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