Scarlet Letters

What a foreign territory this is. A “why not?” decision to share my writing. The why not decisions used to paralyze me in my tracks; not even a consideration.

I mean, I could speak up about BPD. Oh, but then people will know. Maybe one day I will sell my art, but surely not today. And when people ask, ”do you sell your art?”, my response, unchanged. “Not now. Maybe some day”. I could share this personal art that I love so much, but oh, what would people say? What would they think when they see “liability” plastered on my art in cut out magazine letters? I could explain my artwork, put words to it. But I could grow further misunderstood in the process. I could put words to my art, but who would read them? Who would care? I could throw myself into this craft. I could, for the first time in my life, be the loudest voice in the room. I could use that voice to help others and speak about the alleged unspeakable. But not me, not now. Maybe, some other day or maybe someone else.

Someone else. Someone else could be a person with unfortunate commonalities to myself, but this person was ahead of me. They were beyond the days of believing to have had those scarlet letters on their forehead.

”BPD”. Everyone can see it, can’t they? Can’t they see it in the way I walk? They must see it with every word I speak. They think people with BPD are attention seeking and problematic, oh god, what if they see my scarlet letters? That social interaction, I did a bad job again. How could you slip up when the discovery of your letters are at risk? You always do this. You’re a bad person, just like they say, don’t you see? You scurry off to the nearest bathroom and begin rubbing at your forehead, but those letters go nowhere; they don't even smear. A portion of each breath you take goes directly into the energy it takes to feel such shame. How exhausting.

Because with this illness, shame will often follow. It followed me just as relentlessly as the disorder did. And some days, most of my energy went into trying to wipe the permanent letters off my forehead; a pointless attempt. I needed that energy to show up, to get out of bed, to take my medication. But why care about any of those things if the shame backpacking your demons is just as lethal?

I can’t ever wipe those letters into oblivion, even if I fully recover from BPD. Because this has been a part of my story, it is one I cannot erase. It’s okay; it can be there. I don’t even think about it now. I don’t try to fight it, I don’t run to the bathroom in a panic to erase my scarlet letters. Like many bad things, it can be there. It can be there and it doesn’t need to torture me. But I remember how it got there in the first place; immense shame of my own character, better yet, my personality.

I had this distant version of myself that I envisioned but she never, ever felt real. She felt unattainable and like some best version of me bull shit that I would never live to see. Yet still, with most things, I persist. I persisted to have her in the back of my mind. A fantasy at best, but she was a comfort to keep. For such a long time, it had been, well, when I have the courage to do this thing. And, well, one day. And, in some alternate universe where I exist but do so proudly. There, I wouldn’t have completed the task of erasing my scarlet letters. Instead, I would have accepted them. But the thought of erasing permanence felt more realistic than there being a version of myself that accepted and advocated for this illness.

Oh, I love when stories change. That’s the best part. I looked at my art and saw so much; suffering and beauty. Despair and growth. But a fraction of me remained unsatisfied. A waste and not in full, yet my head hung heavy thinking that my art would never leave my own shelves. It’s just too personal; too much of this…personality. But maybe some day. Maybe that girl in that other universe. But not me, not now. And another piece of artwork was placed on my shelf, proudly signed but in the dark.

This is me turning the lights on. It hasn’t been an immediate process. It’s like one of those dimming lights, a gradual change. The brighter the room gets, the further I am from painting in the dark. And the brighter the room gets, the closer I am to pointing out my own scarlet letters, mostly for the sake of those that still try to wipe theirs off. I was proud of the art I was producing for over a year; I’d snap a photo of the piece completed, like a proud mother, but the photo was locked in my secret BPD diary box. With it, the pieces before it. The essays about abandonment and the drawings of what I named my “borderline monster”. The stacks of journals and it’s ripped up remanants that make me cringe. I was the epitome of the artist that couldn’t speak. The artist that shelves their every piece because fear and shame sit heavier than pride and joy. And the “I could’s” bounced around in my head like happy little ideas that never grew.

I can’t believe it’s me. I can’t believe I’m her and in this universe, here. It was me who turned the light on and it was me who wrote the plot twist. It was me that took my art off my shelves and it was me that handed it to others. Then, I thought of this version of myself often. Now, I think of the person that was painting in the dark and thinking, in another life, I’ll speak up. In another life, I’ll make it a purpose to use my creativity and voice for the sake of this illness and the lives that it plagues. In another life, I won’t even think about my scarlet letters. And my BPD diary box will be free, unlocked, liberated.

I persist unapologetically. It can be quite painful to do so; oh, the heavy discouragement that is the ”my art will never matter” thought. It has made a permanent home here in my mind, but despite it, I persist. I share, even with the fear that nobody will look at it and nobody would care. I speak even though the thought of my words leaving my head terrifies me. This terrifies me, painting and writing with a bright light above me. But in my mind also exists a flickering beam of hope that is so dim it sometimes feels pathetic. But that hope is the thing that says, some day, it’ll be worth it. I think often about how I look forward to the day where I think, I endured everything that I did, I survived, so that I could live to see this very day. My art completing that full circle, that is where that day is. It’s in sharing with others and doing so without peering back over my shoulder.

It is no longer the stagnant ideas that haunt me. It is the ”why not’s” that I see most of. Because, why not, speak up? Why not be the unpopular opinion? Why not destigmatize this illness through transparency? Because maybe, it’s not, some day, and it’s not some version of myself. Its, why not, because what if no one else does? I was the person curled up in a bathroom, hiding my head and it’s letters. There will always be those people, but I dont think any of them ever need to stay there. When I was her, maybe I needed me. I think, I wish I saw people talking about it on the internet, saying the things I couldn’t. I think I would have felt less alone if I found that. And I would be so deeply grateful if I could make anyone feel less alone.

If you still fight with those letters, that’s okay, but you don’t have to stay there. You can get up off the bathroom floor and you can forget about what is written on your face. I wouldn’t have believed this if I heard it a year ago, even six months ago. But here I am, I was sinking into bathroom floors and now I’m standing up.

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