Category Archives: BPD

My BPD Story

I originally wrote this post for the Break The Stigma campaign that is run by Ben who works for my local Mental Health Trust, East London Foundation Trust. You can find the campaign on Facebook or Twitter. For the original post click here.

“Hello, my name is Jo and I have Borderline Personality Disorder.” These are the words that I wish it was easy to say out loud. But it’s not. The reason I don’t feel able to share my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) easily is the huge amount of stigma that the condition carries. This is something I desperately want to change.

When I was diagnosed with BPD, about six years ago, I struggled to deal with my diagnosis. I found out I had this diagnosis by reading it on my copy of the letters sent to my GP. At the time I didn’t know what BPD was and so I worked up the courage to ask my psychiatrist what this diagnosis was and how she had come to this conclusion. She was very good and went through the criteria with me. I was shocked. She then suggested I read a book written by a psychiatrist about the condition. I agreed. This was a mistake.

The book I was given went into detail about why people with BPD were difficult patients and how they were all trying to manipulate those around them. It listed a number of bad things about people with BPD. I was horrified and immediately went into denial. Even though the psychiatrist had shown how I met the criteria, I did not want to believe I had this illness. I was definitely not going to tell many people I had it either. I did not want them to think I was these bad things.

My denial went on for quite a while. I told very few people my diagnosis. Even my parents didn’t know. Then I met and talked to some other people with the same diagnosis and I realised they were none of the bad things I had heard about BPD. These people were lovely, they just struggled with certain things like I did. This led me to being more open about my diagnosis and even telling my parents.

There is still a lot of stigma out there surrounding BPD and personality disorders in general. People still think we are manipulative and all the same but we are people with an illness, just like if we had cancer or diabetes. I’ve experienced stigma even from a psychiatrist who told me I couldn’t be treated. This is untrue. Therapy is the main treatment for BPD and medication can help manage some symptoms.

It is important to challenge the stigma surrounding BPD, and all mental illnesses, so that people can access the help that they need and deserve. At the moment 10% of those diagnosed with BPD will die as a result of suicide. This number is far too high. With help hopefully this can be reduced. Even one life lost is too many, and stigma feeds into these statistics. Reducing stigma will save lives and help those with mental illness to lead a better life.

Having BPD doesn’t make people scary or manipulative. They just have an illness like everyone else.”

To find out more information on Borderline Personality Disorder click here or follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Advertisements

Fear Of Abandonment

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), or Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), is diagnosed by seeing if a person matches at least give of nine different criteria. One of these nine criteria is fear of abandonment. This means you worry about people leaving you. This fear can be real or imagined. This is one of the criteria I identify with and have found very difficult of late to cope with. Therefore I thought I would write about how it effects me personally. Of course everyone is different and others will experience it differently.

When have I felt fear of abandonment?

I have felt fear of abandonment in a few different situations and for different reasons. The first event I am going to mention was a perceived abandonment. I was meeting a group of friends and became convinced they weren’t going to show up. I had no evidence for this at all but my mind became convinced this would be the case. It was totally unfounded and of course they showed up as planned.

The second event was when I found out my therapy was being halved from a year to six months. This led to me feeling fearful that I was being abandoned by the therapists involved in my care. This also happened when my care coordinator talked about reducing the support I received. I suddenly felt terrified I was being abandoned.

How do I feel about, and react, to fear of abandonment?

When I feel the fear of abandonment, the terror that takes over me can be all encompassing. It is like a blanket of fear and can make me feel sick with anxiety. I start to become very defensive and try my best to protect myself from the perceived threat of someone leaving, real or not. This can start in my brain where I begin to tell myself I’m not important and it doesn’t matter if they leave me. I then start to detach from the person as much as possible. I might withdraw or stop talking to them as regularly. I make myself much less reliant on them. I do all I can to make the abandonment feel less painful, even though in the long run it hurts me more.

How should I deal with the fear of abandonment?

With fear of abandonment it can be the little gestures that make us feel we are going to be left. To deal with this there is the skill of non-judgementalness. This where we try bit to judge a person’s actions but look at all the possibilities of why they may be acting that way. It is a hard skill to engage but an important one.

