[If] you got a friend in me, you gotta friend with BPD….BPD meaning ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ (or ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’ as it is sometimes affectionately (?!) known)… I prefer to call it borderline fabulous disorder, but don’t usually as it is both slightly narcissistic sounding and also largely inaccurate, as most of the time I don’t feel all that fabulous at all.
Disclosing to someone that you have a personality disorder is not a decision to be taken particularly lightly. It also isn’t something to do when you’ve had a few too many vinos and feel in an impulsive mood for sudden carefree sharing! which you may well come to regret the morning after. If you are a typical-ish person with a personality disorder and you are not me (ie. not an ‘out there’ mental health blogger person), you may well find yourself telling virtually no one of your proud mental illness adjective. I can certainly easily imagine that could happen, and also why. I imagine it is potentially a totally desirable thing to go throughout your life barely telling a soul this horrible label that the psychiatrist gave you.
I really do fully get why people don’t like to disclose a mental illness such as this. Disclosing BPD to someone is tough. The spectrum of all forms of mental illness come under one HUGE mental illness umbrella. Some forms of psychological struggle are easier to admit to than others. Others are especially difficult. I would argue that psychotic-based disorders, dissociative identity disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and personality disorders are probably among the hardest ones to fess up to.
If depression is the common cold , and anxiety is the IBS irritant of common mental illness, lesser known forms of mental health disorder that typically involve psychiatric labels (which people may not even have heard about) are far tougher to bring out into the cold late of day and wear pinned on your sleeve with nonchalant self-assured self-confidence.
I wrote a blog post earlier this year about BPD for national Mind (A UK based mental health charity), about the stigma of my personality disorder label, and how attitudes of both mental health professionals and lay people changed when my diagnosis was altered from Bipolar Disorder, (which is itself fairly stigmatised). You can find the article if you’re interested by typing in ‘Imani’ in the search bar on http://www.mind.org. *click here
These days I make my choice about whether or not to disclose rather more pointless and non-existent, as I decided a year ago to start blogging about my daily life with the condition. Therefore, LOTS of people know this is what one of my issues is, along with my PTSD. Even more so, when the local news mental health story we filmed yesterday is aired along with a blog link, the net of people who may potentially look up my blog may well increase. Soon there will be virtually no-one that does NOT know I have BPD!
One of my simple life philosophies is DO WHAT SCARES YOU UNTIL IT DOESN’T SCARE YOU QUITE AS MUCH.
Talking about how I have Borderline Personality Disorder is one thing that has always scared me and still scares me, so I decided to chat it over with a reporter on the telly! QUALITY LOGIC THERE summerSHINES.
Nothing can be more exposing than exposing your vulnerability on the TV news. Not many things are scarier anyway… but since I’ve already braved many things that are already on the face of it VERY INTENSELY SCARY (things such as attempting suicide three times, being admitted to a psychiatric unit three times and doing video recorded interviews at a police station about having been raped and abused)….talking about having a personality disorder on telly is actually relatively tame.
So, in response to my life philosophy of doing scary things, what I decided to do [because I like to do extremely scary things because I find them weirdly “fun” and “interesting”], is to put out an open invitation on my personal Facebook page for people to contribute a paragraph or two for my blog about how it actually feels to be friends with someone with BPD. ie. me. face palm
Granted, I haven’t asked complete strangers so far. Only friends. But I asked them to be fully honest and frank about how they reacted to me, without bullshit or falsely complimentary descriptions.
Because I have two psychology degrees and find people and how they think and feel and react epically intriguing and fascinating, I do often like to transport myself into the mind of another as much as I feasibly can… (mainly because living in my own head can be a right pain in the arse).
So I now turn the rest of this post over to them….to my Facebook chums, the ones that volunteered. Some are bloggers, some are not. Every person who agreed to contribute something offered something different and compelling in different ways….here is what they said, word for word…I AM COPYING AND PASTING FROM BEHIND AN IMAGINARY CUSHION!!
Friend 1. Billy. Excellent supporter of mine, both as a friend and also my virtual running coach who cheers me on from afar X
I would consider Summer a very good friend.
Why do I like her?
When Summer is good, she is very good.
