March 11, 2013

I hope that, in the future, I’ll be able to talk about my mental health openly with friends, family, colleagues and employers.

For me, having Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (also known as Borderline Personality Disorder) means I care deeply about what others think of me. At every opportunity I believe that people are ridiculing me, that they can’t be bothered with me and that I’m a burden to them. Like many people suffering with a mental health problem I’m brilliant at hiding how I’m really feeling; I don’t often jump at the chance to discuss my problems because I worry they’ll be interpreted as a sign of weakness or incompetence but it’s time to change!

After graduating from university I found a job within three months and couldn’t believe my luck! I wanted to lead a normal life, have a job, rent a flat and save enough money to travel. I hadn’t planned on telling my employer about my mental health problems; however, I was devastated when, on the first day, I had a panic attack. I explained to my supervisor that I suffered with anxiety and depression but didn’t go into any detail. He was understanding and assured me that everything would be fine; unfortunately, as the weeks progressed, I became increasingly paranoid.

The office environment was stressful for me

The office environment was stressful for me; people were constantly talking negatively about one another, I didn’t feel as though my job was secure, I found it difficult to distinguish what was appropriate conversation and what wasn’t. People would keep asking me why I wouldn’t eat at work during the day, not realising that I have an eating disorder. I hated walking through the office because I couldn’t stand the idea of people staring at me. This made simple tasks extremely difficult, such as using the scanner, photocopier or talking to colleagues when I needed their help.

I experienced regular panic attacks which were distressing and difficult to control. I was told unsympathetically to ‘stop crying’ and ‘calm down’ by a colleague who didn’t understand what was happening. On another occasion when I became upset I was told to ‘go home’ and ‘not let the rest of the office see me like that’ because it looks ‘unprofessional’.

Things would be easier if I could tell people

"Things would be a lot easier if I tell them about my mental health problems," I’d often think to myself.

I was scared about telling them in case they thought I was being pathetic. When they’d make negative comments about mental health I’d become embarrassed and change my mind about telling them. If I’d have been more confident I’d have challenged their attitudes but I was only twenty-one and in an office full of more experienced colleagues who were at least twice my age. I still should have said something.

I hope I'll be able to talk to friends and family

After six months my mental health had deteriorated considerably and I was forced to take time off. The thought of going back to work frightened me but I couldn’t help feeling pressurised to return as soon as possible. I felt guilty and frustrated with myself. Eventually I resigned; I had no idea how long it would take for me to be well enough to return to work.

Twelve months, eight hospital admissions and countless mental health workers later I’m still struggling to cope. I hope that, in the future, I’ll be able to talk about my mental health openly with friends, family, colleagues and employers. It’s such a huge part of my life that it takes too much effort to keep it hidden; besides, I have nothing to be ashamed about.

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