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Damning Diagnosis or Blueprint for Healing

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

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.

South Island, New Zealand


Photos by Sonia Neale:  South Island, New Zealand 2013

Damning Diagnosis or Blueprint for Healing

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. 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 adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field. Please email her on davson at

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2014). Damning Diagnosis or Blueprint for Healing. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2018, from


Last updated: 15 Jul 2014
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Jul 2014
Published on All rights reserved.