Hey everyone, welcome back to Surviving The Storm!
The author of today's article is written by Kaylene.B fellow Peer Mentor and Mental Health Advocate. It takes courage to speak out against health inequalities and I am honoured to host your truth.❤
The harmful effects of stigma & Borderline Personality Disorder
We all can agree that mental illness as a whole is stigmatized and misunderstood.
Every year when suicide prevention month and mental health awareness month commences, I let out an audible sigh.
Additionally plethora of mental health social media posts on instagram and twitter to encourage folks to “be kind” to everyone.
This is then followed by the national suicide prevention line phone number that I memorized as a peer support. Some of you probably witnessed or heard at some point being plastered on the media.
Though this is deemed perfectly fine and essential— there’s still this nagging voice in my head that believed that something was still not right about this.
Certain phrases and instagram posts shared by random strangers and loved ones, people I cared for deeply, felt like empty words to me. This reigns true for people with Borderline Personality Disorder otherwise known as BPD.
A mental health condition that can be lifelong, characterized by (intense) unstable interpersonal relationships, impulsive behaviors and emotion dis-regulation.
BPD, though uniquely experienced, is one of the heavily misunderstood, misdiagnosed mental health disorders . As a person with bpd myself I believe that the stigma adds to the emotional pain I already experience. Studies have shown that in an institutional level some mental health professionals have harmful views, going as far as refusing care and treatment and calling people who have bpd “abusive”, “treatment resistant” or “lack self awareness”.
Due to the lack of proper training these individuals with BPD are often gaslighted- left feeling misunderstood and unheard by mental health professionals.
Some will go as far as picking and choosing patients or dropping patients from treatment. These types of actions further fuel the symptoms of BPD, having a greater risk of suicidal ideation and attempts. In the U.S. the average rate of death by suicide for individuals who struggled with bpd is 10% while 79% reported to have a history of attempting suicide. (SAMSHA)
Going into peer work i’ve met individuals with bpd who believe systems, specifically mental health institutions fuel the misconception that there’s no help out there— that there’s no hope in reaching out. There’s people who are struggling to get the services and treatment they need, with the pandemic still in full effect it makes it harder to be in consistent contact with their providers through phone. Adding on the anxiety of the reopening of new york city, there’s this added anxiety and fear that one can be put on a waitlist or rejected is already disappointing enough.
How can mental health professionals break free from the stigma?
Here are a few qoutes from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
“ To combat the stigma associated with BPD in clinical settings, new interventions have been developed to improve mental health professionals’ attitudes towards their patients.
These interventions are typically implemented through workshops designed to:
educate and correct common misconceptions of the disorder;
teach new skills that promote positive treatment outcomes; and
encourage a deeper understanding, through social interactions and personal stories of individuals living with BPD.
One study found that a one-day professional workshop on BPD —called Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving (STEPPS)—significantly improved clinicians’ attitudes toward patients with BPD and their desire to work with them. Another study found that a similar, three-hour workshop on BPD and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) also significantly reduced stigma and increased empathy.”
Similarly, individualistically a person with BPD may experience being called emotionally abusive, manipulative or worst in interpersonal relationships. When in fact studies have shown that people with BPD are 13x more likely to report childhood trauma
“The most common form of adverse experience reported by people with BPD was physical neglect at 48.9%, followed by emotional abuse at 42.5%, physical abuse at 36.4%, sexual abuse at 32.1% and emotional neglect at 25.3%.”
Another study reports that 30-90% of BPD patients went through child abuse and/or neglect at some point in their life.
Now, this is not to disregard the people who developed BPD through other factors like biological or environmental. What I want people to understand is that in this complex mental health condition is a deep-rooted fear of abandonment.
People with BPD usually experience a heightened range of emotions throughout a short amount of time. These unpredictable intense mood swings consist of:
suicidal ideation, rage, chronic loneliness or emptiness and unhealthy guilt.
Because of these intense emotions, there’s coping mechanisms like dissociation (feeling disconnected to self and the world ) and black and white thinking, (not seeing the world through an objective or opposing lens)
During high periods of distress, I experience depersonalization (feeling disconnected / like looking at yourself from the outside and feeling unreal) and odd and or derealization.
BPD survivors also experience what is called a favourite person or FP who knowingly or unknowingly dictates their self-worth.
I range between impulsive behaviours, mood swings, unhealthy guilt, long-term loneliness, dissociation, and black and white thinking- I also had various fps (they weren’t all romantic)
This can cause those with BPD to act on impulsive behaviours such as engaging in unsafe sex, substance abuse, binging, or other self-harming behaviours.
The impulsive behaviours I struggle with is self-harm and binge eating. Some mental health professionals even describe BPD as a comorbid disorder as well.
Through an objective gaze, I can see how people view these actions as abusive or toxic but it doesn’t make the comments less hurtful to hear. In my experience, I believe everyone has the capability of being “toxic” but I believe to be truly “bad” a person is unwilling or unphased about how one treats another.
I believe personality disorders are much more complex than that. We all on some level contribute to the stigma of mental illness whether we realize it or not.
What can you do to help those living with this disorder?
patience: BPD like any other mental illness is a lifelong, bumpy journey for folks
unhelpful phrases: calling BPD survivors manipulative, abusive, too sensitive or abusive- most ppl with BPD aren’t actually out to harm you intentionally it’s usually coming from a place of hurt. Most people with BPD I’ve encountered in peer work are super regretful when it comes to certain behaviours and are afraid of being perceived as a horrible person.
We have a lot of compassion and empathy due to the stigma and abuse we might’ve gone through. In my experience, I would do everything for people to like me.
Statistically, BPD survivors are usually the ones who get harmed the most (as mentioned before)
this diagnosis does explain certain behaviours but it doesn’t excuse it (hence why it’s called a disorder)
Note to people living with BPD please know that you are:
very empathetic and caring
creative and intuitive
loving and deserving of any kind of love
you deserve to feel heard and valued by others
you might’ve made some mistakes but it doesn’t define you as a whole, you are more than those mistakes and you have the rest of your life to be in recovery.
You are allowed to start over — this does not erase your progress
Be mindful that there’s always a mental health professional that’s willing to try and there’s always gonna be at least one person you can relate with even though it feels like it’s not the case. You deserve to see that one day.
Lastly, I want BPD survivors to know that the right people will never think that you’re too sensitive, too much, or “doing things for attention” .
One day I hope you’ll be able to find your people because recovery can be super difficult and lonely.
You deserve to experience this kind of happiness one day after all the pain you’ve gone through.
Article by: Kaylene Banania, Mental Health peer support and advocate
June 17, 2021.