Today I've been thinking about stigma, and how even those of us who fight it can still be vulnerable to it. In particular, I've been thinking about the stigma of Borderline Personality Disorder, and the ways in which I've bought into it without meaning to. Have you ever said, "I have BPD, but I'm not a typical Borderline", or something similar? I have, frequently. I seem to always be explaining to people that even though I have BPD, I'm not "that" kind of Borderline. Partly I want to be understood for the individual I am, rather than a stereotyped version of my disorder -- but mostly I'm trying to distance myself from everyone who is "that" kind of Borderline.
And every time I do that, I drive another nail into the stigma-coffin. Every time I say it, I may as well be screaming out that there is a "good" BPD and a "bad" BPD. There's not. There's just BPD, in varying degrees of intensity and with myriad presentations of symptoms. It's all the bad kind. It's all the good kind. It's all BPD.
Given that, maybe instead of rushing to defend myself by sticking that "bad" label on the people with different symptoms, I should quit telling people what my BPD isn't... and start talking about what my BPD is (bearing in mind, of course, that my comorbid disorders bleed into BPD and each other).
- My BPD is a lack of self stability that shows itself in an uncanny ability to unconsciously chameleon. By this, I mean that without intending to, I often change myself according to the people I'm around. This change will include everything from words and mannerisms to thoughts and even beliefs. It's never being sure of who I am, or if I really like the things I like. It's constantly wondering how others see me, and trying to create a self-view based around that, because it's the best I can do.
- My BPD is excessive self-monitoring and criticism. Everything I do comes under the deepest of scrutiny by my own mind. Was that too blunt, too subtle, too rude, too ineffective? Is that appropriate to do/say/ask? One thing is of particular concern since my diagnosis: "am I acting in a way that reinforces BPD stigma?"
- My BPD is interpersonal hypersensitivity. It's never knowing whether what I'm sensing from others is their stuff, or my own. It's misinterpreting others' emotions and needs as being my fault in almost every situation.
- My BPD is intense relationships. It's needing to be part of everything, to feel included. It's always following along, feeling like a sheep or a lost puppy. It's over-involvement in other peoples' lives until I think they're sick of me, whereupon it's backing off and hiding away.
- My BPD is a preoccupation with, and terror of, abandonment. It's weighing up constantly what I can say and do to not lose the people I love. It's always being the one to say sorry, to shoulder the weight of fixing anything that goes wrong. It's the unconscious chameleon behaviours to fit in, to belong. It's being afraid to eat in front of the people I care about until I've done it enough times to be sure I won't screw it up so badly they don't want to be around me. It's terror of my friends' friends, because there's a perception that the opinion of those peripherals will influence the opinion of the people I care about. It's needing to be part of everything, to feel included. It's being a doormat, because if I give everything I have and am, then people will maybe have reason to stay.
- My BPD is emotional hypersensitivy. It's feeling everything in an intense way - as though I'm the equivalent of a burn victim, my emotional skin gone and the nerves laid bare. It's knowing that people think I'm a drama queen because everything is so out of proportion, and still not being able to control or damp down that intensity. It's loving so strongly it wants to explode out of me, and it's hurting so deeply I can't bear the weight of my own heart.
- My BPD is difficulty recognising and managing my emotions. It's being so afraid of my own anger that I am only just beginning to feel it instead of automatically transmuting it to a different emotion. It's crying silently and fighting it the whole time, because it feels so wrong not to. It's fighting every emotion, trying to run and hide from them, and failing every time. It's being overwhelmed almost constantly because I don't even know for certain what I'm feeling.
- My BPD is an overabundance of anxiety and depression. It's everything I already covered under terror of abandonment & emotional hypersensitivy, and so much more besides. It's fear of being imperfect, fear of losing control. It's shame, and guilt, and the weight of clinical depression bearing down on my shoulders. It's fear of, and difficulty adjusting to, change.
- My BPD is impulsivity. It's acting in the moment, despite my intentions to follow a different plan. It's spending hours scrutinising myself, and then out of nowhere blurting out something utterly inappropriate. It's writing out a shopping list, then ignoring it and spending all my money on junk food and craft material instead. It's taking out something for dinner, then deciding at the last minute to eat something else, and doing it on a regular basis.
- My BPD is self destructive behaviours. Sometimes, it's suicide attempts because I don't want to be here anymore, because I'm done and I just want out. Most of the time, it's self harm, alcohol abuse, disordered eating. It's mixing uppers & downers because I know it messes with my body. It's over-eating, under-eating, and it's eating foods that will make me uncomfortable. It's giving up just when I get near to reaching my goals, and it's pressing on [emotional] sore spots. It's making decisions based on what will cause me the most amount of harm/pain, because all I really want to do is destroy myself.
My BPD is a disorder and a disability. It's not the good kind of BPD. It's not the bad kind of BPD. It's just my kind of BPD. What's your kind of BPD?