I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD); it’s not my only diagnosis, but I’ve come to associate with it the most. My diagnosis with BPD came half way through my first semester at ANU. I’d been suffering with my symptoms and didn’t know what to do – some days I’d be consumed by my paranoia, or my anger. I was often not in a good state. When I was diagnosed I wasn’t told by my Psychiatrist what it even meant, and when I brought my diagnosis to my Psychologist I was told that I didn’t seem like someone with Borderline – not that I had been given a reference point.
I had to do my own research, and research was hard to find. Any articles I could find were about how to avoid girls like me, some people even labelled those with BPD as ‘demon spawn’. I came to terms with my diagnosis after eventually reading about what it’s actually like to live with BPD.
What I learnt from the doctors I spoke to was that BPD was a dirty diagnosis, and no doctor wanted to ‘label’ their patient with it.
I don’t see it as that, though I can’t say I never think of it that way. My diagnosis makes things very hard for me. I struggle with day to day things, from doing my own washing to feeding myself. I’m not always this bad, but I can be. Sometimes I don’t sleep because I’m so consumed with stress and depression over things that may not even happen. When I become stressed I often begin to hear things; this scared me a lot the first time, and when it gets really bad I’m terrified. My hallucinations cause migraines and my migraines prevent me from studying…which stresses me out and so on and so forth. I try to keep my stress levels low, but BPD doesn’t necessarily allow me to do that.
Making friends is really hard for me as I often tell too many personal details too fast. Sometimes I worry that I look like I’m attention seeking – I’m not, I just get so stressed in social interactions that I can’t stop myself from bringing up whatever upsetting thing that I think of. I come away from those interactions feeling awful and guilty, then comes the inevitable two page apology note that I send the person, and if I haven’t scared them off by then, I’m lucky.
I have been lucky in that some people look past my first impression, but I know that I have scared people off too. I constantly feel dependent and useless, which means I over analyse everything and often come to the assumption that someone hates me just because they ‘saw’ my message on Facebook and haven’t responded. I went through my first year of ANU not really having any friends; there were people I knew, half-started friendships, and people I was friendly towards, but not many friends. ANU became a means to an end for me and I was okay with that, but it would be better if BPD didn’t interrupt me so often though.
Week 10 of ANU this year is Spoon Week, which it centres around the concept of Spoon Theory, essentially a way to explain that those with a disability have a reduced amount of energy or spoons to spend in their day.
I am so grateful that Spoon Theory exists; it’s such a simple way to explain to others that I sometimes don’t have enough energy to get through my day, and that I have to plan out ways to get things done. I’m not great at the planning side of things, but sometimes it’s easier to describe it this way.
Of course it means I have to explain that I have a disability, which I wish I could say is easy. It’s not. Sometimes people just understand and move on, other times there are the questions that I’m not okay answering because, sometimes I don’t want to explain why I have a mental illness.
Then there is the stigma. I considered myself lucky for a long time that I scarcely encountered stigma, but the truth is that I do. I went to the doctor the other day because of a stomach bug, that’s it. Upon viewing my medical history my doctor asked, “What is Borderline Personality Disorder, I’ve never heard of that one before?” What is it? It’s not what most people think of, it’s not the ‘crazy’ ex-girlfriend of your brothers misogynistic best friend, it’s not a joke you can drop when someone is behaving in a way you don’t expect, it’s not split personality disorder – it is a disability and it affects around 2% of the population at any given time. Me included.
School is hard for me: I am often very low on spoons and struggle through the week to reach the weekend that I tell myself will be easier. Sometimes I’m so low on spoons that I don’t shower for days, I don’t eat properly, and I don’t finish my assignments on time.
I’m often ashamed of how I feel because BPD makes me feel things that I don’t know how to cope with. BPD sometimes feels like a death sentence but I’m comforted by the fact that I can do things every day to get through it. I save spoons by going to bed early some days so that I can spend them the next day. I take medication, I seek help when I need it, I hug my cat, and I try to stay healthy. But I also have to make sure I don’t allow myself to think that I’m ‘normal’ in the sense that I can take on whatever I want.
For me, my ambition is only enhanced by the anxiety that I’m not trying hard enough. So I’ve reasoned to keep myself in check. To work on building my support network backup, to get grades that I’m proud of even if they’re not perfect. I have to allow myself to be low on spoons so I’m not in debt.
I have to embrace my disability and the wonderful community that comes with that. And most importantly I have to be okay with not being okay sometimes.