More than Borderline

Stigma is one of the most challenging aspects of mental illness. A report by the President’s New Freedom Commission states: Stigma refers to a cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with mental illnesses. Stigma is widespread in the United States and other Western nations . . . It leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking and wanting to pay for care. Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment.
My brother recently posted a picture of a T-shirt that read "It's an Oberg thing. You wouldn't understand." This struck me as funny because our last name is not exactly common. It got better when I started reading the comments--all these other people with the last name Oberg who thought they were the only ones was intriguing enough, but my favorite comment was, "Has anyone else spent their life going 'No, it's not Irish, there's no apostrophe?" I loved the whole thread. It taught me an important lesson about group therapy--namely, it can be just as effective as individual therapy.
Life with borderline personality disorder means accepting the fact that some days will be better than others. Recently, I had a bad day. My therapist has suggested several different ways to distract myself from self-harming in hopes that I can put it off until the urge passes. Here is what's worked for me.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that an employer does not need to cover contraceptives if it conflicts with a sincerely held religious belief. Some are saying it's a victory for religions liberty, others say it's a startling setback for women. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. But this is a column about mental illness, and what the recent decision means for mental health consumers. In short, we're in danger.
In September of 2008, More Than Borderline's, Becky Oberg, was in a state-run psychiatric hospital. As she reflected on her life, she wondered if her journalism career was over. After all, she'd failed to find a job and had been fired from her dream job for having a dissociative episode while on the clock. It did indeed seem her career was over due to the stigma against mental illnesses such as borderline personality disorder (BPD).
My apartment complex has become infested with bedbugs and roaches, so the landlord has moved us to a small hotel in northern Indianapolis. The move has been chaotic--some of my neighbors have left altogether, some have been threatened with arrest for panhandling or smoking, and getting to medical appointments relies on a superb knowledge of the bus schedule. Yet I'm holding up well thanks to Alcoholic's Anonymous (AA) and therapy. It is possible to have serenity in the midst of chaos.
I'm taking an online course in Kabbalah, which is a form of Jewish mysticism. Last night I learned something that was a Copernican shift in my worldview--God wants us to be happy. God wants to give us endless fulfillment. Then the professor said that we were asking ourselves, "What went wrong?" God wants us to be happy--so why aren't we?
Romantic relationships are difficult enough without mental illness entering the equation. But when one or both of the people involved has borderline personality disorder (BPD), relationships can become sheer hell. I live with BPD and was once in a romantic relationship with a man who had BPD and bipolar disorder; it was probably the biggest mistake I ever made. That said, I learned a lot from it.
I'll be blunt--Indianapolis is my city, and I love my city, warts and all. Recently a dominatrix-turned-political-activist was selling books at the farmer's market I frequent. Long story short, I now own an autographed copy of Spanking City Hall by Melyssa Hubbard. The book is a delightful romp through the world of kink and the lawsuit designed to stop it, ultimately culminating in a triumph of the little guy. I've learned many things from this book, including why sex should be safe to explore, why it's important to stand up for yourself even if it doesn't look like you've got a chance, and how some people just go out of their way to undermine you. These are all great lessons for a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD) to learn.
Sometimes houses of worship are not the sanctuaries we need them to be. Many people of faith believe that mental illness is a spiritual problem, which hurts everyone involved. More Than Borderline's, Becky Oberg, endured two exorcisms at the hands of a charismatic non-denominational church, eventually leaving when she realized they would not accept her mental illness or her.