Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Borderline Personality Disorder


That is not a diagnosis, but I tend to think I have Borderline Personality Disorder.  If you don't know what that is, it's basically a disorder related to emotional instability that has held onto a terrible, misleading name.  You can go screen yourself here.

As I've talked about before, mental health problems are about interactions between people and their cultures.  There are facts about ourselves as organisms that take on different shapes in different cultural settings.  To use yet another example, we may think the same way about not having legs 500 years ago as not having legs now.  In one sense, the human organism in each case is without legs and that is the same.  But the way that having no legs affects the life of a person in those different time periods is quite dramatically different, as is the difference between living in Ontario where I live with no legs compared to living in a war-torn region with no health care or accessibility laws with no legs, as is the difference between having no legs but having come from a wealthy background versus having no legs but having come from an impoverished one.

So when I say I probably have borderline personality disorder, I don't really mean that.  I think I probably have BPD in the same sense that a person in a mobility device has "can't-go-up-the-stairs-ness".  It doesn't strike me as a thing itself that a person can have but as a way that a person can interact with society.  When I talk about having a difference that doesn't have a name, I am talking about not being able to put a name to the leg that I am without.

Still, giving a name to a mental illness seems like it can be a useful thing to do.  That person may not have "can't-up-up-the-stairs-ness" but it's worthwhile for them, and others around them, to know that they can't go up stairs.  It lets people plan accommodations, or if no one is accommodating, it gives people and starting point for an understanding.  Perhaps they could find an internet community of other people who also can't go up the stairs and discuss how that makes them feel.

Of course part of my trouble is that apparently people with Borderline Personality Disorder are generally insufferable.  One description of BPD that I read brought it down to people with BPD thinking that there is a fundamental badness inside themselves, and they tend to make other people see that badness, even if it was their own creation.  I have it on good authority that professional therapists commiserate with one another about their BPD clients, particularly because they tend to call very frequently and request emergency sessions all the time.

I'm annoying and socially inept.  I am impulsively over-familiar with people who don't really know me, but then at other times I find just being near other people - even people I like - is unbearable.  I switch into extreme emotional states like they were light switches.  People with BPD are people who have trouble with keeping relationships and jobs, and that is precisely because they are very hard to be around.

In a way this feels like vindication for me.  I spent my whole life hiding who I was from other people and thinking they wouldn't like me if they knew, and now when I understand myself better and have information about "people like me", I find out that this has often been precisely their experience.  When they try to be themselves they are rejected.  But this isn't because people with Borderline Personality Disorder are fundamentally bad, deep down inside.  It is because they are people that our culture really doesn't know what to do with.

Somehow that's still not a feel-good story.

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