For my 201st post on this blog, I’m doing something a bit different, and it’s something I’d like to do from time to time: I’m featuring a guest blogger. Today, David O’Garr, our peer, will share his very personal story as a man living with and healing from Borderline Personality Disorder.
Let’s welcome David and honor his willingness to share so openly so that other men may feel less alone.
But that doesn’t answer the question. We know academically, theoretically even, that there are just as many men as there are women with BPD; but in reality, in the online support communities that we have built for ourselves, it seems as imbalanced as ever. Sometimes it seems that there is one guy to every fifty or so women. The amount of men I have actually spoken to that have disclosed their BPD diagnosis I can honestly count on just one hand.
Gender Socialization and Lack of “Outed” Men with BPD?
The reason for this, I believe, is gender socialization. The reason we don’t see as many males with BPD can all be boiled down to how we raise our boys and what we expect from them. I am not going to go into huge detail on this, but it is worth pointing out. If you’re interested, this article on Psychology Today’s website written by Randi Kreger (which also appears in her book The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder) Borderline Personality Disorder in Men Overlooked, Misdiagnosed is a good break down and is definitely worth the read.
So now onto me, my story, how I came to be diagnosed, how my recovery is going — it’s all about me now. 🙂It’s one of favourite topics so much so that I write a whole blog about it. Even Debbie thinks I’m the most interesting thing ever, and it’s why I’m writing this guest post. I’m hilarious! 🙂
I think my story is very similar to a lot of others I’ve heard. I was misdiagnosed as clinically depressed for years before anyone seemed to take my other symptoms into consideration. My outbursts of anger were really just filed away as typical male aggression, and because I wasn’t violent with my anger, no one seemed to take it too seriously.
The other thing was my self harming behaviour, which seemed to be overcomplicated again by the fact that I was gay and dealing with a small town general practitioner who had never met a gay person, let alone a gay patient. So I felt that I started to fall through the cracks so to speak, as I didn’t have the proper support and education as a gay teenager.
Eating, Trying to Acquire Control, and Being Invalidated at Home
Sexual Impulsiveness and Promiscuity
Then there was the sex, at 17, my very first sexual encounter was actually not consensual. I know that what had happened, on top of the fact that I had so many messed up ideas of what gay sex was, is partially why I started having some really high risk sex. Meeting with random people on the internet, not using condoms – I even started doing some sex work as well.
Living on The Edge – My Most Dangerous Phase – And My Escape
So these patterns of behaviour went on for years, I started drinking heavily and got involved in sex work while living in
Change is the key word here, because I still didn’t have the tools to fix the underlying problems and I traded one set of problematic behaviours for another. One of the first things I did was that I started to eat, the problem was that I didn’t really know how to stop eating. I am now twice the size I was at 17 and am trying to work out what I need to do to feel both happy and healthy.
When I stopped having sex, I actually stopped reaching out to people. I just turned myself off emotionally from the idea of being in something romantic, because at that time I no longer saw sex as something fun and exciting.
This went on for years, I tried almost every anti-depressant there is. At first I thought they were making a difference but in the end, I came to believe that it was all a placebo effect. I tried to just put my nose to the grindstone and pull myself up, convince myself that there was nothing wrong, but I always ended up sliding back into old behaviours. Then we would try a new pill and none of them would address the actual symptoms I was facing.
I would tell you about what relationships have been like for me, but to be honest I have never really had one. My longest relationship has been three months long, and to be honest I tend to push people out of my life so hard when I fear they’ll abandon me, that there’s really no hope that they’ll ever come back.
Work was always just as hard for me, I would start off as the model employee. I would end up getting triggered and end up rage quitting or doing something that would lead to get me fired. I tried to go to school, but that had the exact same results.
Things Started to Get A Lot Better
So that doesn’t quite bring us to now, but it brings us to about two years ago, when things were starting to go well in my life. I had a great job. I had some great friends, and I was just starting to put things back together. I feared, though, that I’d backslide if I didn’t find help. So, I went to my doctor, and he just prescribed me another anti-depressant – this time though, I also got a referral to a psychiatrist. After years of doctors just telling me I was just depressed, I no longer had to wait on those long waiting lists. I was finally going to talk to someone who knew more about mental health.
Well the anti-depressant, as I expected, did nothing for me — (well I believe it did help me quit smoking, as the drug I was prescribed is also marketed as a smoking cessation aid — so that was one good thing.) But in the meantime, I wasn’t in any sort of therapy and things started to get worse. I kept getting angrier and angrier at work until eventually no one really wanted to work with me, and I was at risk of losing my job.
A month before I eventually did lose my job I finally got to see the psychiatrist. That whole day in and of itself was a nightmare and a story that I will tell one day, but certainly merits more time then I can give it right now. After sitting with me for twenty minutes, he gave me my new diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and ushered me out, referring me to someone else that I wouldn’t get to see for another few months.
After that, things quickly fell apart. I felt lost. I had no idea what BPD was or what it meant. I felt like I had basically been told that I am not a real person, I have no real sense of self, that I barely exist, which fed into one of my biggest fears: a fear of not existing. This fear is something that has been driving me to make some sort of impact in the world, I need to know that I have had an effect on people’s lives, I need to know that I can do good in this world. To then be told, as I interpreted my diagnosis at the time, that I was not a whole person – just felt like I was barely there at all. This was very triggering for me, and it was months before I got any sort of support.
Things that I would normally only find mildly irritating I started to rage about. I pushed away family and friends, except for the few that would not let me do it. I felt so lost and unsupported and scared. I didn’t know where to go or who to turn to.
I started to write about my diagnosis, to start a dialogue at the very least with myself, about what was going on. I researched DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), mindfulness, biosocial theory, and the work of Dr. Marsha Linehan. After wading through the nasty things said about people with BPD by others online, and after reading one too many scholarly articles, I found Debbie’s healingwithbpd.org.
This blog has been instrumental with me in coming to terms with my disorder, and even though I couldn’t find much of a voice for men with BPD, I did find myself relating to this blog and was able to start to find a community of support on twitter, even if I was a bit resistant to it at first.
So I guess that’s my story so far as a man with BPD, you might find things you can relate to or things that are different. I think all of us with BPD have similar but unique stories. They say that we don’t have to have grown up in an invalidating environment to develop BPD but I have yet to meet someone with the diagnosis who didn’t grow up in such an environment, and most of us have trauma in our pasts as well. So I think on those levels many of us can relate to one another.
As the world changes and it becomes more socially acceptable for men to seek and get and even offer support, we’ll start to slowly see more men voice their concerns with this disorder. In fact, one of the biggest voices for BPD right now is Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears, and that right there is helping to break down so many barriers and much stigma.
We’re all in this together, men, women, and anyone whose gender doesn’t fall neatly into those categories; I think we all just need to do what we can to help each other out. “