Saturday, 10 October 2015
BPD Stigma and Shame Based Identity
You're a liar
You're doing this for attention.
You should be locked away in a psych ward.
You're a psycho.
You're a danger to society.
You'll never get better.
You're faking your illness.
You are at root of your problems.
All of these judgments and stigma. All of the shame. All of the guilt. All of the blame. We're always at root of our problems, the society says. But... Is it true? No.
We live in culture where church says one thing, other religious groups say the other, the psychologists and psychiatrists say something else, the anti psychology and psychiatry people say the other. It makes it easy for us, the suffering, to put the blame on ourselves because the society - and sadly, for many of us, closest friends and family- says it is all your fault. You are the cause of the problems in your life....
But in reality, we're not the problem. We have a very invalidating environment, now and growing up. We are emotionally sensitive. We react a lot more sensitively to things and we can react to a small thing. The world cannot blame us for what we've been through. On the other side of the coin, we are often seen as the problem by friends and family. And that needs to be validated as they are thinking we're crazy, loopy, and off our heads because of the illness we have. Because they don't suffer from it but with us, they can say we're the problem because it is unusual behaviour to them.
To address the stigma surrounding BPD..... We are not manipulative. We can come across this way, but in reality, we are working with what we have in the moment. If abandonment is apparent to us, imagined or real, we might turn to self harm and suicide threats or behaviours or other things to get people back in our lives to help us regulate ourselves. That might come across as manipulative, but in reality, we have not got the interpersonal skills to not act like this. We're not faking our illness to get sympathy, love or attention. It is very real to us. Very real indeed. The suffering is beyond us. World, please understand that we cannot fake intense emotions, we cannot fake feeling suicidal, we cannot fake our anger and we cannot regulate ourselves in effective ways. We understand that you feel like we are because you believe we want attention.... And it's true. We need attention because we need help and we might be asking for it in ways that seem dramatic or over the top. But, with our emotional life, we find it hard to not express our emotions intensely because they are intense on the inside of us, burning us from within. Marsha Linehan had at one point compared people with BPD to third degree burn victims, saying "People with BPD are like people with third-degree burns over 90% of the body. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at slightest touch or movement"
We, as people with BPD would like for the world to understand that we don't want to hurt you intentionally or even manipulate you. We love people in our lives, but when our emotional burns are touched, we will have intense reactions. Quick, intense and often impulsive reactions.
We don't want to lie to you. Ever. I don't know why people get the impression that we lie to them. We have emotional reactions that are intense. Overwhelming. And when we tell you what we're feeling of what we are thinking, please, don't think that we're lying. Again, refer to what I said previously about our reactions being different and unusual to you. We know you feel the way you do about us because our behaviours are unusual or "not normal." Believe us, we want to be normal.
We are not dangerous. Just because there are media portrayals of us that are horribly negative, and there have been people with BPD in prison for murder, assault etc. But, not all of us are like that. Not even most of us. Not even a half of us. Not even a quarter of us. We know we've had a bad portrayal in the media and you often think we're dangerous, but we're not. We're nit psychos or we don't have to be locked away. With he right kind of treatment, support from professionals and support and love from people in our lives, we can have a normal life with healthy relationships, managing our lives effectively and do what we dream. or do something beyond our wildest dreams. We have a chance in this world like you do. We know you fear for our safety and your own because of anger, suicidal attempts or threats or self injury. But we can get through it and live our lives to the fullest.
We do get better. With the right treatment, and support, we're in remission after ten years. But improvement starts with treatment. As long as we're willing to work on our problems and solving them. As long as we have a mind set on the goal of getting better (there will be slip ups along the way, and I experienced them many times over in the last nearly 11 months of DBT) we can get through it. We can do it.
All of the stigma, and our past experiences of invalidation can lead us down feeling shame-filled all the time. We never dare to pursue what we dream because we feel shame. We developed a personality that is often self-critical, self-shaming, self-blaming and placing all guilt upon ourselves. We've learned from our environment to do so. And it gets in our way of living to the fullest, expressing ourselves, talking about our problems, standing up to people etc. It's called a shame based identity/personality. We always feel shame. Always. We never have a real break from it. We cannot express ourselves because we feel shame. I struggle with this a lot, and my awesome therapist and my great friend have recently pointed it out to me. I never thought of my self-criticism as damaging. Until maybe in the last 11 months or so. We never say what's on our minds because of the fear of shame, which feeds our cycle of self-criticism.
But we can break free from all of it and we can live to the fullest, express with confidence and be who we want to be. Takes work, dedication, time and effort. So, let's work on improving one step at a time and build the lives worth living!