Living with BPD - "Don’t let anyone make you feel inadequate"


In this blog, Kerry tells us about her experience of living with borderline personality disorder (BPD). After moving from England to Spain, Kerry talks about the impact of trying to settle in to different Western cultures whilst being from a Punjabi family. She also describes the ways in which her diagnosis affects her, and gives advice for others who are having a tough time with their mental health.

I was born into a Punjabi family, however, with a Western mentality that has subsequently caused a rift with my extended family and previously constant disagreements with my mother and father. My ideas and aspirations were contradictory to other members in my family and because of this and my turbulent teenage years, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) in my mid-20s.  

I had an idyllic childhood, parents who doted and generally a great life. I was brought up in a predominantly Caucasian community in the southeast of England and by the time I reached secondary school, I had an array of friends from different backgrounds. My parents had chosen this ‘Western’ life for me, and even at home, we spoke English to each other, myself only knowing the “naughty” Punjabi words. The first indication that I was defiant of my parents, was when I accessed chat rooms and spoke to people I did not know, but the thrill was exciting when you feel you have been smothered throughout your youth.  

I had a typical teenage life, going out with friends and safe in the knowledge that my parents did not want to give me an arranged marriage. Knowing no Punjabi, I am not sure how well that would have gone down! My personality comes across as extrovert so I made friends easily, however, inviting them round to my house caused me a great deal of anxiety because I knew my mum would judge them on something they’d say or do, and I would end up being berated for even attempting to have them as friends. Although I had been brought up in an environment with my mother insisting I had all the freedom in the world, I was mollie coddled and restricted as to what I could see and do in the world. I had a boyfriend at 14/15 years old, I had a restriction on my free text messages which I regularly overused and that was the clear indication that I could not be trusted with finances. 

  • The contradictory information became too much, and it seemed that being part of two cultures was hard work.

It was insisted the family was forward thinking and Western because my cousins had been divorced, yet on visiting them, they still said things that sounded strange to me and ultimately, it appeared we had nothing in common. The contradictory information became too much, and it seemed that being part of two cultures was hard work. I had to watch what I wore, my weight, competing with my high achieving family members and generally lose myself to the requirements of my family; the family and the culture I was never given the full opportunity to be a part of.  

I resorted to being a “yes” person and I believe this caused mental trauma and subsequently, my BPD. Textbook diagnosis indicates that there is a trauma in a person’s life. However, I believe my diagnosis was through the biological traumas my ancestors endured and/or the internal conflict of feeling like I belonged to one culture yet never integrated properly into my birth culture.  

Halfway through my GCSEs we moved to Spain, again, a Western country with more contradictory information on how I should live my life. It was the same rigmarole with my friends and, although my studies were most important, my mum wanted us to be best friends, so we used to go out all night partying. The party lifestyle became too much in my already conflicted mind and it has been nine years since I was hospitalised in Spain for my BPD.

  • My extended family were never told so when they were exposed to one isolated incident, they decided that I had gone off the rails.

The areas where I was affected included: promiscuity, binge drinking, eating disorder, insomnia, risky situations including two car accidents, “friends” with inappropriate individuals, running away, suicide attempt – the list goes on. My extended family were never told so when they were exposed to one isolated incident, they decided that I had gone off the rails. 

I have come off my medication but still have monthly to six weekly check-ins with my psychologist. I dress how I want; I make friends with who I want, and I can confidently say no to whomever. It is still a bumpy road where my parents still try and question my choices in life, but I married a Caucasian British male who from day one knew my situation and accepted me as I was – warts and all!  

I am now studying for my degree in Criminology and Psychology which has made me question why there are so many difficulties in cross-cultural individuals. Why can they not openly be who they want to be, wear what they want to and like things their parents don’t without being scolded like a child? Why is there a taboo surrounding mental health in the Asian community and not others?  

I am hoping to research in such depth that I can present this area of topic for my dissertation but I really want to share my experiences to help others who are going through the same situation. I was a “yes” person but made the conscious effort to make sure I was making myself happy, and not feeling stifled. I am clear on who I am or what I want and am working hard to get it. For people who are suffering with their mental health, I would advise seeking help, putting in the work to improve your situation but above all, stay true to who you are and don’t let anyone make you feel inadequate.