The psychiatrist fetched me from the waiting room, 10-15 mins late. I was finishing up publishing my previous post on Facebook, “Mademoiselle, may I recommend you put away your phone and stay focused? We only have 45 minutes, and there will be no followup appointment.” Excuse me? 45 minutes to determine what is wrong with me? I waited 6 months for this? Lady, you better be good at your job.
Cue the questions about family history. No, it’s true no history of bipolarity in my family. Cue the questions about my ADD, who diagnosed it and why. No questions about how the symptoms manifest themselves. Minimal questions about my depressions.“Mademoiselle, I cannot comment about whether you have Major Depressive Disorder because right now you seem to have acceptable energy levels and seem fairly engaged.” Lady… I almost torpedoed my career in Nov-Jan, should have been on medical leave of work, and had the worst year-end evaluation of my life. Yeah, I am doing better now. Much better. But before calling into question my GP’s assessment, maybe our healthcare system can not decide that because I am still employed and not prone to self-harm that means I can just hang out, totally miserable, for 6 months before seeing an expert. “Well next time, consider seeing your doctor before you hit that low and get a prescription for anti-depressants.” Lady, are you SURE you are a psychiatrist? Do you KNOW what depression is like? I had trouble showering, had absenteeism issues at work, and you expected me to get my shit together sufficiently to see a doctor? The only reason why I saw a doc at all in February is because my little junior at work staged an intervention because she thought I was at risk of kidney failure. But thanks for that tip. I’ll keep it in mind.
At the 45 minute mark, the psychiatrist gave me my diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder. Gave me the name of a book I should read and suggested I take up psychotherapy. Any psychologists she could refer me to? No. I should just consult the website of the Ordre des Psychologues du Québec, it lists all licensed psychologists and their specializations, and pick one. Other highlights of her wrap-up convo?
Lots of artists have BPD. It just makes them more sensitive to their environments but they find ways to channel that into productive forms of self-expression. Cool. Except I am an accountant. That’s not the same thing, did you know?
You should focus on regulating your emotions. OH REALLY??? WHAT an idea. THANK YOU for that. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before, silly me. Boy oh boy, I am sure happy I saw a professional to give me such valuable advice. Let me just call up all the coworkers I’ve ever alienated, exhausted friends and family, and all the dudes I’ve failed relationships with. “Y’all, WE’RE GOOD NOW. Imma regulate my emotions and everything is gonna be just peachy. Woo hoo!”
She smiled, shook my hand, and promised me she’d send her report to my GP.
That’s our Quebec healthcare system for y’all. Its most notable feature is the bitter aftertaste it leaves anyone unfortunate enough to require its services.
I took the day off work. I was very upset. BPD has a reputation of being a garbage (“controversial”) diagnosis that is a catch-all for any patient that doesn’t fall neatly into a more firmly recognizable condition. It’s not a neurological/chemical illness, it is psychological illness so medication typically doesn’t work. It isn’t a broken brain. It’s a broken personality. I am broken, apparently, my identity and my personality are so problematic, they get a label, one that comes with a lot of stigma.
Except, gotta say… it does describe me well. “In general, someone with a personality disorder will differ significantly from an average person in terms of how he or she thinks, perceives, feels or relates to others (oh hey! funny you mention that, that has been my impression MY ENTIRE LIFE). The symptoms of BPD can be grouped into four main areas:
- emotional instability – the psychological term for this is “affective dysregulation” –> so many examples to chose from. Exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, exhibit D.
- disturbed patterns of thinking or perception – (“cognitive distortions” or “perceptual distortions”) –> remember the time I thought my dance team was out to get me? That was fun.
- impulsive behaviour
- intense but unstable relationships with others”
It’s the last part that upsets me the most. As per the NHS’s website:
If you have BPD, you may feel that other people abandon you when you most need them, or that they get too close and smother you.
When people fear abandonment, it can lead to feelings of intense anxiety and anger. You may make frantic efforts to prevent being left alone, such as:
- constantly texting or phoning a person
- suddenly calling that person in the middle of the night
- physically clinging on to that person and refusing to let go
- making threats to harm or kill yourself if that person ever leaves you
Alternatively, you may feel others are smothering, controlling or crowding you, which also provokes intense fear and anger. You may then respond by acting in ways to make people go away, such as emotionally withdrawing, rejecting them or using verbal abuse.
These two patterns may result in an unstable “love-hate” relationship with certain people.
Many people with BPD seem to be stuck with a very rigid “black-white” view of relationships. Either a relationship is perfect and that person is wonderful, or the relationship is doomed and that person is terrible. People with BPD seem unable or unwilling to accept any sort of “grey area” in their personal life and relationships.
For many people with BPD, emotional relationships (including relationships with professional carers) involve “go away/please don’t go” states of mind, which is confusing for them and their partners. Sadly, this can often lead to break-ups.
Who knew the NHS had a section detailing the implosion of my relationship with Hickster? Suddenly, I see myself as he did. I reread our text message convos and I am dismayed. Pages and pages of texts, at all hours of the night. Him trying, but really trying, to understand and contain these tsunamis of text assaults. His bewilderment, that I used to assume was faked or an avoidance tactic, suddenly seems more plausible. Dude goes to sleep having ended the day with normal interactions with Vanilla, and wakes up to a novel of vitriolic accusations and lamentations. Maybe his tendency to leave me on read, decline my calls or to respond curtly/meanly was not him being awful to me, but his coping techniques for months of non-stop volcanic eruptions.
