Chanté's story - Living with EUPD
Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD – also known as Borderline Personality Disorder) can affect how you cope with life, manage relationships, and feel emotionally. In this blog, 24-year-old Chanté talks about her experience of the condition and what steps she puts in place to help manage it.
I realised I had EUPD when I was 21 years old, a friend of mine at the time had just been diagnosed and I’d never heard of the condition before, so I googled it and almost couldn’t believe how accurate the description was of me. I had previously been diagnosed with depression and given CBT and had taken anti-depressants on-and-off but nothing felt like it had really worked.
I went to my GP after this and told them I believed I had BPD, and he told me to come back in 2 weeks with a list of symptoms/events that fit with the criteria, I came back and he said I could have BPD but insisted we focus on trying to treat the depression. He said he’d contact an NHS therapy service despite me saying they had already rejected me because I was self-harming at the time. I felt really defeated and like I wasn’t being listened to.
A turning point happened when I was working in Thailand. I was miserable, and on my birthday I was so unwell I ended up dissociating and walking through traffic. The way I experience dissociation is I feel like I’m in a dream, I feel detached from my body and my surroundings, like my body is on autopilot. Luckily, a kind local drove me home on their motorbike but I realised I had to go home because I wasn’t safe. When I got back, I got a letter from my local mental health team who would get in touch with me roughly every 3-6 months. I attended the appointment and described what I’d been feeling/experiencing over the last 6 months and I remember she looked really concerned and said she’d discuss my potential personality disorder with her colleagues. Over the course of a year I went to an appointment with a psychiatrist every 3 months, but I still really struggled during those months because I felt like I was having to prove how ill I was to them. During this year I ended up in hospital or the paramedics came to my house on at least 3 occasions. After one hospital appointment I received a letter in the post saying “22 year old female, EUPD presenting” and that’s how I got my diagnosis. I felt relief but I also cried as it felt like a life sentence.
Luckily, I managed to start dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT – which is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy) within two months of my diagnosis, and it’s definitely helped me manage my symptoms. I understand my emotions more and therefore I’m better at regulating them, but I still do sometimes hear a word, change of voice or perceive negative body language and begin to either panic or get annoyed. The symptoms I struggle the most with are fear of abandonment (which also applies to rejection) and impulsivity. I am much less likely than the average person to think before I act and it takes a lot more mental effort and willpower to think about what’s the ‘right’ thing to do in a situation and in the long-term, rather than what will make me feel better in the moment. Also, it’s very cliché but I guess that’s because it works, I try to manage my condition by exercising, eating healthily, trying to avoid intoxicating substances if I’m not feeling good, taking the time to recognise my emotions and speaking with friends I trust about how I’m feeling.
The main stigma I experienced was before my diagnosis I think, I was sectioned before and the social worker and nurses were talking to me about my behaviour that night and said “they didn’t understand” why I did what I did, because I acted on impulse and I couldn’t explain either but I don’t think an EUPD diagnosis even crossed their mind. A therapist of mine accused me of “playing games” because I wouldn’t complete the homework and voiced some paranoid thoughts I had. Another therapist said I was “100% in control of my behaviour” when I cried during therapy after a comment she made. The most difficult thing is being expected to behave like I do not have a mental illness. I once was annoyed at work and send a blunt message and was reprimanded I think a lot more severely than was warranted. Especially considering I had disclosed my condition, they insisted I “consider the mental health of the people on my team” and the conversation left me in tears and shaking.
I think attitudes towards certain mental illnesses have improved, like depression and anxiety, but for more severe mental illnesses, I’m not sure how much has changed. I didn’t know what BPD was until I was 21 yet I was told it developed in childhood, and I don’t think any of my family or many friends knew what it was before my diagnosis. There is a huge lack of awareness about more severe mental illnesses. 1 in 10 people with BPD will die from the illness, yet there is a lack of funding with often only the most ill being treated which desperately needs to change.
BPD affects my daily life because my fear of abandonment means I find it hard to trust people and l look for signs of rejection in conversations with my boyfriend or friends. Sometimes I do things I know are bad for me in the long-term because they numb the pain in the short-term. I can be very irritable and snappy, especially when I feel rejected or disrespected. Sometimes it feels like a switch has been flicked, I no longer feel like myself and I’m just overwhelmed by the anger or sadness in a triggering situation. The impulsivity means I struggle to have 1 drink and often feel the need to have a bottle and a half knowing it might make me sick the next day or say things without thinking about it and end up regretting it. I also struggle with motivation, find it hard to concentrate and pay attention for extended periods of time and experience memory loss.
Living with BPD has been so difficult and painful, at times I truly believed I wouldn’t make it to 25. The question “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” puts me in a panic because I still have no idea of the future I want and I feel like I need it to be a future that’s more consistently good, than my present. However, my birthday is in July and I’m going to have a big celebration this year as I now do think I will make it to 25 which I am glad about.
One thing I’d suggest to anyone who has a loved one with this illness, please educate yourself on it. The NHS or Rethink Mental Illness website is a great place to start. I’m not sure how much my friends know outside what I share on social media but with my family I had to ask them to read books and google the condition. When we’re really ill, like in a rage or experiencing suicidal thoughts, we really need people to be able to spot the symptoms and although it’s hard, be able to differentiate from the illness and the person.
Getting angry doesn’t mean we’re a bad person. Overreacting to a situation isn’t “attention seeking.” BPD is a complex condition with complex symptoms and I’m still learning more about it every day.