I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). I was diagnosed with this over 3 and a half years ago, and up until this summer, I had told fewer people than I have fingers on one hand.
To me, this never felt like a conscious decision. I tricked myself into believing it was 'personal' and people didn't need to know about my revised diagnosis. But this is odd, given how open I had been with my earlier diagnosis of depression. I was comfortable discussing this openly with the people in my life, even sharing my story in articles with my local newspaper and charities. My colleagues knew, my friends knew, even strangers knew. So why didn't I feel able to do this with my personality disorder?
People didn't know a lot about personality disorders - and what they did know wasn't good
The answer is simple, the stigma attached is immense. All of my colleagues and friends knew about the realities of depression, and a large number had experienced it themselves. Very few knew anything at all about personality disorders, and what they did know wasn't good. They thought personality disorders weren't 'real' illnesses, or that people with them were just being 'difficult.' More often than not I had seen people refer to people with BPD in particular as 'manipulative' and 'toxic' and I was scared I'd be tarred with the same brush. When I did tell my closest friends, they didn't get it. They'd generally never heard of it, and I didn't have the tools to explain it to them, as it was still pretty new to me too. When I tried to explain, I'd see their faces change; gone was the empathetic, albeit pitying look I got when I talked about my depression, replaced with looks of confusion or fear.
However this carried on long after I got used to my new diagnosis. When I filled in a form for my graduate role and it asked if I had any health conditions, or take regular medication, I lied, fearing my offer might be retracted if I disclosed my BPD. I phoned my mum, and we both felt I may lose the job if I disclosed my disorder, and agreed it would be better to hide it. I spent two years in the role dreading anyone finding out and throwing people who got close to me off the scent in case they decided I wasn't 'well' enough to do my job.
The truth is, I felt shame and fear associated with my diagnosis of BPD. I'd never met anyone else with it, and having the label made me feel like a freak and an outsider.
Being a Time to Change Young Champion changed that
That changed when I went to the Time to Change Young Champion induction weekend. I'd applied spontaneously and wasn't really 100% certain of what the role involved or who else would be there. I was pleased to find myself spending two days in a room of fearless, beautiful, inspiring people, who were so passionate about speaking their truth and sharing their struggles with the world in order to make it a little easier for others. It was the first time in over a year I had told anyone I had BPD. That night, back in the hotel, I was struck by the realisation that I had been actively hiding my disorder for years, for one reason; fear of the stigma attached. And that same night, I set up my blog and introduced myself, and my BPD, to the world.
I never want to go back to hiding from my diagnosis, or letting the way others perceive this control my life. I now own my BPD, instead of it owning me. And I'm going to fight tooth and nail to ensure others aren't left fearing the consequences of disclosing they have borderline personality disorder... Because it is nothing to be ashamed of.
You can read more of Lorna's writing on her blog, Living Beyond the Borderline.