I’d suspected the diagnosis before mental health professionals suggested it, so it didn’t come as a terrible shock to me. I was actually pretty optimistic early on; a diagnosis meant direction. With targeted treatment maybe I wouldn’t feel like shit all the time.
I was eager to read as much as I could about Borderline Personality Disorder and though it was often scary how familiar everything I read was, I felt some comfort in the accounts of others with this diagnosis.
Looking back at the first few weeks of my diagnosis I’m probably more amused than anything by some of the responses I got from my nearest and dearest; the few people who I initially decided to confide in about my new mental illness. It was a bit of a roller coaster at the time but I’ve been able to take a lot away from it.
Mainly the phrase ‘sanesplaining’. As someone who visibly develops hackles when mansplaining occurs (my resentment at having feminism explained to me by a male friend is still a particularly sore point two years later), I felt a similar sense of agitation whenever someone tried to explain my mental health to me. Googling the phrase ‘Sanesplaining’ revealed I did not coin the phrase (damn it, Dan Crocker!) but at least I wasn’t the only person who this infuriates. Sanesplaining can basically be summed up as when you receive unsolicited, generally useless advice or insights about your mental health issues by the enlightened ‘sane’ people that you encounter. Don’t get me wrong; I really enjoy talking about mental health and think it’s really important, but when thoughtless comments are made or the other person isn’t really interested in hearing my perspective that’s an entirely different story. Have you been told to just go for a walk during a major depressive episode?
I was told to watch ‘Girl, Interrupted’ in which Winona Ryder exhibits very little borderline behaviour and is instead given a cocktail symptoms that could belong to any number of mental illnesses. In the same conversation I was warned not to tell too many people about my diagnosis because there is so much stigma. At the time I think the irony may have been lost that someone endorsing Hollywood portrayals of mental illness was warning me about stigma. Needless to say I did not watch ‘Girl, Interrupted’.
Additionally, until this conversation I had been blissfully unaware of BPD carrying more stigma than many other mental illnesses; I had no clue that there were many people out there who viewed borderlines as shit stains on society. Ouch!
My well meaning mother told me that “anyone would be sad” with the stressful couple of years I’d had, and that the word of one mental health professional wasn’t enough. Though I know she meant this as encouragement, all I could hear at the time is that I needed to snap out of it and that she wanted a normal daughter. The whole ‘believe the worse case scenario’ thing is pretty typical of BPD.
While the two interactions I’ve talked about thus far carried the message that BPD was something to be ashamed of, they weren’t the most hurtful. No, that was the implication that displaying symptoms meant I wasn’t trying. Some background might be needed for this one. As I write this I have confided in a grand total of four friends. Two displayed exceptionally warm hearts and we engaged in really good conversations about our different mental health experiences; I am incredibly grateful for these lovely ladies. The other two have completely cut me out of their lives.
One of the latter, when talking to them about some of my anxieties I was told that I hadn’t really accepted my diagnosis because I was still displaying skewed thoughts. There were other ‘turn that frown upside down’, sportswear feel good slogans this individual chose to hurl at me, but this seemed to be the most ridiculous and completely belittled my efforts to approach my new found mental health issues with an open heart.
While my BPD came with a lot of things (optimism, pessimism, fear, simultaneously scary and condescending pamphlets, a rainbow of medication) it unfortunately did not come with a shiny ‘On/Off’ switch. When you have it hardwired in your brain that you are annoying, stupid, fat, boring and all together worthless, it is incredibly hard to turn it off. Maybe it’s possible, but I’m not there yet. It’s a voice inside my head constantly telling me that I’m not good enough for anyone, everyone is talking behind my back, that I’m uninteresting, ugly, a bitch, easily forgotten, a whore, fat, stupid, failing, better off dead.
I’m proud to say that I think most days that voice is a little bit quieter. I’ve found a psychologist who I really like and despite what it does to my bank account I look forward to my appointments rather than dreading them. My cocktail of pretty pills seems to have finally found some balance. My incredible partner and I have worked on our communication and I’m not afraid he’s gonna bail anymore… not usually anyway.
Constant appointments, several medication changes, self-help books with embarrassing titles, meditation, massive routine & lifestyle changes, a bunch of shit I’m probably forgetting.
Yes, I am trying. No, I won’t just go for a fucking walk.