Please welcome back again, all the way from the UK, our guest blogger, Sue Sibbald as she writes about the challenge of work and a fragmented work/employment history while coping with Borderline Personality Disorder.
door supervisors, licensing training, and more recently my new job as a Peer Support Specialist for people with Personality Disorders, I will talk about that later on.
I was brought up by my dad to believe you had to work hard, people who didn’t work were lazy, and you had to keep going no matter what. You couldn’t fail. There was no giving up or giving in. That wasn’t allowed. I also have a mother with schizophrenia, and I learnt to hide my feelings in order to survive. My childhood was quite traumatic.
Work As a Refuge (and Escape)
Two sides to a coin, as work kept me safe as I was occupied away from thoughts of my childhood. I kept busy. I was always doing; in perpetual motion and with no time to think. This became my pervasive pattern a coping strategy. It’s how I existed. I essentially repressed my feelings by keeping busy. Sound familiar?
I was also driven to be the best. I had to be perfect. I couldn’t fail.
Also, the nature of the job suited me, I had insomnia but working at a club meant you had no time for sleep. The hours were long, and it was exciting:, loads of live music, and you never knew what was going to happen… a fight, drug dealers, but mainly lots of amazing music. I love music.
In time I began to get tired. I couldn’t work the hours, and I was slowly feeling worse.
It was then, as I was quite ill, that I got a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I had been hiding my illness, panic attacks, inability to eat in restaurants, and self-harm because of my fear of psychiatrists. They had taken my mum away from me and made her a zombie. In my family, we couldn’t talk about mental health — it was too shameful, and I couldn’t give in.
I carried on work for a while but I couldn’t go on. I had been told I was mentally ill, and for me that meant I couldn’t work …that was the message I sent myself, so I stopped.
I then wrote letters asking why there was no help for people with BPD in my area, initially to the complaints department (and the reply was not very helpful), however upon writing again and making a phone call explaining myself further, I was invited to join the Personality Disorder Strategy Team as a Service User/Consumer representative. In the meantime, I came up with some ideas to help others. I began educating professionals as well as people with BPD. I realized my internal message about being mentally ill and being unable to work was false for me. I can work and I’m going to.
Do you suffer stigma around work? How do you mange working while having BPD?