What happens when Mental Health Awareness Month ends? Certainly, nothing changes in the earth’s rotation or how much laundry there is to take care of. People are, hopefully, more aware of mental illness, stigma, and how socioeconomic standing can hinder treatment, which is all wonderful and necessary, but on a personal level, a great deal has changed in the past month.
I feel recovered from my depression, but still have some struggles related to it. I also have to contend with another diagnosis, though, which is borderline personality disorder. Although this diagnosis has its stereotypes attached to it, as I remember having my own stereotypical thoughts when I worked with patients with this diagnosis, I now have sincere respect for it as an illness. This did not occur because I was given the diagnosis, however.
In fact, various doctors and social workers have diagnosed me with it, on and off, for the past 20 years. I went through a long period of not having the diagnosis, but when I really think about it, the thoughts and behaviors were there.
There are a few reasons why I now accept this diagnosis, and will no longer hide it: I am a member of an amazing DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) group where I have come to not only like and respect my fellow group members, each of whom have the same borderline personality diagnosis, but it’s where I have begun to like and respect myself.
This year, I was also involved in Mental Health Awareness month in many different ways, such as writing, speaking as a panelist online, and walking in my local NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) walk. After participating in the month-long awareness campaign, I figured it was time to share that other diagnosis in order to fight its stigma.
Borderline personality disorder is a tough illness that is ongoing. I deal with it every single day. This is much like other mental illnesses that can be “hidden” or “invisible.” It is not necessarily apparent to someone when I am struggling internally with self-hatred or fear of being misunderstood. Outwardly, visible scars may simply be scars to those who see them, but to me they represent a deeper story.
The combination of both depression and borderline personality disorder has been extremely difficult for me. At my worst, it felt as if they joined forces in order to literally destroy me. My inner monologue consisted of horrifying and mean statements about myself that still scare me now. Both illnesses took on a life of their own, and buried me deeper and deeper. It made my treatment even more necessary.
It may be June now, but my mental health awareness continues, as it does, every single day, no matter the month or date. I am thankful for the months of awareness campaigns to help all of us remain educated and aware of all of our struggles. I do believe in them. There is always more though. There is more to everyone’s story, and life is constantly evolving which adds both good and bad to our lives.
I have been very vocal about my experiences with depression, because I know it is important to share more of my “story,” to share that other diagnosis. I have struggled with depression and borderline personality disorder and will continue to promote mental health education, information and support every single day. Whether something changed or not as a result of Mental Health Awareness month, I believe everything can change.