Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I am not a label

As a youth I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I viewed this as a label- something people could slap on me and put me in a category. I saw this diagnosis as one of the worst ones to have because it is too often treated with a lot of stigma. I saw first hand the stigma, even when I tried to get help from the "professionals" who were there to help me. Some of them thought that I was doing things for attention and that I was just a nuisance. There was even one professional who told my mother that I was doing these behaviors to gain attention. Since my mother was told by a professional, she believed them and thus strained our relationship even more- causing much stigma to take place. It was not until recently that I questioned her had I found out what she was told- 13 years later.

So what sort of things coined me as "Borderline" you ask? I guess the main one in the eyes of the professionals was that I was engaging in behaviors that were self abusive. From 1999 to 2008, I regularly engaged in self injury as a way to cope with the stress I was having in my life. Sure, it may not be a good way to cope, however I was not taught properly on how to deal with difficult emotions. I had to have an outlet somehow- whether good or bad. Self injury served its purpose for the means of harm reduction- meaning that it was better that I engaged in self injury then tried to take an attempt on my life. Self injury is not a suicide attempt like some may view it but as an outlet to release intense emotions that are inside.

What other things coined me as an "attention seeker"? Well, I thought as a youth that I was "fat". So, in order to maintain or lose weight I would restrict my eating and sometimes go days without eating. Days you say? Yes... one time I remember going 4-5 days without eating and only drinking a small portion to take my medication. I remember that I refused to eat anything and so I had to be hospitalized on one occasion. I was threatened one time during a hospitalization that if I did not start eating more then they would have to tube me and force feed me. I was not doing this behavior for attention, but I truly thought I was fat and this was one way I knew how to control my weight.

There were other behaviors I was doing that a lot thought were attention seeking. I look back and I wish that I had the knowledge back then as a youth that I have now. I feel that I was very misunderstood. Many thought that I was doing these behaviors as a means for seeking attention. I do not believe I was seeking the attention that most thought I was. Instead, I was seeking help from an adult and this was the only way I was able to communicate it . I was expressing my emotions the only way that I knew how to. As a youth, I was very withdrawn, quiet, and very private. More often then not, in the middle of a crisis I was unable to communicate verbally with professionals. Many people in my life have let me down- so to trust a professional and even state how I was feeling inside was very much not going to happen.

I remember on one occasion, that I had to be admitted into the hospital. I remember that I had a meeting with the crisis worker and the psychiatrist that was on call. The crisis worker was excellent in her demeanor and skill set. However, I did not feel the same with the psychiatrist. Instead of the psychiatrist talking to me and asking me how I was feeling, he looked at my chart and read "Borderline Personality Disorder". I felt that he did not listen to my concerns, he wrote me a prescription for a medication, and then left without any discharge planning. He did not ask me about whether I had been on that particular medication before and if there was issues with it (there was). I had to voice my concerns to the crisis worker for him to at least change the medication. The crisis worker was even a tad bit upset with the way I was treated- so she was there with me when I made a complaint a couple weeks later to the person in change of mental health services.

I wish that the professionals were able to separate my illness and myself as a person. I am not my illness, diagnosis or label. I refuse to wear it, even though it has been carried forward after all these years on my medical charts. I no longer fall under the category of having BPD with 7 or more symptoms any longer. The only time it rears its head is when I am becoming ill and become symptomatic, but even then I am able to keep a lot of the thoughts at bay. My medical doctor states that I may still have personality trails when ill but not the full blow illness like I once had. Still today, I feel that I am treated differently as the label has black marked me into the world of medicine.

When I speak of the illness, I speak of the symptoms of how I am feeling and what I am experiencing rather then stating a label. It is far greater of importance for me to let people how how I am feeling and what I am experiencing than the medical jargon.

Labels? Those are for clothing tags and food packets.... not for me!

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