In 2005 I was given two diagnoses. One was for cancer and one was for Borderline Personality Disorder. Both diagnoses were delivered with a complete lack of caring and empathy, but the cancer diagnosis was not imparted with disgust and revulsion, either real or perceived. After the cancer diagnosis, I cried, came to terms with, made friends with and learned to live with it until surgery removed the tumour.
I was given support, love, kindness, empathy, flowers, fridge magnets that said “Don’t worry, be happy” and family and friends wanted to take me out on picnics. I found the BPD diagnosis far more difficult to take in; in fact it gave me chronic indigestion for many years. I was ashamed and embarrassed, told no-one and called it “depression and anxiety.” Going through the grief process, I cried, denied, got angry, bargained, got depressed and then accepted it and with that acceptance I grieved no more and started a new life. I then embraced it with loving/kindness.
Within that acceptance came peace and gratitude. Then came knowledge, education, advocacy and activism. I started to tell people, came out on my previous blog Therapy Unplugged and was surprised when people didn’t take out a restraining order on me. Then, turning it upside down, I made it my life’s mission to educate and inform the world that with the right treatment, the right support, people with BPD can recover and live a well life. I now work in mental health supporting people and educating organisations on what BPD is and what it isn’t.
BPD is no longer seen by some as a life sentence, an incurable, untreatable condition, just like cancer was a few decades ago. I still get upset, I still get angry, I still react with emotion to life, I still act on impulse occasionally and I still feel abandonment and rejection when people don’t reply immediately to my emails, but I no longer act on these feelings. I process them, decide how important they are and let them flow in and out of my mind, let go and move on.
The DSM is not perfect and I used it as a descriptive guideline, it does not define who I am, it describes my behaviours only. I am much more than the sum total of my diagnosis.
However, not everyone feels the way I do.
Photos by Sonia Neale: South Island, New Zealand 2013