I admire people that refuse to be defined by their disorder. We are often far more than just a diagnosis and every individual deserves to be treated as such. But what do you do when your Disorder is the closest thing you have to a definition?
The day I received my diagnosis, I went straight home and hit Wikipedia.
The entry for Borderline Personality Disorder was a lengthy one but I read every word of it, my eyes widening and my heart pounding as I got further and further into it. I remember telling my Mother later that day that it was as if someone had written me my very own encyclopaedia entry. That it described me as a person to absolute perfection. There were many parts I didn’t at all like the sound of, but there wasn’t a single point that I couldn’t hold my hands up to, to some extent at least.
So what do you do when your disorder actually almost literally defines you?
Personality is what makes you, you. Your thoughts, your feelings, your behaviour, all wrapped up in one neat little package and presented as you. A disordered personality though is nowhere near as cut and dry. A disordered personality is considered unhealthy, maladaptive, emotionally unstable and often changes from one moment to the next. It would be nice to think that I wasn’t defined by my own, but if I’m not to be defined by my disordered personality then what exactly am I to be defined by?
Everything I am, everything I do, the choices that I make, the effect I have on others, none of this is separate from that which makes me, me. The way I process emotions dictates very much how I will respond to people and situations. The way I experience life and reality influences greatly the choices that I make and the methods that I use. How exactly does one go about things any differently?
I am not offended by this situation, it has to be said.
I am comfortable with my diagnosis, I would, in fact, be far more uncomfortable were it to be taken away from me. Know thine enemy has been my motto for many years now and when your enemy is more often than not yourself, it becomes an even more important principle to live by. I do, however, experience a little twinge of envy and perhaps a dash of scorn when I see others declaring their independence from their illness. And when it’s suggested that I myself am not defined by my disorder, I become enraged.
Much of my life has been spent trying desperately to learn to love myself.
This is particularly tricky with BPD since one of the many unpleasant symptoms of such a disorder is a severe lack of self-esteem coupled with intense self-loathing. Add to that the mountain of invalidation that led to me developing the disorder in the first place and you’re left with a pretty deep and steep-sided pit of self-pity. It’s not exactly a melting pot that inspires anything even remotely sweet-tasting. Not to mention the fact that it’s hard to love someone that is so damn fickle that they’re an enigma of fluctuating feelings and character. It can be hard to hang onto someone that exudes such excitement one minute and fiery anger the next, whilst one minute proclaiming they are the Messiah and then a short time later that God is dead, and quite probably never existed.
It’s easy to see, I suppose, why learning to love myself and to accept myself, not despite my faults, but because of them, has been such a hefty job. But I managed it. I’m not saying I don’t continue to dislike myself intensely on occasion, but I dislike many people intensely on occasion, so I figure it’s allowed. Overall though, I succeed in at least treating myself like a human being. And for those of us that live with disordered personalities, that’s generally all we want from others. To be treated like a human being.
I don’t want people to ignore my Disorder.
I don’t want people to tell me that I’m not defined by my illness. In fact, I don’t want people even suggesting that I’m ill at all. My personality is what makes me who I am. Disordered or not. And to tell me I am not defined by my disorder is to tell me that I’m not defined at all.
And for someone that lacks a stable sense of self on even the best of days, that’s tantamount to cutting off my head.