[This post mentions abusive relationships so please take care]
People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have a rough time sometimes. Not only can BPD can be challenging to manage due to intense emotions, difficulties with self-criticism and the terror of abandonment, but it's also often misunderstood by health professionals and the public at large. To add to these challenges, support can be difficult to access in many areas of the country with long waiting times or a lack of specially designed services for people with personality disorders. Today is World Mental Health Day and I am all too aware that there are lots of people with personality disorders and other conditions who feel continually excluded from services, campaigns and mental health conversations. Having BPD certainly can be an incredibly lonely experience.
However, I want you to remember the ten following things if you have BPD. If you are newly diagnosed with this condition, then these might be extra important to know as being newly diagnosed can bring its a new set of challenges. Perhaps you could also make your own list of things to remember and put it on your wall or in your phone so you can have personalised reminders during those extra hard days.
This is my number one thing that I want everyone with BPD to remember. This stereotype is still doing the rounds and it's unfair, untrue and unhelpful (to say the least). People with BPD feel emotions very intensely and can become extremely distressed quickly. When someone with BPD is upset, it's because they are genuinely distressed and struggling to cope with those feelings. It's not because they are attention seeking or being manipulative. As many more women have a BPD diagnosis than men, there is sexism at play here with this stereotype too. You deserve to have your distress listened to, respected, validated and taken seriously. You're not a stereotype, you're an individual with all-too real feelings.
When I was diagnosed for the first time back in 2014, I never knew things would improve this much. On the occasions that people told me I would feel better, I didn't believe them much because I had been through many years with the same struggles and no improvement. I didn't know that the pain I felt would eventually stop and that I would finally experience days without suicidal thoughts or self-harm. I felt that I would be trapped in my pain forever feeling lonely, unlovable and chaotic.
I know there are many people with BPD who feel as though their emotional agony will never end and I was one of those people only a couple of years ago. When things did start to improve for me however, they transformed quickly and beyond anything I had ever dreamed off. My life is proof that even after years of pain, it is possible to get to a place of comfort and calm.
You may have BPD, but you also have thousands of other factors that make up you. Your likes, dislikes, skills, background, interests and so on differentiate you from others with the same diagnosis. When I attended my DBT therapy group, everyone there had a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and yet everyone's BPD was expressing itself differently. One thing we all had in common however was a difficulty with regulating intense emotions and rigid patterns of thinking that were causing us distress in our lives. Some people in the DBT group struggled with anger, some more with shame, guilt or sadness. Several people struggled with at work, others struggled more at home. Each person's BPD manifests in a different way because every individual has been through different things, has a unique life and is, of course, an individual. Again, stereotypes are feed into this belief that there is one type of person with BPD- and it's just not true.
The myths suggest (or even outright say) that people with BPD do not make good partners. Let me tell you now that this isn't true. I've written a lot on this topic and it's something I feel very passionate about discussing because feeling unlovable is something that can really hurt. Many people with BPD have been through trauma and a huge amount of invalidation which can create the feeling of being 'too much', 'too sensitive' and 'too difficult to love'.
It seems quite common for people with this condition to be in abusive relationships in which they are told repeatedly that there is something wrong with them as people. I have been through emotional abuse in the past and I didn't recognise it for what it was. Throughout this relationship, I felt I deserved to be treated with harshness because I believed I was flawed. Your BPD, emotional sensitivity or mental health difficulties do not mean there is something unlovable about you.
The wonderful, caring boyfriend I have today loves me precisely because I am sensitive, empathetic and emotional. He celebrates my sensitivity and when I'm upset he validates me and would never humiliate, belittle or scold me for being emotional. If you're in an abusive relationship, I would encourage you to speak to someone who could help like a doctor, teacher or contact a helpline.
Some of the stuff you can read online and in books about BPD is pure nonsense. I've written a post about why I started a blog which touches on this topic. Even my psychiatrist has been talking to me about how googling the condition when you're newly diagnosed can have really detrimental consequences due to the level of stigma encountered.
Quite a lot of mainstream mental health campaigns ignore the fact that some people ask for help but don't get it. In my experience, I have had to ask many, many times to get the help I needed. It was extremely hard to advocate for myself when I felt so low that I believed I was undeserving of help. The times in my life when I have most needed to stand up for myself are the times when all I could do was lie down and cry. Please keep asking for help and try all avenues until you get what you need and what you deserve.
One possible idea could be if you see one GP and they don't take you seriously, then see if you can book in with another one. If your GP practice are not very helpful, see if you can re-register with another practice in the area. Explore charities in your local area to see if they offer any counselling or support groups. Write complaints to your NHS trust asking for better care. Call or text the Mind Info Line and get advice about how to get help. I know these might not be possible options for you in your current state, but perhaps they might become options for you. I am holding onto the hope for you that you can get what you need, if not now then later. Use online resources, try apps, join online support groups, go on Twitter and join in with BPD chat and see if you can learn from others. It is unfair that help does not come to people who need it straight away. My advice here is do not give up. Please. Please do not give up.
BPD is treatable. It is something that can get better and be managed well. The condition can lessen, and even disappear completely, over time. If you ever hear the myth that people with this condition are untreatable, then please know that this view is outdated and has been proven wrong. The idea that it's pointless to care for someone with BPD is not only old-fashioned and cruel, but is also just senseless. I know better and so do many others.
Marsha Linehan who devised dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) [a therapy specifically for people with BPD] had the condition herself. People who have been through stuff can, and do, help others. Enough said.
I'm a qualified primary school teacher who has had nothing but praise from colleagues, parents and pupils. There are many amazing health and social care professionals out there who are doing an incredible job. I currently work in a charity and I provide emotional support for clients over the phone and I do a very good job of it, if I may say so myself!
If anyone tells you that you can't do a certain job because of your diagnosis, then quite frankly they are wrong. You can. You are free to pursue whatever job you want to. I also realise not everyone with BPD is able to work and that working might not be an option for everyone. However, I cannot stand for the idea that someone would not pursue a job due to the idea that they were 'too damaged' to help others.
I hope you found these helpful...I would love to hear your thoughts.