Where did BPD stigma come from?

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In recent years, BPD has earned a very disagreeable stigma, so disagreeable that people who have a BPD diagnosis are refused treatment, being told they cannot get better or feared by professionals who might treat them. NPD too, hasn’t always been as demonized as it is right now. NPD and BPD have become almost interchangeable in the narc-abuse community. I don’t recall it being that way in 1996 when I got my BPD diagnosis, and I don’t remember ever being told I was hopeless or unredeemable or evil or anything like that. I was treated pretty much like any other psychiatric patient, and was given therapy and put on antidepressants. I was obliged to take a DBT class, which at the time I blew off. (DBT is like CBT but exclusive to Borderlines–and it does work. The fact it worked for me makes me think maybe I *did* have BPD but no longer do!)

BPD was always classified as a Cluster B disorder, ever since its introduction into the DSM in 1980 (it was recognized, however, for much longer than that, and popularized as a disorder in the 1960s because of the research of Otto Kernberg, a German psychologist who studied “the narcissistic and borderline personalities,” and other “disorders of the self.”).* All “Cluster B” means really is the person has a weak, fragmented or nonexistent sense of self. Not being able to access a “true self” means they become either cut off from or cannot regulate their emotions. One of the results of this is a lack of empathy (but BPDs are the most empathetic of all the B’s, and some have normal levels of empathy). In NPD, a strong false self takes the place of the true one, which is a very dissociative symptom. In BPD, there’s not a strong false self like with NPD, but there is a weak and unstable one, and the person isn’t ALWAYS showing that false self. Some BPDs act quite a bit like over-emotional or unstable narcissists (or narcissists in the midst of a breakdown due to loss of supply). Others act like covert narcissists or just act neurotic and insecure but are otherwise nice people. Some feel their emotions too much, including empathy. A few are antisocial. I’m not sure why BPD (and maybe NPD) isn’t classified as a dissociative disorder, because essentially the person is cut off from their “self” in some form or another and that is what dissociation means. I’m not sure what the mechanics are in ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) but they are very different from either Borderlines or narcissists because they aren’t dependent on others to boost their weak egos. They are psychopathic and just do what they want.

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So the Cluster B’s, including BPD, were already around, but until the mid-1990s, no one thought of them as anything but mental illnesses or for ASPD, a kind of “adult conduct disorder.” They were psychiatric labels and nothing more. The narc abuse community started in 1995 or so, and Sam Vaknin was pretty much the first one online who wrote about it. Of course, he has NPD but even so, he first called attention to the “evil”-ness of NPD/narcissism (actually it was M. Scott Peck but at the time he wrote “People of the Lie” in 1983, the term “malignant narcissism” wasn’t in vogue yet and there was no connection of “evil people” to people with NPD. There was also no Internet to spread Peck’s concepts like wildfire the way they could have been in 1995 and later. But over time, M. Scott Peck’s book has become one of the most popular in the narc-abuse community) After Vaknin established his online narcissistic abuse community and wrote his popular book “Malignant Self-Love,” more narc-abuse sites got established (many or most of them started by victims, who were understandably angry at the narcissists who had abused them). Soon “narcs are evil” became a sort of meme, and by association, so did all the Cluster B disorders earn a “evil” reputation.

There are benefits to this, of course. Victims are being more heard than ever before. People are paying attention and avoiding narcissistic abusers. But some people who carry a Cluster B label are being hurt too, especially Borderlines (or people–usually women–who were erroneously diagnosed with it). Some experts want to get rid of BPD and just re-label BPD as Complex PTSD (probably not a bad idea). There are MANY similarities. The vast majority of BPDs are not anything like malignant narcissists and are not sociopathic at all. Most just act extremely insecure, needy, and maybe “high maintenance.” They can be manipulative or act out to avoid rejection. They may collude with people with NPD, however. But it’s possible to find these same types of behaviors in many people with Complex PTSD. Are they actually the same thing?

Another reason for the BPD stigma could be the tendency for narcissists and borderlines to form partnerships or be attracted to each other. In such a pairing, the Borderline is almost always the abused or codependent partner. In several “couple killings,” one of the criminal partners, usually the female, has had a BPD diagnosis. But they may have been so brainwashed by their abusers they were coerced into colluding with them against others (a form of Stockholm Syndrome).

Finally, a number of high profile criminals and serial killers have labels of NPD or BPD. But they almost always also have a comorbid ASPD diagnosis. Media icons like Joan Crawford who were known to scapegoat their children also had a BPD diagnosis. In Crawford’s case, she was also diagnosed with HPD (Histrionic Personality Disorder). It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she had NPD (malignant) or ASPD as well, as her behavior was very sociopathic behind closed doors.

Why am I “defending” people with BPD if I don’t have it?  Several reasons:

  1.  I was diagnosed with it and carried that diagnosis for two decades.   I have personally experienced being rejected by therapists once they saw my “red letter” on paper.
  2. Just because my current therapist thinks I don’t have it doesn’t mean I don’t.  Or maybe I did have it and no longer do.  If I no longer have it, that means BPDs are not “hopeless.”
  3. Maybe BPD isn’t a valid diagnosis.
  4. Many people I have cared about who were slapped with “BPD” have been hurt by it.

These are just my rambling thoughts about this matter; I’d be interested in hearing your opinions.

* Timeline of BPD

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The awkwardness of being a Borderline ACON.

