Tamara Doodler gave me an award and did a very cool post where instead of listing 6 things about herself, she listed 6 little known facts about HIV/AIDS.
I wanted to do a similar thing about something that in some ways only entered my life this year, but in some ways has been a part of my life almost since I can remember. I guess that many people have never even heard of it, but here are:
10 things you may or may not know about Borderline Personality Disorder (known as BPD):
(Please know that I write only from my personal experience and from books that I have read. None of this is certifiably accurate and I am open to correction. For the best information, read the books I recommend at the end of this or see a professional).
1) Borderline Personality Disorder is best understood as an emotional disorder. People who develop BPD have no emotional "skin", they feel everything far more intensely than normal people. As a result they are in a lot of emotional pain for most of their lives.
2) Most of the symptoms of BPD manifest as a result of the ways they attempt to deal with this intense pain. The symptoms of BPD are destructive and maladaptive ways of dealing with pain. There are 9 criteria for being diagnosed with BPD, but you only need to fulfill 6 to be diagnosed with BPD. Many people will experience some of the 9 in their lives, but people with BPD exhibit at least 6 pervasively, ie much of the time throughout their lives, starting in early adulthood.
3) The biggest problem for a person with BPD is that they perceive or read rejection, abandonment or invalidation into every situation. People with BPD have felt so much emotional pain their whole lives that they start to anticipate it at all times in order to protect themselves. The problem is that they perceive rejection when it is not there. They can percieve rejection in a tone of voice, or in a comment about the weather. This can appear to someone who does not have BPD as jealousy, as paranoia, or as just incomprehensible. This perceived rejection causes the person with BPD agony, even if the rejection was not there at all. As you can imagine, this leads to problems in relationships.
It is a tragic situation because people with BPD are desperate for someone to love them, and yet they push those who love them away because they are so afraid of rejection.
4) A defining characteristic of BPD is rage. One of the ways in which people who suffer from BPD deal with their pain is by projecting that pain onto someone else in the form of an intense and terrifying rage. The rage can be verbal or physical, often both. Because of these rages and their results, this disorder carries a heavy stigma.
Some people have likened a BPD rage to demonic possession. This analogy has crossed my mind in the past. However this is not helpful at all. There are many stories of people with BPD being subjected to exorcisms. That is disgraceful. People with BPD are in pain. They are suffering from mental illness and need sympathy and understanding, and most importantly psychological help. They do not need to be treated like demons.
5) People often confuse BPD with psychopathy. This is incorrect. A defining characteristic of psychopathy is lack of guilt. People with BPD suffer from guilt. Guilt and shame are definitions of how they see themselves. They see themselves as only worthy of rejection.
6) Other destructive methods of dealing with their emotional pain include self harming in the form of cutting or other methods, eating disorders, staying in abusive relationships, substance abuse, impulsive spending or driving. As you can see it is quite a bitch of a disease. Not everyone who suffers from any of the above has BPD as well. But it is really hard to see the BPD if it is there underneath all the other stuff that has to be treated first.
7) BPD is also often comorbid with other mental illnesses such as bipolar, major depression, anxiety, avoidant personality disorder, OCD, OCPD, to name a few. So people often have to be treated not only for the nightmarish BPD but other nightmarish diseases as well.
8) As far as I know and have been told, self harming in the form of cutting is not usually about a desire to die for people with BPD. The desire to die is strong in people with BPD, make no mistake. About 10% of people with BPD commit suicide. Most will try. But apparently self harming is all about making the emotional pain less by turning it into physical pain. Actualising the pain makes it slightly easier to deal with. I have also heard that it helps to calm people with BPD down when they are in the midst of a raging episode.
9) There are treatments that help BPD. Nothing can "cure" BPD. You cannot teach someone to no longer feel emotional pain. Some people are made with more sensitive nervous systems than others. What you can teach is how to recognise real rejection vs imagined rejection, and constructive methods of dealing with pain rather than destructive ones. There are also drugs that can level the intensity of emotions somewhat.
10) the problem lies in diagnosis. Getting someone with BPD to get help is one problem. Getting the correct help, when there is so much misinformation about BPD that many shrinks cannot even recognise it or believe it exists, is another problem.
I am sure many people have absolutely no idea what I am talking about or why I would bother to write this. I don't blame you. Why would you know about BPD or think about it unless you have it or know someone who has it?
In my experience, current public knowledge about mental illness is on a par with attitudes in medieval times. People don't speak about it, and do not understand it at all. The exorcisms are a good measure of how we demonise mental illness.
There are no celebrities officially diagnosed with BPD. I can tell you many that stand out to me as likely candidates. Amy Winehouse for one. People have speculated about Van Gogh all the way through to Marilyn Monroe and Lady Di.
But because of the huge stigma attached to BPD, because of the fear and misunderstanding, no one bears the name of the disorder, no one comes forward.
No one makes the millions of sufferers feel relieved to know that they are not alone in this hell. Perhaps these celebrities and others could have been helped, been given the treatment they needed if it wasn't for the misinformation, the silence, the secretiveness. Perhaps some lives could have been saved.
I just want it to be out in the open, for people to learn about and understand mental illness a bit better. There is no need to live in the dark ages any more. We need to learn how not to be afraid of it, because our fear is holding back the potential for people who suffer from mental illness to access the help and information they need.
If you want to know more about BPD, I have read the following books and found them helpful. Please read them rather than taking what I say as fact, because I speculate and guess and they speak from fact.
1) Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder by Rachel Reiland.
2) The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Living with BPD by Alex Chapman, Kim Gratz