Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Let's talk about BORDERLINE

Sticking with the hate-theme from yesterday, today is the perfect day to discuss Borderline Personality Disorder. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) sent me an e-news alert today requesting support for a bill which would recognize BPD Awareness Month. Follow the link below to check it out for yourself.
Borderline Awareness Month

And with that simple alert, I have now experienced in just a few months THREE things I NEVER thought I'd see in my lifetime! Are you kidding me, Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month nationwide? (In case you are wondering, the first two things-I-never-thought-I'd-see have to do with a woman, a black man and the U.S. presidency.)

My shock is justified. BPD is not only one of the most misunderstood psychological diagnosis, but it is also one of the most dreaded and hated! In my time as a mental health professional and patient, I have seen this diagnosis used like a garbage can. It was routinely slapped on patients who spoke-up too much, disagreed too often, were "difficult" to deal with or simply rubbed the practitioner (myself included) the wrong way. It was, and still is used almost as a punishment. The thinking seems to go something like this: You won't do what we want you to do. You keep coming back to the hospital. You are not getting better, and I don't enjoy working with you! Therefore, you must be Borderline. OUCH! I often question whether the diagnose-er even understands the actual DSM criteria on which the diagnosis is actually based.

As a patient, and those of you who read my earliest posts know about my own diagnosis with BPD, this label essentially assures professional maltreatment at least once in your future. I, unfortunately, have several juicy, disgusting examples I could provide. Entering an emergency room for mental illness is fascinating when BPD is on your chart. Without actually having a clue, I immediately knew when the person who was treating me gained the knowledge of my past medical history. The change from concerned healthcare professional to scolding, you're-wasting-my-time parent was hard to miss. Despite psychological testing, psychiatric documentation, and even personal phone calls from several of my providers, I had a social worker who never believed I had depression at all. As far as she was concerned, I was a spoiled brat with a "serious personality disorder." That last statement was made to my tearful mother who could not understand how her despondent, almost lifeless daughter got taken to court and then stuck in a horrid state mental hospital (think One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) 200+ miles from home after a serious suicide attempt. It was the ultimate punishment the social worker could reign, and my mother and I believe she was quite proud of her accomplishment. It was a small county with no other options, and ultimately I had to move out of the county, at great personal and emotional expense, just to receive fair and compassionate care.

Fair and compassionate care is not typical for people branded with Borderline. But, when I spoke up and demanded better services, I was "being difficult" and reinforcing the diagnosis. When I could no longer fight for what I needed, I felt like the shamed puppy who piddled on the carpet, and my depression worsened. It doesn't have to be like that, but it is. Even today, after Dialectical Behavior Training and lots of practice, I still carry this diagnosis although I no longer officially qualify.
Perhaps that is one of the biggest misconceptions about BPD. It feels like a death sentence stamped on your forehead, but it's not! It is totally treatable and changeable! And it is totally within the power of the afflicted individual to cure it! I didn't know that! And unfortunately, I don't think most doctors, therapists, social workers, etc...know that! If I could get rid of my depression by learning some new skills, perfecting them with practice, and integrating them into my daily life, I would have been CURED a long time ago!! That's what I did with BPD, and I no longer suffer (yes, people with this diagnosis are suffering) from it.

Because of DBT and some hard work my life is easier today. Until I have to go to the hospital, that is, where I am still branded with BPD. They don't know me. They don't know I've changed, and it's easier to keep writing down that diagnosis and treating me "as if" than to actually sit down and properly evaluate and diagnose me. Of course they could take my psychiatrist's word for it, or my psychologist's word for it, or my social worker's word for it... ahhh, but that's a discussion for another time...

Congrats NAMI on making Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness a priority. At some point the hating has to stop and the understanding must begin.

Related post: It all started when...


Anonymous said...

You might enjoy Untreatable's blog. He's a former mental health worker and still trying to come to terms with his BPD.

etta said...

Thanks, that's great info. I will check him out!

BPD in OKC said...

I also advise borderlines to read Untreatable's blog. I follow it myself. I have my own blog that focuses on my borderline, but it's more light-hearted than Untreatable's. I try to include information about the disorder and my struggle with it.

SystemsThinker said...

I hope that BPD Awareness Month is just part of this disorder being more understood and treated with greater compassion. I'm sorry for what you've gone through with your diagnosis. I think those who have worked hard to improve that have the disorder are important examples of hope. I'm glad you write about this here.

I plan to use this month to raise awareness as much as I can. I started by writing about this on my own blog (I've linked my name to it here). Thanks for your blog!

etta said...

Thanks for the comment, SystemsThinker. Appreciate your visit and your interest in BPD. It is a nasty diagnosis, and I am hopeful that this month will actually start the process of educating others about the reality of this devastating condition.

sueke said...

Thank you so much for this. This basically describes my experience since being diagnosed with BPD.

peace love and empathy