It’s got to be my least favourite thing to hear these days. It really tops my list. Even friends say it, even people who have good insight into mental illness say it (in fact, they can be the worst).
No, no they don’t.
The underlying idea behind this statement is that personality disorders aren’t real. People don’t realise what they are saying when they go around saying that kind of thing to someone with one. It’s hard enough getting your head around being diagnosed with a personality disorder, without people then telling you it isn’t real.
It’s also really invalidating, and ironically in my case having borderline personality disorder, invalidation is actually one of the causes so it’s really not helpful to be told it is not real.
It is real. I will argue that down to the ground with anyone who says otherwise, professional or not. It is real. It is real when you are living with it, and although I hate the diagnosis, it’s also a relief to find something that makes sense to me. When you don’t know what is ‘wrong’ with you, it is really hard to get better from it. Learning about BPD, gaining understanding, is really helping me to get better. Do not tell me it is not real.
People take the criteria like ‘fear of abandonment’ and they’ll say “everyone has that”. Yes, most probably do. Most also like a clean house but that doesn’t mean they have OCD or that OCD is not real. It’s not about having one individual symptom, it is about having multiple. Multiple ones that impact on your life. Do not tell me it is not real.
Yes, personality disorders especially BPD may be over diagnosed, especially in people who present with chronic suicidal thoughts or repeated self-harm, but that does not mean it is not real. It means it is misused and misunderstood.
Far too many people are happy enough to tell me they don’t think it is real, but if I turn around and ask them to talk about what BPD is, they know nothing at all.
You cannot form opinions on something you know nothing about, and you cannot go around telling people that something they have, that they struggle to accept they have, but that they have to live with every day, is not real.
It is a horrible, awful thing to be told when it’s something you have. People wouldn’t do it with hardly any other disability, and the fact that even when I am in hospital, I still cannot bare to answer the “what is your diagnosis?” question with the truth, is disgusting.
We might be making some way with the general stigma of mental illness, but personality disorders remain 30 years behind.