The Malta Independent 19 May 2022, Thursday

Borderline Personality Disorder

Amber Jones Saturday, 14 May 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 5 days ago

May is BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) awareness month, something I’m sure a lot of you have never heard of. This is because it is the most stigmatised mental health condition, especially on an island like ours, where mental health is still not understood or given its due importance.

And yet it is highly likely that you know someone who has it and you are not even aware of it. This is due to the fact that, unlike me, they are conditioned by the ignorance in relation to it and they try to hide it sometimes due to shame or fear of being seen differently, which, as a result, can make the symptoms worse.

But what, you are probably asking yourself, is BPD? Unfortunately, since it is still considered a stigma, many people don’t find they need to know what it is exactly, unless, of course, they suffer from it. There is obviously ample information readily available on the internet, however, in a nutshell, the symptoms are: emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking or perception, impulsive behaviour and intense but unstable relationships with friends, family and even partners.

Many might be thinking “But that’s how I feel on a daily basis!” but before self-diagnosing, you would need to look at the problems that come along with it such as drug misuse, alcoholism, depression, eating disorders, attempted suicide and self-harm, to mention a few. Obviously, when in doubt, one should visit a psychiatrist and get professional help and advice, because it could just be due to a difficult temporary situation you are going through. Thankfully, although it is still considered a stigma, once you look for it, there is lots of help available which might or might not include medication, depending on the individual case.

Being someone who suffers from depression (which I feel no shame in admitting), it is not the first time that friends have come forward with questions regarding a friend or family member. Unfortunately, more often than not, it is too late and all I can do is try to help them better understand what that person most probably would have felt. I am obviously not a medical professional so everything I say comes from personal experience which I have found over the years is what others feel too.

People like me are extremely good at hiding how we feel especially when we’re feeling miserable and dejected, so it’s no surprise that many times suicide comes as a shock to the friends and family of that person. There’s always the fear of being misunderstood or treated differently or even the lack of emotional strength to have to explain the depths of one’s thoughts to those that are ignorant to this condition. Like with any emotional trauma, the best thing to do is to talk about it, to share it with someone who is prepared to listen and do their best to understand without being judgemental. Basically, it’s just being “there” and taking it as seriously as it should be.

Being “there” does not just mean picking up the phone when it rings or answering a message that comes through but it involves a more pro-active approach. Pick up the phone and check on that friend you think or know is not in a good place and insist until you get a reply. When one is lost in the pits of depression and anxiety, they usually isolate themselves and hide away, too proud maybe to reach out to a friend or family member and that can be an extremely lonely and dark place to be. I remember days where I used to wrap myself in my duvet, my phone on silent, completely cut off from the outside world.

Every now and again I would, ironically, check my phone hoping to have missed calls or messages but the panic that would kick in when there was nothing but a blank screen, is unbearable. I would feel lonelier and more isolated even though I brought it onto myself by cutting off but when you’re in such a dark place, rationality goes out the window.

After having opened up to friends and family about how I felt, I realised that there was always at least one person there for me. So now I’ve learnt to pick up the phone as soon as I feel a bout of depression making its way through my head like a poisonous snake and talking to someone helps me fight that poison from spreading, at least to a certain degree. This takes a lot of effort and time so not everybody is capable of finding the strength to pick up the phone.

That’s why it’s so important that friends and family are on board and get in touch themselves primarily. They might be told that the person they’re calling is “fine” or “ok” because, as mentioned, this is not something one is proud of but with a bit of insistence and perseverance you could get through to someone and help them get the help they need.

I was diagnosed many years ago in the UK and have since come a long way however it is always there and doesn’t just disappear. Sometimes I am still judged for being “too open” about it however that is precisely the attitude that makes people keep it from those around them. Anyone suffering from a mental health condition or even, ‘simply’, depression, should be surrounded by empathy and not criticism or negativity. All it takes is a call so be the one to do that and be there for that friend while you still can.

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