Almost two years ago, I sat in a psychiatrist’s office and looked at him disbelievingly as he offhandedly told me that I had borderline personality disorder (BPD). It seemed like such a weighty diagnosis, a personality disorder. I immediately began to question myself, wondering if I was somehow inherently flawed in my character, a bad person, if I was to be diagnosed as having a disorder personality.
The very words “personality disorder” carry so many implications and I feel that this is improper terminology for what BPD is. It is a mental illness that prevents people
from effectively regulating their own emotions, meaning that the feelings they experience tend to be very intense highs and lows, marked by consequent impulsivity, black-and-white thinking, and self-harming behaviors amongst other symptomatic traits. It is not defined through a flawed personality or bad character; it is a disorder that people can control, before treatment, as much as they can control the weather.
It took me a while to come to terms with my diagnosis. I felt for a long time that my disorder defined my personhood, that I was the sum of the symptoms of my mental illness and nothing else. BPD is a highly stigmatizing diagnosis for this reason; there is an implication that someone with this disorder must ultimately be defined through
it and that all people with BPD are one and the same, when in fact any two people with BPD can experience it in completely polarizing ways. BPD is comprised of nine symptomatic traits of which one must experience five to be diagnosed. Therefore, every person experiences their mental illness differently. We cannot all be defined merely as “borderlines” if we have such differing experiences of it.
When I found online communities of other people with BPD, I was able to reach out to them, pore through forums of discussions about this diagnosis, and I began to undo some of the problematic thoughts I was having about my BPD. I had been so secretive
about it, only telling a select few close to me that I had been diagnosed with such a serious disorder. Finding such wonderful, kind, and interesting individuals amongst these communities made me realize that a personality disorder cannot be indicative of a bad personality if I had come to find so many good-hearted people amongst those diagnosed as such. I was able to break my own stigmas about my mental illness and accept myself for who I am, not the sum of my disorder.
I have BPD, but it does not define me. What defines me is my love of writing, the degree I am studying for, my passion for music, my interests in fashion and body modification, my love of animals. I am a whole person that will not cease to exist when I am “recovered,” however that may look, because I am not the sum of a mental
illness, nor am I a bad person for being labeled with such a diagnosis.
I have been so quiet about my struggles and internalized them for so long that eventually they bubbled over the surface and exploded, and I found myself in the mental health treatment services, sitting aghast in front of a nonchalant psychiatrist who handed me a life-altering diagnosis. I suffered in silence, told next to no one, and remained that way even when I knew it would be best to be open and honest about something that affects my life is so many meaningful ways. Until I found these communities, I had no voice about my mental illness. Now, I refuse to be quiet.
I write about my BPD and how it affects me because I must, because I have to communicate and use my voice to help break down the stigmas that even I had internalized. I must use my voice to make my own life better by expressing my needs and struggles to the people who love me. I must use my voice because I did not overcome so much to stay silent.
To the people who helped me find my voice; thank you. I promise that I will speak up about BPD and everything that we understand to come along with such a diagnosis. I will try to fight the stigmatization of it wherever I can, and I will be a sympathetic
voice to those who find themselves where I was almost two years ago. I will not be silent anymore; I deserve authenticity and honesty and this year, that is what I will give to myself. I will use my voice, speak up, and encourage others to do the same.
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