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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Breaking down the stigma (2006)

I am blogging against the stigma attached to mental illness. That means I'm gonna talk about it and I'm not going to be ashamed.

-I do not change when I tell you what I have.
-I am not being 'manipulative' or 'attention seeking' when I cut myself. I am looking for a release and it's a private thing that has nothing to do with anyone else except me and my brain (and the problems in my brain).
-I get triggered and freak out either by crying continually or by not getting out of bed for a week.
-I don't want your pity.
-I don't want you using my ill mental health to explain my behaviours. Yes they are informed and in large ways affected my my post traumatic stress disorder and the traumas in my past, but I'm working on it. I'm getting better and in small ways am becoming more in control of my life.
-My house is a disaster area because I can't bring myself to bathe normally let alone clean, and on those weeks when I am feeling energetic enough to finally clean my dishes or do my laundry I'll probably avoid cleaning my house since that is also the time I have enough energy to go and be social.
-I am not crazy and I am not someone you should suddenly be scared of when you find out I'm on disability. I'm also sick of being ashamed of it.
-SInce my breakdown I have not been able to concentrate on reading or anything except numbers which is why I chose my current major (we PTSD/Borderlines are awesome in that we have tried and done so many different things in our lives due to our quick boredom and inability to stay with one thing for long)
-Think that this is hard for you? How do you think it is for me?

Depending on who you talk to I have Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or I have Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Borderline tendancies. (But I should point out some people in the psychology profession believe BPD to be a manifestation of severe PTSD. Seeing as how approximately 75% of people diagnosed as Borderline were abused as children (physically or sexually) this makes sense and is a belief that I, personally, ascribe to and will write intermingling both as I do believe that they are closley related, at least in my case. Remember: I do not speak for all borderline sufferers.)

Whichever it is, and the government that gives me my monthly stipend through SSI-Disability has on record both diagnoses. My wonderful radical feminist psychologist refuses to diagnose me as Borderline because if I get that dignosis there are therapists who would refuse to work with me, simply because of the stigma attached to BPD. But my psychiatrist and the psychiatrist that did my SSI interview both wrote down Borderline, so I guess I'm stuck. But if therapists are afraid of us what do other people think when they hear that we have a personality disorder? Much less borderline, which is not talked about at all.

WHat we may behave like (symptoms):
  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  • Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
  • Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
Now reading it like that it sounds really scary, I know, but I and most people with BPD that I know are not. We actually can be quite charming and wonderful. And with most illnesses we are not like this all the time. I am borderline (in one way or another) but I am very mildly borderline. I've never gotten to explain the 'mild' part to people. They're usually all ready judging me as a crazy person. I mean yes, I have issues that I deal with everyday because of this, but I can usually convince myself that my friends love me when they're not around, And that took awhile to get through my head. I am the first to admit I can be a handful, especially because my borderline tendancies come out when I'm romantically involved with someone (awesome). But I am aware of them and will do whatever I have to to hold that in and not harm the other person (i.e. if I'm angry/irratible for no (apparent) reason then I'll stay home or I'll hide my cutting from the people around me.)

Look we all have some of these issues in varying degrees. So my response to traumatic stress of my childhood made it harder for me to deal with issues, but it shouldn't matter. SOmeone who has a mental disorder should never be treated the way that we are. We're not monsters, we just have issues that affect our entire life. Like you don't have any of your own. We may not be able to control our emotions or our moods as easily as others, but that by no means makes us terrifying, scary people. We're the same people you liked before you knew. I tell people about my PTSD and Borderline to let them know that I may act strangely and that it has no bearing on them. It's just how I react to stress and generally I've been triggered by something in the first place. I'm trying to be nice, not freak you out or scare you away. When you do get fresked out and scared because of it it is not my fault but your inability to see past the stigma of mental illness. Shame on you, not me.

Some facts to ponder: (From here.)
  • Borderline personality disorder is also known as emotional regulation disorder (ERD).¹
  • 2% of adults have this disorder. (There are more of us out there then there are people who are either bipolar or schizophrenic. And some estimates put the number as high as 10-14%!)
  • 69% to 75% exhibit self-destructive behaviors such as self-mutilation, chemical dependency, eating disorders and suicide attempts. (which is one of the 'hallmarks' of BPD)
  • 8 - 10% die by suicide usually due to lack of impulse control over depression.
  • Successful suicide rate doubles with a history of self-destructive behaviors and suicide attempts.
  • 50% experience Clinical Depression
  • Approximately 25% of those with ERD also meet the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder. (I believe this number should be higher given the next stat)
  • Between 40% and 71% of ERD patients report having been sexually abused, usually by a non-caregiver. (There are estimates that 75% of people with BPD were either sexually or physically (me) abused as kids, thereby making me think that PTSD and BPD may be closer related then presently thought.)
  • Diagnosed more often in females - approximately 75%.
  • ERD has received very little attention and funding by our nation's health care system. (could this be because it affects more women?)
  • Most clinicians are either mis-educated or under-educated about ERD and appropriate treatment. Thus people continue to suffer.
  • Cause of ERD is unclear but it appears to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. More research is needed.
  • ERD is highly stigmatized in the world.
  • Many clinicians refuse to treat ERD.
  • ERD is virtually unknown to the public. (well let's work on this last one shall we)

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