Mental health is being talked about more and more. Speaking as someone that suffers from a mental health condition its positive to see and more importantly feel, that slowly stigma is beginning to lift.
I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) 16 years ago and I am only now thankfully about to receive the treatment that I need.
I have never broadcast my mental health condition, if anything I have kept it a closely guarded secret. I have obstructed friendships and people that have got too close. If they get too close they might notice something isn’t right, they may bare witness to a BPD episode and then they may not want to be friends with me anymore, and then they may abandon me.
Apart from social stigma and the worry about the impact on a professional career, the very real worry of how friends and extended family will react is a constant worry and pressure.
I often think that my BPD thrives and feeds off that, it knows that I want to form close and loving relationships and to do that you need a level of transparency, you need to let people in.
Here in lies the problem. You see a big part of BPD is the issue of maintaining close relationships, they are just more difficult when you have BPD, this is why most suffers with the illness will have a graveyard filled with dead friendships.
People with BPD think differently, this is due to our constant changes in emotional shifts, bubbling just below the surface of our skin. We use black and white thinking to rationalize and analyze relationships. Perhaps this is some sort of system to weigh up if and when a person will abandon you. Ultimately though, the weighing system is negatively flawed and it’s never in favour of the person that has unsuspectingly jumped on the scales. Sorry about that mate.
As mental illnesses go, BPD is not too widely known. A quick internet search will showcase that its one of the mental illnesses that mental health professionals find most tricky to deal with, in part due to the difficult personality traits that a BPD sufferer can display.
Many of the symptoms of BPD can sound pretty daunting, especially the forming of fast intense relationships and self-harm. It is also one of the mental health illnesses that Hollywood has showcased in a sinister light, with Glenn Close’s character Andy in Fatal Attraction coining the phrase ‘Bunny Boiler’.
It is because of this that I have been hesitant in coming forth about my life struggles with BPD, with particular reference to new people in my life. I’m almost purposely aloof. I constantly live with the fear of losing yet another relationship due to knee jerk reactions backed up by black and white thinking.
'I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I have heard people say ‘its just a label’ and ‘it’s just a bad patch’
Ironically the aloof tactic has probably lost me more friendships and potential relationships than actual BPD episodes have. It’s a vicious circle.
Whilst it's great that people are more engaged now in mental health than ever before, we have all seen the Facebook suicide support statuses of ‘my kettle is always on’ copy and paste to prove someone is always listening’ which I’m not here to debate that as sentiment, it would be good if people took mental health conditions as seriously as they took physical conditions.
There are only a small few that I have openly admitted my struggles to, outside of my immediate family. I would be surprised if less than half of them researched what the condition was and how they could offer support. Would the same have been true if I had a fatal heart condition, would they look for signs that could trigger an attack?
BPD as a condition can be fatal. The suicidal thoughts can be at times overwhelming. So shouldn’t knowing the triggers be as crucial and life saving?
I’m not saying that friends and family should become experts in the condition over night, but they should at least know what they are potentially dealing with. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I have heard people say ‘its just a label’ and ‘it’s just a bad patch’.
Of course if you change the context to a physical condition, you can see the ridiculousness in that.
Oh you’ve had a stoke you say? Don’t worry its just a label and it most definitely sounds to me like a bad patch. Chin up.
On the very rare occasion I have been brave, OK, in despair and opened up about suicidal thoughts, I have been immediately shot down and labeled as selfish. Which is often just a knee jerk thoughtless reaction by the recipient, it is also the perfect invitation to disconnect and isolate yourself with only your BPD for company.
'If someone you know opens up to you about their BPD condition, know that they are still the same person they were yesterday'
Of course by its very nature suicide is a tough conversation to have, its tougher living with the thoughts, but sometimes it’s a conversation that has to be had. It’s kind of like admitting you’re an alcoholic, it’s the first step.
I now believe as someone living with BPD, we have a responsibility to open up and educate those around us about the condition. Which in itself can seem a difficult task due to the illnesses complex nature and shifting sands, especially whilst you’re still trying to figure it all out. I know that the rewards gained will vastly outweigh the challenge.
If someone you know opens up to you about their BPD condition, know that they are still the same person they were yesterday and know that with treatment they can be a happier more balanced person tomorrow.
I am fortunate that I have a close number of immediate family members that have taken the time out to understand the condition and how it affects me this has been at times life saving.
As I await my imminent therapy I am comforted in the knowledge that with treatment the difficulty I have had maintaining friendships and relationships will become a thing of the past.
The only friendship I’m prepared to lose now is my BPD and for that I’m ready to say BPD bye bye.
published anonymously, with thanks