Understanding borderline personality disorder: how I taught my teacher
I have chronic depression and in recovery from borderline personality disorder (BPD). I’ve just finished studying pharmacy as a mature student. Now that I am so much better, I try to be as open as possible about my mental health problems, challenging discrimination and misconceptions wherever I can, though I admit I still always leave out the BPD part and use the word “depression” to cover a multitude of problems.
There was one occasion, though, where I felt I had to challenge someone on their attitude towards people with a BPD diagnosis.
We had a lecture on my university course on various mental health conditions. Each one was factually correct and was talked about with an appropriate level of sympathy towards the sufferers. Then a slide popped up with Borderline Personality disorder and the 9 traits and the lecturer changed his tone changed completely.
He sighed and just said “These patients are manipulative, attention-seeking nuisances..."
He sighed and just said “These patients are manipulative, attention-seeking nuisances and are notoriously difficult to treat, so I won’t go into it any more than that” and moved on to his next slide.
At the end of the session he set us our coursework. We had to write a persuasive essay on a topic of our choice from the module. Perfect!
After the lecture I approached the academic. There was no good backing up what he already believed by appearing angry in any way, as I’d just be branded a “typical borderline” and I wanted to prove him wrong. He'd never met me before so I introduced myself, calmly saying: "Hi, you know those untreatable nuisances that have BPD? Well you have one in your class...and it's me."
He nearly fell over backwards and looked horrified and awkward. I continued, "Your prejudice is based on what you see on the outside, so I'd like to write about how I experience BPD from the inside and see if I can change how you see BPD sufferers".
To my surprise, the lecturer said he would be grateful and honoured to read the essay
To my surprise, the lecturer said he would be grateful and honoured to read the essay. There was so much I could write about but I decided to base the essay on the 9 traits of BPD and what they feel like on the inside and the effects each one has on both my daily life. It was a Masters level essay, so I decided to make it very academic so that it was taken seriously, but interspersed with my own experiences and feelings.
The lecturer gave me 100% for the essay, along with an apology and an admission that I'd made him change his mind. I’d managed to make sure that he wouldn’t imprint those prejudices on other students and future health professionals. I’ll never know, but he might even challenge someone else’s view of BPD because of my being open. It was scary but worth it!