…Because I have Borderline Personality Disorder, and I am a badass.
I am not going to sugarcoat this though; Borderline Personality Disorder is a really, really, really disturbing mental illness. And I am really, really, really disturbed by it.
I’ve had a few loved ones and not-so-close ones say “You don’t look ill. You don’t need a therapist” – to be fair, this was years ago, when I was still managing my craziness quite well.
When I could no longer contain my crazy though, shit hit the fan, and all of a sudden everyone supported my getting a therapist. Actually, all of a sudden it was being suggested that I go into a psychiatric ward. I must add that actual health professionals have been advising me to see a therapist since the age of sixteen, but you know, nobody teaches you about mental health so I assumed I was just dramatic and that I was actually a very convincing fraud. I did get an ‘A’ in drama after all.
I get real high on life sometimes and go really manic, a good friend used to refer to this extremely high mode as my “Brazilian moments”. Turns out it really does have a name but it’s actually called Borderline Personality Disorder. And also comes with extreme lows, and an extreme of every other emotion.
Life can change in seconds.
I was struggling. Still am and probably always will be, but my, oh my, I am doing much better these days.
So. Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD is going to come up a lot in this blog, because I have this precious gift.
First of all, only a psychiatrist should diagnose BPD. n the UK, if your general practitioner or regular doctor thinks that you may have BPD, they have to refer you to a psychiatrist. To do this, they will send your details to a local community mental health team (CMHT). I must add, from my experience, community mental health teams are usually really shit and I have gone Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted on their asses once or twice.
And I stand by my Girl, Interrupted moment; they deserved me having an angry outburst in their waiting room, as they toy with the lives of very, very, very sick and vulnerable people who are in desperate need of help. In short, I fucking hate the mental health services provided by the NHS; it sucks. This is why I now use my disability allowance to pay for private therapy rather than rely on my local community mental health team for help. They would sooner let me die than actually help me. That’s the truth. Mental health services are fucking horrific, shocking, awful, dangerous.
Your psychiatrist (or community mental health team) will decide if you have an illness based on the following guidelines.
- International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), produced by the American Psychiatric Association.
The guidelines tell your psychiatrist what to look for. They will diagnose you with BPD if you meet the following criteria –
“A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment;
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterised by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation;
- Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image and sense of self;
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating);
- Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour (or both);
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days);
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights);
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, severe dissociative symptoms or psychotic experiences, such as seeing or hearing things that other people don’t.”*
The most effective treatment for BPD is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy or DBT. I am currently working on my recovery through DBT, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, buddhism, spirituality, writing, reading books by strong, inspiring women, trying to maintain a healthy diet, yoga and exercise. Please do note, this is all a MAHOOSSIVE work in progress and I have phases where I cannot move much or eat anything but nutella, so be prepared for some instability in this very honest blog, because my reality is also unstable.
I am always trying though, I swear.
A personal message from me to you:
For those with BPD – I just want to add that it is scary being diagnosed with this. It is scary living with any invisible illness, but please do keep fighting for your life. Things will get better. I’m speaking from personal experience, I have BPD and I am recovering; it is possible. It’s very slow progress but things do get better and you get better at managing it too.
For those who know somebody with BPD – know that many people will say to you that your loved one is manipulative and capricious. But also know that your loved one is in a lot of pain and they really need you now more than ever before. Please support in any way you can. Learn about their illness and do your best to understand and be there for your loved one. This shit is really, really hard. Think of it as cancer of the mind. It is that dangerous, it is life or death, so please be kind. It means the world to us. You may also want to get yourself some help & support. My mothership found it really helpful to speak to a Carers Centre. There are many support groups and carers centres out there, please do find yourself the help you need to understand and help your loved one.
*(References: 1) Rethink website, 2) The Buddha & The Borderline: A memoir by Kiera Van Gelder, 3) the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association 2000, and finally 4) Mind website)