I don't know much about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), but Sara was recently diagnosed with the disorder. So, armed with internet access and a book I just bought called Stop Walking on Eggshells, I must set out on a journey of learning. (The book is one that a friend of Sara's recommended to her, so I figure it will be a good starting point.)
Sara's BPD is not on the extreme end of the scale (thankfully!!) but she does have almost all of the nine symptoms in varying degrees. She is fine with me sharing this, by the way. Some people have physical diseases, like cancer, others have mental disorders, like ADD and BPD. Although in spite of our society's progressive attitudes in other areas, there still seems to be quite a stigma attached to mental illness. Sara and I feel that the more openly people share their stories and talk about mental health, the better. As noted in the Eggshells book, we need some celebrities to come forward with their stories, as happened with AIDS and cancer, to bring mental health to the forefront of our collective conscience! Apparently there are still some clinicians who dismiss it as a catch-all instead of a true disorder, although I gather this is changing as more is understood about BPD. Somewhere I read that BPD is now the most researched of all mental illnesses, and that the incidence of BPD is higher than that of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder...and yet we rarely hear of BPD, except in very vague terms or in passing through movies like Girl, Interrupted. (Which movie I highly recommend, by the way, although it doesn't really shed any light on BPD itself. There's an excellent and insightful line near the end: "Crazy isn't about being broken, or swallowing a dark secret. It's you, or me, amplified...")
In terms of speaking out and bringing mental illness out of the shadows, I found a website called Emerging Into Light, which is "a place dedicated to celebrating resilience and recovery. Our place to celebrate victories, share sorrows and honour heroes.":
"Emerging Into Light focuses on inclusion of people who have mental illness as part of our community Rather than focus on the implied negative message, of "anti-stigma", People who have been affected by mental disorders are encouraged to share and celebrate their stories and struggles. The Emerging into Light symbol speaks to the public about recovery and resilience. We are united behind a symbol that says our struggle is important, far from over and needs to be publicly recognized."
I will certainly be reading some of the stories and poems shared on this website, and hope others will as well so we can enhance our understanding of mental illness from the perspective of those living with it every day. Together we can grow into an inclusive and embracing community. We are all children of the light!
For more information on BPD specifically, the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder has this summary on their website:
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious and often life-threatening disorder that is characterized by severe emotional pain and difficulties managing emotions. The problems associated with BPD include impulsivity (including suicidality and self-harm), severe negative emotion such as anger and/or shame, chaotic relationships, an extreme fear of abandonment, and accompanying difficulties maintaining a stable and accepting sense of self. Thus, BPD is characterized by pervasive instability of mood, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and actions, often negatively affecting loved ones, family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual's sense of self-identity.
There are many other websites with information, including the esteemed Mayo Clinic. The Edmonton region of the Canadian Mental Health Association has a great factsheet here. And the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) also has a succinct fact sheet here.
As for how BPD touches my family's life...not that I wish BPD on anyone, but it is a relief for Sara to be finally diagnosed with something specific. Now she can move forward and get the proper treatment. Unfortunately, the treatment for BPD is dialectical behavior therapy, not medication. And my impression of this treatment is that it will be a long, probably at times draining and difficult, journey of psychotherapy. Although her ADD medication and her mood stabilizer do provide some relief to the wild mood swings and other symptoms, and enable her to focus on school work, etc. What makes me angry is that we are told there is only one psychiatric professional in Nova Scotia who specializes in BPD therapy...and he has a two year waiting list!! What is wrong with our health care system? The health care professionals are wonderful, but the system itself sucks! It has taken Sara two years to be properly diagnosed in the first place, and now she might have to wait another two years to even begin treatment?? Hopefully not that long though. Her current psychiatrist is trying to find someone else with experience in dialectic behaviour therapy. (I will no doubt share more about it on my blog as I myself learn what it entails and involves.)
Good thing Sara is such an amazing and strong young woman so she is not defeated by our mess of a mental health medical system. I am so proud of her!! ♥