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When Your Identity Is Built Around An Illness, You Can’t Help But Ask Yourself: Am I Crazy?

Mental health is wealth, especially during Mental Health Awareness Month, which is celebrated in May. The stigma around mental health and treatment has long been a thing, especially in the Black community.

Although this has started to change, people hesitate to seek help or even talk about it with their loved ones for fear of being judged and facing unnecessary backlash. Basic logic dictates that if we are hurt anywhere, in any way, we gotta seek treatment to get better. This applies to both our mental and physical well-being. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In light of that, I thought it would be a good idea to be transparent about my own mental health “issues.”

In 2016, I was diagnosed with BPD, otherwise known as Borderline Personality Disorder. Since then I have (for the most part) been able to have a better understanding of why I feel the way I do in certain situations. I’ve even been able to adjust the way I normally would respond in those situations.

Before we get into all that, I should probably explain what borderline personality disorder is. BPD is often stigmatized and it’s definitely a misunderstood condition. My second doctor told me that it can develop as a coping mechanism when a kid is severely abandoned physically or emotionally.

Borderline personality disorder is characterized by impulsivity, difficulty regulating emotions, and issues maintaining lasting interpersonal relationships. 

A lot of BPD stigma stems from the fact that its symptoms aren’t as acceptable as people would like them to be. They exceed the limits of a lot of people’s sympathy and compassion for mental illness. 

When I was diagnosed, I started going to 1 on 1 therapy sessions to help myself sort out some things. I found it to be ineffective in the beginning. In fact, I was annoyed by it more than anything. Often times, she wouldn’t even refer to what I was experiencing as a mental illness. So, for me, speaking with any individual at times would seem pointless, because I felt like they had no way of completely understanding what I am going through. Regardless of their training.

In fact, sometimes, I still find it very difficult to talk to anybody one on one because people tend invalidate your feelings, whether they mean to or not.

After several sessions my therapist suggested that I try group therapy, and that’s when I, started to discover avenues to treat myself, so to speak.

It’s important to note that everyone with BPD, and the way they cope with situations vary with the individual. I learned that from going to group therapy sessions. Sitting in a room with a bunch of people who supposedly share the same mental disorder as you is eye opening to say the least. Eye opening for me anyway.

I’m not exactly sure when or how I developed BPD. I never really dealt with abandonment, so that wasn’t an issue for me; at least I didn’t think it was. Then, looking back on nearly all of my most memorable personal relationships, I would either sabotage, or abandon. Perhaps that was my way of dealing with any fear of abandonment; I don’t know.

When my mother died, that’s when everything amplified and spiraled out of control for me from a mental standpoint. I didn’t feel like she abandoned me, but losing her gave me the feeling that there is nobody on the planet I would ever miss more than I was, and still am missing her. Fear of losing anyone less than she, just doesn’t feel possible.

Sometimes I struggle with regulating my emotions, both negative and positive too for that matter.

At times, things that would seem small to most people are amplified by ten for people with BPD, and I’m no different with regard to that. That in and of itself bothers me, because no matter how much I put forth the effort, there are times when I cannot control it.

One of the reasons it is so difficult for people with BPD to maintain personal, and sometimes certain business relationships is, the people closest to you can only take so much; especially if they don’t know anything about BPD, much less know that you have it. You have to know not to expect people to stick around and “deal with your shit.” It takes a special connection for it to work. Thats the great dilemma for most. You have a fear of abandonment but also do things that may push people away.

It affects all of my actions, interactions, and relationships. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can separate myself from it, as it also affects my ability to create. For me that is definitely a problem because I rely heavily on my creativity and cannot afford to be occupied with anything that may hinder my creative process.

BPD comes with “baggage”, such as moments of high anxiety, severe depression, wanting to harm yourself, and moments when you feel like the people in your life as well as the rest of the world are better off without you in it.

Personally, my best tool is my spirituality, and my connection with my ancestors. They help to get my mind right (for lack of a better phrase), as well as sort out the ways in how I respond to situations and people. I won’t get too deep into that. Perhaps I’ll save that story for another article.

I will say that I’ve always been blessed with self-awareness. That allows me to sometimes see situations coming that I know will set me off, and I am able to remove myself before anything goes left.

At the end of the day for me, borderline personality disorder comes down to self worth, and self love. I know that it is a lot harder to put into practice than it is saying it but, when you master valuing and loving yourself, you can manage; at least I can.

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