Small steps lead to big leaps

Melanie’s journey has involved learning to understand her illness so she could help keep herself well and succeed in life in every way she could.

My name is Melanie and I am 24 years old and living in Auckland.

My journey with mental health started when I was 19 year old and my worried parents set up an appointment with mental health services. I have been in the mental health system, in and out of psychiatric hospitals, ever since.

I suffer from an illness called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The symptoms I struggle with are emotional dys-regulation, self-harming or cutting myself, fears of abandonment, going from loving to hating someone very quickly, impulsivity, strong bouts of anger, paranoia and impulsivity. I also struggle a lot with suicidal thoughts and impulses.

My goals for my life change constantly. This is part of an unstable sense of identity that is common with sufferers of BPD. One day I want to be a professional athlete (as impossible as that would be for me) and the next I want to be an historian. One day I want to live in Auckland and next I want to move to Nelson.

I’m on a journey of recovery – I want to keep well and I want to succeed in life and do the best that I can. I do lots of research and read everything I can about my illness to learn about ways to help keep myself well. I’ve been attending Wellness Recovery Action Plan workshops where I’ve learnt to identify my triggers so I know when I am becoming unwell and I know what to do to stop those triggers eventuating into me becoming unwell. Also I have created a wellness toolbox to remind myself of what I need to stay well and what I can implement in my life to keep myself well.

I have also decided that it is important to me, and to my recovery, to share my story. By doing this I hope to help people who know me to understand what it is like to experience life in the way I do, but also to help others experiencing the same things as I have to feel less alone. I have been writing a blog about my experiences and I also went on a radio show called ‘Take it from us’ to share my story.

I feel like I’ve been doing well for a solid five months. This is a big improvement for me. Not having constant thoughts of suicide or self-harm has really enabled me to focus on living well and working toward recovery. They changed my meds when I was in hospital six months ago, and that possibly has helped, but I think the majority of the reason why I am doing better is because of the help of my support worker, Barbara.

Barbara has been a huge asset to me over the months since she has taken over as my support worker. She’s turned my life around from being ‘stuck in a rut’ to wanting to focus on recovery. She’s been encouraging me and motivating me to change areas of my life that were having a negative cycle on me. It’s her positivity, her practicality and her encouragement that are such a help. I’m not much of a practical person but she’s been teaching me to become more practical in my approach to looking after myself and my flat, doing constructive activities.

I’m so grateful for her, I can’t acknowledge her enough. Barbara said recently she is proud to know me and thinks I am a ‘strong and vibrant young lady’. She loves that I now have a vision for my life. It feels great to hear words like that from her.

I’ve been drug free now for nearly three months. It hasn’t been easy, but Pathways and my support worker Barbara have supported me through my journey of unwellness and addiction.

I know my journey to wellness will take its twists and turns and there will always be challenges, but I also know that all my small steps lead to big leaps...