What I Told My Mom When She Asked Why I Write About Having Borderline Personality Disorder
My mom has asked me, on separate occasions, why I write about mental health. Specifically, why do I write about having borderline personality disorder (BPD)? It’s not really a pleasant topic to think about and definitely not to read about. So, why write about it? I haven’t really thought a lot about it until very recently.
Well, to answer her question, I must ask another essential question. Why do we watch movies with people who look like us? Why do we love books where characters resemble us? Why do our favorite songs remind us of how we felt on that one hot summer day when we were walking around with that person we were so attracted to and everything felt right and comfortable and amazing?
It’s simple, really: we crave representation. We crave being seen and not feeling lonely. We want other people to say, “Hey, I feel this way too. I get how you feel right now; I’ve been there.”
And this world is not ready for showing “borderlines” on TV. I mean, we’ve only recently started making more movies and shows that represent depression and anxiety properly (not looking at you, “13 Reasons Why”). A quick Google search will show you that Indian cinema has been terrible, judgmental and stereotypical in its treatment of mental illnesses. I mean, you only need to look at the summary of “Krazzy 4” and the very famous Shah Rukh Khan thriller, “Darr,” to understand that.
And so, I know the chances of me seeing someone like me — a 19-year-old, fat, queer Indian girl with self-harm scars and borderline personality disorder, a love for cats and a strong dislike for tomatoes — are slim to none at best. And that’s not counting a role where I might be casually drowning puppies or killing people.
So, I write. And of course, whenever I end up writing prose, the characters are all self-inserts. Not all characters, just the leads. Sure, I don’t often finish these writings about borderline personality disorder (it’s just so difficult to write when you have mental illness-induced writer’s block) and I never post them anywhere, but they exist. They are characters who look like me, talk like, think like me, and most importantly feel like me. And even more importantly, I can make them happy. If only in the pages of my notebook, I have people who are living like me and are able to get happy endings.
At this point, I want to talk about a phenomenon that happens a lot to queer characters on TV shows. This trope, known as “Bury Your Gays,” is popular in most forms of media containing queer people.
Characters come out, only to soon be killed. Their sexuality seems to be just something to get the Liberal rating for the show. And as soon as that is done, they are disposed of, swept under the rug like some inconvenient dust that you can’t get into the dustpan.
Queer activists say this practice harms those who don’t identify as strictly heterosexual. Seeing people like you never being given a happy ending, always killed, always hurt, especially in a community that has been relentlessly killed and hurt in real life as well is so, so harmful and dangerous. It is a crime against the whole community.
Imagine what it must feel like to never see someone like you: never seeing someone with the same or at least similar struggles as you.
And that’s why I write so much about having borderline personality disorder.
Because maybe, if one day in the future I am published and a fat, queer, Indian girl with borderline picks up my book, she feels less lonely. She feels that someone else has gone through what I am going through and they are still kicking it. Admittedly, it is sometimes hard to still keep kicking it, but they are. And I will too.
Because God knows there are days, so many of them, where I need that myself.
Because I, very much like other people, would like to have a happy ending. I would like to envision a future where I can live happily and healthily, with my partner and two cats. A future where I no longer display symptoms of my illness or, well, at least where I am able to deal with them in a healthy way. I would very much like to believe in that.
My therapist, my parents and other people close to me often tell me I am quite good with words. Maybe if I saw someone like me actually being successful, I would believe them.
A version of this article was originally published on Youth Ki Awaaz.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
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