When I first started this blog I didn’t reveal what mental illness I had been diagnosed with. I left it as a kind of vague depression with self harm tendencies. I was worried about revealing that I had Borderline Personality Disorder. I was buying into the stigma that I was fighting. There was also the worry that I would be boxed in by my diagnosis.For many years I struggled with my sense of self and where my place is in the world. My place in this world is something I still struggle with but I don’t struggle so much anymore with the who I am as person. I struggle with naming positive attributes, but I know who I am. However recently I am finding that the anxiety that has become my newest BFF has plunged me back into a place of doubt.
I have found myself falling for the stigma of BPD, hook, line and sinker. I berate myself for things that I do and think that are classic borderline. I question myself before I do anything for fear that it will reveal my hand. Yet I also find myself blurting out things in the moment, giving myself ammunition for later.
The trouble with being told that you have a personality disorder is that it is easy to believe that there is something wrong with the person that you are. After all isn’t that what we are told growing up, that people will love you for your personality above all else? So what happens when it’s broken?
That’s where the doubt creeps in. I’ve been told that it’s possible to get to a place where you no longer meet the criteria for BPD. I struggle to see myself without these issues, without feeling that I need to second guess whether what I am doing is borderline.
I worry that making my feelings known will be seen as being manipulative. I hold back on telling people how I am doing because I worry that it will be seen as manipulative. I worry about the impact that all of this is having on Mr 6. I don’t want him to have these same thoughts and fears as he gets older.
I barricade myself inside my house too afraid of change. I’m a social introvert. I crave human contact, the ease of spending time with people that I like but need time to recharge. The trouble is that I have taken so long to recharge I have forgotten how to reach out. I watch others interact and wonder how I can have that too. I fear getting too close because I don’t want to be accused of being obsessive. Then I let relationships die, and it’s all lost anyway.
I’m caught in a cage all of my own making. The anxiety got so much that I have turned myself into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Do you feel defined by your illness?
Do you worry that others see you as the symptoms of your mental illness?
Flogging mah blog with Grace!
Thanks for being so honest Tegan. You really do help us to understand. You show so much strength of character through your posts. Interestingly so much of what you write here is so relatable, with or without a mental illness.
“People will love you for your personality above all else? So what happens when it’s broken?” That right there is something I’ll be thinking about all day. I think we all go through days where our “personality is broken”. It may not be ongoing, nor defined, and for the rest of us it’s probably due to circumstances we can largely control. But it happens. So having it happen without your control and more regularly must take an incredible amount of strength to get through.
This post highlights to me just how incredibly strong you seem to be.
In response to your first question “do you feel defined by your illness?” … Yes, I was defined by fibromyalgia for a long time. I felt like it was the sum total of who I was for a couple of years. But after lots of work on myself I managed to feel less disabled by my label. It was a slow process though …
Thank you for kind words. I think I feel differently disabled at the moment by my illness if that makes sense. It has manifested itself in a way that I haven’t dealt with before and so it has thrown me off balance.
Wow Tegan. Thank you for sharing. That’s the whole rotten catch of ‘mental disorders’ – the self doubt and the second-guessing. So very difficult. I suffer from anxiety which just a few years ago, I had no real idea what anxiety even was. I have kept my issue largely to myself and that works for me. I will eventually wean off my meds too as I know this will pass. So brave of you to share but so wonderful too. Well done for putting it all out there and helping countless people deal with their own issues. X
It’s definitely a rotten catch. Like Denyse said above though we just have to keep reminding ourselves that mental illness lies. Thank you for sharing your experience of anxiety with me. It means a lot that you felt you could be open here xx
That must be so restrictive and frustrating for you. Yet the fact that you are so conscious and so questioning, shows just how tough you are, as well. I don’t know what it must be like, but I learn more each time I read your posts. Thanks, Tegan xx
Thanks Amy. I try to remind myself that questioning and analysing my behaviour means that I am in a better position in some ways than I was 7-8 years ago. I just need to learn to rein it sometimes!
Tegan, thank you for opening up this conversation. I am truly in awe of your decision to come back to the blogging world and tell us how it has actually been for you. So, about labels. I am a ‘believer’ in labels if they help us understand and acknowledge conditions which we may have. That is it. The labels however must not (or may not) define us as humans. We all have aspects of genetic heritage we cannot deny (personality, eye colour, hair type, gender) but we also have aspects within those which we can choose to work with and to modify. I’ve been challenged over the past 2 years or so thanks to my life’s transitions into retirement, leaving our family and home behind etc and these challenges saw me (and still do to a lesser degree) have bouts of intense sadness, grief-like feelings and anxious times. However, what I have learned is that I do not need to be defined by these and that over time I have seen and experienced improvement. In fact, what I would like to tell you, as I found out & am finding out is that “anxiety and depression” tell us LIES. We need to recognise that when thoughts affect us and and challenge our well-being and recovery. I am so pleased you are sharing now. Keep on blogging!! Denyse x
Thank you for your kind words Denyse.
I don’t know enough about all this, but surely being aware of what you’re doing (the caging yourself in) is half the battle? Can’t you then see what you can do that at least opens the cage door? (You can roll your eyes at my ignorance, but know that it’s well intentioned 🙂
I think for me the biggest battle is convincing myself that most of the fears are all in my head. You are right though that acknowledging the issue is half the battle.
Thank you for writing this, because in a way, it answers a question I have thought (but never been sure of the right way to talk about it). Does a name (or diagnosis, or awareness campaign) actually increase risk stereotypical behavior?
For example, I never knew there was stigma about anxiety until there were public health campaigns telling me not to have a stigma about it.
My thoughts used to be “Oh yeah, some people have illnesses (physical and mental). So what’s for lunch?”
Now they are “Oh, some people have illnesses. Some people are strangely annoyed that other people (usually strangers) have illnesses. Why are people such douchebags? So what’s for lunch?”
At the same time, my husband’s old GP said he wouldn’t give a name to what might be wrong with him because then “people just give up”. I mean, the issues I have with that are more surrounding the (lack of) ethics of withholding information from your patient than “falling for” the stigmas or stereotypes of a condition.
“I worry that making my feelings known will be seen as being manipulative.”
I think this is where skill comes in. Talking about to the person on the street…yeah. Society doesn’t talk about or understand mental illness very well (myself included). But I think your mental health support team would understand because you are balancing the condition that you live with as well as the prospects for your long term health care. They are two separate things on paper, but in reality they intersect to a degree that is impossible to untie.
I think it depends on how the campaign is handled as to whether it can increase stigma or not. I think most campaigns though work on showing people that their first ideas or what they see in the movies isn’t a real representation of mental illness in the community. I know that some medical staff are hesitant to tell patients what their diagnosis is because they don’t want them attaching themselves to a label. They are also hesitant for Borderline in particular because it has such a bad rap in the medical community. It is seen by many as unfixable. The trouble with not fixing on a diagnosis though is that you become ineligible for a lot of medication unless a Dr is willing to fudge your information to gain an authority number. A lot of medication on the PBS is on subsidised if a patient is diagnosed with a specific condition.
I love the way you have written this post and honesty of your words. Mental illness is growing and more people are now pending up and admitting they struggle. You can get away from everything in life but unfortunately you can never get away from your own mind. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for reading x
Thanks for sharing yourself with us through your well written words. Sometimes it’s just a bitch isn’t it? Life isn’t a linear progression where things improve in predictable increments……I was foolish enough once to think that’s how it should go. I hope that you continue to write and that you have a network for yourself of people and professionals that can help when needed.