Did you know that most psychiatrists won’t diagnose you with Borderline Personality Disorder until you’re at least 18? I didn’t either. When I first started seeing a therapist and psychiatrist at 16, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I was self-harming regularly and had been since I was 11, and at the time I was becoming suicidal. I had horrible, difficult relationships with anyone around me and was very impulsive, viciously angry and having rapid and intense mood swings. I actually had never even heard of Borderline Personality Disorder until I started reading books and watching movies about mental health and stumbled across Girl, Interrupted. I felt kind of connected to Susanna Kaysen and wanted to learn more about this disorder. I realized I ticked off most of the boxes, and my boyfriend at the time agreed. Finally, I thought I was getting some answers.
As it turns out, my psychiatrist was absolutely against the idea that I could have anything other than Bipolar Disorder. She dismissed my concerns, as well as my boyfriend’s and my mom’s. She convinced me that I didn’t actually have BPD, Depression or Anxiety, but they were just symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. So I continued taking my Lithium and whatever other medication was added to it in an attempt to become “stable.” I was hospitalized twice during this time, the first was when I was 17; I was inpatient for 8 days and then put through a partial hospitalization program. The second time I was hospitalized was for 10 days, and this was the first time a mental health professional diagnosed me with BPD. In the years that followed, I stopped seeing the psychiatrist who dismissed my feelings and made my way through several different therapists who have since confirmed my BPD diagnosis.
Many people are misdiagnosed with different mental illnesses and spend a vast majority of their lives on medications and going through treatments that are ineffective. Having the proper diagnosis has made a world of difference for me. I finally had an answer for my thoughts and feelings and I was able to stop taking Lithium. I was also able to start the proper type of therapy to help ease my symptoms and teach me proper coping skills. Finding the proper medication is still a process, unfortunately, but I’m cautiously optimistic that we will find a cocktail that works for me. I still struggle with self-harm and suicidal thoughts on a regular basis, but I am working my way through it.