Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Prejudices & Stereotypes

My DBT Life utilizes a FORUM for members to discuss the skills, how they look in their daily lives, specific support on specific issues, or just to sound off. Although there isn't much action in there currently I check it and post often. I am certain that the traffic will pick up inside the forum the more members we get. 

However, today's post isn't about the forum, rather it is about a post that a member made inside the forum. It was touching on several levels. There are all too many times persons with mental illness suffer prejudices and stereotypes. She was quite articulate about her personal experience with these prejudices and stereotypes and I wanted to share it with everyone. Thank-you Morning-Moon for expressions!

MJ 

Here is what she had to say:





I have a diagnosis of BPD. While I don't go around advertising it, I am certainly not ashamed of the diagnosis (some of the associated behaviors--yes, and I'm working on that). Recently I have had two instances of negative response to the fact of the diagnosis from people I really care about and told explicitly about it. I'm usually pretty immune to these sorts of things. When I was on welfare and foodstamps so long when my children were growing up, others I knew would complain about people giving them dirty looks in the grocery store, doctors not treating them well, all because of their 'poor' status and getting assistance. I never saw it directed at me. I may be oblivious, or it's possible they were having issues with projecting their own feelings, who knows. <shrug> But this time it felt hurtful...even though, really, they are defending me in a way. 

My very best friend lives far away in Germany. I was telling her about DBT and mentioned the BPD diagnosis and her initial response was...oh, I don't think so. You're not THAT crazy. She's a smart girl and went on to 'diagnose' a depressive disorder. :) At any rate, I was taken aback by the response. Like I said, she is a smart girl, and for someone like her to hold such misinformed ideas is bothersome. We did, of course, discuss it further and maybe I was able to dispel some of the ignorance of the disorder she carried. 

Another friend, a woman who has bipolar disorder, upon hearing from me that I had this diagnosis and about the DBT therapy, adamantly refused it for me. Her explanation of why she doesn't see me fitting it is that 'You are batshit crazy but you have a good heart.' :) Apparently her experience of BPD in others has been very negative and she has spun that out so that all people with BPD must be heartless (perhaps sociopathic?). It brought to my attention that if this fairly knowledgeable mental health consumer has these sorts of ideas about BPD, then it must seem far worse for others less knowledgeable. If it can get any worse than heartless. 

Being in DBT now and having spent quite enough time in mental hospitals, I have met quite a few people with a diagnosis of BPD. I have also heard not a few reject the diagnosis because of it's perceived hopelessness and the associated stigma. I have met all sorts of people...kind, gentle, loud, rude, angry and acting out, funny, sadsadsad, and more. And even at their worst (including me), I do not think any of them are heartless. (Sociopathic is another disorder.) What I have both experienced and observed or intuited is people who are trying to protect their hearts from further breakage. By whatever means they feel is necessary at the time. In hindsight, for me at least, I am learning that the means I have employed over the years have not been very effective and often quite the opposite. I'm very grateful to have the opportunity now to learn perhaps some more effective ways to be in the world, to protect and to heal my broken heart. I read and understand more and more about the 'cause' factor of BPD-related behavior that is, what, a dialectic? The natural consequences that have brought me to today and the behavior I have today...and how I can choose/work to change that. 

For all of us, I hope that we are able to hold ourselves apart from other people's ignorance and judgmental-ness as we grow in our DBT journeys. We ARE that crazy -- in a very good way :) -- and we have hearts big enough to hold a lifetime of sorrows ON TOP OF the fullness of love there. Thanks for letting me sort this out a little here.

~Morningmoon






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