There was recently a documentary on Channel 5 called 12 Years Old and Caring for Mum: Through A Child's Eyes. It was basically a programme about three young people (aged 11-13) who care for their Mum's, each of whom have a variety of disabilities. One of the girls describes her Mum as having a poorly head at the beginning and then during the programme, she is diagnosed as having Bipolar type II and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Her daughter asks her about these and whether her Mum could get better and this was her reply:
"There is no cure for Borderline Personality Disorder; that's just it. That is what you are. That is what you've got. But with therapy, it's meant to make life easier rather than harder. But urm, yeah. I'm not guna be normal for a long time."
Naturally, as a person diagnosed with BPD, I was a little disheartened at this for a number of reasons.
So, let me pick apart this statement, starting with the 'no cure' part. Personally, I see this as implying that you will live with it for the rest of your life. And this isn't the case necessarily the case. Although there are no age limits on being diagnosed with the disorder it is mostly seen to begin in adolescence and progress through adulthood and although the statistics aren't amazing it certainly isn't a death sentence; as is commonly thought. It's thought that between 60 an 70% of those with BPD will attempt suicide, but for most, the outlook is generally good, over time, with most doing well and experiencing improvement in their symptoms. Over half of those diagnosed with BPD, become completely free of symptoms and find themselves able to function well in life.
Next? 'What you are.' BPD does not define you. There is difference however, in not being ashamed of the label and not having it rule your life. For example, I have a lot of followers on Twitter who use 'BPD' in their username and screen name and more often, in their bio. This isn't as a label on themselves so much, it's more about ensuring their followers have some sort of mutual understanding and interest. Personally, I'm not ashamed to say I have a diagnosis of BPD, but it won't be the first thing I'd tell new people. So long as you don't want others to define you by your BPD, then you mustn't do it to yourself.
Now, therapy. Therapy isn't the only treatment option for BPD. Medication can help, there are a vast range of therapies available with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) being the preference for treating someone with BPD and even hospitalisation. I've had a mixture of all of these as well as trauma psychology. I think that it's hard to see a 'cure' for BPD as it's not a set in stone prescription. If you get a headache, you take paracetamol. There's no rule as to what treatment you should be given once diagnosed and it can take a different mixture for different people.
Finally, normal? Pah!
As I've wrote this post, I've had a bit more of a think about the personal circumstances of the lady who made the statement. She was literally saying it straight after being diagnosed and after going through years of numerous professionals and medications with no diagnosis in sight. And truth be told, if I think back to when I was first diagnosed, I probably would've made the exact same statement, if asked. So, in the remote possibility that the lady might be reading this (or even anyone who's newly diagnosed or who agrees with the statement), have faith. And hope. I've gone from being so suicidal I had to be on life support to receive life saving treatment for my self-harm, to being excited for my future, able to guarantee my safety and feeling stronger and more robust than ever! If you've gone through years of hopelessness then it's natural to remain pessimistic for some time even after a diagnosis; just don't allow yourself to feel this way forever. There's light at the end of the tunnel.
[note: this episode of the show is no longer being screened on TV but you can watch it online here]