“Learn­ing I had a per­son­al­ity dis­or­der meant I could fi­nally un­der­stand my­self”

Sunday Mail - Body and Soul - - FRONT PAGE -

“From the age of 10 or 11 I wasn’t part of the ‘in’ crowd at school. I didn’t fit in, so I be­came a li­brary refugee en­grossed in books. I re­mem­ber be­com­ing very emo­tional if I felt judged or crit­i­cised, so girls would tease me. That led to bul­ly­ing, es­pe­cially in early high school.

I left school at 18 and had cler­i­cal and typ­ing jobs. The work it­self wasn’t an is­sue but re­la­tion­ships with my co-work­ers weren’t al­ways good be­cause if there was a prob­lem I found it hard to let things go. With bor­der­line per­son­al­ity dis­or­der ( BPD), let­ting things go is dif­fi­cult. If some­one says some­thing you don’t agree with, you take hold of it and it con­sumes you. I stopped work­ing when I had my chil­dren and af­ter child num­ber two I was di­ag­nosed with post­na­tal de­pres­sion. In hind­sight, I re­alise it was my BPD com­ing out. I loved my kids but car­ing for them was se­verely stress­ful and hav­ing a third child re­ally ce­mented my lack of skills.

In late 2005 I ended up in a clinic in Perth for a cou­ple of weeks. I’d be­come quite dis­tressed and med­i­ca­tion didn’t agree with me. That was where I was first di­ag­nosed with BPD, although I wasn’t told that un­til three years later when my GP showed me a let­ter from the clinic. Some peo­ple aren’t told they have BPD be­cause it can be a stig­ma­tis­ing dis­or­der. But if you don’t know what you’re suf­fer­ing from, how can you deal with it?

At the time I found out I had BPD I was un­em­ployed and de­pressed. I de­scribe the feel­ing as self­loathing, toxic shame and hav­ing no self-es­teem. You feel worth­less. But find­ing out I had BPD was fan­tas­tic news be­cause I could fi­nally put my ex­pe­ri­ences and be­hav­iour into a frame­work. I re­searched ar­ti­cles and books by psy­chi­a­trists and read per­sonal mem­oirs of peo­ple with BPD. I wanted to find out ev­ery­thing I could about what it was and about treat­ments.

I’ve spent a lot of time heal­ing my­self with yoga, mind­ful­ness, get­ting into na­ture and let­ting go of the nit­picky things in re­la­tion­ships.

I use skills such as step­ping back, ob­serv­ing my be­hav­iour and see­ing where I can put a pause be­tween my re­ac­tion to some­thing and my re­sponse to it. If some­one cuts you off when you’re driv­ing, in­stead of stick­ing your fin­ger up, you wave and wish them a happy day. Med­i­ta­tion is good be­cause it helps put the brakes on your brain so when some­thing hap­pens, you put that pause be­tween your re­ac­tion and re­sponse.

I have a ther­a­pist who’s sup­ported me for many years and I have a fan­tas­tic hus­band, Dave. BPD has given me a life ex­pe­ri­ence and the heal­ing process is a gift. Most days I wake up and I’m grate­ful to look for­ward to the day. Some days I wake up cranky but then I spend time in my head, work­ing out where that feel­ing came from and what I need to do next, and I find that most times I can let it go. I’m do­ing a psy­chol­ogy and coun­selling de­gree and I’m a peer sup­port worker in the men­tal health area. I was fed up with cler­i­cal work and went to TAFE to get a cer­tifi­cate IV in men­tal health. I found my niche in life.

I spe­cialise in BPD be­cause I’ve lived the ex­pe­ri­ence and can help peo­ple who have it to see ob­sta­cles and how to get over them. I own my BPD and talk about it in the hope that peo­ple recog­nise it and seek help. The main mis­con­cep­tion is that you can’t re­cover from BPD but with the right treat­ment you can fully re­cover. You can lead a full life.

I write a blog about BPD, I’ve pre­sented a Satur­day morn­ing ra­dio slot on the joys and hor­rors of par­ent­ing, I’ve had two books pub­lished and I en­joy bike rid­ing, bush­walk­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy. A cou­ple of years ago I climbed the Route­burn Track in New Zealand with my hus­band.

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