I always knew I was different. From as young as I can possibly remember I knew I wasn’t like other children. I felt things way more intensely and came across as dramatic when I tried to express myself.
My mother, like many people her age, saw mental illness as something to be embarrassed about. When I started to have emotional outbursts at school or I’d cry and beg her not to fall asleep during the day because the anxiety I felt was unbearable I was just labelled a child with behavioural problems. I was always made to feel like I chose to be this way.
I got kicked out of several schools for having anger outbursts and non-existent coping mechanisms for my undiagnosed mental health condition. I got into a lot of trouble in my teen years and would get into physical fights with anyone who tried to intimidate me. Looking back now I know all I really needed was for someone to sit down with me and ask what was going on.
My home life was pretty toxic which resulted to me living in care homes and with foster families. Yet nobody ever asked about my head.
It wasn’t until I was 18 and I sought help for myself that I got a diagnosis. Borderline personality disorder (BPD). I became obsessed with researching BPD and every trigger, symptom and cause surrounding it. At first having a diagnosis made me feel ashamed and inadequate. But then I realised I was starting to become a better person. Being so self-aware of my emotions, and being able to rationalise my feelings in situations that I previously would have handled terribly, started the journey to my growth.
I am not BPD - I’m a person living with it. I think it’s also important to understand everything is a spectrum and just because others have the same diagnosis doesn’t mean they are the same person. I have met people with BPD that have symptoms and triggers that I’ve never experienced and vice versa.
Now I’m studying psychology at university, something I would have never imagined possible a few years ago. My behaviour is different from when I was younger – I meditate and read as much mindful positivity as I can. When I start feeling overwhelmed, I take myself out of stressful situations.
I feel like had there never been stigma surrounding mental illness, my life would have been so different.
I would have had my diagnosis at a much earlier age, I would have understood what I was experiencing and why, and my education and relationships probably wouldn’t have suffered like they did.
I don’t believe anybody is born evil; the choices people make are sometimes much deeper than the eye can see. However, I also believe that having a mental illness is no excuse to treat people badly. This is only something I’ve been able to acknowledge since my diagnosis. Stopping the stigma around mental illness means people will be able to recognise their behaviour and the reasons for it, and access help without shame.
I think it’s so important to make sure children, parents and carers know it’s ok to seek help when you don’t feel ‘normal’ inside your head. The sooner the stigma is gone, the sooner people suffering will get the help they need, ultimately resulting in a more positive environment for them and the people in their lives.