When I was first diagnosed correctly with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I was 27 or 28 years old. I had spent years in and out of psychiatrist and psychologist offices. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, severe depression,anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder general anxiety disorder and a number of other disorders that didn’t quite fit the bill. This is not to say I don’t have some of those, because I do. Alongside the borderline personality disorder, I live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which caused it, social and general anxiety, mild obsessive tendencies and severe depression.
My psychiatrist who diagnosed me did so after months of meetings with her and my therapist. They finally ran me through the list of symptom after they had discovered I exhibited all but one on a fairly frequent basis, as well as a history of them. When it was finally explained to me, my doctor couldn’t recommend anything other than helping me find an antidepressant and an anxiety medication to help manage the worst of it.
However, the worst thing about living with BPD is the assumptions people make about you and then proceed to voice to you. Here are three assumptions I have gotten regularly, often enough that I try to avoid bringing it up in front of people I don’t consider among my closest friends.
1. “You’re crazy. Like, you know, psychopathic and terrible. You must be a narcissist.”
No, not at all. First, no one gets to call me “crazy” but me. I’m not narcissistic or psychopathic, which are, by the way, legitimate mental illnesses. Just not mine. Do some research or talk to me about it. Not every borderline personality disorder diagnosis is the same and not every person with it has all the symptoms. Generalizations about a disorder that the speaker knows almost nothing about, and certainly doesn’t live with, is just insulting.
2. “You just want attention.”
This is one of the most painful assumptions. It’s right up there with “but you don’t look sick.” Invisible illnesses are awful and do include mental illness. I have good days and bad days. I just don’t let folks see the days where I spend 18 hours in tears debating if it is all worth it or the days I can’t bring myself to leave my house and deal with humanity.
My least favorite are the days I can’t even get myself out of bed because I feel so low that it’s affecting me physically. Yes, it affects you physically when you have a mental illness. Even more to the point, no, I don’t want your attention. I am not striving for it. I’m striving to get by another day, past another episode. In fact, I don’t actually want you to ever see me when I am having an episode. I’d rather the earth swallow me. So no, I don’t “just want attention.”
3. “You’re so melodramatic.”
Sure, I’ll cop to that. I absolutely tend to be melodramatic in how I feel. However, saying that to someone who is overwhelmed by the barrage of emotions that batter them every single day is one of the worst things that a person can do. It invalidates how I feel, and it makes me less inclined to trust or speak to the person who does it about anything at all. It is damaging to me to such a degree that it can plunge me into a severe state of depression for weeks.
Every person diagnosed with this disorder is different. The disorder itself has such a broad list of comorbid disorders and illnesses that each case can be wildly and dramatically different. It’s hard to accept, but it’s harder to live with when I have to fight every step of the way for my health care, treatment and acceptance by my friends. So try and stay aware of what assumptions you make about people. You can’t always see what they are living with.
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