She’s sweet, tolerant, a good listener, kind, very intelligent, attentive and caring.
She makes you glad to know her.
Above all this she is a very honest individual.
Summer can be a very difficult friend however. She sometimes seems to push you away or resent things said or done with good intention. She can go from happy to sad in an instant which leaves you wondering if you unintentionally said something wrong. It can be difficult to confide in her as she wears her heart on her sleeve and you kind of think sometimes that she has enough to worry about without you bothering her.
Her frequent mood changes can be impossible to predict.
Why do I stick with her?
Because like I said, when she is good, she is a great friend to have. She can be very funny and very sweet in the same sentence. Out of the blue you can get a message from her that brightens your day.
The good far outweighs the bad, and because I know what her problems are I can tolerate the bad.
I love her, warts and all.
Friend 2. Jos. My spunky friend from the US of A. She is a part-time wise person & a full time unofficial comedian who sometimes dresses as a clown for fun :P X
Summer’s mood swings would give many people pause about close friendship, but at my age (and equally challenging idiosyncrasies), I’ve learned to appreciate the whole person. Her infectious candour and zest for the moment are irresistible. In life some of us are lucky enough to meet, in various capacities, a few people who can walk into a room, and light it up immediately, with just their personal energy. Summer is one of those. So far this ‘room’ spans over three thousand miles, but her light is none the dimmer for it. Something about her seems to bring out the best in others. I’d want her on my team.
Friend 3. Claire. REDBalloons mental health and fitness blogger/all round survivor badass and friend of lushness.
Being Summer’s friend is a true delight. Despite her mental health issues, which she is very vocal about, she makes the best of every opportunity. Her passion shines out of everything she does. Yes her bad days can be hard, but we talk about it, we share. It is hard being so far away when all you want to do is grab a quilt and hide away from the world together. I am honoured to call her my friend xxx
Friend 4. Anna. Unjumbling the jumble of shizzle Mondays to Fridays @ The Daily Annagram
Knowing only online Summer means I don’t know the whole woman. I don’t know how her eyes change when she’s anxious, how her voice wobbles when she’s down, how it feels when she cancels an arrangement or lets you down when you need her. Am sure these things happen because that’s BPD, PTSD, anxiety and depression.
Online Summer is probably more honest than offline Summer. The distance means she can risk being open, can think a bit before she speaks, but still, within her words there’s often a detectable turmoil; some days very ‘up’, some days very low. I know how hard this would be to live with offline.
Her mental health challenges have certainly stripped her outer-layer. This makes her raw and true and overflowing with empathy, relishing sarcasm and gallows humour which all her readers love. But it also makes her vulnerable, which makes me worry for her sometimes.
As she grows alongside her diagnosis, I know she’ll develop ways to cope with the world without losing her authenticity and humour.
Most important is that Summer is a mother. This gives her a determination to overcome, to be as consistent as she can be, to reflect on mistakes and feelings. This is why I love her honesty and motivation for more people to understand MH issues. This is why, when I read her difficulties, I know I don’t need to rescue her because she’s already doing that, marvellously, herself.
I won’t pass individual comment on these…I have already individually responded to my friends and massively appreciate their honest reflections on BPD me and how my mental health affects their response and feelings about me.
I will simply put these out there and ask you, the reader, to reflect on what the diagnostic term ‘personality disorder’ means to you….. How would you feel if someone disclosed they had BPD or another specific flavour of personality disorder? Do you know people with personality disorders yourself? and what do you note as different, challenging or confusing about them/us? If you have a personality disorder yourself, what do you think about the term? Should the label you are given mean you fall foul of stigma? Would you go on telly and out yourself as being diagnosed with a personality disorder like I have done? Am I right to be nervous about opening myself up to public scrutiny?
I am not asking you to form or change my opinions. I have my personal opinions formed already and I am happy that I agree with them LOL ;) But I am interested in different takes on this contentious issue.
I’ll leave you to ponder all this. Readers…the blog comments are open….let me know what springs to mind :)
The psychologist is waiting for you to share your personality disorder-related shine! :) I have explained BPD is several other places in this blog if you search for the categories. here is a little short educational film on it that I made a while ago for those of you who haven’t seen it….It’s called the Silent Enemy xxx