Here’s an interesting article from a woman diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and her struggles to escape the stigma of the diagnosis.
Coming out of the Borderline Personality Disorder Closet (Without Hitting my Head on the Door Jamb)
By SONIA NEALE
Six years ago I was officially diagnosed by a psychiatrist in a psychiatric hospital as having…drum roll please…BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER. He said it to me in the same way he would announce he had a plague of rats infest his kitchen, discovered I had a sexually transmitted disease or that he had just found out I supported Tea Party candidate Sarah Palin. It was delivered with revulsion, disgust and contempt.
Today I proudly come out of the BPD closet and out myself as having one of the most reviled and hated personality disorders ever constructed by the most esteemed and eminent fundamentalist gentlemen writers of the Psychiatric Bible the DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
If mental illness is stigmatised and discriminated against within the general community, then Borderline Personality Disorder is stigmatized and discriminated against within the mental health industry.
I was diagnosed as a BPD by a psychiatrist who had spent less than an hour talking with me around about the same time my clinical psychologist (of eight years at the time back in 2005) told me I was a schizoid personality disorder. These two personality disorders are diametrically opposed. One is excessive emotion (think Roseanne) and the other is no emotion at all (think Sheldon Cooper – Big Bang Theory).
I have had four psychiatric hospital stays over 15 years, the first when I was on Zoloft and had three children under five with post natal depression. The second was after dexamphetamine withdrawal; the third after a kidney cancer diagnosis and subsequent overdose of valium; and the last suffering with the excruciating side effects of akathisia from Zyprexa.
After the last visit, I decided pills were part of the problem, so I decided psychotropic medication was no longer an option for me. Previous to my diagnosis I researched BPD and discovered that I did fit somewhat into the nine symptoms, which include emotional dysregulation, abandonment issues, relationship problems, impulsive behaviour, suicide ideation, splitting into black and white, identity disturbance, emptiness and paranoia. But my clinical psychologist admitted she too suffered from much of the above at some point in her life but to a lesser degree, one which does not cause psychiatric issues in her life.
I took each and every sign and symptom and made major changes in my life. It took several years to do so. I would monitor my behaviour, thoughts and feelings with mindfulness, reflection, education and blogging. In the over two years I have been blogging on Psych Central I have had ants crawling up my spine at the thought of putting on the internet that I have been officially diagnosed with BPD.
Only now I find it empowering to speak out and share my story.
The pre-existing condition to being diagnosed with BPD which is not in the revered and almighty DSM is to be a woman and to have an outspoken opinion. But I was not born with BPD; I was born with a genetic predisposition towards sensitivity. It was this sensitivity which led to heightened emotional feelings, deep insight at an early age, bullying and sexual assault by a group of girls at school, parental invalidation of who I was and how I felt, being sexually provocative and active at an early age and fighting endlessly with authority. An inability to process the world around me led to eating disorders, relationship problems, smoking, drinking and recreational drug issues.
My relationship with my adored clinical psychologist over many years changed my brain. I have often been criticized and ridiculed by readers of my blog because of my long-term relationship with the woman I credit with saving my marriage, my family and my life but without her love and kindness where would I be now?
Long-term psychotherapy was non-evasive brain surgery for me, eliminating those parts which caused me distress. I didn’t need just CBT and interpersonal therapy, I needed a loving mother who would nurture and support me and raise me as her own.
It was this relationship that led me to my true calling. I now work as a peer worker in the mental health industry. I recently had to give a presentation speech to a bunch of dry, prune-faced, bored, disinterested, clinical-depression-grey haired, jaded and tired psychiatrists, doctors and professional people and I said:
“You are the first people to know this as it has been my secret for six years, but I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which is the most reviled diagnosis in the DSM – so you can all throw rotten tomatoes at me now if you like.”
Not one of them batted a stony eyelid, let alone threw a red, soggy, decomposed vegetable in my eye. Not one of them moved a finger, smiled, nodded, hmmmed, assented, moved or laughed or in any way acknowledged the sheer immensity of what I had just spoken about.
My job is to reveal carefully honed, but intimate details about my life in a safe manner to me, and my job is to connect with consumers/professionals due to my lived experience. It was like trying to mash a banana through a brick wall. I did not engage or connect with any of them in that vacuum of silence and disinterest. I have never had that in all my radio work, public speaking engagements or anything. I have been told that when I speak I am very seductive (in the entertaining and compelling sense) and I could not seduce them in any way, shape or form. Even taking account that it was 3pm on a Friday afternoon, they were simply unseduceable.
It reminded me of the anti-climax in the movie “The Truman Show” when Jim Carrey discovers no-one really cares about his life. Nobody actually cared about my revelation. But I am so glad I did it, I realise that coming out of the borderline closet will be of major importance, not just to me, but to other BPD diagnosed people, who live under the radioactive umbrella of shame, guilt, embarrassment, self-loathing and who are too afraid to come out of the closet in case they bang their heads on the door-jamb on the way out.
Sonia Neale started therapy writing for post-natal-depression and anxiety. Fifteen years later she is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three teenagers, has a certificate in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and is studying for a psychology/counselling degree. She is not yet a psychotherapist, and has deferred her academic studies in order to pursue a Certificate IV in Mental Health. She currently works as a Peer Support Worker with the National Tobacco and Mental Illness Project. Her website address is www.sonianeale.com.