When I first created this section of the website, this is how I introduced it:
Since being diagnosed with bpd in April 2014, I’ve had to work hard to understand what it means as an illness, and what aspects of it apply to me. I’ve had to learn (and am very much still learning) how to manage it, how to recognise disordered thinking and how to avoid getting caught up in that thinking.
Now, almost 3 years later, there is so much more I can add to that, and more importantly, so much that I want to change. Before I get into any of that though, I need to state something quite clearly. This is my own experience, my own opinion, and my own learning. Many, many people would consider that I am at best, wrong, at worst, dangerously deluded. You can decide what’s right for you.
The biggest change that has come about is that I now recognise that borderline personality disorder is not an illness, not in its own right. It’s a set of severe and sometimes crippling symptoms, symptoms which are very, very real, but, are not the result of a chemical imbalance. I spent most of my life living with those symptoms, and over the last few years, had managed to come to a position where I accepted that this ‘disorder’ was part of who I am, something that would always have to be managed and controlled.
This isn’t true. The symptoms are just that – symptoms. They indicate an underlying problem, but it’s not a chemical one. The standard checkbox for bpd includes the following:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
- Identity disturbance, such as a significant and persistent unstable self-image or 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 behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
- Emotional instability due to significant 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 thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms
Source: Psych Central
I experienced pretty much all of these, at varying levels of intensity. I tried meds, lots of meds, in various combinations. I spent years in therapy. Both helped, to a degree. But the real change came about when I started to gain an understanding of how our brains actually work, when I began to recognise the need for compassion in our lives, and perhaps most crucially, the necessity of allowing ourselves space to think.
I’ve been told that I will need to spend the rest of my life taking medication. A year ago, I was resigned to that fact. Not any more. Over the last year I’ve had the privilage of working with two wonderful psychologists, neither of whom accepted my label or were willing to acknowledge it as an illness. Both taught me that there is another point of view, another way to deal with all this. What had become known as my personality disorder was nothing more than flawed (albeit, very!) coping mechanisms.
I’m not going to spend the rest of my life medicating my thoughts or coping mechanisms into submission. I’m looking long and hard at them, and I’m working out where they came from in the first place. Then I’m getting rid of the ones that no longer serve me. It’s been a long, long process, and I’m not finished yet.
But here’s something wonderful. I don’t have a mental illness. I have a brain, just like everyone else, one that has evolved over millions of years and is struggling to cope with many aspects of modern life. My brain was doing the best it could for me. I just needed to slow down long enough to hear what it was trying to tell me – not that I have a personality disorder, but simply that I was living my life in a way that was never going to work for me.