Some mental health problems are relatively well known even if they are not well understood. I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), nobody seems to have heard of it and I call the discrimination I get from it the 'Fear of the Unknown'.
I've yet to see any personal stigma about BPD because no one seems to know what it is! Discrimination is a different story though. From friends, employers and strangers in the street, everyone has an opinion and loves to tell you theirs. The most common comments I get are:
- Get a grip!
- Just let it go over your head
- Grow up!
- Everyone has problems and they manage fine
And the one I hate the most:
- Stop attention seeking!
Would these people tell someone with an amputated leg to just 'Get a grip'? Would they tell a blind person to 'Stop looking for attention'? Probably not.
My diagnosis affected my relationships
I've suffered discrimination on a regular basis. After my diagnosis I lost a lot of friends, especially on Facebook. Every day the numbers dropped. In the end I closed down my account. I have to say it’s one of the best things I ever did. No more worries about 'is that status about me?' or that sick feeling every time someone calls someone else 'mental'. I have less real friends now but the ones I still have are genuine and understanding. Quality 1 - Quantity 0.
I had the same job for nearly a decade; behind a bar, working my way up to manager. I'd unknowingly suffered from BPD for the whole time but was only diagnosed in January 2012. Then everything changed. In December 2011 the company told me they would need to cut down staff numbers. My job was safe but they needed my input on who to keep and who to lose. This was a lengthy process and all along I was told that I was proving my value to the company.
I informed my employer that I had BPD
After my diagnosis a month later I informed my employer that I had BPD, honesty is the best policy, right? A week later, I was made redundant. Seems my value had plummeted.
Now I needed to apply for another job. Application forms ask the dreaded question 'Have you ever suffered Mental Health problems?'. Lie or tell the truth? I'm sure I'm not the first person who has thought putting yes meant I may as well just throw the application in the bin and forget about it.
'the person you are calling on behalf is a bit mental'
The most heartbreaking experience of discrimination, for me, happened one afternoon at my local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). I'd received a letter from my local council that made no sense. After having dealt with the council on many occasions and explaining to deaf ears that I have BPD so to be patient with me, I decided to let the CAB deal with it for me.
They rang the council who denied ever sending the letter. I never expected what was said next: ' you do know the person you’re calling on behalf of is a bit mental and is probably imagining the letter'. Complete heartbreak and a massive step back for my efforts to manage with my illness. Safe to say the nice chap at the CAB made sure that the situation was rectified and even made a complaint on my behalf to the Local Government Ombudsman.
So that covers some of the negativity and now for the positivity.
I told my dad about my mental health problems, he was my hero
Its time to talk. I did and my life has changed. After over a decade of antidepressants, diagnoses of mild depression and counselling sessions that showed no real results I'd reached breaking point. I broke down on my dad's shoulder and told him everything: how I was feeling, the effect it was having on my life and relationships and how I was struggling to even get out of bed most days. My father, my hero.
He stayed with me for a few days, took me down to my GP and told him enough was enough. What they'd tried over and over again wasn't working and it was time to get to the bottom of it. He stood my corner and it worked. I was referred to a psychiatrist who eventually diagnosed me with BPD.
I'm now getting the help and support I need
I'm now getting the help and support I need and I have a better understanding of what makes me tick. I still struggle but I know I'm on the right track because I realised it was time to talk. Here's hoping others do too.
I live my life by this simple phrase - everyone has baggage. In life the only people to listen to are the ones willing to help carry the load.