Editor’s Note: Although I have never met Elizabeth Bogod, I can see how passionate she is about in advocating for those with borderline personality disorder. By sharing both her struggles, setbacks and progress, Elizabeth helps others better understand and see this disorder with both compassion and hope. Thank you Elizabeth!
As many brave, courageous people including Amanda Wang, Tami Green and Kiera Van Gelder, speak out about their recovery from BPD, I too join the ranks. I too “come out of the closet” to attest to my recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)!
Unlike other mental health disorders, such as Clinical Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and Anxiety Disorders, BPD is only just coming into the light and being understood as a severe, but treatable mental illness.
I am among the many millions of people with this disorder. BPD is a devastating mental illness and is usually diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood. In my case, it struck very young, probably around puberty, but I was not diagnosed until twenty-six years of age. For more than ten years of my life, I struggled to get well. It has only been in the last four years that I have found true health and wellbeing. I am doing wonderful now!
There were many times when I honestly thought I would never get better – I gave up hope. I became suicidal. I attempted suicide a number of times. These attempts were serious, yet impulsive acts and extremely hard on my family who never knew if they would come home to find me dead or alive. This was before most mental health professionals knew much about BPD or how to treat it.
During my illness, I suffered from typical BPD symptoms. I had great difficulty regulating my emotions (especially in relationships with others). I was very impulsive and self-destructive. I engaged in self-injury to get a sense of relief from the emotional pain inside. I had uncontrollable bouts of rage either aimed at myself or others. I lost a lot of friends during this period and my family did not know how to help me, although they tried their best to be emotionally supportive. I also experienced severe depression and feelings of being completely empty. I felt like a burn victim – my skin so raw I lacked the “emotional skin” to cope with, what others would consider the normal everyday trials and tribulations of life.
At times, I did not know who the person looking back at me in the mirror really was – I thought I was a bad, evil and despicable person although I had never committed a crime and by many accounts was a caring, thoughtful and highly-sensitive individual. At other times, I dissociated from reality. I felt numb or unable to feel. For prolonged periods of time, everything around me looked and felt fake. On one day, I remember multi-coloured fall leaves blowing by that looked like plastic – nature was ugly and lacked any meaning or beauty. I felt as if I was living in a doll house where nothing around me was real. At other times I has dissociative attacks where I would look as if I was having a seizure. I would blank out and not be able to connect with the world around me.
As for my recovery, I was finally hospitalized in Victoria with severe depression. After two month of hell, my psychiatrist landed on the right medications for me – a combination of mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medication. Medication is not for everyone with BPD, but for me it has been a life saver. At last, through medication and self-taught Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) I found peace within my mind. These techniques help me manage my emotions. They help me tolerate difficult emotions so I don’t act on them and cause myself further emotional distress. Now that my mood swings were regulated I felt ready to go to college. I am now a certified Community Mental Health Worker. As a Peer Support Worker (PSW) at a local mental health agency, I work both one-to-one and in groups with people who have mental illnesses.
With the help of a young woman with BPD and her mother, I have started a local support group (Victoria, BC Canada) for people with BPD and family members. This peer-led group meets twice a month for two hours. For many new participants, it may be first time they have met somebody else with BPD or a fellow family member. Suddenly, they realize they are not alone and that others do care.
But, I am no longer my illness. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, team-member, facilitator, artist, writer, public speaker, a volunteer, a passionate person, a compassionate person, a nature lover (I see beauty again!), an animal lover, an advocate, a spiritual person, an avid novel reader, a bell collector, a movie watcher, a proud cockatiel owner, a person who knows me well… I am Elizabeth Charlotte Bogod.