The truth about the demons I face

It’s time I come clean. I have demons I need to slay. I can’t do it on my own. I’ve been a fairly private person despite my sharing so much about my personal life. There’s one aspect I rarely talk about. Partially because of the stigma. Partially because I have an image to uphold. Then, here is the part I dread the most, letting people into the most vulnerable part of my life. Nevertheless here goes noting.

Back in 1996 I was court mandated to see a therapist. This was due to my anger issues. I won’t tell the story that got me there, that’s not important. What I will say is I desperately needed help and the state saw fit to step in and get me help. This was my first real encounter with a mental health professional.

I have no solid memories of my therapist. I can’t remember her name, what she looked like or the things we talked about. It’s all blank to me. That part doesn’t bother me as much. What does bother me is where this left me, undiagnosed. She failed to provide me with answers. She failed to give me proper care. What was her solution to my problem? She called my parents into her office and told them the best thing for me was for them to remove me from Nebraska. To uproot our family and move to another state. Anyplace but Nebraska she said. Go figure. The professional tasked with caring for my mental health wanted me out of the state. So, we moved to Idaho and I never looked back.

That experience soured me to therapists for several years. I continued to struggle in life. I continued to have issues. Dysphoria. Social Anxiety. Depression. Suicidal ideations. Extreme anger issues. Violent tendencies. The list goes on and on. I was sorta fortunate that I never turned to substance abuse (drugs/alcohol) or dangerous sexual behavior. That doesn’t mean I was okay. Obviously I turned to excessive eating among other vices. It took me several years before I was in a dark enough place I needed, desperately, to see another therapist to get some answers.

That therapist likewise nearly destroyed my faith in the whole system. At first she was kind and supportive. She got me to open up and I felt safe talking to her. She diagnosed me with severe depression, borderline personality disorder, PTSD and social anxiety disorder. She began medications to help me combat some of those issues. To this day I still struggle with the symptoms of those disorders. But, things went south real quick.

In a blur of events I still can’t quite sort out in my mind I went from feeling fine telling her I was good didn’t need to see her anymore to being questioned by campus police, arrested by city cops and escorted to a mental health clinic where I was forced to check in against my will for a 36-hour observation. Those three days were a living nightmare. I refuse to recall the events of that traumatic experience. Instead I pushed past it, dropped out of school against my will, well was expelled rather, and found myself homeless days before Thanksgiving.

Living in my van my aunt and her husband decided to take me in for a few months while I got on my feet. Fortunately I did get on my feet. I landed a job that led to my first TV job. I moved into a house with my parents when they left the same university housing I had been removed from. My mom was also pursuing her degree at the same time, that’s another story for another day. Anyways I stopped taking the medication and I moved on with my life.

My next encounter with a therapist was brief but less intense. It was gender therapist I met over the internet. She diagnosed me with gender dysphoria and gave me an action plan. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford her sessions and my one free session wasn’t sufficient so I remained unable to get the care I needed. Again suffering with a load of mental health conditions that make life nearly impossible for me to navigate properly. This being why I struggle with relationships. Why I can’t hold down a job. Why I push people away. Why my emotions are so intense. Yet I continue to fail to get treatment.

Most recently while working at the TV station at my last news job I was offered free mental health services as a part of the job. News reporters and editors are exposed to intense trauma on a constant daily basis. Think about it for a second all the awful things we’re constantly reporting on in the news, we are the ones talking to the victims families, the survivors or the police. We see a lot of heavy shit. It’s not an easy job. The insurance was limited in who it covered and I was stuck with a faith-based therapist. As a transgender bisexual queer witch, this was not okay with me. After one session I quickly learned I was incompatible with this therapist and once again found myself facing the residual effects of my childhood trauma alone without guidance.

I don’t talk about BPD. It’s a controversial and misunderstood disease. I do talk about my PTSD and social anxiety disorder as well as my depression as those are more palatable for people. Less stigma surrounding most of those. PTSD has a stigma but like I said as a journalist I witnessed traumatic events damn near daily so that one I earned. Social anxiety disorder keeps me from being able to function well in society. It also made being a reporter damn difficult. Sure I learned the skills to overcome my anxiety but to be fair they gave me a badge that bore some tremendous power. Having a position of authority and respect allowed me to over come my disorder and develop skills I otherwise would never have learned. I got help, on my own, by way of forcing my way into a career that necessitated I learn to get over it.

I am not that strong. I am weak. I run away. I give up. I fold easily.  Put on a brave front and act tougher than I am. That’s the BPD. That’s my real struggle. My achillies heals. BPD is sort of an umbrella that has symptoms similar to bipolar, PTSD, OCD and ADHD. In a way it’s like a catch all. BPD means really fucked up. To some it’s a useless diagnosis because it’s an umbrella. To others it’s a signal that I have all of the above. To me it’s the shit I deal with daily.

I don’t talk about it because even those who support me, those who are on my side, aren’t united on their stance regarding BPD. There are those who dismiss it entirely. Others who suggest  dig deeper. Others still who think I should be medicated. And then there is me. What do I think? I know this disease well. I’ve read up on it constantly since I was diagnosed. I ran from it. I hid from it. I was in denial because my last therapist also wasn’t super helpful so yet again I sit here, alone, facing my demons without proper care. I can give some of them a name. I might be bipolar also. I am very likely ADHD. I could be, other things. But for now I know this. I am not fucked up. I am not broken. I am not a hot mess. I am a woman with real mental health issue who is not getting the proper healthcare she needs to get well. That’s my real struggle. That’s my real story. That’s why I constantly suffer alone. I can’t get better if I can’t get help. I face my demons alone and they are defeating me.

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Stephanie Bri

A transgender writer who also does podcasts and videos.