Family · Friends · Life-Defining Moments · Mental Health · Writing

Parents and BPD

Preamble: I am not, in any way, suggesting that mental disabilities are more of a struggle than physical disabilities. Each circumstance has its own struggles. Please, never think that I underestimate the struggles of having a physical disability. I’m speaking here only as a person with a mental disability, and how it feels to me. I would be more than interested to learn about your personal struggle with a physical disability and how it impacts you, and discuss the differences in how people react to physical versus mental disabilities.

The worst part about mental disorders, at least for me, is the fact that I’ll never really be “cured”. Sure, I can learn how to handle my anxiety and my neuroses better, but I’ll never be free from having to be on guard the rest of my life. I’ll be having an ok time, or even a great time, and then bam, something triggers something else and next thing I know I’m craving some seriously destructive behavior again.

Even the fear of the depression coming back, and the fear of craving destructive behavior, is depressing. It is, utterly without sarcasm, bloody annoying.

One of the worse parts of this constant struggle is the staunch denial by two of the people who’re supposed to try and understand me the most; that is, my parents. I get it. It’s hard to believe – and painful, I’m sure – that your little girl is psychologically fucked up. I get that. I bet there’s a whole host of guilt associated with that, too. But you know what’s not the best way to cope with that? Making her feel horrible by consistently telling her there’s nothing wrong with her, thereby invalidating her professionally diagnosed mental illness, and causing further stress to the problem. I’m not saying I want special treatment or something; I just don’t want to be told I don’t have BPD, that I just need to do yoga and maybe some meditation and get skinnier because then I’ll feel better.

You can’t just fix BPD with contortions and meditation and weight loss. You think I haven’t tried?

I spent ten weeks in a course designed for people like me to accept that we’ll never “fix” ourselves, that we just have to learn better coping skills. It was so… freeing to know I was surrounded by people who understood me. Now, to have two people in my life who won’t just let me be me – because that’s unacceptable – is frustrating. I know they care, but if they’d just listen for all of five minutes, they’d understand that telling me there’s nothing wrong is not what I need. If telling myself I wasn’t crazy didn’t help me for the years I was struggling with it on my own, and denying it didn’t help either, why does it even remotely make sense that telling me I’m not will work now?

“Help, I’m on fire!”

“If you tell yourself you’re not on fire it’ll go away.”

The logic, of course, is that I shouldn’t tell myself I’m mentally ill and just “accept it” – I should proclaim myself free from it, and thus it will no longer be so engrained in my behavioral patterns. I won’t “act the way someone with BPD is expected to act”. The problem is, I don’t tell myself I’m mentally ill; I am mentally ill. I know I have an emotional disorder, and I know how it effects my life, and how to counter it. If I go back to pretending there’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just going to flounder and slide back into the hellish pit I was in for so long. Knowing the problem helps me battle it.

Would you tell someone who has bad arthritis just to pretend it’s not there because it’ll make opening bottles and jogging that much easier?

There’s also the issue that part of the reason they’re in denial is because mental illness is frowned upon in the working world. If you have a disability of any kind you’re looked down upon, but at least a physical disability you can understand.

“I can’t move my legs because they are broken,” is very different from “Sometimes I get really depressed and angry for no reason.”

Yeah. Between the one whose illness is actually visible and the person who could “go off” at any moment, which would you choose? People like it when they can see things, understand things. A broken back is easier to understand than a broken mind.

I actually had a friend in social work tell me that she’d never work with people who suffered BPD because they’re violent and aggressive. This woman, who has studied psychology, took this information from a professor who had told her a story about dealing with people with BPD wherein one person was physically aggressive to the point of having to be restrained. One. Even if it was half the class, that doesn’t mean every single person who suffers from BPD exhibits the same types of aggression. No one in my own support group ever was physically aggressive towards others. We were all mostly ever violent towards ourselves.

The fact, though, that an intelligent, compassionate person like my friend could think that just because of one bad group all people with BPD are violent, what happens with those other people who don’t have friends who are mentally ill, or who know better? One instance on the news with a mentally ill person doing something bad paints a picture for the world about how mental illness affects a person. We do the same, of course, with gender and race and culture and social class.

It’s easier to call it out in those cases sometimes, though, because really – you’re just crazy.

“Just” crazy.

I didn’t choose to be like this. I didn’t make myself have emotional disorders. They are a result of many things, including a biological disposition towards fluctuating moods, and parents who, though loved me, were really bad at dealing with a kid like me a lot of the time.  Kids don’t come with a how-to guide, and that’s ok. Now I’m an adult, though, and even though I do try to tell them what works with me and what doesn’t, I guess old habits are hard to change. They’ve dealt with me the same way for almost 24 years; changing horses in the middle of the stream isn’t really their style.

Lucky for me, I found a husband that knows how to help me through crises, and who doesn’t make me feel guilty about my problems. Who is aware that they’ll go on, probably forever, and they’ll probably get exacerbated when we have children. He helps me feel less blah when I have bad days, and doesn’t pressure me to talk about them if I don’t want to.

That’s not to say that using your significant other as a therapist is a good idea – if I had the money for one, I’d go back to seeing one.  It’s just that… having someone who understands, and who doesn’t judge me at all is an amazing feeling.

He’s pretty much the best decision I ever made.

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