June 20, 2016

a photo of the author. The best part of my job as a service user trainer is seeing a professional change their opinion, or at very least want to explore their preconceived ideas surrounding personality disorder. I struggle to accept or sympathise with the blanket generalisations placed on people with the diagnosis without any real thought or exploration. I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard that people with personality disorder are manipulative, attention seeking, aggressive or purposely obstructive when delivering training. These thoughts are constantly held in mind and are often applied to people before they’ve even met them.

A personality disorder is not a ‘fashionable’ diagnosis. We don’t get the media coverage and celebrity backing that other diagnoses do; that leaves personality disorder being pretty much unknown about by the general public. We’re misunderstood and underrepresented.

Everybody has the capacity to be manipulative – people with personality disorder are actually incredibly bad at it. The best manipulators are those that leave you unaware of any manipulation taking place at all. What people fail to recognise is that what comes across as manipulating is actually a really clumsy way of communicating what someone needs. When you’ve gone through life not having your needs consistently met, sometimes you have to shout a little louder than everyone else to get what you need.

I’m not saying that people with personality disorder never manipulate people, I’m saying they don’t do it any more than anyone else would. It’s just how their communication is interpreted that’s the problem.

I have often felt stigmatised because of my diagnosis. I too have been accused of being manipulative by clinicians, family and friends. I don’t think I have ever consciously thought about how I can manipulate people to get what I want out of a situation – only the all consuming need to get my needs met in some way. When you can’t verbalise how you feel because you struggle to understand and process emotion, it becomes a game of I can’t tell you, but I can show you. When I was really unwell, I asked my psychiatrist to admit me as an informal because I felt like I was either going to hurt myself or someone else. He refused and told me that my manipulation wouldn’t work on him; apparently I was only asking for this because I wanted someone to look after me. I didn’t, this was a genuine attempt at getting help. A few days later I couldn’t fight the urge anymore. I was sectioned.

Now I’m not in crisis, I find that people have this sensitivity surrounding risk. This is something that also seems to fuel stigma surrounding the diagnosis. If I express feelings of struggling with something to my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN), her instant reaction is “shall I put you on home treatment?”. I don’t need home treatment. I feel my CPN doesn’t truly believe that someone can ‘recover’ from or manage BPD long term. I sometimes almost feel she’s waiting for the next crisis.

Sadly stigma is also alive and well within academia. When I applied for a counselling and psychotherapy degree, I got through all of the interviews and workshops and was then asked to fill in a declaration form regarding my mental health. Questions included what is your diagnosis? I thought being honest was the best policy, but I was wrong. Due to the information I had given them they were unable to provide me with a place because their indemnity insurance would not cover me due to potential risk. I couldn’t even make a discrimination complaint, because legally, they could not accept me.

Eventually, I got a place at the university I’m at now, after several attempts with private counselling schools, all of which refused, I feel, mainly due to my diagnosis. When at university, I was asked to be screened for dyslexia. It was in my notes about my mental health and the guy assessing me suddenly decided to start asking me questions… He asked what my diagnosis was and so I told him. His response was “You know they diagnose people with that when they don’t actually know what’s wrong with them, if anything?”. He then implied that it might be in my head despite me meeting the criteria for dyslexia. That’s right, everything that anyone with a personality disorder experiences is made up or psychosomatic, of course...

Really I should have made a complaint but I just couldn’t be bothered. I was concerned that he would use my diagnosis against me and make out I was a liar or I was being dramatic… Its not as if this hadn’t happened before, when it’s concerned my physical health and doctors have decided that it’s all been in my head.

Doing the job I do, I’m not really that shocked or surprised by the things people say anymore. I’ve heard it all before; but what does bother me is that others might not be able to shoulder it as well and the impact it could have on someone could be disastrous. I guess that’s what pushes me to do the things I do. No one should be made to feel bad about a label that they’ve been given on top of all of the other horrors that they experience day to day.

However, sometimes it feels as though whatever I do in life, it will always be discredited thanks to those 3 letters.

