On having Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotional Intensity Disorder- World Mental Health Day 2016

I can’t remember if I managed to write anything for the last World Mental Health day, but I wanted to write a little update on my own stuff for this year. I haven’t really had much energy to write about how I’ve been getting on recently but I feel like it’s important to carry on the conversation if at all possible.

As a lot of you might already know, I’ve been receiving treatment for depression and anxiety for a good while now. Over the years I’ve been on four different antidepressants, and have been through three rounds of psychological therapy. Quite honestly, I was beginning to hate myself because I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better despite being given the recommended treatment. I felt like I must be doing something wrong, like I was getting in the way of my own recovery somehow. But no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t shake those old habits.

A few months ago I was also diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder too.

I wasn’t thrilled, at first. I think it was mentioned to me around a year ago in a review with my psychiatrist actually, but I completely rejected the idea because, in my mind, I knew what BPD looked like, and I wasn’t it. Then in June I was seen by a psychologist with the Complex Psychological Interventions Team, who was assessing me to see what therapy might be best for me to try next. She again asked me how I felt about a new diagnosis. I maintained that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the medical model or of pathologizing personality traits, but wondered if maybe being diagnosed as having BPD might be something which could help, rather than hinder, my recovery.

One thing which massively helped in terms of me accepting a new diagnosis was the psychologist introducing some alternative names for BPD. Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder is one of the alternative names for BPD, but it wasn’t exactly one which made me feel more positive about it. Emotional Intensity Disorder however, felt a bit more comfortable.

Rather than describing my personality as being disordered, calling my condition Emotional Intensity Disorder is, I think, a more accurate way to refer to it.

I know there is a lot of stigma attached to the label of BPD. And I think that’s why I was so reluctant to accept it as a diagnosis. Having worked on inpatient mental health units, and also just through being subject to the media generally, I had an idea of people with BPD being untreatable. In my experience, they were not understood very well and at times were even labelled as not being mentally ill at all.

Now I understand so much more about BPD, and I embrace the positive things the diagnosis has done for me. In practical terms, I recently was able to start group therapy which was designed specifically for people with a diagnosis of BPD (called STEPPS); this was also where I first came across the term Emotional Intensity Disorder. Maybe even more significantly though it has given me a new framework by which I can understand myself and my mental health. The more I read about EID, the more comfortable I am. I don’t feel so much like it is my fault that I haven’t responded well to treatment in the past- The literature suggests that people with comorbid EID/BPD and depression won’t find talking therapies typically recommended for the treatment of depression as effective.

I realise now that I always felt slightly at odds with my depression because it just didn’t encapsulate the entirety of my mental health experiences. Yes, I felt empty and low, but there was more. I’m extremely sensitive, and once something has upset me it takes a while for me to be able to return to baseline. I get angry a lot, although this often gets directed at myself, and my moods can fluctuate drastically and rapidly throughout the day, sometimes at the smallest trigger. I feel very insecure in my relationships. I have self-harmed since I was 13 years old and this behaviour is deeply entrenched in the way I manage my emotions. I struggle with my sense of self and with my identity.

As I mentioned before, I’m not a massive fan of the medical model and I don’t like the idea of pathologizing experiences which are often perfectly normal parts of being human. But this diagnosis has given me more options and hope for the future, so for now I’m claiming it as my own and I refuse to be ashamed of it.

I want to continue to be open about my mental health because so many people have opened up to me as a result of my posts in the past. I hope I can continue to help people understand a little more and feel less alone.