Living with borderline personality disorder - Rachel's story
In this blog, Rachel reflects on being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) during her adolescence. Despite experiencing stigma around her condition, Rachel remains compassionate, empathetic and proactive in her fight for change.
I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) in a psychiatric inpatient unit after I turned 18. I had been very unwell, displaying many of the criteria for BPD for over a year, but these symptoms were unchecked; ruining and impacting every aspect of my life.
The symptoms I struggled with the most was crippling emotional instability, feeling euphoria to rage then profound depression, all within an hour. These intense emotions meant that I lashed out against family and friends, sabotaged my relationships but also myself through self-injury and reckless behaviour. But like many women who have struggled with serious mental illness, I was initially dismissed.
Despite my obvious BPD symptoms, I was forced through multiple draining and triggering assessments, rejected from secondary care to then attend Therapy For You, an NHS talking therapy. In the first session, the therapist said that I needed a higher level of support.
We aren’t weak or attention seeking, but that we simply experience emotions on a higher, more intense level.
As women, especially women from minority backgrounds, we are ignored and stereotyped at every turn. Our symptoms and pain are dismissed by doctors and GPs as teenage hormones, and as girls being over emotional, dramatic and attention seeking.
After being rejected and dismissed, I had a mixed ‘episode’ of a severe acute stress reaction and transient psychotic episode, which was my first experience of psychosis. In sixth form at 18 years old, I experienced an altered state of reality with delusions and visual hallucinations, whilst also being a danger to myself due to the overwhelming nature of my emotions. This happened just before my A Level exams and put a serious strain on my revision for them, my general well-being and the mental health of my family, as they were extremely concerned for me!
We are simply surviving in a brain that teeters constantly on the edge of self-destruction.
Something that I think all people with BPD would want other people to know and understand is that we aren’t weak or attention seeking, but that we simply experience emotions on a higher, more intense level. And due to trauma and past experiences, the areas of our brain that help regulate these emotions, feelings and thoughts don’t work as well. Which can cause these extreme reactions, emotions and psychotic episodes. We aren’t crazy or dangerous, we are simply surviving in a brain that teeters constantly on the edge of self-destruction.
What has really helped me on my path to recovery and has given me purpose is activism. As people with BPD have such high levels of empathy and compassion, activism and helping others allows me to use my intense emotions and empathy to do good rather than debilitate my life.
I focus on gender equality within my local community, especially the ways in which the general public and professionals treat and diagnose women. I focus on raising awareness of disorders like mine, and lesser known symptoms of mental illness, which are still heavily misunderstood and stigmatised.