Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier
Hello I’m Jenna, a psychology student at Carleton University. I like music, coffee shops, art, poetry, and I do weightlifting. I have been diagnosed with many things, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia.
Oh gosh, I don’t know where to start which makes writing for Worth Living both exciting and daunting. I suppose I should start with talking about my disorder and try to paint a picture of what the inside of my head looks like but with words. I want you to see where I’m coming from. I have been suffering with my mental state since I can remember. When I was young I never understood why I felt the way I did. It was only when I was around twelve years old that I got my first diagnoses: Major Depression, Social Phobia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Middle school was by far the worst time in my life. My demons weighed me down. I was in the depths of a dark depression and my anxiety was constantly clawing at my chest. I used to get panic attacks so bad I’d puke. I did poorly in school and had no motivation for school work, let alone the motivation to live.
In my youth, I faced many challenges including a series of traumatic events that left me with psychic wounds. Many of these challenges I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to overcome. Getting help was difficult. The mental health system is severely flawed. Dozens of hospital visits that mostly resulted in being turned away, distressing interactions with police, long waitlists and less than adequate care by psychiatrists and other mental health “professionals.” I felt more like a perpetrator than a victim. I felt guilty for being sick, like I was a bad person for feeling this way.
The way I feel and think has always been confusing for me. Always living life looking from the outside in, never knowing how to fit in with everyone else. I wondered why after all these years, no amount of therapy or fancy pill cocktails could help me. The constant emotional turmoil, the years of self harm, a lack of identity… shouldn’t I have found myself by now? I was living from one emotional calamity to another. I eventually came to know of the illness Borderline Personality Disorder.
I finally had a name for the madness. It made sense. Now this disorder is not pretty. It’s heavily stigmatized and you will not receive any sympathy. You are a monster, the bottom of the barrel of mental disorders. People with BPD are seen as hard to treat and it feels like, and maybe this is partly due to the feelings induced by others, but it feels like you will never get better. You feel like you’re impossible to love and a burden on others. It truly feels as if you make everyone around you miserable. It’s best to keep on walking the thin line between sanity and insanity, trying your best not to fall. Living life with borderline is hard, but it’s all you know. And it feels like it’s all you’ll ever know. Read any article or book on BPD and you will read all about how much of a terrible person you are. It’s a very misunderstood disorder. I believe the development of BPD, at least for me, stemmed from childhood trauma.
As a person with borderline, you never learn how to deal with your emotions as a child and it translates into adulthood. If you delve into my psychic landscape you will soon want to leave. I often struggle to articulate how I feel in a way that makes sense to most but I will attempt to do my best.
At first glance I may appear normal but if you look a bit closer, you can start to notice my loose threads. I hurt a lot, in fact I am in emotional pain most of the time. And there’s nothing I can do but sit there and feel it. I can’t help how I feel. There’s no protective layer. I feel absolutely everything and to every extreme. Sometimes it has to do with external stimulus. Sometimes it doesn’t. There’s also a lot of emptiness. It occupies my insides as an unwelcome but frequent visitor. At these times I feel a crushing and heavy emptiness that I can’t rid myself of. I’ll do almost anything just to feel something. Some days I’ll just be feeling sort of okay and then all of a sudden I want to die. And I don’t necessarily know why I want to die, but I just do. I don’t know how to stop these feelings but I’ll try and I will do this by any means available. Self harm is a big part of my illness. Hurting myself always seems like the most viable option in any given scenario.
Another big part of my illness is the fear of abandonment. This fear makes me so afraid of losing people that I desperately want to keep them there. My entire self worth is based on how much others love me. When people leave it’s the end of the world which often results in me leaving them first in order to avoid the pain of being abandoned.
Then there is the self hatred. It’s strong and it’s singing to me and it’s making itself known. I hate myself more than anything in the entire world. Guilt is my game and I play it well. Wallowing in self pity is fun and I blame myself for everything that has ever gone wrong in my life. As you can tell, there are many symptoms I have to deal with on a day to day basis. Now, a lot of this has improved with years of very hard work and determination and I’m still struggling very much.
If we backed up a few years in my story, you’d learn I had many years of outpatient therapy as a well as a hospital stay as an inpatient for three weeks. The therapy defiantly helped me a great deal but was mostly focused on my anxiety and never dug deeper into my core issues. As for the hospital stay, that probably caused more harm than good. Most of the work I’ve done in my opinion has been on my own. I had realized I had permitted my illness lordship. I may not have a good sense of who I am, but what I do know is that I have determination.
I got myself through high school despite many mental health issues, I graduated and got into university on scholarship. I go to school whilst working part time. My mental illness will follow me everywhere. Into the workplace, into relationships and even on my way to the grocery store. I have come a long way but the illness is still there like a rip tide current. Sometimes it pulls me underneath and I can’t breathe for a moment, but other times I am able to surface and break free.
There is never going to be a clear cut explanation for my disorder or yours. And there is never a one fits all recovery plan. I am not better in the sense that I am “cured” or my disorder is “gone.” I think with mental illness, it’s a life long journey. Recovery to me is being able to deal with my symptoms enough to live life the best I can. To have a life worth living. And to me in order to make my life worth living, I want to help others in the ways I know how. And sharing a part of my story with you is one of those ways.