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Thankyou so much for this

Thankyou so much for this blog. I also have experienced this stigma due to having a diagnosis of BPD. My mental health had stabilized for years. I was in a long term relationship with a man who happened to be a mental health support worker and we have a two year old together. At the beginning of this year I suffered from a very late miscarriage that was only discovered at a scan. I had to have emergency surgery due to infection and was in a really bad way. Because I was so distressed I was given a place at a crisis house to recover. My boyfriend left me before I came home saying that my BPD had caused me to reject him by staying in a crisis house following the loss of my child. I then returned home to look after my toddler alone while suffering severely from depression and greif but because I have a diagnosis of BPD I was made to feel like I had no right to suffer from the loss of my child and was too I was just creating drama every time I mentioned the child I had lost. I saw that child on the scan but was accused of being a drama queen purely for attending her funeral along with other bereaved parents. I have learnt that a diagnosis of BPD means you will always be alone when life knocks you and that you are not aloud to experience to the normal greif response of other people.

So True

As a mother of a daughter with BPD it is refreshing to see all the same stigmas feelings and situations we experienced put down in words.


Thank you, dear. I was perplexed when my 150 dollar an hour, every week therapist seemed to indicate that I was BPD, but never said it aloud, and...seemed snarky and lying in wait for my explosion..which never came after 16 months of loyal therapy, despite his cutting, discouraging comments. I moved and emailed him about 6 months later, as I said I would, to say that I am faring well and thank you for all. I never heard back, proof to me that I had been written off the very first go. BPD in all articles I have read so far, are short spectrumed and seem to have grown from the imagination of the therapist, not the detailed reality of the sufferer. It is in the dark ages, kind of like Autism, labeling folks as retarded...Gee, is it possible that the feelings are real? That BPD folks ARE targeted unjustly? That we might have realistic reasons for our fear and/or anger? That all we might really need is a little encouragement and non judgemental listening? Yes. Hoping for smarter times for all these professionals who carry the reputation of BPD in their words and actions.

Hoping for good

I'm sorry to hear everyone has had a rough experience. My therapist has been pretty upfront with me about the challenges faced and on how to deal with it, and my counsellor has been nothing but supportive. We may feel alone but we may not be alone.... There's still hope yet. I do suppose that people who don't know about who we are and what we're battling will misunderstand - ignorance can lead to folly. We can only hope and search for the good, I guess. I wish there were more known communities and resources for people with BPD...

Completely Accurate

I've always been told that there was something seriously wrong with me. That I needed to stop spending my money away, just stop drinking, stop doing drugs, not to be promiscuous. That I am just choosing to be this way and need to grow up. You can probably imagine how many times I said, "This time I will do it!" only to fail again. I think failing at things is the hardest part. And when you can't ask for help as you think you will be perceived as "incapable" you never ask for help. So you only get frustrated. You try to stop and just say "Forget it." but how can you? If you give up then you're nothing. You can't process criticism bc all you here are negative things. Anytime you hear the "You did a really good job!" you always wait for the "But..." Never being able to express yourself fully only to be told to "Spit it out" or "I don't understand" repeatedly is awful. What's the use? And emotions? Let's not even start there. I like to call it "My rollercoaster." That's they only way to describe it. I feel like you are spot on when it comes to BPD. I wish it were more of a commonly known condition. Describing it to others who don't have it is like talking in another language to them or having them not believe you. All you can do is take it 1 moment at a time. Not day to day.

Thank you Hollie

I read your blog today while in a difficult place emotionally and to know there is someone out there who has had similar experiences and can voice it so well is comforting. It sparks a very fragile piece of inner strength in me that I need to keep surviving. It's hard when you feel you can't survive the next moment let alone the rest of the day. Thank you Hollie for your blog. I will hold onto your words and courage for today and hope that I can someday find my own words and courage.

Physical Health and not being beleived

Reading your story about how your physical health is just dismissed as somatic or made up really hit home with me. I've had this happen to me. Its frustrating as I know that I feel the pain that I feel but didn't always have it. I also know I experience seizures and despite video evidence filmed by my friends, it was decided I was making it up, along with the pain I experience and thus this led to me developing a depression which the MH teams dismissed as part of the BPD. (thankfully I've got a GP who listens to me) but I've found the stigma with physical health and BPD is mainly concentrated at a hospital or consultant level and even then its the older doctors who hold those negative stereotypes. I've found I am damned if I do and damned if I don't. It's irritating and my GP wonders why I've stopped caring now.

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