discussing with peers is a huge help, it's so relieving!
Finally, what advice would you give to Carenity members also affected by borderline personality disorder?
I really advise that you seek psychological care, not to let yourself go and say that it will be better tomorrow, no it won't! Psychotherapy is, I think, the first thing to turn to. Finally, seeing a psychiatrist and medication can help for a while, the time it takes to get back on your feet.
Any final words?
In order to launch my own business, into this new career that I love and that helps me to blossom, I have created a fund to help me buy the necessary equipment. If you want to help me, don't hesitate to send me a private message (Charlotte33 on Carenity France). This would allow me to move forward with my sewing project and finalise my business with everything I need to get started!
Thank you Carenity for being there and helping us all!
Many thanks to Charlotte33 for sharing her story with us on Carenity!
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