My university doesn't see that I'm not my BPD

Blogger Nicola

I have a personality disorder. I have had it my entire life, but I was only diagnosed two years ago. Since then, and especially in the past six months, I have noticed a difference in how other people react if I choose to disclose that I happen to have a personality disorder and it has cost me to the point that I now feel at a detriment if I access support even if I really need it.

Since the age of 18, I have always worked or been in full time education, or both. I am an exemplary employee – never take a sick day, I can interact with people in a professional manner, I have a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience which makes me invaluable – and yet, in the past 6 months, my employer has banned me from taking any shifts and the university where I was undergoing teacher training has informed me that I am not allowed to continue on my course because of this condition.

There is someone in my circle of “friends” who has taken it upon themselves to, every time I am getting on in life, call employers and call the university to tell them that I have a psychotic illness (not true!). This then results in a flurry of investigations where the personality disorder has to be exposed and my psychiatrist contacted, who subsequently writes a damning report that sees me dismissed or deemed too much of a risk.

Of course, these are the same people who interviewed me for the position or place on the course. These are the people who met me and decided I was good enough to work on their team, or would make a good teacher in the future. In the case of the university, I had been attending for three months and had taken part in a work placement. I had aced assignments and the school where I had been on placement were impressed with me. This was not considered as soon as it was discovered that I had a personality disorder. The label became more important than anything else and, despite my protestations, I was told that I could not continue.

It feels as if the real me is hidden under the fog of borderline personality disorder. I may as well have it tattooed on my forehead for the whole world to see, then employers can reject me on first sight rather than waiting until I’ve already done a few months’ work before deciding I’m too much of a risk. It’s really frustrating because I'm that person who has to be getting on with things. I have problems trusting people as it is and now to think that a “friend” is setting out to destroy me has basically turned me into a hermit. I don’t go out socially, I don’t go out to work and I don’t go out to university. I feel a bit useless and it’s all because of this diagnosis.

You don’t want to believe that discrimination could be so prevalent in this day and age. All of the work that is done to end mental health stigma feels as though it’s not making any difference. I have a case for litigation against the university, but can’t find a solicitor that will touch it because I was told that as soon as the details of my mental health are revealed, I will be likely to lose. It is devastating and now I have no idea what to do.

Where I am now, because of the decision of the university, is unemployed and finding it very difficult to find a job. I am frightened that if and when I manage to find one, I won't be able to keep it long. If I need to disclose my condition in order to attend appointments, I run the risk of losing a job, but if I don't attend appointments, my doctor says I'm also at risk – it is a catch 22 situation. The attitudes of the university, employers and my "friends" have destroyed my self-efficacy beliefs, which does not help me retain any confidence during my job search, and the constant rejection does not help me in the management of my condition.

I believe that the university should have handled the situation differently. They should have allowed me to go on placement and continue with my course. If they later had good cause to throw me off the course due to my behaviour or because I was struggling with the workload, then I would have accepted their justification. But I can say with a great deal of certainty that this would never have happened. It's just a shame that I am treated as incapable without having the chance to prove myself more than capable.

