Updated: May 13, 2022
Isn’t there more out there for me than sloppy band aid solutions? I wondered why this story went in circles and I wondered why many words were muttered in whispers or forbidden to speak of altogether. I had this narrative for years; it was an idea I toyed with but it was not an idea I had complete confidence in. I would say, “I think I have more than just depression and anxiety”. It took courage to challenge a professional but I did so because something always felt wrong. My mental illnesses felt like a half understood story. But this consideration would get swept under the rug by the treater I would present it to. And I’d be back at square one, reluctantly accepting yet another band aid slapped somewhere on my body, only to lose its stick and fall off somewhere in my travels. I lost another band aid. My wound saw the daylight again. I’d walk around for weeks or even months with that open wound. I’d try to put my own band aids on them, but those wouldn’t stick either. My emotional wounds were made out to be paper cuts- and they were treated as such. You heal a paper cut with some Neosporin and a single band aid. It closes up in a few days and you carry on, having gotten the correct response to your injury. You take the band aid off on your own terms. You don’t wait until it grows tired of holding your skin in place. “I think it’s more than just depression and anxiety”, I would present to another therapist, walking into my first session with dirty band aids all over my body; some in tact, others falling off and a trail of them behind me. My open wounds were the nine symptoms I suffered from obviously. My nine symptoms were no hidden matter. A tiny band aid did not cover frantic efforts of real or imagined abandonment. A tiny band aid was a pathetic solution for my indifference to life. You don’t show up at a doctors, prepared for surgery with an evident injury, only to be told it wasn’t quite there. It’s not so bad, you must be imagining things, because we surely don’t see the same wound. You don’t show up at a doctors with a condition that could kill you, but walk away with a band aid. Invisible illnesses, you know, the ones that reside in your head, they can be made out to be a million things they aren’t. How can they get away with throwing band aids at wounds, you ask? It is not a wound they see if they choose not to. It is a wound that the body it sits on has to endure. They say, I’m bleeding out. I can’t take it any more. Why can’t you see these band aids aren’t working? Why can’t you see how deep this wound is? Why can’t you see I have been walking around for years with a lethal injury that’s been treated like a paper cut? It is not that your emotional wounds are only yours to see; it is that treaters have chose to close their eyes when you point to the one hundredth failed band aid. There was a time when I was in the beginning stages of understanding my illness, where I thought, they didn’t know any better. But, today, I know better. And I will never excuse the collective team of professionals that stuck band aids on my wounds. I can’t help it, it is only human nature, for me to think, oh, how much suffering they could have prevented. And I don’t keep this thought around because it’s changeable. I keep this thought around because I think people should know. I think this is a conversation we should be having and I think, they should be doing right by us. My band aids came in various forms, but more or less equivalently ineffective. A high dose of Paxil for my “depression and anxiety”, prescribed to me after a mere fifteen minutes of getting to know me. Thirty minute once a month check ins with a general NP at aged 16: the chosen treatment approach to self-harm. A low dose of Celexa “to take the edge off” my weak and tired teenage body that morphed into a zombie because of said taking the edge off. Yet another cookie cutter CBT approach from another uninformed therapist. Another head nod when I pleaded, “this is more than just depression and anxiety”. Another, “hmm” in response to complaints that should have elicited immediate therapeutic action. “That must have been really hard”, I hear yet again, in that generic, unhelpful therapy voice, a response to my frantic efforts. The dismissiveness that resulted in bringing a printed out possible diagnosis to session, yet again screaming, “I think this might be more than just depression and anxiety”. I‘ll never forget the email I sent to my then psychiatrist, like I had had this epiphany, it was BPD, for sure. The response: a link to a DBT group. Nothing more. I’ll never forget the very last session I had with a psychologist in her 70s who accused me of, for lack of better word, dressing slutty. “The first time we met”, “That polka dot dress“ “with a lot of bosom“. Why was the clothing I chose to put on my body of any relevance? I don’t owe an explanation, but I do laugh at this now. The lack of ”bosom” that I have could not be revealing in a low cut dress if I tried. And, hey, might I add it was a DVF ”wrap dress” romper, that she made out to be the famous look from Pretty Woman. Sorry ma’am, but I reserved that one for Halloween (truthfully). My interpretation was that somehow, somewhere, she got this idea that I was histrionic behind closed doors-and it was like, oh, connection! I remember that slutty dress you wore that one time. The NP that trialed and errored an entire pharmacy full of psych medications before ever considering, not just depression and anxiety, something