A Journey of Struggle and Strength: For a Life Beyond a Label.
"I list illness last, but in reality it is my mental illness that has dominated and dictated everything to this point."
Read Amanda's story of how she has continually used fitness and exercise to push and challenge herself as a maintenance tool for her mental health. Helping her retain structure, to keep purpose, reduce stress levels, stay healthy and be defiant.
This is Amanda's story.
A life that had only one guarantee, beyond that one of complex chaotic interactions of choices / chances / opportunities and illness.
I list illness last, but in reality it is my mental illness that has dominated and dictated everything to this point.
Having struggled with poor mental health through my whole adult life, it was only two years ago, I actually got a diagnosis. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
I had no idea what it was to mean for me, a momentary sense of relief that I was not just going mad. But then for what I learnt, I genuinely thought my life was over. I was devastated. BPD ultimately affects the way you think, feel and interact with others, what did that mean… well 1 in 10 sufferers complete suicide, 75% of those with BPD have made one or more attempts on their life. It is a very painful condition, full of distress and instability.
Symptomatically it means emotional dysregulation (an inability to regulate appropriate emotions), impulsive behaviours, disturbed thinking, extreme mood swings, no strong sense of self (being able to look in a mirror and fail to recognise oneself), explosive anger, self-harm and suicidal feelings and behaviours.
No cure as such, I discovered that mental health services were over prescribed and underfunded, and even if you are lucky enough to receive any form of therapy. Therapy is not done in therapy, the real work is done outside of those sessions.. it will hurt, it will take hard work, you will fall and you will fail but you will try again. I have done many things in my life which I could not explain, destroyed relationships, spent a lifetime saying sorry. My mental health team, ultimately informed me my diagnosis should offer a sense of relief.
A What the fuck moment !! .. In my mind.. they were telling me my whole life was a lie I hadn’t chosen anything, my illness has made me do it, I was merely a puppet being pulled by the strings of the BPD monster.
I became lost, isolated, disconnected, misunderstood, excluded and was devoid of hope. I might as well have been the only person on the planet, I was a broken shell and I stopped living and just barely existed, waiting to die, but yet too apathetic to take my own life. I must have kissed the brink of madness.
Wherever I turned stigma; family, so called ‘friends’, employers, my own GP and a portrayal in the the press and on the big screen as a murdering psychopath. Media are very keen to over spin the minority reality tales of what people with poor mental health have done, yet fail to portray the reality of the fact that people of poor mental health are more likely to be victims of crime. – FACT! ..When was the last time you recall a press report of crime against a mentally ill person?
I have spent the last 18 months painfully learning about my complex illness, and I have implemented more and more coping strategies, am challenging more and more of my thoughts and behaviours. I am still a work in progress, never will be a finished article. Will keep pushing my body and mind further.
Setbacks, comebacks, fallings and failings. Battle after battle, wars of the mind… I fought and lost, but never gave up, because defiantly I knew defeat had no permanency in my life.
A continual effort is required, the hard work will sometimes be a grind, sometimes pure therapy but everything is for gains!!
The gamechanger: Just over 12 months ago I discovered be defiant company, a clothing company with a difference. They were being open about raising the awareness of mental health and reducing the stigma through fitness and sport – their approach was one of an open armed family offering a supportive and motivational community, to support like minded individuals. Be Defiant were looking for advocates, I still did not belong anywhere at this point, what the hell had I to lose?
"I may have done the work, but 100% I would NOT have achieved it without Kyle and the growing be defiant family."
I applied and was accepted, with open arms. I immediately had a sense of belonging and inclusion, I could just be myself. There was now a glimmer of light cast on my dark world. My journey has been one of struggle and change, hard work, and tears, but with their support and being able to stand with them and work with their infectiously inspirational co – founder Kyle I have become the person I am today. I may have done the work, but 100% I would NOT have achieved it without Kyle and the growing be defiant family.
So what happened, well… let me tell you : Growing Pains
Several months after becoming an advocate…as a city hating, non public transport using, non public speaking, ‘ever’ individual – I found myself sat alone on a London bound train, heading to a lived experience focus group for a leading national mental health charity. It was uncomfortable, (but SO rewarding). what was happening … quite simply I was growing.
From this my passion to raise the awareness, to break the stigma, to reach out to others, to share my journey, to be the change I wanted to see. To be able to have hope, a sense of a future and to feel inclusion rocketed.
Since then I have participated in numerous focus groups, have participated in opportunities with Rethink, Mind and Time to Change, other national charities and numerous University research projects. I have found social media an invaluable way of connecting and reaching out to others to share my journey, to raise the awareness and offer hope, inspiration and support to others. Wherever they may be on their own journeys.
I have also completed several mental health qualifications, and courses so that I can continue to work on my own recovery but to also support others. This is ongoing, the growth cannot stop here, my struggles to get here were never to just make it this far!
I am so much more than a label, I am learning to love every bit of me, piece by piece. I am only gaining strength to stand stronger and stronger – side by side with my be defiant family.
"I have continually used fitness and exercise to push and challenge me and also as a maintenance tool for my mental health."
I have continually used fitness and exercise to push and challenge me and also as a maintenance tool for my mental health. Helping me retain structure, purpose, stabilising mood, lowering stress levels, aggression and ultimately to stay healthy.
Gains for days.
I remain the author of my life, and my story is far from over.