This guest post was written by Lucy Collins who speaks to schools and groups nationwide about mental health and eating disorders, all views expressed are a personal view of BPD and in no way should be considered professional advice. If you disagree with anything in this post, or have your own thoughts do let her know in the comments below. For all other questions and issues relating to BPD do use the Contact Us page. Take it away Lucy…
How can it be that a person can appear so healthy on the outside, yet have so much sickness and misery on the inside? How can it be that episodes of intense or counterproductive behaviour can randomly appear and then seem to just go away? How can one person seem to be like two different people? How can there be so much confusion and contradiction?
These are the kinds of questions that are highly relevant to those who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Questions like these may also be interesting to those who observe BPD symptoms in others (the emotions, the behaviours, etc.) and remain baffled by the ever-changing presentation. The unfortunate reality is that when attempts are made to answer these types of questions, faulty judgments based on faulty understandings of people, situations, and mental health, are almost guaranteed.
Due to the fact that Borderline Personality Disorder can be so hard to understand as a mental illness, that it often goes untreated, and that it is often misunderstood as it develops, there is a façade that gets created by the suffering person. The façade serves the important purpose of appearing acceptable to self and others in the midst of ongoing struggle, confusion, stress and turmoil. It is a guise that gets constructed unconsciously, but nonetheless earnestly.
Borderline Personality Disorder, including all the mismanaged emotions and behaviours, can be confusing, distressing and hurtful to those exposed to it, which is why it has the potential to result in rejection. At the core, a person with Borderline Personality Disorder knows this to be true. And so the absolute need for the façade arises, so as to provide much-needed explanations and reassurances to yourself and others for the recurring suffering and problems created. It is a survival tool in a world with harsh mental health terrain… where compassion and understanding for mental health issues are not typically forthcoming. The façade in fact becomes so habitual and commonplace that everyone (including the person with BPD) buys into it completely.
The façade says things like… “There is no illness”; “I am just like everyone else”; “I have too many blessings to have an illness”; “I have a great life”; “I am too talented to have problems”; “I’m just having a bad day”; “I’m just tired”; “this will soon pass and then everything will be fine”; “my friends and family say I’m fine and not to worry about it”’; “people are just idiots”; “this is the devil’s handiwork”.
Sometimes the façade includes exaggerations of appearances, accomplishments, and statuses; the point is to prove it couldn’t possibly be true that serious mental health problems are occurring. A commonly worded façade might be as follows… “I wouldn’t have all these nice things, be married, made it so far in life, look like I do, or have such a good job if I was so unwell”. Getting away with these kinds of pretences is often possible because of the superficial and limited involvement we have in each other’s lives. We can’t really challenge each other if we don’t look too deep.
Lies upon lies are weaved to avoid the unfortunate truth of the matter… that there are underlying issues and skill deficits that keep unwanted suffering and behavioural issues ever-present. It is a sad reality that the façade remains such a commonplace but dysfunctional way in which to navigate life. Nonetheless, it seems to happen on a large scale when there is so much mental health misinformation and voids of information. But as long as the façade remains in place, then there is no real coming to terms with things, growing, moving forward, healing, etc. It is a survival tool turned stumbling block.
Letting go of the façade is possible but requires a healthy relationship with somebody that can see what’s happening. Even so, it can be very hard because the individual must develop renewed trust in a world that suggested early on that it was never safe to be a real and unique person… It was never safe to risk making mistakes or expect validation of thoughts, feelings, opinions, and perceptions. To risk being open and real means risking rejection, and that’s putting a lot on the line.
Truths such as having little ability to manage mental health symptoms in ways that are healthy, having ongoing insecurities, having limited self-worth and sense of identity, and having behavioural impulsivities that undermine efforts, are all hard things to admit to! Feeling safe to openly admit these things… to admit to having mental health problems whatsoever, is very difficult indeed. However, in order to begin letting go of the façade and healing from Borderline Personality Disorder, these are essential steps to take.