Warning: mentions of self-harm and suicide
Stigma surrounding mental illness can lead to devastating consequences. People have lost their jobs, been shunned by their loved ones, or abandoned. Me, being as naïve as I was, thought that stigma was mainly an issue in the general population. Silly me, thinking that doctors would be trained in treating various medical problems in an unbiased manner.
2 years ago, I was woken up by my mother one morning. She told me that my cousin and best friend (basically my sister) was in the hospital because she had attempted suicide. Fortunately, she got the help she needed. I was angry. Really angry. Not at her, of course. Angry because this was another reminder of how things could have gone for me, if the stigma wasn’t there.
Similarly, about 5 years ago, I also landed myself in the hospital. When I finally got to see a doctor, the first thing I remember was him asking general questions about my life and how I was feeling. He seemed a little rushed and abrupt, but still nice enough. I was already on edge, and feeling uneasy. I remember thinking, there are actually people dying and seriously injured and I’m wasting his time. I need to get out of here. Why am I even here?
He asked me if I had an “official diagnosis.” I told him I was diagnosed with depression… oh, and also that other thing – borderline personality disorder. The second that came out of my mouth, I knew something was wrong. I froze over as I watched his demeanor completely change. He gave me a smug smile that will unfortunately always be branded into my memory and asked, “do you agree with that diagnosis?”
Excuse me? I was completely taken off guard, I didn’t even expect being asked that. I didn’t even really know much about it. When I was initially diagnosed, I latched onto the diagnosis of depression because I knew what it was. So truthfully I didn’t know much about BPD. I didn’t even know what stigmas were associated with BPD.
When I gave him a hesitant “yes”, he began interrogating me. “Are you sure? Do you even know the symptoms of BPD? Do you agree with the diagnosis?” I just kept saying yes, hoping he’d let me go. He laughed. Then he said, “huh, that’s really funny. People with BPD usually don’t agree with their diagnosis.”
At this point I was overwhelmed and confused and I was sobbing and I kept saying to him, “why are you saying that?! What are you doing? Do you think I’m lying? What do you want me to say?”
He called me melodramatic. He downplayed my self harm scars. I felt trapped by this doctor, who seemed to want nothing more than to prove that all my problems were trivial.
I don’t even know how long I was there, but by the end I felt like I had aged. I felt a little more weary, and a lot more broken. At the end he knelt down so he was eye to eye with me, and said, “now, we aren’t going to see you back here again right?”
No. I’m not coming back next time. Next time I’m suicidal I am definitely just going to kill myself. That’s for sure.
And that’s what I really felt. The hospital was my last resort to save myself and this interaction proved that people like me, people with BPD, apparently do not deserve that treatment. Thank goodness my parents arrived. Thank goodness they are as supportive as they are. Thank goodness they acted quickly and put my mental health first. They hid away all my pills and sharp objects. They watched me day and night. I am so grateful.
After this happened, I immediately began researching more about BPD. I found so many heartbreaking posts. “Borderline Personality: The Disorder That Doctors Fear Most” published in TIME magazine. Individuals with BPD are “manipulative” or “drama queens”. They ruin the lives of everyone around them. People in relationships with them need to be saved. They are lost causes that can never be helped.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is often viewed in negative terms by mental health practitioners and the public. The disorder may have a stigma associated with it that goes beyond those associated with other mental illnesses. The stigma associated with BPD may affect how practitioners tolerate the actions, thoughts, and emotional reactions of these individuals. It may also lead to minimizing symptoms and overlooking strengths.
There has been incredible progress over reducing stigma surrounding depression and anxiety. There are a lot of people speaking out, celebrities and role models speaking out. But we don’t have that for BPD. I don’t have someone I look up to who has gone through BPD. Whenever I read on forums where people discuss relationships, do you know how disheartening it is to read comments like, “what a fucking psycho, she definitely has BPD”?
Like I said before, when I looked into my BPD diagnosis, a lot of things fell into place. I was mistreated because the doctor made assumptions about me, my motives, and my character based on the stigma surrounding BPD. These stigmas are not me. But because they exist, I was stomped on by a healthcare system that was supposed to save me.