When the abandonment is more real, in that a person is actually leaving, it is more difficult to deal with. Here it can be a case of using skills to ensure our safety and not getting to crisis point.

How can you help with fear of abandonment?

There are a couple of ways to help us not fear abandonment and they include not breaking promises to us as well as reassuring us. These things can make all the difference. Sometimes we just need to hear that you’re still there and care about us.

If you have any tips on dealing with fear of abandonment feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Tough To Hear

This is a personal piece. Please be aware that content may be triggering.

The phrase “I think you’re doing well” can actually be one of the most difficult phrases to hear. Especially when in your head everything feels like it is falling apart. It can be meant as a well meaning phrase to buoy you up and compliment you but it can in actual fact make things seem tougher.

This week someone said this phrase to me because on the surface things are going well. I am attending therapy, volunteering my time and keeping up with my blog. All positives. Yet underneath it all I feel I am falling apart. Where am I really at? Yes, I am attending therapy, but each week is followed by a melt down to a friend and me feeling the need to punish myself. Yes, I’m offering my time, but I’m aware I am saying yes to a lot when actually I feel low and need to say no. And while I am keeping up with my blog, I am finding it hard to keep creating content, which makes me feel useless. On top of all this the voice is telling me to die and I am self harming and hair pulling. Not such a happy picture. 

I realise I sound negative, and I promise I am trying to be positive, but it is really difficult to do when so much seems against you. It is hard to put on a smile every day and make people think you are doing ok. It takes a supreme amount of energy to carry on with every day tasks. Being positive is hard.

Then someone says the phrase “you are doing well” and it brings up a lot of different thoughts and emotions. Yes, some are good, like “I’m glad I’m showing I can cope” or “maybe I’m doing better than I think”. But there are many negatives.

One thing you may think is “if everyone thinks I am doing well am I going to let them down?” You feel that because things aren’t going well under the exterior view that if any cracks start to show you will be a let down. Of course this isn’t true but you feel the pressure to appear ok. This can make all that you are feeling with seem more difficult as you’re masking your true emotions, scared to show the ‘real’ you. 

Another way this phrase can be invalidating is that you it makes you feel that you must be ok as that is what others think of you. You feel like maybe your problems aren’t as big as you feel they are and that you’re making a fuss over nothing. This is not true. What you feel is valid. If you’re struggling still that is ok and it is ok to express this to other people. 

So while I understand that people are trying to be helpful by saying I am doing well, when I am struggling still it is actually one of the worst things for me to hear as it invalidates me. If you know someone is struggling please don’t add pressure by using this phrase. Please just accept they are struggling and validate their feelings by saying “I understand why you feel this way and it’s ok to feel like you do.”

 Are there any phrases you wish people wouldn’t say to you when you’re struggling? Feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

BPD Myths

One of my diagnoses is Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as it is also known. It is a diagnosis that is becoming more common but is plagued by many myths. There is a lot of misinformation out there and it can be hard to sort the fact from the fiction. Therefore I thought I would take a look at some common myths surrounding BPD and try to demystify this illness.

1. BPD isn’t treatable: This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are lots of options for treatment for those with BPD. It is not necessarily a life sentence. There is hope. While there is no medication approved to treat BPD, it can be used to treat the symptoms of BPD and it’s possible comorbid disorders. I currently use a mixture of antidepressants, mood stabilisers and antipsychotics to help treat my illnesses. Medication isn’t the only option either; therapy is a big part of treatment for BPD, the main one being dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT). This is the current best practice option for those with BPD, under NICE guidelines. Many with BPD will see their symptoms reduce and may enter recovery.

2. BPD is a variation of Bipolar Disorder: This simply isn’t true. BPD and Bipolar Disorder are two totally separate illnesses with different diagnostic criteria. It is possible to have both BPD and Bipolar Disorder but they are not the same. Yes, both have mood swings as a symptom, but in each illness these present in different ways with BPD mood changes tending to be more rapid. 

3. BPD is only found in women: This is another myth that is simply untrue. Both men and women are equally susceptible to having BPD. There is however a gender bias that has been noted when it comes to diagnosis. This bias sees more women than men diagnosed with BPD.

