It’s disconcerting, to see your life pathologised on Wikipedia.
For over a decade of my life, I’ve been in and out of doctors’ surgeries and the stuffy offices of NHS and [low cost] private counsellors, but each time anyone gave me a diagnosis it didn’t feel right.
I was told I had PTSD.
I was told I had depression.
I was told I had anxiety.
It turns out there’s a single phrase that means exactly this:
It sounds extreme, right?
It sounds like I have a personality that is on the borderline of being a personality.
It sounds like the description of someone who flits between personalities like schizophrenics in bad movies.
It doesn’t sound like nothing.
It doesn’t sound demur.
I read through the Wikipedia article on Borderline Personality Disorder the evening after I met the psychiatrist. Almost everything it said about the typical sufferer of Borderline Personality Disorder was true about me.
Have I demonstrated a pattern of idealisation and then disparagement of other people?
Do I run away from social situations and try to avoid seeing anybody more than once?
Have I self-harmed? Self-medicated? Done risky and dangerous things, made rash life-changing decisions or failed to make decisions that then resulted in decisions being made for me?
Have I ever made big financial misdecisions, have I ever had persistent feelings of bleak hopelessness but also periods of hyper excitement?
Do I not know how to behave? Do I feel most comfortable around others when I’m denying and repressing my personality and my opinions and my emotions?
Am I clocked out, most of the time, from every conversation I’m a part of?
Do I regret too much?
Do I share too much?
Do I have conflicting and contradictory opinions and attitudes and behaviours?
Do I judge myself and others extremely firmly, taking dialectical, unnuanced positions?
Do I not make sense to other people?
Do I not make sense to myself?
The answer to all of these questions is yes.
I have never felt so known as when I read that Wikipedia article.
I have never felt so predictable.
I have never felt so tired of myself and so
“Who I am” and “what has happened to me” is a “type”.
It is a “disorder”.
I am officially “not normal”.
The way I am is medically “wrong”.
Borderline Personality Disorder is – I have newly learned – often the result of a coping mechanism gone wrong. It is what happens when people are invalidated, when the validity of their emotions and their thoughts and their experiences are denied.
It is what happens when you tell a child its sadness, its happiness, its energy, its excitement, is unwelcome and inappropriate.
It is what happens when you have a regional accent bullied out of you, it is what happens when you are mocked until you change how you appear to others, it is what happens when your achievements are derided and it is what happens when your academic decline post puberty is utterly ignored by every single person who knows you.
It is what happens when you are told you don’t fuck right, when you are told you don’t eat right, when you are told you don’t dress right, when you are told you don’t read right and when you are told you don’t write right.
It is what happens when you attempt to be a different person for everyone you meet, when you try to be what you think the other person wants you to be and you feel like you have to you have to you have to
get it right
you don’t want to be hit and shouted at again and you don’t want to be thrown away, rejected, forgotten.
It’s easier to withdraw, detach, close down, than it is to be present.
I live in a city, now, where I have no friends.
I ran away from London, like a bald Dick Whittington. I am always running away, like a bald dick.
I have always wanted to run away. I have always needed to.
A diagnosis and the targeted treatment that can now be given won’t help immediately: one cannot erase, through a few words in a windowless doctor’s office one rainy afternoon, a near-entire lifetime of trying – and failing – to be all the completely different people that I kept guessing I was trying to be.
I still don’t know who I am, but at least I have a three word phrase to tell me what I am.
We are all defined by the experiences that we live through.
Sometimes those experiences
really fuck us up.
ADDENDUM: this diagnosis happened a couple of weeks before the world basically shut down due to COVID-19 and, here in Toronto at least, the world remains closed. Almost a year has passed since I wrote the above, and in that time my material, social and physical circumstances have only worsened. I’m drinking a lot less and eating pretty healthily, sure, but gluttony is a premium source of visceral pleasure and denial feels masochistic.
Maybe it is.
I’m not yet out of hope, but I’m running low on patience.
Scott Manley Hadley blogs at TriumphoftheNow.com and their books also include Bad Boy Poet, available from Open Pen.