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What Would Carrie Fisher Do?

You are one with the Force

I love Carrie Fisher. Behind a lot of things that I do with my community, family, and friends, she has heavily influenced the choices and actions I choose to make in life. Her strength and courage to be publicly open regarding her fight with mental illness have encouraged me to be more open with mine. This is terrifying writing and exposing more of who I am, but I feel like it’s time for me to fight the stigma. When you are given the chance to be educated about a specific topic, it becomes less scary.

A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I felt like I was spiraling out of control mentally and couldn’t find a peace that I have been seeking. Growing up I have always faced mental illness, but it wasn’t always me. My father had it. It pained me to see what he was fighting against and not understanding what he was facing at the time. My father had severe depression. Severe enough that the pain grew so strong for him that he ended up taking his life when I was 11. I was very angry, resentful, and hurt. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t keep fighting and least try. This is a lot for a child to take in and fully understand the situation. This also forced me to grow up too quickly.

                                               Matt Sayles / AP / Via Quote: theguardian.com

Growing up I have seen a lot of therapists. None seemed to help. I was too advanced for them and would often call them out on things that they would say. As you can imagine, they didn’t like that. I was still experiencing a lot of resentment towards my father, and yet it also sparked something inside of me that I didn’t realize at the time; I was determined to become an advocate for mental health. I was striving to learn everything I could so that I could understand. I didn’t know at the time that the small spark that was created would soon turn me into the fierce mother and wife I am today. At the time though, I was struggling with a severe depression. Over the years I would also face sexual assault, abuse, suicidal thoughts, and more. Therapy wasn’t helping. Medication was only making it worse. I didn’t know what to do.

Throughout junior high and high school, I, unfortunately, turned to self-mutilation for relief. I didn’t know what else to do. Art was everything for me, but there were times that I was in so much pain that it felt like I couldn’t get relief anywhere else. I was miserable, lonely, scared, and didn’t know what to do. Somehow I was able to cut cold turkey, but I know that not everyone is able to do that. (It should go without saying, but I do not condone the self-harming behavior.)

In my early 20’s I got married and had 3 kids. We were not compatible. There was a lot of abuse and traumatic experiences that created a severe amount of PTSD for me. I didn’t know how I was going to make it. I ended up as a single mother of 3 wondering what I was going to do next to not only protect my children but still keep myself mentally stable as we begin to move onto our next phase in life.

I don’t know why or how, but I came across someone who is a perfect fit for me. Someone who was willing to be with me regardless of everything that was attached. He didn’t look at me as if I was broken, but deep down inside I felt like I was and that I could never be repaired. I was originally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It was hard for me to think that someone would want to be with me when you have something like that attached to you. But he did. And he still does.

Life felt like it was finally settling down. Derek was able to adopt the older kids. We had one of our own and adopted our sweet dog, Einstein. From the outside, everything looked like it was going the way it was supposed to.

It wasn’t.

I ignored myself. I ignored my trauma. I ignored all the demons that were following me because I wanted to feel that normalcy so badly that I actually forgot about truly taking care of myself. You know what? It caught up with me. I ended up getting postpartum depression. I lost myself again. It was like a switch that flipped and EVERYTHING caught up to me. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it. I didn’t want to take the same route as my dad. I didn’t want to leave my kids, but my head was telling me something different and it was awful.

Derek did some research and discovered Borderline Personality Disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition characterized by difficulties regulating emotion. This means that people who experience BPD feel emotions intensely and for extended periods of time, and it is harder for them to return to a stable baseline after an emotionally triggering event. Symptoms include:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment by friends and family.
  • Unstable personal relationships that alternate between idealization (“I’m so in love!”) and devaluation (“I hate her”). This is also sometimes known as “splitting.”
  • Distorted and unstable self-image, which affects moods, values, opinions, goals, and relationships.
  • Impulsive behaviors that can have dangerous outcomes, such as excessive spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse, or reckless driving.
  • Self-harming behavior including suicidal threats or attempts.
  • Periods of intense depressed mood, irritability, or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days.
  • Chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness.
  • Inappropriate, intense, or uncontrollable anger—often followed by shame and guilt.
  • Dissociative feelings—disconnecting from your thoughts or sense of identity or “out of body” type of feelings—and stress-related paranoid thoughts. Severe cases of stress can also lead to brief psychotic episodes.https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Borderline-Personality-Disorder

I met with the right people and discovered that I wasn’t Bipolar, but had BPD. (I’m high functioning so I do not go to the extreme like most can.) I ended up in a treatment program called Dialectical Behavior Therapy. This was the most intense and painful treatment I have ever been through. And it changed my life. I compared it to the Matrix because it was like opening my eyes for the first time and really seeing the world differently. It was overwhelming and yet helped me finally start to get the peace I’ve been fighting for.

                                                      Vince Bucci / AP / Via Quote: npr.org

Even though I have found a better peace in my life, don’t think that I’m not fighting anymore. I still am. Every single day. I just fight in a different way than I use to.  These last 3 months, my depression skyrocketed and that suicidal feeling was stronger than it ever was. I have never felt such darkness in my life.

Between 8 and 10 percent of people with BPD will complete suicide, which is more than 50 times the rate of suicide in the general population.”
– www.verywellmind.com

I have also never been more frightened. I also realized something as well. After 26 years, it finally took me to realize truly what my father felt like during his moments of darkness. I was driving home from work and it hit me what he was feeling like as a parent. How much you love your family and your friends and how hard the fight really is just to keep going. I felt like I could see all the pain that he was going through and how real the struggle is. Dealing with the internal conflict when all you want to do is just enjoy life and feel like you are normal. This is such a heavy burden.

For the first time in my life, I truly forgave my father. I didn’t see it as a selfish act anymore. I felt mercy and love for him. He didn’t want to do it. I see that now.

I know that he wants me to keep fighting. I know that he wants me to experience and live for all of the things he is missing. My heart aches for him now more than it ever has especially now that I have a true understanding of where he was coming from.

I know what it’s like to keep fighting. It’s hard to find ways to make it every day. This is why it is so important to support and love each other. Life is precious. Sure the pain can dull, but it will never go away. This is why I admire Carrie Fisher. She kept fighting as much as she could. And this is what I choose to do. I am making the choice to choose the most difficult decision I could make. Fight for myself, my family, my friends, and anyone else who struggles with a mental illness. It’s worth it.

WE CAN DO THIS.  Please. Call the number below so you can continue your fight as well.

 

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Amber Dahl

Co-Founder, Head of PR, Marketing, & Brand DevelopmentAmber Dahl is an artist that loves to experiment with different mediums to see them come to life. She is also a huge fan of Star Wars, Disney, Harry Potter, and Nature. She is a member of the Alpine Garrison, does set design for tv and film, a motion capture actor, voice talent, and an Associate Producer for an animated series, has made appearances on multiple podcasts and has been a special guest for Salt Lake Comic Con and Salt Lake Gaming Con.

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