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Rachelle (not verified)
Keep going
Nicola you are wonderful i can tell by the way you shared. Its def out of order and you need to keep appealing ! It is discrimination and perhaps contact MIND for advice ! I work in education too and the number of young people that have been diagnosed with mental illness is astounding, you would make a very good mentor/ teacher because of your illness ! Block that so called friend as obviously they have a deep routed problem to do that ! Just keep going, i know its hard but please do xT
Annon (not verified)
Me too!
This is also exactly what happened to me. Psychiatrist I had met only once changed my diagnosis to borderline personality disorder. From that point onwards I was treated differently. I had no say in care plans; treated with no autonomy; spoken at rather than to. I lost my job and I was removed from my university course resulting in homelessness - as I was all of a sudden deemed too much of a risk. This was despite having worked in my job for 6 years with only praise and having passed all course work and received praise at university. None of this mattered - hypothetically I was a risk. Years later I am still unemployed, isolated and barely leave the house for shame. I genuinely wish I had never gone to see a doctor at all.
Ncrbrts (not verified)
"I genuinely wish I had never
"I genuinely wish I had never gone to see a doctor at all" - a sentiment I share wholeheartedly.
Lilly (not verified)
Same diagnosis and university student
Hi Nicola, your post really touched me, as I can relate in so many way. I also have BPD, though I was only officially diagnosed with the last month. I'm a student nurse and unfortunately I may be loosing my place due to my health, I am currently being subjected to an official investigation because of a incident that happened recently. I have also struggled to work and it's very difficult for me to open up to people as many have again stigma towards mental health. I just wanted to let you know that we are not alone, you are not alone and I would be more than happy to have a private chat if you would like to talk more about my experiences and university etc. Kind regards Lilly
Barbara Scott (not verified)
Nicola's blog on BPD
As someone who has been diagnosed with BPD, I admire your honesty in the blog. Having seen the 'symptoms', I believe very few pertain to myself. I am sure you are the same, Nicola. People hear the words 'personality disorder' and think we have come from some other planet. I have seen folk who, as far as I am aware, have no psychiatric label. Some of their behaviour beggars belief, yet because we are open, we are vilified. I hope you find a job with supportive line managers, who will come to appreciate a hard working colleague, and you will know you are accepted and valued as you deserve to be. Wishing you all the best for 2017. Barbara x
peggy miller (not verified)
I am myself borderline why do we have to tell people we are borderline that is not something I would share I guess unless I had to ....if I was ordered for a mental evaluation but other than that I wouldn't blirt out that I have borderline disorder to me it's like diabetes we....we don't have to tell people,,, do we?
Ncrbrts (not verified)
I usually don't...
... I can't remember if I wrote it on the post or not, but a "friend" had called my placement school and said I had schizophrenia. It was the university who contacted my doctor, who subsequently disclosed the borderline diagnosis. I guess you're damned if you do and if you don't. I lost a job because I didn't declare it but my doctor got the police to contact my manager because I was "unstable". I disclosed it at my undergrad university and they were really good about it - even gave me a job up until graduation. You can't predict how it will be received.
Holly (not verified)
I'm so sorry to hear so many
I'm so sorry to hear so many bad experiences in the workplace with BPD. My workplace has been really helpful with my BPD diagnosis back in April 2016. And recently had abit of an episode at my Christmas party embarrassingly and had to go to A and E. After that my colleagues might have gossiped but employer and line manager has been great and referred me to an occupational therapist through work and assured me that my job is safe regardless of my BPD. They are one of the biggest telecommunication companies in the UK and are really good. I love my job and don't want to leave but my black and white moods are very hard to hide at work sometimes and I've got a rep for having a short temper.
cheryl (not verified)
Have you considered self employment?
I have been labelled as having aspergers a long side depression and anxiety and this has caused me similar problems to the above poster, only I tend to keep being treated as though I am learning impaired despite the fact I was an A grade student at university. I also have great difficulty with employment and so after much frustration I have decided to created my own business instead. I am presently in the process of researching ideas o can start up using very little capital whilst teaching myself any skills I need with free courses and books etc from the library. I fail to see why I should be denied the chance to use my skills, talents and ability because the society I live is ignorant, narrow minded and judgemental. May I suggest you consider doing the same.
Luku2011 (not verified)
Message from Original Poster
Hi I just wanted to say thanks for everyone's comments on this post. They have all been, in parts, saddening, encouraging and surprising. I appreciate you taking the time to read and reply. Nicola
Mel Lee-Smith (not verified)
