I’ve always been quite open when it comes to my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder but after it being repeatedly used against me I am finding it harder to be an open book, I mean, when is the right time to tell someone? When does it become their business? thus I decided that the next time I met someone I would try to keep it to myself so that they couldn’t pre-judge me before they got to know me.. which was all well and good, then I met someone who I thought I could trust, I thought would understand me because he also had a personality disorder and I understood that and I could relate to his feelings and behaviors .
It turns out I was wrong 😦 and the minute there was a bit of a problem, my disorder was to blame. because a man would obviously never be to blame when things don’t go his way would he? 😉 I don’t think he intentionally tried to hurt me by saying that it must be my disorder that made me think he was in the wrong, it was just the easiest explanation for him. But to me because of past hurt around my diagnosis being used against me, It was like a stab in the stomach, something I will not tolerate again.
True to my textbook Bridget Jones type lifestyle, the whole thing was a disaster and it didn’t go anywhere unfortunately, but there was definitely a valuable lesson to be learnt from it.
Not only this but I also had a conversation with an acquaintance, who is aware of my diagnosis, but uneducated on it.., I mentioned BPD in conversation in which my opinion differed from hers, and her words were ‘Yeah, that’s why I don’t always listen when you don’t agree with me coz youll probably change your mind in the next breath because of it’ AHEM no I wont, just because I don’t agree with you but still respect your opinion might not be the same, doesn’t mean its because I have a personality disorder and I would agree otherwise. If anything that is more of a reflection on your personality.
I also witnessed a conversation where someone stated a girl was ‘acting all bipolar’ because the girl had recently lost her mother and was upset about it, which to me is just plain ignorant on many levels.. but that’s another blog post.
Upon reflection of the recent incident’s and how things panned out in the end, also remembering how others have reacted to my disorder and common misconceptions I have had to explain to people, I began thinking about the myths and stigma attached to BPD, I wanted to iron out a few creases so decided I would do that in a blog post, I read a few articles but came across one that I couldn’t have put into words better myself, So here it is…
One of the hardest things about coping with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (other than the condition itself) is the stigma attached to the condition. A lack of understanding coupled with misinformation, unhelpful content on the web and even the attitude of some professionals mean it can be hard for those of us with BPD to get access to the help and support we need as our label puts us on the trash heap of life. In this post I hope to dispel some of the top myths surrounding the condition…
I want to try to discuss some of the more negative traits associated with BPD, including being called ‘attention seekers’ ‘manipulative’ ‘deceptive’ ‘demanding’ ‘destructive’ ‘obstructive’ and ‘dangerous’. It’s hard not to find these words bandied around to describe BPD sufferers, so-called experts and therapists supposed to ‘help’ us use these words themselves, and often will do ‘anything’ to avoid getting a BPD patient on their list as we are considered ‘un-treatable’ ‘uncooperative’ and ‘non-compliant’ for treatment. Websites that are meant to help and support us even use the same terminology – is it any wonder we feel victimised and like ‘no-one’ gives a crap!?
Well excuse me just a moment, for all you so-called ‘normal’ people out there, you don’t have the ‘reason’ or ‘excuse’ of BPD but excuse me, just how many of you are all of the words listed above!? I can’t count the number of ‘normal’ people I’ve met that lie, cheat, steal, abuse, deceive, endanger, attention-seek, and manipulate others! So, come on tell me why is it OK for you? But, because we have the label ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ attached to our behaviour we are to be ‘abandoned’ ‘disowned’ and thrown on the trash heap of life as useless wasters not worthy of help, support and compassion? Please, I really would like to know why we are the bad ones. After all, in the majority of cases the reason we have this diagnosis is because of the MISTREATMENT of all the above kinds and more we have received at the hands of others (abuse, rape, emotional, physical and mental suffering, bullying, torment, and psychological torture… the list goes on)
Okay, so now I’ve had my rant let’s examine these traits. Each of these could be a post in its own right as there is much more to say, this is just a brief overview of each myth with sources for further information
1.) Borderlines are attention seekers…
|Dictionary definition: “seizing the attention”
There are many people with personality disorders; they may be considered attention seekers but let me ask you, if you had a cold, what is it you look for from your partner or friends? Isn’t it comfort, reassurance and attention? So why would it be any different for someone suffering from severe emotional distress? Self-harming behaviours may trigger responses from others but they are rarely intended as attention seeking, they are very real expressions of an inability to cope and desire to escape the daily torture of BPD, the intent is to punish oneself or relieve some pressure, attention from others is not the reason for engaging in these behaviours
2.) Borderlines are manipulative…
|Dictionary definition: “To manage or influence skillfully, esp. in an unfair manner: to manipulate people’s feelings”
This is a very harsh comment to make about someone who is using the best skills they have available. Try to imagine what someone with a personality disorder has gone through, and then think about what extremes you would go to protect yourself. Isn’t it true that life is a fight for survival or would it be seen that way through the eyes of someone with a personality disorder?
