Saturday, 20 April 2013

The BIG Borderline Stigma Rant

Yesterday, a very good friend of mine from the ward went to A&E after a cut they'd stitched had opened back up when the stitches were removed. When handing the case over to plastic surgeons, the A&E Doctor called it 'a classic Borderline self-harm cut.' Then when a nurse came to tell my friend she'd have to wait a week to see plastics, she saw the wound and she called them herself. The surgical Doctor told my friend that the cut should never have been referred to like that and apologised profusely for the other Doctors words. My friend asked me to do a blog post to get this out there. We Borderline Personality Disorder sufferers (or Borderlines) are often stigmatised against because of the various rumours and traits that surround BPD.
I have personally received a lot of 'jip' around the stigma but I believe the majority of it was more because I couldn't find the words or the understanding to know why I would do the things I did. And if I didn't understand, then how would anyone else? The thing is, I learnt by myself that I would overdose in response to the voices then when I'd taken enough pills they'd quieten and since I wasn't suicidal (the majority of the time) I would get help and then the voices would begin getting loud again during treatment and I would need to stop it. But the medical professional just saw a young girl, with not a thing wrong in her life at present, overdosing, going to A&E then running away. Attention seeking. I can't blame them for assuming this because I understand that's what it looked like and once I could explain why I would do what I would, an Advanced Statement was put in place to prevent me ever being treat like 'just' an attention seeker. I think, the worst treatment I've had has been from police. I've been called a 'spoilt cow,' I've been asked why I like attention so much (to which I replied 'why do I have a diagnosis?) and have been labelled a time-waster. On one occasion, I was found by police after running away and overdosing and they sectioned me under the police holding section of 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. At the medical hospital I needed treatment for the overdose and the police decided that rather than transfer my care to the hospital, they'd stay with me for the twenty hour long treatment as if I ran away they'd have to alert all police so they believed it to be easier to just sit two with me for the night and day. I repeatedly tried to explain to them that I wouldn't be sectioned as it was in my community team's plan to try to avoid admissions. At my Mental Health Act Assessment, I wasn't sectioned and so the police arrested me for 'wasting police time' and I was fined £80.
The thing is, with BPD, the condition in itself, means sufferers find it difficult to name their feelings and emotions but this is no excuse for others to just assume what they may be. I've heard patients say they don't want to leave hospital; this doesn't mean they like it or enjoy it, it doesn't mean they're attention seekers - it can mean they're institutionalized or that they feel safer in this setting. I've heard girls say they don't want to get better but that doesn't mean they like being ill; it could be because it's all they feel like they know, they're used to it, it could be because they feel more supported when they're poorly. Also, the people who express these feelings and thoughts are not the entirety of BPD sufferers; but someone experiences a BPD sufferer and they assume we're all the same because we all have the diagnosis. The girl I'm closest to in here (who asked me to write this) has done things I've done but for completely different reasons. On the surface we might appear similar but if you ask us questions you'll hear we're  not at all. Do people bother to ask Borderlines questions? No, not always. They hear what we say and they assume that's all there is to it. It's not. We Borderline go very deep, and the things we say are said sometimes, with very little understanding. Some say Borderlines are hard to understand? Well, we can't understand things half the time either and we have the bloody disorder!
Instances when the stigma is shown are also detrimental to our mental health;  having negative assumptions made of you, leaves you feeling not only misunderstood but lonely and unsupported. On one occasion, I decided to make more of an effort in calling the professionals before I did something so I called my local CRHT (Crisis Resolution Home Treatment Team) with tablets in my hand and when they advised me to paint my nails to distract myself I hung up and swallowed the pills. I'd told them my nails were already painted. My point is, feeling like no one can or wants to help can be the beginning of something very bad; considering Borderlines self-harm and are widely known for their suicide attempts it's not helpful to make a sufferer feel so low and alone. It's not helpful to make someone without such a condition feel alone and just because we have the BPD diagnosis does not stop us being human; in fact, we feel emotions a lot stronger than those without the diagnosis, so inflicting negative emotions on us is particularly not a good idea.

‘… 1 in 20 people cannot be written off as faulty human beings, suffer great distress and anguish, and yet be undeserving of suitable mental health services…’ – Dr. Rex Haigh MRCPsych, Voices Beyond the Border, Living with Borderline Personality Disorder


This post is dedicated to CS; my life-long buddy.