January 12, 2017

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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