August 3, 2015

My name's Laura. I have borderline personality disorder, and I'm sad to say I used to be very ashamed of that. When I was unwell I told people out of necessity, but as I became better and behaved more "normally" I stopped disclosing because I was afraid of what people would think of me.

I've wanted to train as a psychotherapist for years, but have always believed this wouldn't be possible because of my diagnosis. I never told anyone my dream because I thought they would think I was foolish - how could a person with a past of A&E visits, self-harm and painful isolation possibly be strong enough to be there for others?

One day I mentioned in a psychotherapy session by chance that I'd previously considered running for election as a local councillor. My psychotherapist replied "you'd make a good counsellor too", which completely floored me. We talked about it and I confessed that I had always wanted to train as a psychotherapist. I then realised that all that was stopping me was the way I viewed myself and my diagnosis. Years of being misunderstood by mental health professionals had caused me to impose a limit on what I saw myself as being capable of. I'd internalised the idea that people with personality disorders want to push boundaries and put my desired career path down to that. Actually wanting to help people through similar difficulties is part of who I am and something to be very proud of.

I applied for a course and was open about my experience. I wrote in my application about how my experience of BPD was an asset and how my many vulnerabilities were part of my journey and identity and could help me empathise with people in distress. In my interview I spoke with pride, dignity and honesty about my experience. I was accepted on the course and will start training in a few months.

My stigma towards myself almost stopped me from following my dream but I now feel proud of my diagnosis as it shows how much I have overcome. I am excited for my future and will be using the opportunity to break down stigma among my fellow students by not being ashamed. I've survived so much in my life.  Now I'm not stigmatising my own mental health problem any more there is nothing stopping me from achieving my potential.

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