more, something that could not be solely treated chemically. I went down the list as her Guinea pig test subject. Vistiral, gabapentin, prozac, propranolol, trileptal, lamictal, buspirone, Effexor. And each time, the medication would be presented to me like a solution, finally. Oh, but we haven’t tried THIS thing, have we? She disregarded possible side effects and in fact ensured me of none when I would ask. I’d return after a few weeks complaining of lethargy or weight gain-common side effects to SSRIs and other psych medications. She would react like she had never heard such a ludicrous thing; oh my, numbness on Effexor, I’ve never heard such a thing! I played Guinea pig test subject for years with this treater. We never had a discussion of diagnosis. It was her responsibility to wonder why medications weren’t working. It was her responsibility to treat me as human and not a body willing to trial meds. Even when my illness began to scream, I came to her holding hands with the devil that tormented me. “I think I might have…borderline personality disorder”. She brushed it off like it were a psych med side effect, oh, no, not that! Believe me, you definitely don’t have that. That’s for people with like…insert the especially taboo symptoms. Really, really suicidal and dysfunctional…in hospitals…not you. Although I didn’t trust myself, I absolutely knew better. I was being told of my own story: depression and anxiety that surfaced as a teenager. Med resistant. In no need of intensive therapy. But this story was much shorter than the one in my head. This story didn’t include most of my symptoms, and with that, there simply was not room for them, not in a treaters office, anyway. I took her word for it, as any vulnerable 20 something year old battling chronic invalidation would. I had not known what emotional validation looked like in this sense. So, I took each pathetic band aid and didn’t ask for anything more. When you don’t quite understand what it is that you need, and someone deciphers that for you, it works in their favor. It’s medical gaslighting at the cost of your well-being and in favor of their comfort and overbearing ego. Their approaches, their attempts to sweep my borderline monster under a rug, kept them comfortable. It kept them safe from having to treat such a nasty disorder. It kept them safe in their bubble, floating around like there are simply disorders that don’t walk through their doors. Borderline personality disorder had no place in a surface level therapy program. Borderline personality disorder belonged in hospitals. It belonged in the 10%. It belonged with the doctors and therapists they pitied; the ones who voluntarily chose to treat such a thing. Borderline personality disorder belonged in one page in their shelved DSM5 that they should open and remove their bookmark from. It belonged in the stigma bubble; it’s a thing you hear of but won’t see as long as you choose not to. I wish I didn’t have this story to tell, the story of how I diagnosed myself. How after years of questioning my diagnosis, I had been the one that said, this is what I have. I am grateful that my therapist at that time heard me, that she opened the DSM and reviewed every symptom with me. But how grateful can you really be? She was the same treater that would have sporadic BPD check ins with me that would sound like, “how’s all the BPD stuff”. The ”BPD stuff” was my treacherous reality in my every waking hour, but the way she put it, was like it was a common cold that came to visit me seasonally. Down the line, she would criticize my relationships and without knowing the full story, immediately point two fingers at me. Well, what is it that you are doing wrong? And it was like she was trying to find answers; some hidden borderline secrets that maybe I was concealing due to shame. She even had the audacity to ask me, “Do you jump in bed with them too quickly? Or do you wait like six dates?” Because if I had borderline personality disorder, and I was at the other end of chronic narcissistic abuse, well it must be my fault. It was so difficult to shake as it was, this idea that I had too many run ins with emotionally abusive people, that I must be the common denominator. But I know all too well, we tend to return to abuse because we crave familiarity. Not only did I have treaters that ignored my illness, I also had treaters that invalidated my trauma. So severely that I only recently was able to identify my trauma as such, with the help of my current therapist who was the fresh set of eyes that I needed. I wondered why that word never occurred to me since it was relevant to my experiences, but I don’t wonder. I had been told that the emotional abuse I endured was typically my own fault, just another manifestation of this illness. I simply thought of my trauma as ways in which I self-sabotaged but this couldn’t have been more untrue. The ultimate abuse of therapeutic power is in turning a blind eye for one’s own comfort or for the sake of ego. It is in gaslighting the vulnerable to get them on the very same page as you. You don’t have BPD, you’re just confused. You’re just a teenager. You’re just boy obsessed and young. The ultimate abuse of therapeutic power is in endorsing stigma instead of asking, why. Why is there stigma? Why is this disorder made out to be a death sentence? Why does no one want to treat it? There is courage in curiosity, in admitting that letters after one’s name do not equate to having every answer. I don’t look back