Mental illness: Working with Borderline PD

Whilst I can share my own personal story of what it’s like to live with a diagnosis of borderline PD, I have also worked with a lot of people with the diagnosis; and I want to share my perspective as somebody on the ‘outside’.

I co-founded a voluntary organisation to help those affected by self-harm with my mum in 2007. Our main reason for this was to meet other people in the same position so we could support each other and know we weren’t alone. As the group grew and branched out to neighbouring boroughs, I took on the role of a bit of everything; group facilitator, manager & then chair and worked with people with a range of diagnoses. Many had been diagnosed with borderline pd, and it was these people who I really related to most. I could see the chaos in their world, I could see how they desperately wanted to change and make life better, and I also saw how they would stay ‘stuck’ in that vicious circle. As soon as things got too much for them they were self-harming without thinking about it; something I’ve spoken about within my own experiences of being impulsive. I wanted to change their lives, and felt determined to help. But let me tell you, it didn’t half drain me emotionally. Most likely because I wasn’t equipped to deal with my own stuff let alone anyone else’s. But I never gave up on them, on anyone really regardless of their diagnosis. I went to A&E with people who had overdosed, I went to the walk-in with people, I called numerous ambulances, called the police on several occasions when I was concerned about somebody’s welfare and spent hours upon hours on the phone referring people or chasing up referrals. The local mental health trust I worked with (which also happens to be the same trust that I’m under) were brilliant, eventually. I think most professionals were a bit wary of a group being started at first. There was probably a misunderstanding somewhere about what we actually did at the group (ie, was it an unhealthy group), and a lot of question about the safety of people who were a/ being supported and b/supporting others. In 8 years we haven’t lost any members to suicide. I don’t know if that tells you about the support we gave (and that people still give through this organisation) to members, or if that, the majority of times self-harm is about surviving the most difficult things we face rather than about trying to kill ourselves.

It’s nice to see that most of the people I’ve come across in this work are doing a lot better than they were; because of support from friends and/or family, mental health and community services, counsellors, GP’s; anyone really. Most importantly because of the person themselves being open to change, being willing to push themselves so far out of their comfort zone they can’t begin to imagine and being willing to try something different. I try to explain stopping self-harm as similar to stopping smoking, or drinking etc. You have to give yourself a good talking to, take a deep breath and just go for it with all you’ve got. You might relapse, you might not; whatever happens in the future you deal with as it happens. Focus on now, trust yourself and let other people help you.

Somebody very very close to me always says “if what you’re doing now isn’t working, you need to try something different”.

I couldn’t agree more.

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