My diagnosis of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), or the UK name EUPD (Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder) was at first a major blow, but then I realised I finally had a name for this shadow that had been following me around for the last 20 years and, more importantly, I wasn't alone.
The words that describe what we live with do not define us – we are more than just a neurological clinical diagnosis, we are complex human beings.
'Borderline' and 'emotionally unstable' bring their own stigma – you hear of criminals who have been diagnosed with BPD and 'emotionally unstable' isn't something anyone wants to shout about! From my experience and others whom I have spoken to, all feel it's critical for patients/carers/friends/family to understand their condition better and improve outcomes, including recovery.
I was incredibly worried about sharing my diagnosis with close friends and family, let alone colleagues and other people who walk in and out of my life. I was afraid of stigma in terms of physical illness versus mental illness.
With a physical illness like cancer you can measure the metastasis and establish if the tumour has grown or shrunk. With mental illness, the majority of the outcome measures are patient-reported. Your GP or psychiatrist only knows how you feel depending on what you tell them in your appointments. How can I be sure that what I am reporting is accurate when I’ve had a breakdown or have been in a deep hole for weeks or months? How do I describe to my friends and family what they cannot see? Won’t they think I am an attention-seeker? Would they even care after experiencing some of my breakdowns? Will I be upsetting them? These are the intrinsic worries I had and still have to this day – something to work through in my journey to recovery.
Being a Time to Change Champion in my community and workplace has been a great opportunity to learn about my condition, and engage with others with lived experience of BPD and other mental illnesses.
Real life connections and lived experience speak more than the shame, fear, regret and guilt that can dominate the mind and lead you to hide away.
There are days where I feel like a 'normal' functioning member of society, able to go to work and perform and engage with people. Then there are days where I feel so terrorised by my own mind and convinced I don’t deserve to be alive, it's an uphill struggle to even find your way back to some semblance of reality. The latter takes up the majority of my energy and is the focus of my ongoing therapy.
Through it all I try to find motivation through face-to-face connections with my amazing family, boyfriend and close friends, laughing at silly things (mostly tiny dogs falling over!), trying to sing like Whitney Houston, cooking foods from around the world and travelling to be in a different environment and gain different perspectives.
The path to recovery is there. Sometimes we just can’t see it through the fog of worry and uncertainty.