This blog is written by Elena, who is a proud mental health advocate and has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Elena works for Catalyst, volunteers for Bullies Out UK and is the founder of ChangeYourStars, a mental health support forum on Instagram and Facebook. She is also a keen musician and songwriter and a Miss Great Britain finalist.
In this blog Elena explains how diagnosis has helped her understand herself better and inspired her to help others by raising awareness and breaking the stigma associated with mental health. She also talks about her experience with our SUN (Service User Network) service, community led peer support groups for people with complex emotions.
My name is Elena, I am a 31 year old musician based in the UK. For as long as I remember I have suffered with anxiety and depression, all my life I behaved in a certain way which most people would describe as “different” I have always felt like an outsider and my emotions have always been very intense regardless of what I’m feeling.
In my teens to early adulthood I dabbled with recreational drugs and alcohol to try and
self-medicate and numb myself from the intense reality I was feeling around me that I couldn’t understand, I wasn’t able to reach out to anyone due to feeling shame that I wasn’t coping.
In my late teens to early adulthood I had an unhealthy relationship with myself and others around me.
It sounds corny, but being able to write songs was my only escape. I felt like someone, like a
normal human with purpose coping with everyday life, I could escape in my music and create a world much simpler than my own. Don’t get me wrong, to this day I am able to mask my intense emotions and make people believe everything is OK, I have always found it easier to do this than to pour my heart out while being confronted.
That’s the beauty of having BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), no one can tell, most of the time we are able to disguise ourselves as your everyday busy happy stable neighbour who seems to have everything figured out.
Ok I am babbling back to my story, after being in and out of the mental health system for 6 years in 2019 at aged 29, I was at breaking point after being accused by a loved one’s parents of being controlling and manipulative and being bullied in my place of work at the time. I’d had enough and sought professional help through my community mental health team where I was finally diagnosed with BPD.
Getting my diagnosis opened my eyes, it also made me feel less isolated and ostracised by society. Getting the correct help has assisted me to firstly understand myself more and help my loved ones understand me too.
I am someone who loves to dissect things and this is exactly what I did when I was given my formal diagnosis, I went online and read articles on the NHS website, Mind Charity, The Mighty and other reliable sources. I watched YouTube videos of interviews on BPD and how it affects people differently. I followed bloggers who openly spoke about their symptoms and feelings. I looked for support through private Facebook forums, one of them being ‘Living with BPD’.
The forum consists of people sharing views and discussing situations they’ve been in and how they dealt with them inorder to help others and get advice themselves from other people with BPD. I found myself looking for films and documentaries about BPD too, you could say I became fascinated by researching and educating myself. Questions I had for such a long time were being answered.
Finally I bought some books online to further understand my diagnosis in a clinical sense which I have found hugely helpful and grounding. My diagnosis is not an excuse for my actions but it is an explanation for my limitations and my intensified reactions. All this research and interaction with other BPD sufferers helped me feel normal and for the first time I felt like part of a community, part of a tribe of misunderstood warriors if you like.
I am currently undergoing analytical group therapy and attending educational courses through the NHS to further support my needs and understanding of BPD. I am also a member of the SUN (Service User Network) service, this project is a very new model focused on peer-led support for people with a diagnosis of personality disorder or traits. Since I have joined SUN, I have met life-long friends and learnt a lot about myself in a short space of time, while using the skills I learnt to
help others within the group too. I look forward to this group every week. The SUN service is what has been missing within the mental health support sector and for someone with this condition a service like this is lifesaving. I would highly recommend if you feel you or a loved one would benefit from such a group, please do check them out, you will not regret it
I have a long way to go and a big journey towards recovery ahead of me but I am that one step closer to being able to live side by side with BPD in peace.
I see my BPD as a gift on good days, without it would I be so creative, passionate and
understanding of other people’s emotions…?
The word BPD holds so much stigma and it is my mission to share my story to help others struggling or feeling left out. Inclusion is key and if I can help one person feel less alone, that to me is more important than selling out stadiums. I want to be remembered as more than just another person who was a musician, I want to be remembered as someone who changed the way people perceived complex stigmatised mental health conditions forever.
If you would like to contribute to our blog and share stories or experiences, we would love to hear from you. Please email [email protected] to get in touch.