Borderline Personality Disorder

Having borderline personality disorder helps me in my NHS job

People with personality disorders are often the most vulnerable in society, but providing adequate treatment isn’t cheap or easy.

Having borderline personality disorder helps me in my NHS job

Some people have said it’s a career death sentence but my lived experience of mental health problems makes me a more compassionate clinician

I work for the NHS as a psychological wellbeing practitioner. I love it. I want to give something back and help others as, in my early twenties, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), one of the most stigmatised mental health conditions. People suffering with BPD are often described as manipulative, violent, attention-seeking and impossible to treat. The label itself is a problem, appearing to suggest someone’s personality, who they are, is inherently disordered. Growing up in an invalidating environment or experiencing prolonged trauma in your early years doesn’t mean you are untreatable. Offered the right treatment, those who have been diagnosed with personality disorder can get better.

I grew up in a house blighted by domestic violence. At 15 I was in a sexually and emotionally abusive relationship. At 18 I left him and managed a year at university. Then my mental health deteriorated significantly. Intense emotions appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and kept me in a state of intense fear and hopelessness. I felt like my body was about to explode and that my terror and shame would kill me. To cope I would self-harm or take overdoses; these were rarely life threatening, more an act of desperation in not knowing how to cope with my suffering and the empty void in my chest that was unbearably painful. The depths of the hopeless desperation are difficult to convey in words.

Trips to A&E occurred frequently. I was often treated as a nuisance. Some staff were very kind, but overall I experienced a shocking lack of compassion, an experience shared by many. For five years I was passed from one mental health professional to another. These appointments were months apart, often less than half an hour, and I wasn’t offered any treatment. I was asked to remove my clothing, and a nurse called me fat. I was told I was being “a silly little girl” and was untreatable, a hopeless case.

After my mum demanded help for me I was eventually offered dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), designed to treat BPD. I still don’t know why the decision was made to refer me. BPD was never mentioned. I feel it could have easily been a lucky guess.

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