Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Big Fat Borderline" ((may be triggering))

Those words - spat out by a nurse that I worked with - floored me.

She would often utter derogatory statements about the "consumers" that she "provided" mental health services to.

But these were the words that stuck with me and it's been about 5 years since I left that job. I'd been hired the year before to be sort of a "gal friday" in the office of the local work site for the mentally ill and mentally handicapped.

And the young woman that was the target of this psychiatric "Nurse" was carrying numerous "labels" in her chart and this was the label that got her the most disdain and abuse by staff and the local police and hospital.

And her behavior was typical of someone who is given the label "BPD"; she exhibited needy, childlike dependency that required much external validation, she engaged in self harm behaviors, was a frequent visitor to the emergency room, her emotions were intense and thinking was very black and white

and her social history was that of horrendous neglect and abuse as a small child.

I never did learn her entire story but another staff member, a "PHD", in the same facility broke confidentiality and shared parts of this young woman's history telling me in the end that she would "never" be "normal".

Well fricking no shit jack.

Excuse the language - but for real?

And this is part of what fuels me is how another person who has the degree's and letters behind their names is apparently deemed qualified to determine another's value and lay out their life for them as


and requiring to be "managed"

instead of cared for and valued, their experiences validated

instead of treated as less than deserving of human compassion.

Today - this young woman is free of this facility that was eventually shut down by the state for many reasons.

I saw her recently and still see the scars from the lies that she has been told - that she is "broken" and "Borderline"


and will never be anything other.

She proudly told me that she is doing what she is supposed to be doing to avoid hospitalization.

And my heart grieves for her and the loss of the life potential that might have been found had someone simply said

"it will be ok"

showed some compassion

and shined the light on the path of wellness for her

instead of the anchor of

"illness" and "compliance".


With all respect for the choices and journeys of those who read this blog, I share this post to bring light to a subject that is as taboo as the abuse that is often the cause of these issues of emotional and cognitive distress that we have come to call "mental illness".

This story is part of what fuels my passion for this message of wellness today. For each post I write, each story I tell, there is the memory of this young woman and hundreds and thousands more like her that live only the life they have been told they could have,many of them institutionalized and medicated since childhood; questions and hope for anything more, crushed as compliance and obedience become the objectives.

In my own personal journey through the current mental health system and then the realization that I had never been "ill" but rather "injured" evidenced by my amazing "recovery" - and the atrocities that I have witnessed in the facilities that I have been employed in that had no knowledge of my own personal history - I am grieved.



Anonymous said...

I would EASILY be diagnosed as a Borderline and thought, for a brief moment recently, that I was. (I'll be writing about this and what it did to me.) Then, thank GOD, I came upon the work of Judith Herman, who thinks that most, if not all, "Borderlines" are SEVERELY misdiagnosed and SEVERELY mis-treated and are actually Complex-PTSD. Imagine how THAT would change that girl's life.

You know, Susan, I am sad with you about this. So deeply sad...

Unknown said...

This girls story is only one of what happens to those who don't have the internal resources having been denied the basic human life skills of self preservation that causes such dependency. It's similar to surviving a POW experience....only it's a child trying to survive and resorting to coping as best they can in a world that punishes their very existence.

I agree with the work you reference and have seen similar works and assumptions. Thank you for sharing my compassion.

Patricia Singleton said...

Susan, thank you for sharing your experiences and the experiences of others and the effects of being labeled.

Gillian Hannaway Rowe said...

This is typical and deeply frustratiing. There needs to be a "sea change" in the approach and diagnosis of these problems. We are living in the Dark Ages of mental health awareness. The drug companies are happy for the situation to persist and as they now contribute to many of the diagnosis manuals it is hardly surprising to find a new range of "illnesses" ranging from ADHD to in the drugs they dole out. As we all know most of these so called conditions are probably a direct result of trauma in childhood. How can the most experienced and the most qualified to speak on such matters bring this into the open and raise awareness..I pity anyone seeking help with their local doctor..a cocktail of drugs and an unenvieable "label" is awaiting such sufferers who take their first steps to "help"

Unknown said...

