The Newly Diagnosed Borderline
Updated: Apr 4
DISCLAMER: This article is not designed for, nor is it appropriate to self-diagnose.
I was Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) back in 2013, when I was twenty years old. At the time of my diagnosis, I was engaging in frequent risky behaviour such as serious self-harm and suicidal behaviour. I was in and out of hospital and was not leaving the house when I was home. I lived in a country town in Australia, on my own with very little support. The local hospital did not have a mental health ward, so I was just put into the medical ward when I was there and told not to leave the room.
After a long time of this pattern the mental health nurse at the hospital suggested that Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) might be something that I would find helpful. What they did not tell me was that you needed to have a diagnosis of BPD to do DBT.
I found myself participating in a screening process for DBT, BPD was not mentioned at all during the interview. I was asked many questions, every question that I responded to with a ‘yes’ I had to explain. Once we finished the screening process, I was told that I was eligible for DBT.
I attended the first DBT session only to find the term ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ mentioned carelessly multiple times. I did not know what it was, and the name did not give me much to go off of. ‘The borderline between what and what?’ After the first session I had a discussion with the facilitator that went something like this:
‘Do I need to have a BPD diagnosis in order to be here?’
‘But I haven’t been diagnosed with anything’.
‘Yes, you have'.
So now I had a diagnosis that I knew nothing about. When I got home, the first thing I did was research BPD, I figured that I would find helpful information that would increase my awareness of my illness.
Out of the first five articles/videos I looked at, four of them were full of stigma, one YouTube video even told me that people with BPD are dangerous monsters and should be shot, which is ludicrous. I found other dehumanising words like manipulative, treatment resistant, attention seeking, and impossible to treat, all of which have nothing to do with the diagnosis criteria. I even found an article written for clinicians and psychologists advising them to only take on one BPD client at a time, otherwise it would be ‘too much’ for them.
The stigma for BPD is intense and overwhelming. Borderline has been used as a slur and there is a list of stereotypical traits that are not even in the DSM-5, including: manipulative, controlling, unlovable, and Dangerous.
All of this external stigma caused me to start stigmatising myself. With every action I did, I second guessed myself. ‘Am I being manipulative?’ ‘Have I always been manipulative?' ‘Am I controlling everyone and everything?’ ‘I must be a bad person’. ‘everyone leaves me so I must be unlovable’. ‘am I dangerous? What if I am and I just don’t know it'.
These were questions that could not be answered with the information I had, and I was too scared to do further research. (There is a guide for doing research at the bottom of this article).
This halted my recovery substantially. I refused to believe that I had BPD. Every time it was mentioned it made me angry. I spiralled downward and the self-harm and suicidal behaviour just became more intense.
DBT was ridiculous because I had this stigma about all of the other participants and myself as well. I was constantly comparing myself to the others. When they said something that I did not relate to I thought, ‘ahh, see I don’t have borderline’. When they said something that I did relate to I thought it must be a coincidence, because I was clearly not borderline.
I was so observant and quiet that they started to call me Mouse. This made me self-conscious as I was only trying to gauge what I can and cannot say. The more they tried to make me talk, the more I hated being in that group. I did complete DBT, but because of the environment, it did not work.
It was not until 8 months later when I started researching BPD again that I found an article that validated my experience and how I was feeling. The stigma barriers began to fall.
The stigma from myself died down a lot over the years, but the stigma from other people did not. I found that then I went to hospital for something totally unrelated, they would look at the list of my diagnoses, see BPD, give each other the look and nod, which read as ‘whatever this person is here for, we shouldn’t take is seriously because people with BPD are ‘liars’, and ‘attention seekers’. They showed that in their behaviour towards me, and the care I received. A few times I could audibly here them mention BPD as they came across it in my file. I learnt to navigate this by ignoring the nurses, being polite, and waiting until the Dr came to tell them the issue, as Drs are more about symptoms and less about gossip.
To avoid as much stigma as I can I just do not tell people. It is between me and my Drs, simple as that.
The stigma from myself, however, I had to reframe. Ill make a list here:
Manipulation - I thought I was manipulating everyone around me. I was actually very aware of my needs and due to trauma did not know how to ask for/acquire those needs appropriately.
Attention Seeker - I thought that somehow, I was doing everything for attention without realising it. That somehow, I was calling out for help when I believed that I did not need help. I also hid the harmful behaviours I was doing to myself so that other people did NOT know about them. My actions were the exact opposite of the belief.
Dangerous - A Diagnosis does not make someone dangerous. A diagnosis does not control our behaviour, nor should we use our diagnosis as an excuse for poor behaviour.
Liar - Everyone lies to some degree. Whether avoiding the truth, not saying the truth, or exaggerating. That does not make lying ok, but it is proof that it is not linked to any diagnosis. I find myself lying to me a lot, to the point where I start to gaslight myself.
Bad person - BPD does not make you, or I, a bad person. No person in inherently bad. A diagnosis does not make anyone a bad person. Some positive traits of Borderline are: creativity, empathy, bold, intuitive, protective, and passionate.
There is no medication specifically to BPD, but there are some medications that can relieve some of the symptoms, if you are willing. Sleep aids, anxiety aids, depression aids, and skewed/black and white thinking aids, which ever symptom feels like it is controlling your life.
I highly recommend going to your GP/Family Dr and asking for a referral to see a psychologist or/and psychiatrist. They have helped me so much but you need to be willing to shop around for a good fit. You are always entitled to a second opinion, third opinion, how ever many opinions it takes to find something that works well with you. Do not settle if you get a bad feeling. That instinct should be trusted. If it does not feel right, it probably isn't.
BPD does not make you a bad person. It does not make you dangerous, manipulative, or crazy. You can get through this. More importantly receiving any diagnosis does not change who you are compared to who you were. It just gives you a place to start to grow and heal.
Finding accurate information on the internet does not have to be hard. Here are some tips.
Look up questions that require an objective viewpoint. You will yield more accurate information by asking questions like ‘What is Borderline Personality Disorder?’ and, ‘What are the criteria for borderline personality disorder?’
Use Google Scholar. This is a search engine that has all of the academic information for whatever question you ask. There will not be any opinion-based articles here. The articles are often lengthy and wordy but have great information.
Cross referencing means to look up multiple website/articles, and only rely on the information that is common among those pages. The more websites you check, the more accurate the information is.
Unless you are looking for opinions and lived experience stories, try to avoid blog sites and sites that are based off of opinion.
Look for peer reviewed articles or journals. A peer reviewed article basically means that other professionals in the same field have given it credibility by agreeing that it is of a professional and academic standard.
On YouTube, look for videos of interviews from professionals. Any person can create a video full of stigma and upload it. anyone can create a website full of stigmatised information. There should be clues in the title or description.
Research the leading psychologists, professors, psychiatrists in the field of your diagnosis. Look specifically for articles and books where those significant people have contributed to.
If you find an article that you enjoyed, understood, or related to, check the reference list for further research.
Author: Ryan Wells.