I have asked my colleague Elizabeth Bogod to provide the material for this post by relaying her story. Elizabeth has taken up a tireless fight to bring the issues involved with being labeled “Borderline Personality Disorder” to the forefront. Not only does she help to educate people about the stigmas associated with this disorder she aims to help those who struggle with BPD by providing peer support. We are very lucky to have her in our Progressive Recovery Group.
Here is Elizabeth’s story:
Don’t Call Me Borderline!
This was my initial reaction when I first learned that I have commonly misunderstood mental illness called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Unlike, Depression, Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder few people have heard of my illness and it is only just beginning to come into the light as far as advocacy and awareness are concerned.
I am among the many millions of people with this disorder (2-3% of the population). Like Schizophrenia, BPD is a devastating mental illness and is usually diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood. In my case, it struck very young, probably around puberty, but I was not diagnosed until twenty six years of age. For more than ten years of my life I struggled to get well. It has only been in the last four years that I have found true health and wellbeing. I am doing wonderful now!
There were many times when I honestly thought I would never get better – I gave up hope. I became suicidal. I seriously attempted suicide nine times. These attempts were serious, yet impulsive acts and extremely hard on my family who never knew if they would come home to find me dead or alive. This was before treatment was available in my community.
During my illness, I suffered from typical BPD symptoms. I had great difficulty regulating my emotions (especially in relationships with others). I was very impulsive and self-destructive. I engaged in self-injury where I cut or burned my skin to get a sense of relief from emotional pain. I had uncontrollable bouts of rage either aimed at myself or others. I lost a lot of friends during this period and my family did not know how to help me although they tried their best to be emotionally supportive. I also experienced severe depression and feelings of being completely empty. I felt like a burn victim – my skin so raw I lacked the “emotional skin” to cope with, what others would consider the normal everyday trials and tribulations of life. At times, I did not know who the person looking back at me in the mirror really was – I thought I was a bad, evil and despicable person although I had never committed a crime and by many accounts was a caring, thoughtful and highly-sensitive individual. At other times, I dissociated from reality. I felt numb or unable to feel. For prolonged periods of time, everything around me looked and felt fake. On one day, I remember multi-coloured fall leaves blowing by that looked like plastic – nature was ugly and lacked any meaning or beauty. I felt as if I was living in a doll house where nothing around me was real.
I went to Toronto in search of treatment that I could not find in BC at the time. Unfortunately, although I got on the waiting list for Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, I never got into the program despite waiting nine months. In the end, I ended up homeless and lost in the shelter system unable to find treatment. Finally, my living situation became so unbearable it was impossible for me to continue waiting. I decided to come home where my parents were living with stable housing.
But, I am no longer my illness. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, team-member, facilitator, artist, writer, public speaker, a volunteer, a passionate person, a caring person, a nature lover (I see beauty again!), a animal lover, a cockatiel owner, an advocate, a spiritual person, an avid novel reader, a bell collector, a person who knows me well… I am Elizabeth Charlotte Bogod.