on my experiences with mental health professionals and think, my god, If only I had crossed paths with a BPD expert. No. I think, my god, if only someone had been curious. If only someone had been just as motivated to treat me as they were to preserve their comfort. Because I know that ignorance is bliss. That it is easier for any mental health professional to side step you in a different direction than it is to say, let’s look into this. Maybe you do have Borderline personality disorder-and if you do, let’s find a way to get it treated. For the sufferer, ignorance is costly. Ignorance brought on more suffering. I had a devil on my back but I didn’t know his name. I can’t forgive them. They looked him in the eye. They called him by his name, but only behind my back. Manipulation and gaslighting sometimes feel like they are reserved for abusive boyfriends. But manipulation and gaslighting are most damaging when they come from smiling faces with degrees. There is this wide idea that we owe forgiveness. That if someone has harmed us, we should say, that’s okay, I’ve moved on. I have moved on, but how I see it, I don’t owe anyone anything. They failed me, each and every one of them. And the story can be written like passivity is innocence. Like, they just missed class that day. I’ll never disagree more with a mindset that the only form that wrongdoings come in is in malicious intent. I remember when I was in residential treatment, when I spoke to one of the directors of the program following incidents with his employed staff members that emotionally neglected and traumatized me. His approach was what I named above, the ultimate abuse of therapeutic power. “Well, you know they didn’t have intent to hurt you”. Yet another justification to abuse in the mental healthcare system. I think apparent passivity and cluelessness is one massive band aid that hides maliciousness and responsibility. There is no justifying and I hope anyone reading this can see it this way, too. They saw me scream and cry in desperation and they chose to close one eye. You can’t label that malicious intent, sure, but food for thought, is apparent unawareness and passivity equivalent to malicious intent? I think too much, definitely, and I have been thinking of this often given recent events in my life and a hurtful but disguised comment from an ex friend. Because I blame the friend silently sitting next to the bully that made my life a living hell equally as responsible as he. And if anything, the bystander or the treater that plays dumb when you say BPD, their expectations are higher than that of the malicious bully. I will never care about intent in that way. The treaters that failed me very likely knew what I suffered from, but they played the passive bystander and in doing so, I suffered for over 10 years before I got a BPD diagnosis. And I hate to go there, but symptom number 5 is what makes people so terrified of this disorder. But as a treater, you should be obligated not to act on fear by turning the other cheek. Acting on fear should look like, I want this person to live to see their adulthood, not for liability, but because I care. And it should be of high consideration that symptom number 5 takes 10% of BPD lives. That 10% is of higher value than the therapists ego. And surely, you might fear my disorder and you might fear me, but for the sake of my life, you should have said it out loud. “Borderline personality disorder”. Someone could have taken it from there. Wouldn’t that have been vastly simpler than sticking five tiny band aids on one big wound? Wouldn’t that have been simpler than throwing pill bottles at me until I walked out the door for good? I lost count of my band aids and it was not them who didn’t know any better, it was me. I thought If my mind was this chaotic, it’s the right thing to see a therapist. I thought, it’s the right thing to consent to the medication they suggest. It is not the young, suffering patient that is at fault for their inadequate treatment. And it is not the young, suffering patient that should be doing their homework. But in this healthcare system, I cannot stress enough, it’s unfair, absolutely, but please, please do your homework. You shouldn’t have to do theirs for them, ever, but here we are, drowning in a sea full of band aids and untreated wounds. I cannot forgive the handful of treaters that invalidated my suffering. They knew better, and I know better, not to believe, that they did not know better. Do I really believe, maybe each one of them missed class that day they covered personality disorders? Do I think, maybe they all zoned out when they went over cluster B? Maybe they’re just missing a few pages from their copy of the DSM5. There is no way. Why would they ignore your bleeding wounds then, you might ask? And I wish it wasn’t something I had to explain, but I will, for the sake of the endless young people that show up at therapists offices and are told they’re depressed, just like the rest of the world. I learned to trust myself each time a treater failed me. But for a long time, I trusted them more than I trusted myself. It was not until recently where I learned for certain, a few letters after a name does not indicate that somebody is fit to treat you. A few letters have lost its value in this field. It seemed they never ran out of bandaids. I’d sit in a comfy chair with a shell of a human across me nod their head at my every word; behind them, shelves of empty band aid boxes, proof that I wasn’t their only