Wednesday 09-10-2019 - 10:51
In light of World Mental Health Day 2019, our VPFE, Ash Morgan, has written about her personal experience of BPD - Borderline Personality Disorder.
Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental health condition just like any other.
Except when it’s not.
And the only reason it isn’t is when it’s made different by other people.
It is often ‘othered’, along with other mental health conditions such as Schizophrenia, Dissociative Identity Disorder and Bipolar.
I think the reason for this is many-fold.
These conditions are not as common as depression or anxiety and so don’t have the same public forum for discussion among sufferers. For example, my condition, Borderline Personality Disorder, has a prevalence rate of about 1.6% of the population. This means that we do not have the same visibility as depression sufferers, who make up approximately 3% of the population at any one time, with up to 15% of adults having experienced depression at least once in their lifetime.
Conditions like personality disorders, bipolar, DID, schizophrenia are often the focus of media plotlines and are written about by people who need a reason and back-story for a villain to be the ‘bad guy’. Because of this, the conditions often featured as plot devices are vilified. People see them as dangerous and scary. They see them as violent. In short, they see them as the characters they have come across who have them. I would like to point out now that anyone can become like the villains you see in films or read about in books. The reason they are like this is not down to their mental health issues.
It doesn’t help that often even within the medical community people with BPD are treated as ‘problem patients’ and are handed between doctors, each as unwilling to deal with them as the last. I have twice been taken off my medication entirely with no tapering down of dosage due to two different doctors being completely unwilling to deal with anyone with BPD.
The last point may be an unpopular one but I’m going to come out with it anyway. In my opinion people see depression and anxiety as ‘acceptable’ mental health illnesses due to their passive and private natures. People with depression and anxiety (of which I am one), will often suffer in silence, even when they do seek help. Their pain is only known to them.
When I was especially sick with depression I would lock myself away from the world for weeks on end, not wanting to see or talk to anyone. When I suffer with anxiety I do the same but for different reasons. With depression it feels like the whole world is heavy and all you want to do is lie down for a while and for someone else to take the weight off your shoulders. With anxiety you hide away because the world is scary and it can feel like the best way to deal with this is to shut yourself in a quiet, safe space away from other people and stressors.
With BPD, bipolar, DID, schizophrenia and other vilified mental health disorders the symptoms can become very public. You often don’t have that same desire to hide away from others and as a consequence your suffering becomes everyone’s business. Some of the symptoms of these mental health issues con be alarming to others and can further opinions among the general public that people with mental health issues are unstable, and therefore dangerous.
I know with my BPD one of my big issues is mood swings. I will frequently go from crying to laughing in a matter of half an hour and because I don’t know when this will happen it can happen in very public places if I become triggered. This can be alarming for other people if they don’t know what I suffer with. It is not viewed as normal and I am very used to feeling people’s eyes on me as I rapidly cycle through an extensive chain of powerful emotions.
In the end people fear what they don’t know. And because of this the relatively unknown mental illnesses will always be feared. The only way we can fix this is having open discussions around topics that make people uncomfortable enough that they become normalised and known and no longer instil the same level of fear and uneasiness in people.