My Borderline Personality Disorder Doesn’t Make Me a Bad Person
When therapists started suggesting a borderline personality disorder diagnosis for me in late 2017, I remember questioning everything I ever thought about myself. I read posts on Reddit and Quora that used words like “toxic,” “psychopath,” and “monster” to describe people with this same diagnosis, and friends who previously described me as empathetic and kind suddenly ran for the hills as soon as I disclosed this highly controversial condition.
It took time, but eventually I learned how to be comfortable with my diagnosis. Unfortunately, those feelings I experienced in the early days of my diagnosis were quickly reignited as I saw the news about Amber Heard’s borderline personality disorder diagnosis during this week’s defamation trial with Johnny Depp.
Shannon Curry, the forensic psychologist who testified regarding Amber Heard’s mental health, used words like “destructive,” “dramatic,” and “unpredictable” to describe Heard. In fact, Curry even said that it’s “typical” for people with BPD to assault and abuse their partners or even go so far as to cry wolf and make up allegations like the allegations Heard has made against Depp.
Here’s the thing, though: Not everyone who lives with borderline personality disorder acts this way.
The fact that I received a borderline personality disorder diagnosis doesn’t instantly make me a bad person. The label itself doesn’t automatically mean I destroy everything in my path, and it definitely doesn’t mean I abuse my partners. In fact, there are lots of ways in which my symptoms pushed me to act in completely the opposite way.
I spent most of my life bending over backwards for others, trying to do anything and everything I could to make them happy so they wouldn’t abandon me. I would apologize for anything and everything, even if I wasn’t the one at fault. I would change pieces of myself anytime someone even implied they didn’t love everything about me, which meant I often lived inauthentically just so others would like me.
Furthermore, I felt everything so deeply that I often empathized with people in a way that no one else could. I became the go-to person when a friend needed to vent. I donated to every cause who asked without hesitation. In fact, I once even flew across the country with zero notice just so a friend would feel less alone in the hospital.
My passionate spirit moved me to put every ounce of energy I could muster into even the most mundane tasks. When I worked in retail, the managers said they could always rely on me to pitch in anywhere in the store or pick up extra shifts when people called out. When I taught in public schools, I volunteered to help with anything and everything going on in the school, which meant I frequently spent more hours in the school building than at home.
Now, I’m not saying that those behaviors made me a saint. I still had my fair share of moments I’m not proud of, and even my “positive qualities” were done at such an extreme that they absolutely were not healthy or sustainable. But, I don’t think there’s been a single moment in my life where I’ve done anything with the intention of harming others or defaming their character.
And that’s because a diagnosis alone doesn’t make anyone a bad person.
In the years since my diagnosis, I’ve done lots of hard work to make myself into a better version of myself and build a life worth living. In fact, I’ve done so much work that my therapist says I no longer even meet the criteria for borderline personality disorder. Yet the news of Amber Heard’s possible diagnosis during this week’s proceedings shook me nonetheless because I know it’s going to perpetuate the stigma associated with BPD — a stigma that haunts the 2 percent of the world population who live with this disorder.
So whether you’re newly diagnosed and terrified or a “borderline veteran” who is used to the harmful words people use to describe us, I want you to remember this: Your borderline personality disorder doesn’t make you a bad person. A label doesn’t define you. You are still a person worthy of love and acceptance.
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