August 14, 2014

I was bullied during my entire school life. Sometimes I think back about my bullies and feel myself seething with rage, other times I completely understand why they did it. I was always an odd one at school, either bursting into tears at the tiniest thing and not speaking to anyone for days on end, or being so hyper that I'd get sent out of lessons and given detentions every other day.

I realised just how badly I'd been discriminated against

When I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder just before I turned nineteen, everything suddenly made sense. The extreme mood swings, the extreme highs and depressive lows, the feelings of numbness for weeks on end, the suicidal thoughts and self harm. But after doing some research on my illness and other mental health conditions, I was furious once again; I realized just how badly I'd been discriminated against since I first started showing symptoms as young as ten or eleven years old. I thought back to how teachers had said that I "wasn't REALLY sick" and how I was "just attention seeking" when I had to stay off school because I'd tried to take my own life. I thought about how many doctors had turned away, or told me that my daily self harming was because of "hormones."

The more I opened up, the more other opened up in return

I am bisexual, and this has usually been accepted by friends, family, even employers; I have even been congratulated for being open. This was something I was taught to expect discrimination against, but having an illness that means I can barely function on a day to day basis? I never thought I'd be treated like this because of a legitimate condition. Once again I did what I always do when I'm confused or upset about something: I researched non stop, and after trawling through support forums and reading blogs on peoples experiences. Over time I became less and less ashamed of my BPD. I started to express my feelings, and I spoke to people about how I was feeling. The more I opened up, the more others opened up in return. As a self confessed cynic, I couldn't believe how much things actually changed for the better just by talking about my issues.

I started to understand that is IS okay to ask for help when you need it

I started answering peoples curious questions about my BPD, I asked to see a new doctor, I told my parents when things were bad and I allowed myself to cry in front of them. I started seeing a care coordinator who changed my life completely in the space of just a few months. My boyfriend knew how to deal with my panic attacks, talk of suicide and self harm because he knew what signs to look out for now. I started to understand that it IS okay to ask for help when you need it, and people gave me the help I needed when they could.

I'm proud of myself

Since I got diagnosed with BPD I left education and started working. I was so lucky to have managers and colleagues who said they'd make adjustments for me at work if ever I needed them. I saw my care coordinator regularly and currently I'm not facing any discrimination against my condition. I talk openly about my illness now, and the response I've had has been amazing. People I barely know would come up to me in pubs and say that I inspired them, people message me on social networking sites saying how proud they are of me - and actually, I'm proud of myself too.

People really underestimate the power of words. People just asking how I am, or saying that they're there for me has honestly saved my life more times than I can count. And it's so easy to ask how someone is. Think of how many lives you could save if you started asking how someone is too, or just ask them if they need a chat. It's time to talk, and it's time to change the stigma associated with mental health.

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