4. People with BPD are all the same: With every illness there will be similarities to others who have the same condition but each person suffering is unique. In BPD this is more true due to the diagnostic criteria. The criteria contains 9 sets of symptoms. To get a diagnosis of BPD you need to meet at least 5 of the criteria. You could meet more. This means there is at least 256 combinations of the criteria. This also doesn’t factor in severity. This means it is highly unlikely one person with BPD will experience the condition exactly like another.

5. People with BPD don’t know how to love: This couldn’t be further from the truth. People with BPD love hard and intensely. Part of BPD can be feeling emotions more intensely and this includes love. This means we are more likely to love quicker and get hurt easier. We can however change our feelings quickly from love to hate when someone hurts us.

6. People with BPD are manipulative: This is probably the most common myth out there and is untrue. While our behaviour may (and not always) come across as manipulative it is very rarely meant that way. People with BPD can easily become distressed and struggle with how to deal with and express this. This may lead to behaviour that appears manipulative but isn’t. It’s just they don’t know how else to cope.

So those are some of the myths surrounding BPD that I hope I have explained the truth behind. If you have any other myths you think need to be cleared up feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Dealing With A BPD Diagnosis

One of my diagnoses is Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as it is also known. Any new diagnosis is difficult to deal with, but for me a diagnosis of BPD was the hardest. Therefore I thought I would discuss how I felt and how I dealt with getting my BPD diagnosis.

My diagnosis of BPD came 5 or 6 years ago when I was 23/24. I don’t know precisely when it occurred as I was never officially told “this is your diagnosis”. Instead the term EUPD suddenly started appearing on my paperwork. Also that time is quite blurred for me as I had a lot of stress going on in my life that has caused me to blank out large chunks of what happened.

With the help of a friend as an advovate, I confronted my psychiatrist at the time to ask what this diagnosis was and how she had come to the conclusion I had this illness. I had never heard the term EUPD then and had no idea about its other name, BPD. I was very unhappy about having an illness that included the term “personality disorder”. I didn’t like the idea that someone was saying there was something wrong with my personality (this is a view I still hold but will explain in more detail later). 

My psychiatrist was very good in her response to my queries and say and went through the criteria with me and showed me how I met it. She offered to answer any questions but I was stunned. She then recommended a book for me to read on the illness written by a psychiatrist. This was a mistake.

I read the book and it was awful. It was full of negative comments about patients with BPD and how they are manipulative (a complete myth). I hated that I had this diagnosis and went into denial as I could not see myself in the words of this book. I decided I was not going to tell anyone my diagnosis for fear they would think I was these bad things.

This denial went on for a couple of years. I told very few people my diagnosis. Even my parents didn’t know. I was ashamed. Then I met some others with the same diagnosis. I learnt they were truly lovely people with similar issues to me. They were not manipulative or horrible at all. This have me the confidence to be more open with some people and I started to learn more about the illness from different sources including the Mind website. This changed my viewpoint and the self stigma I was inflicting upon myself lifted somewhat.

Now I am much more open about my illness and can see myself in the criteria a lot more than I ever could. I have learnt strategies to cope which has helped, and opened up more to those closest to me including my parents. I still dislike the term “personality disorder” as I don’t believe it is my personality that is wrong or that anyone’s personality can be wrong. 

My advice if you have just been diagnosed with BPD or are struggling to deal with a BPD diagnosis is to read about the illness from the perspective of others with the illness. Also check out the Mind website for great information. There are also some great support groups on Facebook for those with BPD like this one here. If you have any advice for dealing with diagnosis or want to share your story, feel free to in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter

Intrusive Thoughts

Please be careful when reading this piece as some of the content may be triggering.

Intrusive thoughts are quite common in people who have a mental illness. The reason I chose to write about them now is because my own intrusive thoughts are impacting on my life a great deal. Therefore I thought it would be good to share about them and make others aware just how much of an impact they can have.

