Areas of Experience: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Focus: Anxiety, Depression, Self-Harm, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Stigma, Stress Management
Resources Used: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills, Textbooks, and Online Research
Tell me about yourself.
My name's Julia! I'm a 21-year-old Psychology student at Southern New Hampshire University with a focus in Sociology. I'm married to a wonderful man named Andy and live with him and his family in New Hampshire. I'm originally from Georgia (Go Dawgs!), but moved up here with Andy when he got out of the Army. I have two cats named Albus and Quibbler. In my spare time, I'm usually researching, on Tumblr, or doing some kind of craft. I have several different diagnoses. The diagnosis that seems to be at the center of the others is Borderline Personality Disorder, which I'm in recovery from with the help of DBT and an awesome therapist. I also own a website called Borderline Bravery where I lead a small team and help others with the same diagnosis. I hope to become a therapist or social worker. I haven't decided yet. :)
What types of reactions are not easy for you to hear?
It's not easy when people don't try to understand mental illness, or when they flat-out don't recognize it as a real thing. It's also hard when people refuse to be patient with me or patronize me because of my illness. Borderline Personality Disorder happens to be one of, if not THE most misunderstood/stigmatized mental illnesses out there. I once had a professor who taught our whole class that people with BPD are abusive. That really hurt, but it (unfortunately) wasn't that surprising. Most of the information out there about BPD is like that. The majority of the resources are meant to help others "put up with" me, not to help me cope with my own illness. It really sucks because there's all of these articles about how our symptomatic behavior hurts the people we love, but no one's willing to help us get better. It's like people have this mentality of BPD that's like "This is a list of all the things you're doing wrong, but I'm not going to help you do right, either." People forget that we have an illness. No one with Borderline Personality Disorder had a choice in getting sick. In fact, it developed as a result of our brain trying to help us survive.
Early on, why didn’t you share your diagnosis with others?
I've always been pretty open about mental illness. It runs deeply in my family, so I was familiar with it from a really young age. My mom and dad both taught me that it's nothing to be ashamed of. I actually remember talking to my first-grade teacher about mental illness once. One of the kids had used the word "Bipolar" as an adjective and so I voiced my concern about it to her. People aren't always understanding or kind when I talk about mental illness, but my passion for mental health outweighs all shame. However, I will say that the stigma attached to BPD got to me for a while. I went through a period of time where I'd talk about my other diagnoses but not BPD. Thankfully, that faded away as soon as I started to better understand what's really happening in my head and heard others' stories.
What reactions do you appreciate when you share with someone that you live with a mental illness?
I love when people can accept that I have a mental illness without making it into some weird, awkward thing that puts up some kind of barrier between us. I enjoy being able to openly talk about recovery, coping skills, etc. so it's really comforting to be around people who let me do that without judgment. It's even better when someone asks questions and engages in conversation with me about it when I do. It shows me that they're willing to try and understand, even if they don't quite get it. Communication is really important to me and the better we communicate, the better I'll feel around you.
What do you feel are some of the misperceptions around mental illness?
In my opinion, the biggest misperception about mental illness is that it's a result of "not trying hard enough." I really hate the saying "it's all in your head." It's like yeah, we know... that's why it's called mental illness. The brain is an organ that can get sick, just like any other organ in the human body. Something that's been stressed to me repeatedly throughout treatment is that everyone's doing the best they can. If people knew how to do better, they would do better.