It is illegal to terminate someone because of a disability or mental illness. You should really complain to your university. In any case, as a BPD patient myself, I empathise with you completely and hope things start looking up for you soon. <3 Keep fighting.
Michelle107 (not verified)
Keep going
I have BPD ad BP. I am a qualified teacher, who teaches at a university. I am studying a course to become a specialist dyslexia tutor and was open about my diagnosis and the university has been fine about this. It might be useful for you to seek advice from your disability services department about whether you can re-join the course next year and what reasonable adjustments can be made due to your diagnosis. Although it may not have worked out at this university please do not feel that you have to give up. Other universities would accept you and if your open about your diagnosis the disability services dept could look at reasonable adjustments. Plus, you could receive assistance from the DSA. I had a MH mentor funded through this and their support was a great help. I am always open about my conditions and have found that instead of putting me at a disadvantage it has put me at an advantage. Many educational institutions operate a scheme where as if your disabled and meet the all of the essential criteria for a post they will guarantee you an interview.
Ncrbrts (not verified)
Thanks for your response.
Thanks for your response. I am waiting for a response to my complaint and I am hoping that they will let me come back although I am not hopeful. I have already accepted a lesser award and the university retained all of the fees paid so I couldn't fund a return anyway. There are only two universities in Scotland which offer the PGDE in my subject area. I was accepted into both, and I guess I could apply for credit transfer into the other but it's the funding issue again. I now work as a teaching assistant and intend on using my credits towards a Masters degree with the Open University. I was recently assessed and been told there is a strong possibility I have an ASD, so I'm struggling with the idea of ANOTHER label. Mostly, I just want to build a better life for me and my son. I've given up on the idea that it will ever be happy for me, but as long as it is for him. He has shown autistic traits since he was 2 and a half. I really don't want him to get to 32 years old and to be confronted with this as I have been.
Anonymous (not verified)
I just want to say thanks,
I just want to say thanks, I have never felt confident enough to disclose my psychological diagnosis because of the fact that people treat me differently. Every time I apply for a job I debate whether to disclose my personal history. I wish people could see pass this and judge me on my merits (a bachelors and masters degree, and multiple years of experience) but I feel they don't. Although people claim to me disability acceptant, they often aren't when it comes to professions including children/vulnerable populations etc. Often I feel I've wasted so many years studying to be in the place I can be. If you ever want to talk, let me know. X
Anon (not verified)
Had a similar experience
I had a similar experience relating to BPD discrimination at university, and won out of court. I was stopped from participating for 'my own benefit' and it sparked so much anger that a healthy experience that I was enjoying struggling with that, one would lead to positive outcomes was taken away whilst in contrast no-one had come to take any of the soul destroying things that had happening in my life, things that I may not have com out unscathed from but I was nevertheless alive and competent. Deciding to not let it go, or acknowledging that I could not emotional let it go so I might as well take an action rather than fret was one of the most satisfying and healing things I have ever done. I was similarly terrified that as soon as BPD was mentioned (or as soon as those involved googled it) I would be written off as the problem and be discredited. I think the legal advice you got may say more about the legal professional than the law, as its does not reflect your rights in law only the reality of peoples biases weighing heavily on you, surely a good legal professional can pin down how your rights have been breached and protect you as a client. I'm sure this is not the first and it won't be the last situation you will face in which you find yourself stuck in an interpersonal mess that you feel like you didn't deserve but your diagnosis labels you the culprit, but it is no more healthy to blame everything on yourself than blaming everything on someone else. A 'don't bother' as you won't win doesn't weigh well against frequent rejection and stigma in which your energy to pick yourself up and try again gets spent. I would argue in my case bothering to fight it made all the difference. I realised I may have disordered thinking but other people are not immune to disordered thinking either and it was exhausting but also very healing to stick up for myself ..and even a little bit enjoyable. I do not know if this is your fight and I don't think that letting something go for the sake of peace is a bad thing but sometimes being committed to showing that the story goes another way sometimes is important. Please contact if you want to discuss anything.
Paul Davies (not verified)
It is very sad that education peers do not understand. All through education there is total misunderstanding of mental illness my daughter suffered greatly in school that affected her chances of further education. Don't give in you can make it. Think how valuable a teacher woul be with the understanding and knowledge to get kids the correct help. Please keep going.

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