Stigma surrounding mental health issues is rife. It’s in the media, in the work place, amongst our peers and (most worrying to me) within the mental health system itself. With 1 in 4 people experiencing mental health problems every year it’s scary to think that it’s still a taboo subject to talk about. Silencing yourself when it comes to something you or someone you know is facing becomes isolating and dangerous. It breeds ignorance and prolongs suffering.
But why would you speak up when the Stigma stings so much?
This is a question I ask myself every day and one of the reasons I pulled out my laptop and started to write this blog. I could pick apart the ‘system’ and societies’ views of me and fellow sufferers all day but in honour of ‘Time To Talk Day‘, I want to focus on one thing. The thing I have chosen is a part of my main diagnosed mental illness (borderline personality disorder) and possibly the one sentence that is thrown around the most when it comes to those affected the same as me..
PEOPLE WITH BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER ARE MANIPULATIVE
If you google BPD, or more specifically how to help someone with it, you will find hundreds of articles giving you advice about how to protect yourself from our manipulative ways. These articles then tend to spew a whole load of negativity without even trying to explain the reasoning behind this and instead urges the reader to distance themselves immediately from their loved ones or friends.
I remember the first time I was told I was manipulative – in fact, I wasn’t even told it as it was written down. I had been taken into hospital after suffering the double grief of losing my mother to cancer and leaving my boyfriend at the time. It didn’t help me in any way and on my discharge a week later I was given a note that stated (in capital letters I might add) that I could not (and did not want to) be helped because I was too manipulative.
Now, I could start to accept this if it wasn’t for the fact that I spent my entire time in there glued to a chair through fear and the amount of drugs they had put in my body. Nethertheless,I looked for an answer or a reason within that discharge note but there wasn’t one. There was nothing written that explained why they thought this and nothing said to me that could help me not project this in the future. It was an empty statement.
Of all the things associated with my mental illness, that hurt the most. I am constantly asking my friends and the people who now work with me if I am manipulative because it bothers me. Call it validation if you wish but it helps to know that those around me see me as no more manipulative that the average person..
AND THAT IS MY POINT
Those of us who suffer from BPD come in all shapes and sizes and although we may all fit the ‘pattern’ of the illness in some way there are highs and lows as far the symptoms and behaviours are concerned. The wonderful UK NHS website lays out the clinical terms simply and the focus on the negative manipulative is not mentioned once. The truth is that EVERYONE has the power within them to manipulate. It’s also true that again, there is a sliding scale at play from just how dangerous and wrong these behaviours may be.
I am not without fault but certainly no more than the average person and that includes all of those with no underlying mental illness. I have already spoken about how BPD is a part of me so even in my high functioning state all the labels affect me. Stop shoving the people who have MY illness in a box and instead understand that we are human beings with positive and negative points of our personalities JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER HUMAN ON PLANET EARTH. To focus purely on a negative that is relevant to anyone who lives and breathes and then attaching it without thought to someone with a disorder is hurtful. Sure, we don’t deal with things very well some times and the illness label dictates that we need more help than most but instead of judging a list of words, see the person as a whole. Don’t just presume that someone with BPD is naturally manipulative.
On the flip side I am not saying anything should be excused because of the BPD connection. Help should be available for everyone regardless of their mental status – it’s just that sometimes we need more support than most to understand that something is unacceptable. Being diagnosed and living with something so debilitating is hard enough without massive red flags being thrust above our heads. One day I will a write list of all the positive aspects of BPD and the ways I am learning to project these but for now I just need the world to trust that they are there.
Education is key and talking about mental illness is a no holds barred way has to be the start and since these are my thoughts and my words, I am starting with me. I need to stop seeing Manipulation as a dirty word because whether I like it or not it exists. The choice I have to make is whether or not to allow that word to be automatically associated with me just because of my BPD.
I urge anyone who happens to read this to stop looking at mental illness diagnoses as the be all and end all. Please stop taking a negative and presuming that everyone is the same. It is ok to be curious of us but not ok to be fearful. We are just humans like you, trying to get along in our lives and yes we do show negative traits but honestly.. don’t you too?