Why People Are Surprised When I Say I Have Borderline Personality Disorder

It's always a tricky decision to share my diagnoses with other people. I am somewhat on guard all the time with it and ironically enough it is Hospital staff that I would most likely omit my diagnoses as I have literally seen the look on the person's face change when I tell them.


There is no denying it seems like a juxtaposition to prefer to tell a stranger or share it here rather than tell actual medical professionals who are meant to be there to help. Unfortunately, I have had one too many horrible experiences being treated completely differently and I attribute that to two things; the stigma around BPD and also the long way to go with Hospital and Emergency staff in providing the same level of care and compassion that they do for other patients that are not admitted for Mental Illness.


Now that I have been extremely open and honest about my Mental Health via both here on The Mighty and also my personal blog, I have been asked by surprised friends about my diagnoses. With BPD being such a complex illness I imagine many other friends just skip over it and think of me with Depression and Anxiety alone, purely because they don't actually understand what BPD is.


Interestingly writing this post has made me reflect back more on past behaviours and right there in neon writing were all the signs. I can name so many examples that I never spoke about that were all indicators of underlying and untreated BPD. Being a master of the disguise I always had to put on to basically just get through the day, I was known at work as a joker and someone who was always "happy". So when I started telling my closest friends about my BPD, they actually didn't believe that that is what I have. One even said he completely disagreed with my Psychiatrist, which entertained me slightly seeing as though he had zero understanding of exactly what Borderline Personality feels like to live with. No amount of explaining would convince him and I eventually gave up.


Other friends who knew me since I was around 19 and work in Mental Health, reached out in a caring way to better understand what was happening. It took me back in time to when I had no idea at all how to explain my behaviour or feelings so I kept them to myself.


Being a quiet Borderline means that I direct the anger and self-hatred inwards. I have never gotten into fights or been violent to anyone other than myself. That was the most private part of me, the inner turmoil and basically, self-harming by self-sabotage and an extremely critical inner dialogue. I kept it close enough to myself that I was able to deflect situations quite easily away from me. And slowly but surely that inner turmoil grew louder and stronger until it came out in many different ways over the past few years.


Now I don't mind at all if someone is surprised by my illness, because that's one more person to educate about it. But I do take issues with anyone that actually challenges the diagnoses because it took so many years before my Psychiatrist would formally diagnose me, even though we both knew it was there, he was careful and considerate about giving such a complex outcome. Plus, he knew I have OCD about researching topics and he didn't want me going down the rabbit hole of Google.


Really, my whole experience with Mental Illness and also suffering an extremely violent and traumatic sexual assault comes as a surprise to people and I really think its for a sad reason. I have had to cover everything up for so long, pretending to be engaged and happy at work and home when all I wanted to do was either scream or curl up in a ball and cry. That is really the overall message of this post. The energy that it takes to sustain the mask that everything is ok is just not doable after 18 years.


So the face I wear now is just me, with all the complexities that come with me and all the difficulties and all the surprises. But with that comes enormous compassion and empathy for others and the drive and determination to make a difference in other people's lives and for that, I am eternally grateful for.

Quote on BPD by Marsha Linehan

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