I stumbled across BPD Orchid's mini Blog Post Series on Twitter and after reading it I thought it'd been a fantastic idea and so I asked for a Guest Post to tell all of my lovely readers about it
The antidote to shame, affirms Brene Brown in her Ted Talk on 'the power of vulnerability’, is empathy. Telling our story can reveal parts of ourselves that we might often hide. Yet, casting our experiences into words and having a person not only listen to, but also accept, our experiences, can be empowering. For me, sharing my story with supportive people has enabled me to release some of the shame I carry inside me about my mental health.
Just before my finals at university in 2014, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Being diagnosed was as if I had finally been given a signpost amidst a scary, confusing and lonely landscape of emotional experiences. In the strange weeks and months that followed my diagnosis, I started BPD Orchid, in the form of a blog and Twitter.
BPD Orchid became my place for sharing my mental health story- a story that I keep half-secret due to my fear of judgement. For the first time, I began the two way process of relating to others and- to my surprise- having others relate to me. The empathy towards BPD that I experienced online enabled me to release some of the shame I carried around for having BPD. Furthermore, it gave me the confidence to open up about my experiences to trusted people in my life.
Sharing my story has made me realise just how difficult I have been finding it to accept what I’ve been through. My blog documents how tricky it is for me to reconcile all parts of myself and all aspects of my life with my Borderline Personality Disorder. Oscillating between immense joy and suicidal despair is hard to reconcile within myself sometimes. Noticing this difficulty has made it clear what I really want to work towards: acceptance. Acceptance of all parts of myself, BPD included. Starting therapy again recently means that I can unfold more and more of my story corner by corner; in other words, I'm beginning to piece things together in order to make sense of myself and my experiences.
As I began to look more closely at empathy, shame and acceptance in therapy, I realised that the time had come for me to examine my experiences of mental health services on my blog. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy; there have been times when I have tried to disconnected myself from my own experiences, even asking others ‘was I myself?’ and thinking ‘that can’t be me’.
I’ve written a series of three blog posts which attempt to make sense of how my sense of shame is tied up to misconceptions and prejudices within mental health services. The first in the series discusses how a psychiatrist told me that ‘it’s better not to write your diagnosis of BPD in your notes’. I expect she was trying to protect me from the stigma she knew was rife within her profession. By saying this, however, she arguably colluded with that stigma and emitted the message to me that BPD should be kept secret, even between professionals. This instilled a sense of shame within me which I now need to unravel.
The second post, ‘Leave or I will call the police’, recounts the time when I was sent to A&E by my GP because I was suicidal, only to be humiliated and treated with hostility, before being told the police would be called if I didn’t leave. My third post in the series details two phone calls with a therapy organisation, one in which I disclosed BPD and the other in which I didn’t.
My posts have been noted by others as reflecting their own experiences; many have expressed relief due to feeling less alone. Others, like me, have expressed anger at the injustice of their experiences with mental health services and professionals. My Twitter has been a hive of debate around the astounding difficulty in accessing NHS mental services, and, if even offered a referral to mental health services, the often problematic nature of having a diagnosis of BPD within these services. Problems that people have shared following my series include discrimination, negative attitudes towards BPD, being offered no therapeutic support, judgemental staff, and being in wards hundreds of miles from home.
Whilst some people receive excellent, tailored and compassionate care, far too many others do not. Immaculate and unhelpful stigma surrounds BPD in many settings and instances; in some cases, this stigma is so smothering that a person’s BPD feeds off it, creating shame and isolation. The following is obvious to those who live with BPD, and their loved ones: the government must invest more in mental health services, including specialist services for those with BPD. People with BPD are all too often inaccurately judged as 'manipulative’, 'hard to reach' or 'difficult’. Therefore, mental health services must do more to educate their professionals. People with BPD are amongst the most compassionate, empathetic and imaginative people out there, and more mental health professionals would do well to recognise that.
You can read my series, and more of my experiences of BPD, on at www.bpdorchid.blogspot.co.uk and share with me on Twitter @bpd_orchid. Thank you so much to Aimee for inviting me to contribute a guest post to her inspiring blog.Aimee’s blog has inspired me and I wish her every success.