I think back to Beaut, who told me once that he found my waves of emotions difficult to handle. I disregarded that comment, because it was his fault: had his life not been such a mess, and his communication skills so weak, I wouldn’t be so worried/uncertain/insecure.
I think back to my ex. He used to complain that I could spend 3-4 days glued to him, refusing to leave him even long enough for him to go do groceries alone. He had to implement a rule: even though we had the keys to each other’s place, we (aka I) could not show up unannounced, even if it was just for a surprise. “Vanilla, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you, I promise. I just need my space.” At the time I thought it was just the growing pains of my first relationship, I was young and really in love, and learning – I’ve never exchanged keys with a dude, since. But until my ex imposed that boundary, my impulse was remove any distance between us.
I think back to ICB and the pre-Paris fiasco caused by texting habits that didn’t meet my 48 hour requirement. My 48 hour requirement is a hard limit, regardless of the guy, trust issues, relationship status, anything. If 48 hours go by without me hearing from a guy, cue the narrative of “he’s not into me anymore”. I can manage to keep my shit together and avoid a complete meltdown for 72-96 hours, but on the inside? I can’t focus, I’m miserable, checking my phone 285,764,873 times a day, and practicing the breakup conversation. I thought this was me having standards, finally. Maybe it is. But maybe it is also a completely disproportionate reaction to what is most frequently not an impending breakup?
I feel sorrow. So much pointless suffering. Were any of these relationships meant to be? Nah, really doubt it, they all had their legit problems. But I made myself ill with misery. I inflicted WAY more emotional baggage on these guys than I meant to. So much unhappiness.
I think back to the number of “episodes” I’ve had with coworkers over the past decade. I’ve made people cry at work far more often than the acceptable never. Some ppl have even quit, citing me as the mean reason they lost their appetite for accounting. I have always been hurt by these incidents – why couldn’t they just accept my feedback about their performance? Why didn’t people like me?
I can’t even blame it on my brain. I did this, with my broken personality. To people I loved. To coworkers I respected. To myself.
You should focus on regulating your emotions.
Wow. I feel like you’ve been beaten and battered by the same healthcare system (and similar issues both physical and mental) I have in British Columbia. I would have tried to slap that psychiatrist! I am sorry you have to go through the ringer all over again, all why being treated as if some yoga and positive thinking will make it all go away.
I would actually report that ‘doctor’. It causes me great alarm; your experience is not unlike the one my cousin had for years….he ended his life 2 years ago.
I love reading your posts and I hope you keep on fighting!
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Fuck indeed… Holy shit. When I was studying Psychology in CEGEP and University we had entire classes on the conflicting nature of BPD and how it was basically a lame diagnosis for patients who cannot be given a clear mental health diagnosis. Both of my professors strongly cautioned us with regards to the use of the diagnosis and said it was better by far to treat a patient for separate mental health disorders than to use the blanket diagnosis of BPD. I’m so sorry you ended up with a psychiatrist who was way behind the times in her methods and not willing to take the time to refer you to the appropriate psychologist herself.
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I’m surprised she didn’t just recommend you watch “Girl, Interrupted” so you could see how Suzanna coped with her BPD. You know … just take some notes from the movie, mimic what she did, you will be just fine!!
I feel like Psychologists today are a joke. And no worries, it’s like that in the States as well. I went to one who gave me an ADHD test, which I failed miserably. She prescribed medication, noted I had suffered from depression in the past, but never wanted to talk about that with me. She just wanted me to show up for my appointments, give me Adderall refills, and send me on my way.
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im so sorry you had to go through that
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Here’s hoping your GP can give you advice that will be of actual value (rather than this checkbox-checking semi-fake doc), since you seemed to have a good one…
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I hope you find someone who works for you and works with you. That sounds like a big and uncomfortable pill to swallow. I admit I thought back to the episode of Crazy Ex Girlfriend when she gets diagnosed with the same and how upsetting she finds it. She goes from – pre-diagnosis – being hopeful that it will change her life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uic_3vlI5BE) to hearing it’s BPD and trying to get a different diagnosis.
I don’t know if you watch that but it made me think of how tough it is. Personality disorders are so much harder to treat than a chemical imbalance in the brain. I’m astonished at the amound of self-awareness shown in this post and very proud of you! I know somebody else with a personality disorder that will never be willing or able to examine themselves or their actions in the same way. You’re amazing! I hope your next doctor is better than that callous human stopwatch. Sending you a big hug.
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I am not familiar with that show but imma check it out.
Its been hard, on many levels. Specifically, I feel so much sorrow when it comes to Hickster. He has been much kinder than I expected – he listened to my very tearful heartfelt apology, and at least at some level, has forgiven me, because he recognizes that I was trying my best.
But for the first time in 18 months, I can see the aching hurt I inflicted on him, that he isn’t over, just like I am not over some of the shit he did to me. But whereas I am very familiar with the battlescars I got from this relationship, until last week, I was blind to his own suffering that I inflicted on him. Completely unaware. I am still coming to terms with the very groundbreaking notion that I wasn’t the only victim in all this.
It’s very disorienting to realize that I’ve lived my whole life with such a blind spot about myself. I mean… I KNEW I had interpersonal problems – I was present in every blowout, every fight – but I always thought I was reacting to THEM. I never, not once, was able to see how MY actions affected THEM and triggered their reactions to ME.
The self-awareness, such as it is, comes with a price: it consumes a TON of energy and mental bandwidth, leaving me perpetually exhausted and insecure, as my rational analytical brain wrestles with the violent waves of emotions.