Part 3 of a series written anonymously by a sufferer of Borderline Personality Disorder, their coping strategies, struggles with academic work and the support on offer from the university. Part 1 and Part 2.
By Easter I had attended a grand total of 2 weeks at university, May exams were looming and I knew there was no way I could pull off another January hat trick. I finally told someone at the university what I had been going through- my tutor. He was wonderfully supportive; I only wish I had gone to him sooner, or that the NHS had treated me even half as well as he did. I had been trying unsuccessfully to get treatment for 5 months from the college keep (the nearest mental health clinic) my tutor sent me straight to first support who phoned the keep and got me another appointment, they also immediately assigned me a mentor and started the process for letting me sit my exams in August as referrals. I am still waiting for treatment from the NHS over a year since I slashed my wrist.
I did however pass my exams well enough to progress to year two. Thank you University, shame on you NHS. It was when I went to the doctor to fill out my special consideration form that I learnt of my diagnosis, made some 5-6 months previously without my being informed. I asked what I should write down on the form, “what should I write depression? I’m not really sure what I have.” He replied, “Yes you are, you know what you have” he points at the screen. And there it is in flickering glory: Emotionally unstable personality. After that borderline comment at our first meeting I had typed ‘borderline’ into Google to see what the F this guy had asked me.
What I found was not good. I had had a lot of time waiting for assessment/treatment from the NHS to read up about this disorder that had only been hinted at, BPD has a spectacularly bad stigma attached to it, even amongst the medical world. They are often called liars and manipulative. So I knew I had to tread carefully. Especially seeing as this was the man who at Christmas when I told him that “I was worried I might take too many painkillers” said “you could leave this office and jump in front of a car, you could overdose on pills, there are literally thousands of ways you could kill yourself it doesn’t mean you actually will, just don’t take too many pills.” When he knew that I had been suicidal. So I tentatively said “oh right, what is that, do you think you could explain to me a bit about it?”
“You know what it is, I told you before, at that meeting we had.” There had been no meeting. Doctor’s appointments were quite an ordeal for me, as they meant showering, dressing, using the telephone to make the appointment, and facing the outside world.
So I remember them all. I saw that doctor on three occasions before this meeting and at not one of them did he ever mention borderline personality disorder or emotionally unstable personality (aside from that first vague comment). I knew there was no point arguing with him as he could use my diagnosis (the one he made) against me. So I left, furious. It didn’t matter, I’d gotten his signature and I was going to pass my exams. I hoped never to deal with him again.
If you feel suicidal the best thing you can do is reach out to another human being, call a friend. I’ve had bad experiences with the Samaritans as has a friend of mine, that’s not to say that your phone call will be in vain though so give it a try, there’s also nightline. Get yourself in a situation where you can’t self-harm, the library, the concourse, the union, a busy street, shop or playground, or go see a friend. Chances are you’re not going to start mutilating yourself in front of another person, and who knows maybe they can even help you feel better. Having a strong support network of friends/family to help you through suicidal tendencies is also vital.
I’ve relapsed into self-harm once (properly) since being at university and while I can’t say that that will be the last time I ever do it I can now say that there will be a last time. It’s not something that will be with me forever, I will be able to stop. That might not seem like a huge distinction, but it is to me, and it’s miles from where I was a year ago. The thing that I have learnt the most this year is that everyone feels down at times and I’m not alone in feeling this way, suicidal thoughts and ideation are common and the best cure for them is time. Putting as much distance between yourself and the thoughts as possible, because they will pass.
That’s not to say I don’t still have urges to self-harm, or sometimes feel hopelessly depressed. I do. But there comes a point where you have to take responsibility for your own emotions. No you can’t help how you feel, but yes you can control what you do about it. BPD isn’t a life sentence you can recover from it with the right treatment, and go on to lead a normal life, this is what I’m hoping for.
If any of these issues affect you or someone close to you, here are some resources on hand to help.
Nightline confidential information and listening service open 8pm-8am
02380 595 236
25236 from halls
The Samaritans 24 hours
08457 90 90 90
Mind a very good website to read more about BPD
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kayson an excellent first-hand account of BPD