Hi. My name is Andrea and I have borderline personality disorder. (All together now… “Hi, Andrea.”) My disease is characterized mainly by the extreme spectrum of emotions that I experience every day- when I’m happy, I’m really happy. When I’m sad, I’m really sad. With these severe highs and lows, I am particularly sensitive emotionally. A stranger can shoot me a mean glance for whatever reason on a Tuesday and I’ll be depressed the rest of the week because it. I go through periods of intense loneliness and feel rejected when someone doesn’t return a text message or cancels plans. Because of my lack of emotion regulation, I often come to extreme conclusions and I have a pretty negative opinion of myself (even though deep down, I know that I’m attractive, smart and a decent human being). Also, because of my lack of emotion regulation, I have a hard time expressing feelings. On the days I have an especially hard time at work or school, I want to hole up in my room, not wanting to talk to anyone. This silence can last for days as I usually spend that time sleeping. When I don’t have any responsibilities, I can spend about 22 hours of one particular day sleeping.
I don’t know why I’ve been blessed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Some medical professionals claim that BPD is genetic while others say it is situational, often caused by lack of care as an infant. I don’t know anything about my life prior to my adoption when I was a toddler. However, I have done some research. Even though I have never been formally diagnosed with these disorders, I believe that I suffered from attachment disorder and selective mutism as a child, which developed into social anxiety as I’ve gotten older (there is a recent and interesting CNN special that stated 79% of adopted children, adopted domestically or abroad at any age, suffered or will suffer from some form of mental illness).
My illness has affected everyone in my life: my family, my friends, roommates, every single relationship I’ve been in. I don’t know how my parents managed to handle me growing up, raising me and my other sisters to become functioning, productive members of society. It has been a long, bumpy road and even though I do get depressed and down, I do like to believe that I have a good handle on things. I stay balanced with moderate excercise, I reach out for help when I need it and I’m considering the one-step-further option of taking anti-anxiety medication. Most days, I feel great.
In our society, we are told that being sad is a bad thing. Of course, we don’t like to see the people that we care about feeling blue so we tell them to suck it up and stop crying; to get out of bed and move on; to see the sunshine through the rain clouds. Look, I know that talking about depression is, well, depressing but depression shouldn’t be something that we gloss over with a simple phrase. Often times, those small words hurt, not help. I understand that these words don’t intentionally support the cruelness associated with joke but they’re still painful. Mental illness, in whatever form, is not something to make fun of. It’s something to take seriously. People shouldn’t be ashamed to tell the people that they love that they or that they have a psychotic disorder or battled through anorexia. They should be welcomed with open arms and be encouraged to seek out proper help and share their story. We listen and sympathize with those who have cancer or a fever- mental illness is just as common as a cold. So, let’s talk about it and figure out how we can help people we care about.
According to the Associated Press, Aaron Alexis, the shooter in last Monday’s incident in Washington D.C. suffered from mental health issues- post traumatic stress disorder and paranoia with claims of hearing voices. If we have learned anything from these last several shootings across the United States and about the mental health conditions these people faced, we need to start addressing such diseases and conditions, making things like schizophrenia and depression less taboo, and caring properly for those who unfortunately suffer with such illnesses. Instead of focusing on gun control, can’t we focus on getting the funding to support mental health research and treatment? Let’s morph the stigma into awareness.
I shared my story. I know that this one account won’t make everyone feel better about discussing mental health. But I do hope it inspires to change beliefs- your beliefs, the ones of your friends, the ones who make decisions that affect our country. Beliefs become thoughts that become actions. Those actions become habits and habits make up our life. The so-called “shame” of mental health must be erased.
For more of Tony Allen’s work, visit zestydoesthings.tumblr.com.