Initially when I was diagnosed, I was thrilled. I identified with the symptoms and my diagnosis meant I could finally get help, but when I googled borderline personality disorder (BPD) it was horrible to read how people talked about us. I read articles about how to get out of a relationship with someone with a personality disorder, how ‘toxic’ we are and how to spot us. It made me feel too ashamed to tell anyone for a long time.
Recently, a friend of mine set me up on a date. When I met him, he said ‘I googled you and asked my friend why she had set me up with a crazy woman. But I guess everyone has something…” I felt disgusted. I never spoke to him again. I appreciate it comes from a place of ignorance but that attitude can make some people give up. Its heart wrenching to hear things like that. I have spent four years campaigning, going to recovery meetings and going to endless therapy so it’s horrible that there’s still that attitude.
I have a great career - recently I’ve been working as head of PR at a law firm and managing crisis publicity for a well-known celebrity - intense, high-pressured work which I know is not what people sometimes imagine from someone living with such a debilitating mental illness.
Some people think you’re manipulative, sneaky and reckless because of the BPD symptoms. They wonder what is really going on and say certain things about you being hysterical or dramatic. If I’m acting in a certain way, it’s usually because I’m feeling abandoned and it triggers that behaviour. Personality disorders can come from abuse, neglect or abandonment and so some people learn these behaviours to survive a difficult childhood – but these behaviours can turn bitterly destructive in adulthood.
There needs to be greater empathy and understanding from both the general public and from mental health professionals.
Typically, people think if you’ve experienced BPD you can’t have healthy relationships. I was in a relationship for eight and a half years! I think it makes some people lose faith in themselves. They believe the stigma and become more isolated and suicidal. Stigma is costing lives.
I don’t think ‘personality disorder’ is an appropriate term. It fuels the stigma and suggests your mental health problem is fundamentally your personal responsibility. It makes it sound like you don’t have a personality, or that your personality is bad. The people I have come across with BPD are some of the kindest, most empathetic people I have ever met.
I struggled with intrusive suicidal thoughts throughout my teens and twenties. It’s not constant, but that’s been really horrible. The depression used to be so bad that I used to struggle three or four days a week to do anything – I couldn’t even text my family back – I completely isolated myself. When things were really bad I was very self-destructive. I used alcohol and recreational drugs to try to manage the symptoms, but of course, it just made it worse.
I now go to weekly support meetings and enjoy chatting to people like me who have experienced BPD. I do radical self-love. Swapping toxic coping mechanisms with positive rituals which are good for me – I have a nice bath now, go for a walk or call a friend instead of having a bottle of wine and losing myself in risky behaviour like I used to.
I’ve been off medication for a few months now and I’m feeling happy and stable. Therapy has been a life saver and I don’t know where I’d be without it. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to get help...but the positive thing is that help is available and it does help immensely.