To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Day, I wanted to share my personal story.
If I were to tell you that I had an illness that affected only 2% of the population, which killed 1 in 10 of those who had it, what would your reaction be? And how would that reaction change when I told you that it was a mental illness known as borderline personality disorder (BPD)?
What is borderline personality disorder?
BPD is one of the most stigmatised and misunderstood mental health conditions and its devastating effect can be found in a thousand untold stories by those who live with it. It is also the mental health illness with the highest suicide rate.
Those who suffer from BPD have:
- a chronic sense of emptiness
- extreme emotional swings
- constant fear of abandonment
- persistent thoughts of self-loathing and self-harm
- unclear or shifting self-image.
My life before diagnosis
My early symptoms began before the age of six. As I got older I quickly became aware that I was not like my peers. I was always extremely emotional and the slightest negative comment by kids in school or anyone for that matter would send me into a spiral. Anxiety, fear of abandonment and emotional instability consumed me to the core. My mum just put it down to family traits and said that all the women in our family were overly sensitive. I know she was just saying this so I wouldn't panic. Deep down she felt so helpless and I would often hear her crying to herself. All she ever wanted as a mother was to take my pain away.
Muddling through my twenties, there were some highs but also some really big lows, such as toxic relationships, an eating disorder, and self-harm. About five years ago I had the courage to say enough is enough and I knew I needed help. I was fed up with the tsunami of torment and its path of destruction. I sought medical advice and it was then that I was diagnosed with BPD. I’m not a fan of labels but there was a sense of relief I had knowing there were others like me and there was help available. There is a saying ‘name it to tame it’. This could not be more true.
Support available at MoJ
Fast forward a year after my diagnosis, my mum passed away suddenly. As an only child, she was my absolute everything. If this had happened prior to my diagnosis and treatment I dread to think where I would be. The overwhelming support I received from friends and colleagues was extraordinary and I am forever grateful. We are so fortunate to have a number of staff networks across MoJ which puts such an emphasis on the wellbeing of its staff.
This brings me to the here and now
I am doing pretty well and I often forget that I have BPD. Sure some people reading this may even be surprised to find out that I have this condition. I did, however, get a stark reminder recently of the devastation it can bring. I saw a Facebook post by a close friend whose work colleague had committed suicide because he couldn't handle the torture of living with BDP. I never knew him but I can identify with the pain and helplessness he would have been feeling.
The theme for World Mental Health day is suicide and suicide prevention. Did you know that every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide? A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die, they just want to stop hurting. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts reach out for help...I did.