I found out my diagnosis at the age of 20 whilst reading my psychiatric notes. I’d applied to read them since I’d been under psychiatric care since the age of 16 and curiosity had gotten the better of me. And there it was on nearly every page, and on every letter and every piece of correspondence to the GP or to doctors at A&E. In big black letters - Borderline Personality Disorder. My head was swimming with questions, I was outraged, and I was absolutely sure that was not me. Firstly, why had no one told me?! I knew they didn’t like to diagnosis BPD before adolescence was over, but not one single professional had discussed this with me. And I’d seen many by that point and I’d already had my first inpatient stay on one of the Wards.

I only knew about BPD because I’d read snippets about it in books about self harm. I was a cutter, I cut myself from the age of 15 to 28. And those snippets I read weren’t pleasant. People with BPD were apparently attention seeking, manipulative and needy. They were complex, and many professionals refused to work with patients who had a BPD diagnosis.
My symptoms were complex, but I knew I was never knowingly manipulative.
I eventually came to terms with the fact that I did fit enough of the traits for a BPD diagnosis. Although my lovely psychologist at the time made sure to remind me that she felt my symptoms were more post traumatic stress than BPD. Which makes a lot of sense. The majority of people diagnosed with BPD have had traumatic childhoods, with very unhealthy/and or abusive adult attachments in their early years. That had all added up.
I was one of the lucky ones, I started treatment early. And the treatment was there back then. My psychologist kept me on for four years, and even though my life continued to be a constant chaotic pattern. Small changes were being made, she was helping me deal with a lot of the trauma that went on in my childhood using therapies like EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) DBT and just being there. There were short admissions to the ward and many trips to A&E to get stitched up. The stigma in A&E from staff was horrendous at times but there was a few rare gems who got to know the real me. And then there was the darker times when I really truly felt I couldn’t go on. I take all the prescribed medication, and then quickly realise I didn’t want to die. More trips to A&E. There were 13 recorded overdoses. A short addiction to co-codamol which was just another way of escaping what was going on in my head. And another form of self harming. My twenties were spent pushing to get better but also the constant self sabotage.

The stigma in A&E from staff was horrendous at times but there was a few rare gems who got to know the real me.
— Helen

I was also diagnosed with bulimia, and lost a lot of weight in my early twenties. Being called fat, and having constant remarks about your weight everyday from a parent is bound to effect you. And I remember clearly obsessing over buying laxatives as young as 14.
My psychiatrist tried very hard with me, and I tried hard too. We tried different medication. We even tried Lithium and antipsychotics even though I’d never had psychosis. I think we were both clutching at straws hoping something would help.

I had more dark thoughts about chopping my fingers off in a blender (I tried it, it didn’t work) I also wanted to chop my left arm off too. Thinking back to those times makes me feel really sad, sad to think that I hated myself so much. I had no respect for myself or my body. And I felt like I had no hope and nothing to live for. After several deep self harm wounds I had to have surgery to repair muscle and tendon. And surgeons warned me “you could bleed out” “you could lose your arm” I didn’t care, I really didn’t care at all.

It wasn’t until 2009, we found my last resort. I was seen by a psychotherapist. There was an outpatient NHS therapeutic community here in Aberdeen. It was an intense 3 full day group therapy.  And it was mainly for people with personality disorder, mostly Borderline Personality Disorder.
I knew it was my last resort, but it was tough going. I finally started really learning about myself and why I did the things I did. I learned about self sabotage, I took personal responsibility. And I put in the hard work. And I started to see the results, not at first but eventually I started to see how far I had come.
The TC closed down due to lack of funding less than year after I started. Us patients and staff were equally devastated. And I could’ve quickly gone down hill again. I did have a short wobble but because I was armed with tools to manage my illness and I continued with one of the therapists I coped. In fact, I more than coped I thrived.
Within a few months I was pregnant with my daughter. Something I thought I’d never have. Because BPD had stolen university, a career, relationships and friendships. I never believed I’d have a life, never mind be a mum.
Two months after my daughter was born I was discharged from psychiatric services, I no longer had enough traits to fit the diagnosis.

The thing is now there is very little out there in regards for treatment for people who have a BPD diagnosis. And the stigma is still there.
Sadly, I’ve witnessed most of the stigma coming from professionals who work in the mental health field. Nurses and even psychiatrists.
And that’s why I say I was one of the lucky ones.

I don’t know the answers, but I know so many professionals know what people need, but they don’t have the resources to offer them the proper care and treatment they deserve. Because there are many, many decent therapists, nurses and Doctors out there who are willing to work with people with BPD.

If someone like me can live and manage without the majority of those traits then I believe there’s hope for anyone.

Written by Helen Cruickshank

Follow Helen @helenpink1 @theaberdeenlushie

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