January 15, 2009

Hello. Thanks for visiting my blog. It's a bit odd for me to write with a focus (or even slant) towards stigma and discrimination as these are a relatively minor part of my lavish mental illness experience.

Perhaps I should start with a quick intro. Hmm. Now is the moment when I have to prioritise the elements of my identity. This is usually context-driven, so I could swiftly decide to describe myself on a tax self-assessment thingy as an exceptionally honest 49 year old with no off-shore, on-shore or unsure investments. And for a dog lovers' club as being owned by the world's cutest, hairiest scruff-bag.

But for an anti-stigma website? Well I'm still 49 (unless it takes me over 8 months to complete this posting) and my friends would say that the maddest thing about me is how besotted I am with my dog. My psychiatrist/therapist would respond to that analysis with a characteristically almost imperceptible eyebrow-raise. And scarcely a glance at what could be mistaken for a snoring rug lying on the floor between us.

Actually, the whole thing about my friends out agedly rejecting my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder raises interesting (for me, at least) issues about stigma. Eligibility criteria for friends would eliminate anyone who passionately feels I have a personality disorder. But I still find frustrating their dismissal of my having BPD, however supportively it's intended.

I'll probably sound off in another posting about how stupid, inaccurate and offensive the label 'borderline personality disorder' is. For now, I'll just mention that it's a heavy-duty psychiatric condition, manifesting itself in emotional instability and intensity (especially of the intolerable psychic pain variety), and most of us use self-harming as a 'coping mechanism'. Being suicidal is often part of the Deluxe BPD Package, and one which unfortunately dominates my allocation of BPD.

I hate having BPD but it was a relief to eventually discover that it's the reason for such a bizarre and incapacitating range of symptoms. (I did a classic Internet self-diagnosis, 6 months into weekly therapy with a specialist BPD psychiatrist, in a specialist PD unit. He's impressively economical with handing out diagnoses, especially ones with ludicrous names.)

What part might stigma play in my friends' reaction to me having BPD? Their motivation is the opposite of, and probably intended to partly counter-act, a view that mental illness reflects or proves inferiority. And they hate the implication of the name. But what if being mentally ill was no more stigmatising than having leprosy? Oops, bad example. Then, say, having a chronic back disorder? They might mutter about the stupid label and empathise about having a nasty medical condition, but feel as relieved as I do that there is a reason for my symptoms (and related dysfunctional behaviours) and that this has enabled me to have very specialist treatment for it.

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