I have personality and eating disorders, more precisely avoidant, dependant and borderline or emotionally unstable personality disorders and bulimia. All stigmatised diagnoses even among medical professionals.
People with personality disorders are classed as attention-seeking, manipulative and difficult. In the media we are portrayed as dangerous, yet there are 15 different personality disorders and are thought to be caused by childhood trauma, neglect or abuse. My birth mum died, which I always blamed myself for. although I have very supportive adoptive parents who I couldn’t have asked for better. I also got bullied throughout school which made me feel more of an outsider everywhere.
People with avoidant personality disorder have a fear of becoming close to people in case they get hurt or abandoned but don’t want to be alone. They are also hypersensitive to criticism due to feeling inferior and wanting and needing to be liked. People with dependent personality disorder fear being left alone and feel they can’t cope on their own. Therefore, in some ways they are contradicting diagnoses, but basically, I’m scared of social situations and relationships but am dependent on my parents.
My biggest fear is those close to me dying. That is inevitable one day, but in times of crisis I get suicidal and act on those thoughts even though there is a part of me that doesn’t want to die and that’s the part that gets help. These thoughts and actions are complicated with borderline personality disorder as this makes me struggle with my emotions and fear being abandoned. Someone not turning up on time to a meeting could be a trigger in the emotional mind, which in the rational mind probably has a plausible reason. Maybe the bus was late.
It also causes us to be impulsive at these times and this is when people with BPD self-harm or act reckless. In my case it has been self-harm and suicide attempts. Even professionals can be judgemental, especially in A&E. We did not choose to be like this and certainly do not enjoy being like this. People should be treat with compassion not judgement.
I also have bulimia, another embarrassing, misrepresented diagnosis. When the media portray eating disorders they show emaciated anorexics. Even when bulimia is mentioned it is always a shock story of someone who got to a dangerously low weight and nearly died. I’m overweight yet have struggled with bingeing and purging for 14 years and have a pacemaker due to it causing a hereditary heart condition to get worse. I could have died despite not being a low weight.
Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, you don’t have to be a low weight to have the mental torment and guilt about food going around your head causing more self-hate, again leading to self-harm to punish yourself for eating. You also don’t need to be a low weight to be in danger.
The common connection to all of these labels are self-harm. I am not dangerous to anyone else, neither should I be ashamed of my diagnosis, even though I have these diagnoses that mean life is harder to manage than for others. I am still Tracy. Yes, I have the physical and emotional scars and a history of being sectioned in hospitals, but they do not change who I am as a person.
I was a good caring support worker with people with learning disabilities and mental health problems. If anything, my own experiences caused me to be more empathetic and understanding, and my biggest passion in life is horses, especially my own Warwick, who has got me through my darkest times. I am good at teaching horse riding and am training to be a qualified instructor.
It has been my caring supportive family who got me through my darkest time when I was sectioned for a year and had given up on life. I’m classed as complex but my diagnoses are not uncommon. In fact, 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lives, whether it be mild to moderate anxiety or depression or severe and enduring mental health problems.
It’s time to talk, time to change and time to put an end to discrimination.