“I learned to separate ‘me’ from the illness to manage the pain” (BBC Three)

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Billie Dee, 28, from London has borderline personality disorder and complex post traumatic stress disorder.

I’ve struggled to regulate my moods for as long as I can remember. My emotions can be so extreme if they’re not constantly managed. I feel everything so strongly. If a friend doesn’t reply to my messages for a day, I’ll think they have abandoned me and I’ll become deeply depressed and dysfunctional. Equally, when I’m excited about a date or achieving something at work, I can get so manic that it frightens people. I live with continuous anxiety, always worrying what will trigger my mood swings.

My parents went through a deeply traumatic divorce when I was five. As a teenager, I would drink a lot of alcohol as a way to cope with my intense emotions. When I started to question whether I had a mental health condition, I talked to my family and friends about getting a diagnosis. But they were worried it would make my life difficult. As in, I wouldn’t be able to get a job and people would judge me. The shame prevented me from getting help. I ended up isolating myself and became trapped in a cycle of self-hate for a long time.

Then, in 2015, my long-term boyfriend and I broke up around the same time I got made redundant – and I hit rock bottom. I completely shut down: I couldn’t even get dressed, I would just wake up and cry all day. After two months of not leaving the house, and having horrific nightmares where I’d wake up screaming, I realised I needed help. I started seeing a private psychotherapist, which gave me support but it was so expensive, I had to stop the sessions.

Before I left, my therapist urged me to see a doctor but because I was drinking excessively, smoking weed and I had intrusive thoughts, I was terrified that I would get locked up in a psychiatric hospital against my will. It doesn’t happen like that in real life, but that irrational thinking meant I ignored the advice and convinced myself that I would get better on my own.

I didn’t. It got worse. Earlier this year, I was walking to work with voices in my head shouting that I was worthless. I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore, so I called the mental health crisis line right there on the street.

I had to prove that my drinking and drug use was under control before I was referred onto a mental health service or psychiatric hospital, and my GP wouldn’t prescribe medication until I had seen a psychiatrist, so I checked myself into a free drug and alcohol peer support group. Knowing I wasn’t alone was a massive boost to my self-worth. After attending meetings for three months, I was referred to the local psychiatric hospital.

When I first heard the words “borderline personality disorder” (BPD), I freaked out because it sounds horrendous – and it’s even worse when you first read about it.

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