I was in the mental health system for many years before I eventually got what is now my primary diagnosis. It came as a mixed blessing; I finally had an explanation for all my symptoms, which included not having a true sense of identity or knowing who I really was; irrational, severe anger; and self-destructive behaviors such as self-harm.
However, the label I was given to account for it all came with its own set of problems. I was told I had borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Unfortunately, BPD is one of the most stigmatized mental health conditions out there. This is thanks partly to media stereotyping and films such as “Fatal Attraction,” casting those living with the disorder as crazed “bunny boilers,” and partly to older clinical and academic attitudes that saw BPD as being on the “borderline” of neurosis and psychosis and thus somehow untreatable. Those of us with the diagnosis face an uphill struggle to get taken seriously.
Also, “personality disorder” isn’t particularly user-friendly terminology and certainly does nothing for the self-esteem of those diagnosed with one. The given sense is that there is something wrong with the diagnosed as a person — their personality is somehow flawed and maladaptive.
Some of the stereotyped beliefs see those with BPD as manipulative, clingy, dangerous, violent, attention-seeking or just plain dramatic. My experiences throughout my journey toward recovery have been regularly shaped by individuals who have held these views of me.
But is it all that bad? What about the people behind the stigma? I believe there are many positive qualities to a diagnosis of BPD, and that these do something to prove the stereotypical misconceptions wrong. The following eight traits are all worth celebrating.
Those with BPD tend to be extremely loyal and trustworthy. The condition comes with an intense fear of abandonment and because of this, those with it know what it is like to feel let down and betrayed. Therefore, when they make friends, they are keen to be there for them through thick and thin, not wanting others to feel the intense disappointment of having someone break a promise or not keep a confidence.
People with BPD are extremely sensitive to their own and others’ emotions and feelings. This makes them incredibly compassionate and empathetic as they really can feel what someone else is going through. As such, they make great listeners and tend to be the kind of people you want around after a bad day.
To function in society, someone with BPD feels like they have to constantly challenge themselves and their thinking. This is a big ask, but it also comes with the significant reward of inner strength that people without the condition may never attain. Due to frequently being survivors of trauma, people who have BPD have learned to navigate intense inner turmoil and build a life regardless.
What you see really is what you get from those with BPD. People with the condition are bold and don’t beat about the bush — directness is one of their strengths. This has the potential for unpopularity in some circles but often people prefer honesty and candidness.
People with a BPD diagnosis are hypersensitive to their emotions. This makes their down days very dark at times but in contrast, it also means that they can experience real joy from positive interactions with others and often find happiness in things that people without the condition might take for granted.
Linked to the deep emotional connections that come with having a personality disorder is often a flair for creative activities. One way of getting the turmoil in their heads to decrease is expression of it through some other medium, be that art, music, poetry or another form.
Due to feeling everything ten times more strongly than the average person, those with BPD often find themselves in situations where they have to think on their feet thanks to their diagnosis. Escalating things further than most people would frequently sees the need to find solutions to complex issues and encourages a sense of thinking outside the box. This resourcefulness is a real skill and yet one that those with BPD rarely acknowledge.
Finally, people with BPD tend to be extremely intuitive. As they are so in tune with their own feelings and emotions, they can pick up how others are feeling very quickly and accurately without them having to explain things. That can mean instinctively knowing what is on a friend’s mind, sometimes even before they do!
With all these positive aspects of their personality, it is a shame that those with BPD are deemed to be medically “disordered” at all.
Whilst my own diagnosis came with a lot of negativity, I can now also see that BPD brings me a host of good qualities that I wouldn’t want to be without.