It means a lot just saying this. Introducing myself to you. Because I am able to really be me now. I can say it with more love and presence for the whole person I am.
Life has been a rough journey for me, and it still is at times. I have high functioning Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and High Sensitive Personality (HSP). That’s a whole mouth full, but what it comes down to is, that my feelings, thoughts and emotions are very intense and in crisis, very black and white. I have high levels of stress, fear of abandonment, fear of failing, not being good enough and of being a burden. I can go from feeling ok, to feeling terrified, to feeling depressed, to feeling high in one day.
There are a lot of stimuli and stressors all day long. From inside myself, but also from other people and the world. It’s like I am porous, and others and anything can just flow in.
High functioning means that I can still function. I finished 3 university degrees (overcompensation ;-)) and my management career moved upward fast. I have friends and I am active. High functioning also means that you can pretend for a very long time. I can find creative ways and solutions to pretend or to still manage. And I did. But, up till three years ago, I was killing myself.
As you can imagine always fighting yourself, borderline and life, and always pretending you are ok and still doing everything your life demands from you is exhausting. I had experienced 2 burnouts already in my short 5-year career. I had to do something big. I felt I could sleep for three years. I was tired and done. I decided to go for it. Therapy; No excuses. No fleeing. I was afraid to lose my job and everything I worked my ass off for. But it had to happen.18 months; 2 group mornings and two other counseling sessions every week.
My fear became reality, I could not hold my job and had to report ill. Six months before the end of therapy, I experienced the worst depression I ever had. Exhausted and not wanting to go on anymore. I got medicine and when depression was clearing a little I decided to reward myself upon finishing therapy. That reward was travel.
I finished! I bought myself a one-way ticket to South America, and arrived in Sao Paulo on January the 27th, 2016. My journey began.
I fell into all the travel traps and old behaviors head first. After 6 weeks I was overstimulated, stressed, emotional and exhausted. I rented a room and stayed indoors in the dark for 7 days, with only Netflix. What an eye-opener! The first big one. I had to take into account the whole me. I had to take care of her and make good caring decisions. Many eye-openers, beautiful landscapes and experiences followed. Travel was the best follow up on therapy for me. I created space to process my emotions and experiences. It was the quickest and best way to learn about myself, others, and my place in this world. I literally paused my rollercoaster life and hit the reset button.
What did I learn about myself? I need space and time. Flexibility and slowing down. I am allowed to say no and I can give up on things and people if they are not for me. People and things come and go. I am creative and love nature. I want to trade money for peace of mind. Earning less is a compromise for living more calmly, with more headspace. This leads to the blossoming of me as a whole person. Stress is a part of me and I should be aware of that. The littlest things or thoughts can set me off and, if not taken care of, can add up to depression and crisis. I have to keep my balance. That does not mean I can’t do things that put me off balance, it only means that I have to calculate in rest. To accept rest.
And why do I want to tell this story? One: to show that you can do anything you want. Even when you have a chronic (mental) illness. Even when others tell you that you can’t, for all kinds of reasons. You are the captain of your ship. Sail the ocean of life. Two: I want you to know that you do not have to travel far, or travel at all. Travel is a metaphor. Life is travel. And so you need to constantly check your heading and location. Am I still going where I want to go? Am I still happy where I am? Ground yourself and listen. Reflect. And adjust accordingly. Treat life in this way and you will have your journey. Your life journey. And finally, you are beautiful. You are part of this world, part of the universe. We all are. That is a gift. That is hope. Do not try to understand everything. See, feel, listen and touch. Find your balance and your place. You have one. You are already here.
I am so happy to work with and write for Goalie (now NiceDay) and share my journey and lessons learned with you. I hope they help, inspire or touch you in some way. You can expect articles about personal growth and -leadership from me. But also articles about my daily life and feelings and background information about mental illnesses and mental health.
If you recognize yourself in things I describe or you have questions, feel free to contact me. You can also find me on the I am one Movement. With this Instagram blog I hope to create more openness about mental health. I share my personal thoughts and feelings on there. If you’d like to see more of my travels; you can on backpackingbouwke.