Not until a few years ago was I formally diagnosed with BPD. Following my own research, I began to realise what all my symptoms meant, and I was finally able to start unpicking my past in order to understand my present.
At the age of 3 years I suffered a major traumatic event and from that point forward my life changed for the worse. As I became older, I was not like my peers, I failed to develop an identity, struggling socially and emotionally. I had become ‘stuck’ and whilst my body and mind were developing my sense of self and capacity to regulate emotion lagged way behind. As an adult every day is a struggle with my mind battling between whether to live or die. My emotions can go from one extreme to another. It may take just a few minutes to come back down but can also take a lot longer. I have a daily pervasive fear that the people I love the most will turn around and hurt me or be taken away from me. I had managed to hold a job down working in a financial environment for 34 years. I would put on different personas dependent on the situation. My work one was totally different to my others. Having retired early I suddenly lost structure to my life and my illness deteriorated ending with psychiatric hospitalisation on several occasions.
I first attended an ‘Art for Wellbeing’ drawing program at The Artworks, Halifax, West Yorkshire in 2014. Drawing played an important part as a young child acting as an escape from “bad things” so to attend this program I knew would be tough from an emotional level. Having finished the program I felt on a high, it re-ignited my passion for drawing, the tutors were not only passionate about what they teach but compassionate about you as a person and not a person with a ‘mental illness’.
Following a long stay in a psychiatric hospital in 2015 the directors of The Artworks suggested that I consider taking up a Studio Space. My concern was regarding my ability to cope with my daily emotions and actions in an environment outside of my home. Whilst my condition is not curable, I am learning to manage it and having the freedom to go to The Artworks has had a major positive impact on my wellbeing. I now have structure back in my life, I can immerse myself in art freeing up any negative thoughts, it has allowed me to connect with and on occasion deal with my emotions and also allows me to reach into unconscious parts of my mind and express these thoughts through my art.
It is a burden to be forced to face stigma and shame for having BPD. Have I been stigmatised? Yes. Sometimes I think that this is the biggest burden of all. Stigma persists and not just for BPD sufferers but all types of mental illness. It is very sad when those people who do stigmatise are in supposed caring or authoritative positions such as the police, A&E staff and even mental health professionals. It is time to change and by speaking out through art or any other creative activity it will hopefully inspire others to do the same.