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I have these sleepless nights at times. I sit awake on my computer, or alone in the dark, as my wife sleeps next to me or in another room.

I stumble from one thought to another, avoiding the thing within that keeps me awake. I ponder days and weeks and months, even years past, my mistakes, or what could have been. I ponder the days to come, the conversations that may be had, the tasks that should be done. Or I mindlessly click from one mind-numbing internet page to another, trying to dull myself to sleep.

I avoid looking deep within, avoid confronting that which steals my sleep. That ache.

Or at least I try to. But inevitably, something draws me toward it. Somehow I ended up at a friend’s blog the other night. Somehow I ended up at this poem about the life and death within us.

Today love was trampled and neglected.
Today love was simply asked for and freely given.
Today power was abused and vulnerability wounded.
Today there was connection, and tenderness, and healing.

I am a lover and hater, hurter and healer, bully and friend.
I am control-freak one moment, carefree singing the next.
I am light and dark, good and evil, hidden and revealed.
Driven at times by an inner force of injury and rage,
Love rises at others to turn my small choices to good.

– Rachael Barham, 2009.

I want to share this experience of being both full of life and full of death. Having Borderline Personality Disorder has ripped me open. And from that, I have grown. I love intensely, but at times, I also wound intensely.

My wife, my dear beloved darling, my love, she bears a cross that is not hers. She stands beside me on my difficult days, as I move from one emotion to another. From joyful song to hopeless despair. On these days, she doesn’t know from one moment to the next what awaits her within me.

And yet she loves me.

And yet I love her.

How can this be?

How can I be both lover and hater, hurter and healer, bully and friend?

How can this be?

We move. We move towards healing. We work and work and work at learning to be more whole. I set goals and track progress and take pills and try to focus on what small choices I have in each moment to choose life not death. But is that enough?

Is it enough to love and love and love again?

It’s time to tell a new piece of my story.

Three years ago, in January of 2010, I was referred to the Canadian Mental Health Association.  After a few years of friends and family trying to help me through some rough patches, it was decided that I needed the assistance of someone with a little more expertise in the area of mental illness.  A few months later, I began treatment for an illness that most people struggle with for many years before receiving an accurate diagnosis.

I’m telling you this because it’s time to address the stigma associated with mental illness.

I’ve wanted to tell this story for some time now, but each time I’ve sat down to write, something has caused me to stop.  I’ve allowed the shame of having a mental illness cripple me from telling this story.  And by doing so, I’ve validated the stigma of mental illness.  I have told myself (and through my silence, others) that you should not talk about mental illness because you will be judged for it.

And maybe I will be judged for saying I have a mental illness.  But I will say it anyway.  Because there should be no shame.

I’ve asked myself how to know when this story is ready to be told, and I don’t know that I have a complete answer to that yet.

But I do know that after a long absence, its time to return to writing again.  Over the next few weeks and months, I will find my voice and begin telling the parts of this story that are ready to be told.

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