3.) Borderlines are deceptive…
|Dictionary definition: “designed to deceive or mislead either deliberately or inadvertently”
This is linked to the discussion about manipulation, the borderline can be considered a convincing liar, who sets out to intentionally mislead others with their manipulative and deceitful behaviours. However, a Borderline is highly unlikely to intentionally do these things due to the knowledge and fear that such behaviours increase the risk of rejection and abandonment, which of course are to be avoided at all costs. In fact due to the childlike nature of a borderline at times of pressure they actually find it difficult to lie at all, except for lying by omission (not revealing something, but not denying it either)
4.) Borderlines are demanding…
|Dictionary definition: “requiring more than usually expected or thought due; especially great patience and effort and skill”
Imagine having a broken leg, you know there is treatment and with a little patience you will be better before you know it. With a personality disorder you are likely to experience the problem for many years with no real hope of a cure but your symptoms are likely to lessen as you grow older. Unlike a broken leg, you can not exactly see what is wrong but you can definitely feel it. I am sure everyone will agree this would make anyone quite demanding and impatient.
5.) Borderlines are destructive…
|Dictionary definition: “Causing or wreaking destruction; ruinous”
This is true, if you consider it as ‘self-destructive’ rather than destruction aimed outwards. Reports of people with BPD destroying the property of others or other destructive behaviours aimed at others are rarely true. A person with BPD is likely to act impulsively when triggered, this includes a variety of self-destructive behaviours from unprotected sexual promiscuity to destruction of owns own property (punishment as you ‘don’t’ deserve these ‘nice’ things). Rachel Reiland describes how she burned her childhood awards, certificates and high school diploma in ‘Get me out of here: My recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder’ as she felt they did ‘Mean anything’ and this is typical of what can happen when a Borderline loses ‘control’ our achievements can become devalued and we can destroy things once held dear.
6.) Borderlines are obstructive…
|Dictionary definition: “To impede, retard, or interfere with; hinder”
People with mental health issues have been often through mental health services for years. People with a personality disorder are likely to be involved with services for much longer than the standard mental health patient. They are offered so many services and therapies that have different names but often mean the same; they often end up feeling like a bit of a guinea pig, and reluctant to continue with another service or therapy.
7.) Borderlines are dangerous…
|Dictionary definition: “Being able or likely to do harm.”
The few films and TV representations of people with BPD tend to portray us as violent and at high risk of harming others. This is completely untrue, we are more likely to do ANYTHING to avoid hurting others, at great risk to ourselves. Borderlines will sacrifice their own needs to try to make others happy and avoid any possibility that they would leave or reject us. The only way in which we are dangerous is to ourselves, directing our anger inwards rather than outwards – this actually distinguishes BPD from Antisocial Personality Disorder, where sufferers anger is more likely to be directed outwards. For many BPD sufferers our own experiences on the receiving end of danger, violence and anger mean we avoid such expressions at all costs having witnessed the damage it can cause first hand.
8.) Borderlines are un-treatable…
|Dictionary definition: “Incapable of being treated; not practicable.”
Until recently mental health professional struggled with treating people with BPD and concluded it was untreatable, in fact it was just that the treatments used were ineffective and with improvements in research and understanding (particularly the work of Marsha Linehan) people with BPD now have a greater chance of recovery than those with Bipolar disorder – so long as they can get access to treatment, which is still the biggest barrier for most BPD sufferers.
9.) Borderlines are uncooperative…
|Dictionary definition: “unwilling to cooperate.”
If you were faced with a professional whose job it is to help you, but who has prejudged you (based on the BPD label) as all the words defined here, and additionally ‘needy, time-consuming and difficult’ how would you feel? You would be able to sense those negative attitudes even if they were not verbally expressed, and they would become apparent very quickly in the relationship. Would you feel able to cooperate with someone who clearly doesn’t really want to be around you? of course not! Well this is what people with BPD experience all too often. we are not deliberately uncooperative, any more than the next person, but it is hard to cooperate with something when you can tell that your best interests are not at the heart of the issue, that getting rid of you as quick as possible is the key priority. Given a chance the majority of people with BPD are willing to try ANYTHING to get better, how can that be uncooperative?
10.) Borderlines are non-compliant…
|Dictionary definition: “a person who refuses to comply.”
Linked to the previous definition this is about the notion that people with BPD are unwilling to comply with treatment, not taking medication prescribed, not turning up for therapy sessions etc. As before it is hard to comply with something that does not feel aimed at helping you, but in fact due to the intense need to recover, avoid abandonment and rejection a person with BPD is actually more likely to ‘overdo’ it creating the ‘boundary’ issues that sometimes come up instead. Arriving too early for therapy sessions is one of my personal issues. All these things can lead to a person with BPD believing they are untreatable, beyond help and become filled with shame and self-doubt to the extent that they become non-compliant due to feeling the obstacles to change outweigh the possible benefits and chances of success. Thus, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and for the BPD sufferer to be able to change the attitudes of others needs to change.