A guest post by Kelly Porter from SheTriumphs.com
I was recently (within the past year and a half) diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s the main dish, but it comes with a side of Severe Recurrent Depressive Disorder, and a side of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I will be 30 in two months, and I am very open about my diagnosis. This is because more people need to understand that Borderline Personality Disorder is generally a misunderstood diagnosis. I believe that therapy and an understanding of my diagnosis has saved my life. Here are some of the basic concepts that I wish people would understand about BPD.
1. People who have BPD cannot live a “normal” life.
I struggle every single day of my life to control my emotions. I have been in two psychiatric hospitals, one partial hospitalization program, one Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) program, and constant therapy. However, my past mistakes have not prevented me from creating a life worth living. I have a boyfriend, two almost step-daughters, a job, and I’m working on my second graduate degree. I’m high functioning, but that doesn’t mean my struggles are hidden or my pain isn’t real. I work very hard on practicing my life skills to regulate my emotions, and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. It might be difficult for families or significant others to understand the loved one with BPD, but I promise communication and a willingness to discuss the disorder and learn about it will be an effective means. Most people with BPD just want to be heard.
2.Not every diagnosis is the same.
There are criteria that need to be met for a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis. People who meet different types of criteria can be diagnosed with BPD, but that doesn’t mean they behave the same. I had someone judge me based on my diagnosis because they had an ex-boyfriend that was abusive. I have been abused by many ex-boyfriends, both physically and emotionally, but I have never been abusive.
3. Self-harm is a not necessarily a cry for attention or a suicide attempt.
I have three failed (luckily) suicide attempts under my belt, and none of them have come from self-harm. I struggle with the concept of self-harm, as it has been something I began doing in high school, but now as a role model to two pre-teen girls I work really hard to avoid it at all costs.
4. Your past behavior will be impossible to leave in the past.
Throughout my life I have struggled with unstable relationships and impulsive or risky behavior. I used to engage in promiscuous behavior to feel worthy, and I didn’t value my own life or safety so I didn’t think twice about drinking and driving. I was lucky that nothing serious happened from those mistakes. I didn’t get pregnant, or get a DUI or even hurt someone while driving drunk. I have been date raped, emotionally abused, and even physically abused, so that’s not to say I have come from my past unscathed. However, I don’t let those parts of my life dictate my behavior anymore. I don’t measure my self-worth through the lens of a relationship (friend, family or significant other). I value my alone time, and I have learned who I am. This has allowed me to stop reactive behavior before I get myself into trouble.
5. You will have BPD for the rest of your life.
This is not necessarily the case. Remember those criteria I discussed earlier? Well, if you work on improving your skills (through DBT or on your own), eventually you may no longer meet the criteria to have a Borderline Personality Diagnosis. You might go down to only having BPD tendencies or even no longer having any criteria. BPD is a scary diagnosis, but it does not have to dictate who you are or your success as a person.
6. Invalidation is a real thing.
Some people believe that saying things like “everything is fine” or “you shouldn’t be sad – let’s go get some food” are helpful statements. However, I don’t want someone telling me how to feel because my emotions are very real, and I just want to be heard. Invalidating anyone is unfair, but to a person with BPD, invalidation can be a dangerous thing. If you’re unsure about what you are saying, and whether it is validating or invalidating – look it up. There are many forms of invalidation that are less obvious than others. Or if you don’t want to look it up, take the safer bet, and just listen.
7. People who have BPD are manipulators.
This is the biggest misconception because people who have BPD are not trying to manipulate situations. I mean, for the most part, I guess I cannot speak for everyone. However, every person that I met in group therapy in DBT has been accused of manipulation at some point. There are even people writing blogs with their Ph.D, claiming that a BPD diagnosis generally means the individual is an emotional blackmailer. This is something that I have a very, very big problem understanding. Talking about how you feel, and discussing your thoughts does not make you a manipulator. Using methods that were taught in DBT to have healthy conversations does not mean a BPD individual is manipulating you – it means they want to have a full conversation without yelling or crying. Wanting to be understood, does not make you a manipulator. People as a whole need to not be afraid to talk about their emotions for fear of backlash – this is where the stigma of mental illness needs to end.
According to the NIMH website, 80% of people with BPD attempt suicide with about 4%-9% committing suicide. This number is too high. The stigma of mental illness needs to end. Please help lower the number, and understand that a diagnosis does not define a person, and not all people with the same diagnosis have the same behaviors. Take a second to read about Borderline Personality Disorder, and if you or your family member has it – find a therapist who can help you better understand the disorder.
About the Author: Kelly Porter is a not-quite-30-year-old millennial attempting to navigate life as loudly as possible. Born in Massachusetts and currently living in Minnesota, her days are spent cuddling with her dog, Sammy and watching Netflix. Kelly's twenties were pretty turbulent and there were a lot of long days and nights of uncertainty. She was just recently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and she wants to share her story of how it affects her life (good and bad) and wants to help as many people Triumph as possible.
SheTriumphs.com is a blog about struggling, living, and redefining all the pieces of Kelly's life.