Gillian; I share your frustration. And....I think a large part of this issue lies in the idea that those who were not raped or beaten - somehow physically abused - were not traumatized and the connection is missed.

Over at - some time ago Carla Dippel wrote of how she came to realize her depression was situational rather than "genetic" and thus found freedom from her "mental illness".

Personally, I think if we are looking for solutions it would begin with the issues of power and control and how these issues are passed generationally and through the current social/health/justice/military systems - not genetically.

As for the discrimination and abuse by the professionals charged with the health care of those most fragile and injured (not "ill" - injured) what I am finding is that most want to defend and deny that this goes on rather than facing the reality that people like this young woman live in every day. Every single day the shame, the patronizing, the belittling and gossiping behind the doors of the conference rooms.

This is the elephant in the living room - the labels, the shame, the discrimination - not just of "BPD" but of mental illness in general. Granted - there are some compassionate providers out there but in my experience they are the exception rather than the norm.

What I've found often it is the ones who fuss the loudest about how this isn't going on in "all" offices and organizations are the ones that I've found to be the worst perpetrators as they defend to deny.

This needs to be talked about openly and not tolerated for those who are abusing to be held to a higher standard.

Unknown said...

Patricia - thank you for your kind comment. I so value your friendship and your support! :)

Anonymous said...

Personally I feel disoriented by this "willful ignorance" in the medical profession and society at its worst it almost seems like a conspiracy of silence..and I feel like I "have woken up" in a world I cannot relate to. I see this denial now in all walks of life..political and scientific..they say ignorance is bliss and they a have a point.It is hard to remain grounded when you emerge "into the light" and find others quite happy and willing to stay skulking in the shadows of denial...hmm, cannot ponder on this too it contributes to my feelings of standing on shakey ground.Any tips on coping with this feeling of complete "disorientation"..Thanks for all you do and say here xxx

Unknown said...

Anon - I do hear you and I do understand what you are talking about in "this feeling of complete disorientation"....

Part of my journey included being involved in a "non denominational" christian faith church. When I made the decision to leave my abusive husband the church members turned on me and my children. We were literally "shunned" and turned away.

Shortly after this experience and as I attempted to find my way in a world that I had not been a part of as I was isolated in the closed system of this religion/church for 10 years - I felt much then as I did when I had this "awakening" you describe of exiting the MH system.

It was as if I was seeing the world for the first time. My house, my car, my clothes...the trees in my yard, the people around me, my was so surreal. It was as though I had fallen asleep 10 years before when I accepted the doctrine of this religion and then woke up when they rejected my pain and dismissed my children and I from their midst.

The best way I've found to manage or cope with this "shock" is to listen to my entire being....and to let the grief at the losses and the reality of this world be acknowledged...making sure I don't just jump on another "bandwagon"...being true to myself and trusting my own view of reality to avoid letting it be painted over again.

Thanks for sharing your story here with us. Be well.

MontessoriMom said...

Thanks for posting this- not sure why it hit my email today as I see it is an older post. However, I was that girl in my own way. I'd been dx DID for years, but at one facility they did not believe in DID and labeled me BPD and it was horrible how they treated me because they viewed me as BPD. I'm very cautious about the medical community now as a result. I am back in the land of friendlies but that experience will never leave me.

Unknown said...

UndercoverDID....I'm really sorry to hear that you had that experience. It is horrible that anyone be subject to this kind of discrimination and abuse but it has always bothered me that those who have suffered the most and live in the most pain are then treated this way - by the "professionals" no less.

Good to hear that you're in a good place now...and I can completely understand your justifiable caution around the medical community. Many have chosen to view this industry in much the same way...including me.

I'm not sure how this got to you today but I'm glad that you took the time to read and comment:)