victim. Why slap band aids on a wound? Because the wound is not yours to stop the bleeding. Because the wound is whatever you make it out to be-since you have the letters in this small room. If it makes you more comfortable for her wounds to be papercuts, for her blatant case of borderline personality disorder to be depression and anxiety, you have that power. You have the power, the luxury to comfort. But, I, surely, did not. The borderline personality disorder that plagues her will walk home with her after she leaves your office. It will follow her into bed, it will wake up next to her. It will rob her of a quality of life, so long as it continues to receive your paper cut treatment. One might think, if you don’t want to treat wounds, why not refer her to someone who does? Yet another question I wish I didn’t have wisdom on. Like the illness that walks her home, the ego sits next to the therapist. It’s the four of us, but there is only room for three. But it is not her BPD that there is no room for. It is the ego that doesn’t belong, nonetheless, the therapist and it’s ego have no problem making it out to be her illness that there is no space for. Stigma is important because it robs lives. Stigma is important because it starts an unintentional movement against its victims. Collectively, treaters are on the same page. It is not the page with psycho education about personality disorders. It is not the page about approaches on how to treat BPD. It is the page they wrote themselves. It is the page of the rules and regulations on how to tip toe around the very word. Screaming symptoms won’t warrant the words, although they should. My symptoms were screaming, but screaming was not enough. A piece I made shortly after returning home from treatment reads, “dear treaters”. In a moment of despair one day in treatment, I had started writing a hypothetical letter to the treaters that had failed me. I said, “you can do better”. And it was true. Their letters didn’t matter, but mine did. I was removed from the generalized therapy world that didn’t suit me and my disorder, but enter a world specified for my illness that I traveled across the county to obtain. I hadn’t known it could get worse, and more to come on that. In treatment, we weren’t allowed to speak our letters. “BPD” was considered a diagnosis and diagnosis’ were forbidden in discussion. Specified treatment for BPD was an ego-driven stigma fest. The very illness I sought treatment for was used as a tool to serve their false narrative: I was too sick to be in their care, too borderline. They could not help me, I had failed their treatment and I had failed them. The twisted thing is this: many people with BPD don’t understand their illness, in part because of what we name stigma. Self doubt is common when identity is disturbed. People who treat BPD know this. My disorder was used as a tool to endorse the narrative that was intended to push me out the door. They’ll enhance your symptoms to prove a point. Look how unstable she is. She won’t stop crying. We can’t be liable for her. She can’t participate in treatment. My illness, yet again, a half understood story, and by choice. And the story that they told was a half told story. I’m unstable because my environment is. I can’t stop crying because they left me there…crying, feeling invalidated and neglected. I’m only a liability if they assume I am without explicitly asking. They chose the story that would serve their egos and preserve their prestigious program: it’s not that we can’t provide adequate care and it’s not that we have failed her. It is that she is too much for us. She has failed us and our program. And to that I would say this, I know my story front and back in accuracy and nobody can rob me of that. In DBT, they say the patient cannot fail treatment and the patient cannot fail the therapist. They say that the treater however, can fail the patient. I was failed by many treaters. And if someone wants to put their borderline stigma spin on it, say I’m just being manipulative, she’s delusional, that’s not how that went. I say, refer to all of the above. Because dear treaters, you can do better. I have not changed my mind. Dear treaters, you chose this job. Please say it out loud. Borderline personality disorder. And dear treaters, I owe you nothing. I forgive myself for not knowing any better and I forgive myself for not believing the things that I saw. But putting my life at risk for selfish reasons like comfort, ego and liability, I can’t grant forgiveness for. I’m lucky to still be here-and that, I owe to myself and my own strength. And to still be standing after the halfhearted attempts to treat me, happened despite your failure. I want people with BPD to trust in themselves when something feels wrong. If a diagnosis of depression and anxiety feels wrong, demand thorough diagnostic testing. And if all a treater is doing is throwing medications at you, go elsewhere. If they refuse to speak the words BPD, walk away. If they make you feel like it is your own fault for not thriving in treatment, know they aren’t right for you. Stigma is a very real problem, and specifically so, within the mental health care system. I wish I didn't have to advise to do your homework and then some and I wish I didn’t have to advise not to trust any person with a superficial smiling therapy face and credentials. You deserve so, so much better than the band aid solutions they gave me. Please don’t settle for band aids; it is not a paper cut that you have.