How the Stigma of Borderline Personality Disorder Affected My Diagnosis
I was recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and I suddenly feel like I understand myself better.
I’ve always felt like there were different versions of me in my head — the angry me, the depressive/anxious/suicidal me and the “normal” me (the one you all see). I feel like these different versions of me are all locked in their own rooms and only one can be out at a time; although I can always hear the voices of the others. I’ve always felt like I’ve been walking next to a tornado of my emotions and at any given time I can get sucked in, thrown around, not knowing which way is up or what I’m feeling or why I’m feeling it, so it either makes me angry, depressed, or leaves me wanting my world to end.
The physical feelings that come with BPD are almost indescribable. Words don’t just quite explain how intense the feelings are but I’ll try: I get a flood of adrenalin, rage, hot and cold sweats hit me from my head to my feet and my heart races to the point where I’m sure if it’s going to break through my chest. My head feels like it’s going to combust because the thoughts and voices from the different me’s are all talking; or better yet, screaming at me all at once, arguing between themselves, all looking for any reason or justification for why I feel like this. This leaves me not knowing what to do, except explode, which results in me hurting myself or verbally hurting those around me most of the time.
Back in 2009, at the absolute brunt of my mental illness, I was originally diagnosed with BPD, but after an induction meeting with a young parents program, the diagnosis was literally laughed at and I was sent to get reassessed. I was then diagnosed with anxiety with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) traits, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I’m what some people call “high-functioning,” and was most certainly misdiagnosed for this very reason. This can happen with “high-functioning” individuals, but what most don’t understand is what you see daily isn’t what my family sees or what my head tells me.
BPD has many different types. I’m what they call the “quiet” BPD, which is essentially where my high-functioning side comes from. Then there’s the impulsive side of me — the side only those closest to me see and struggle with. The “quiet” BPD side of me can put on a front and somehow suppress the overwhelming thoughts and emotions. For me, it’s about being distracted. If I’m at work or busy, then I distract myself enough for me to be able to “quiet” the voices and ignore the feelings. Having anxiety creates another daily challenge in itself, which I’m sure contributes to the “quiet” BPD side of me because I spend a lot of my social or work time fighting my anxiety and racing thoughts.
Fast forward to time spent at home and I’m a different person. On a good day or good mood swing, things go as normal and everything is OK, but that can shift rapidly. Sometimes in moments, split seconds even. I used to think I knew my triggers, but I’ve learned one thing that triggers me one day might not trigger me the next. It can be anything that can set me off or turn me from happy-go-lucky Danelle into depressive, “nothing ever works out” Danelle, and it’s exhausting.
I never felt like just having anxiety or depression fit me because my mood swings have always been so rapid and extreme. Years of seeking different treatment and only learning how to hide it better should’ve been a telltale sign something wasn’t right.
For years, I’ve sought help and had access to some of the best treatment options through a program I was a client of from 2009 to 2014. I now know the help I was seeking was only for part of my problem, not my entire problem. And I’ve felt like I’ve been running attached to a rope my whole life — not able to move forwards, only backwards.
This is why eliminating the stigma with BPD and any mental illness is so important. The stigma attached to BPD has caused me more hurt than my illness itself. Had my diagnosis not been laughed at and taken seriously, I would’ve been able to receive the help I needed sooner.
Now I think back to that meeting in 2009 and wonder, who did they expect to see sitting across from them when they were told I had BPD — a young girl with thick scars all up her arm? Or someone dressed in black, hating the world? Whatever the reason was, the stigma of BPD shouldn’t have been the reason for my misdiagnosis, just because I didn’t fit societies “picture.” The sooner we take away our preconceived ideas and assumptions, the sooner individuals like myself are taken seriously and provided with access to the help they need.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via emeliemaria