Intrusive thoughts can turn up in a multitude of guises, from ruminating thoughts to obsessions. It can be defined as an unwelcome, involuntary thought, image or idea that is upsetting or distressing. They are often difficult to manage or get rid of. Intrusive thoughts are heavily linked to OCD but you can also get them with other mental illnesses including anxiety and depression. 

What form do my intrusive thoughts take?

My intrusive thoughts tend to centre around people dying. In particular people close to me. I become convinced that some how my actions are going to cause people to become unwell and die. A fair amount of the time these thoughts are fleeting and I can work to stop them becoming an overbearing part of my life. At other times, like currently, I cannot control the flow of almost constant thoughts through my brain. I become convinced people will die and it will be my fault.

What impact do my intrusive thoughts have?

 My intrusive thoughts tend to leave me in a state of high anxiety at nearly all times. I am hyper vigilant a lot of the time. When the intrusive thoughts are at their most demanding, I feel constantly on edge. The gear pulses through my body and I am terrified. I can’t control the thoughts at this level so they are constantly rolling over and over in my mind. It is exhausting as there seems to be no off switch. 

These thoughts can lead to self harm and suicidal thoughts, as my brain tells me this is the only way to stop the bad things from happening. It can also lead to other rituals, for example, I have to keep my fingers crossed or someone will die. I can do this to the point my fingers are painful because they’ve been in that position so long. 

How can you deal with intrusive thoughts?

Coping with intrusive thoughts is tough. There is no quick solution. They are always going to be there to some extent, I have found. When my thoughts are at their worst I get and use distractions to keep them at bay. This can include colouring, origami or listening to a podcast. I also try writing. Sometimes this doesn’t work and my anxiety keeps rising, at which point I have to use PRN medication (in my case Lorazepam) to help me cope. If intrusive thoughts are really effecting you, it is worth discussing with a mental health professional or doctor as there is treatment available. You do not need to suffer.

Have you experienced intrusive thoughts? If so what has helped you? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Life Update 

This weeks blog post is a little more informal because 1. I am working on a couple of things I want to get right and 2. I’m really struggling at the moment. Therefore I thought I would just do a bit of an update of where I am at mentally. I was in two minds whether to post this after receiving some hate on Twitter but I thought this is part of my story so I should share it. Please be trigger aware when reading. 

So as I said I am really struggling at the moment with different things. One of my main issues is the voice I hear. It is more insistent than ever at the moment and is there more of the time. It is highly negative and convinced I should die in the best interests of everyone else. It is really hard to hear and I try many different distractions to shut it out. Not many are effective at the moment. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been taken off my antipsychotic medication, so where I was getting some help with the voice, I now have none. This is going to be reviewed soon though.

Hearing the voice more has also been heavily isolating for me. Because of some of what the voice has been saying, I have felt the need to withdraw from people. I know I shouldn’t do it but it is hard when the voice is telling me what a terrible person I am and how much people must hate me. People tell me this is not true but the voice is stronger, to me, and also tells me they are only saying it to be nice. This is why the voice holds so much power over me. It us stronger than me and can keep going when I am too broken to fight it.

As well as hearing the voice I have been having pretty constant suicidal thoughts. These have been quite distressing and I have come close to making plans to try again to end my life. I’m currently safe and my mental health team are aware of what’s going on. Its hard though to accept help when I feel so worthless and such a burden to everyone. I feel life would be better for everyone without me. 

I’m not sure if my suicidal thoughts are part of the Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD or BPD) or part of my depression coming back. I have however definitely noticed signs that my depression is back. Sleep is becoming a big issue for me at the moment. Not only is it taking a long time to get to sleep (a couple of hours) but my sleep is very broken and restless. It is filled with incredibly vivid dreams that are rather unpleasant. This means I have no energy when it comes to getting up, or throughout the day. Another reason I think my depression has returned is that I am back to not being able to concentrate. Reading is impossible, writing is difficult and even watching TV is hard. None of it gives me any enjoyment at the moment. 

So how am I coping? Badly is the answer. I am still self harming and it is probably the worst it has ever been. But I don’t feel I can manage without it. The urges are just too strong. 

I realise this has been quite a negative post but that is the way life is sometimes. Hopefully things will improve soon. To keep up to date you can keep in touch via Twitter too.