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I won’t lie.  It’s incredibly awkward being a blogger who blogs about two things that seem diametrically opposed to many people in the narcissistic abuse community:  being a victim of narcissists, and having a Cluster B disorder (BPD).   To those of you who aren’t familiar with the ACON (adult children of narcissists) blogosphere,  there are a few ACON bloggers (not too many on WordPress, fortunately) who seem to think if you have BPD then you can’t also be an abuse victim and certainly shouldn’t be blogging about it.  Because, you see, if you have BPD then you are one of the soulless abusers.  If you are any kind of “cluster B person” blogging about abuse, then of it follows that you must have an “agenda.”  What that agenda is is never specified though.

I have been accused of many things, none of which are pretty, and few of which are true. Most are crass generalizations made out of ignorance and a refusal to think outside the box or consider that not everything is all black or all white or that all people can be shoved into a box. .   Here are just a few of the things I’ve been accused of.

  1. I have an “agenda” and dishonest motives.
  2. I am not really an abuse victim.
  3. I am being paid off or otherwise compensated  other people (like Sam Vaknin) or psychiatric organizations (like the APA) to promote my “evil” views and blur the lines between Cluster B disorders and complex PTSD caused by abuse.
  4. I’m “evil.”
  5. I’m crazy.
  6. I’m confused.
  7. I only care about being “popular”
  8. As a Borderline, I have “no right” to be writing posts about narcissistic abuse.

To these accusations,  here are my responses:

  1. Um, no.  I’m not clear what “agenda” it is I’d be trying to promote. My only “agenda” is healing for myself, fun (because I love to write), and hopefully, helping a few others along the way.
  2. I guess some people never really read this blog because it’s filled with personal accounts of narcissistic abuse by both my family of origin and my ex-husband.   Oh, that’s right.  I’m just making it all up. 🙄   I couldn’t make up these accounts if I tried.  I try not to dwell too much on the abuse though, because doing that doesn’t help me and only makes me miserable.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, though.
  3. This really makes me scratch my head.   It almost makes me laugh how far a few people are reaching by saying this.  The only monetary compensation I get is about $30 – $40 a month from running ads on this blog.   I still live in poverty and I don’t have any kind of shady business dealings with any organization or person.  I write this blog because I want to.
  4. That’s quite a value judgment there.   You don’t even know me.   I don’t point fingers and call anyone evil unless I have real good reason to, and even then I’m hesitant because I don’t want to be a judgmental person (I can’t stand judgmental people).   I think it’s always better to use the term “evil” for actions, not people.   I guess this idea that I’m evil is because I’m zOMG “Cluster B.”  I’m not a narcissist (even if I do have a few of the traits) and I’m not antisocial and I do have empathy and an almost excessively strong conscience.   But some people have the idea that even if you’re a self-aware borderline who practices mindfulness, you’re still as bad as one of the narcs.  “Sociopath” is another thing I’ve been called but it means pretty much the same thing.
  5. Maybe there’s a bit of truth to this.  After all, I do have four mental disorders–BPD, complex PTSD,  Avoidant PD, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  I can act pretty crazy sometimes too.   But at least I’m self-aware crazy and can see myself pretty objectively and control my urges to act crazy when they get out of hand. But just because you don’t agree with me doesn’t mean I’m crazy.  I just have a different opinion than you do.  Deal with it.
  6. There’s also some truth to this.    It is VERY confusing being both an abuse victim and having a Cluster B disorder, even though the Cluster B disorder was caused by abuse!   And like it or not, I DO think BPD and complex PTSD are almost the same disorder.   Of course, this is just my opinion and no one’s paying me off or brainwashing me to “blur the lines.”
  7. No.  My primary motive in blogging is healing myself and helping people.   A secondary motive is fun.    Yes, of course I look at my stats and always get a small thrill when they’re growing, but I don’t write to be popular or famous.  Yes, I’d like to write a book someday and be able to make a living from my writing, but who wouldn’t?   Even if I never make a penny from my writings and even if no one read my blog, I’d still be doing it because it’s something I really like to do.
  8. As a Borderline, I *AM*  victim of narcissitic abuse.  (see reply #6).  ANYONE who was an abuse victim and wants to heal from the damage they endured has EVERY right to blog about it, and yes, that even includes people with self aware NPD!

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“Me and My Evil Crazy Me” (Minecraft image by Sonatathesiren)

I know my opinions are sometimes controversial and won’t sit well with everyone, but unless I’m presented with a convincing argument to discard my personal beliefs and opinions, they aren’t going to change.   I ‘m a critical thinker who likes to explore all angles of an issue and then form my own opinions when I’ve gathered enough information.  I’ve always walked to the beat of my own drummer, rather than mindlessly following what other people tell me I “should” do or believe.   Being a “lone wolf” who walks to the beat of my own drummer and refuses to conform to the “popular” view is one of the biggest reasons why I was ostracized by so many people all my life–including my own family.  But you know what?  I don’t care.  This is who I am and I’m going to keep running with it.     I seriously don’t understand why people who dislike my opinions and views so much keep reading my posts anyway if it’s only going to make them angry.  No one is forcing my opinions on those people. Just hit the backspace button!  It’s easy.

I’m aware some people have a problem with this because it doesn’t fit into the almost cult-like mentality I’ve seen among certain (fortunately only a few) ACON bloggers. If you piss them off, be prepared to be mobbed. Maybe they’ll leave you alone on your own blog but make no mistake–they will be trashing you and your character on their own blogs. At the same time, there are so many more people (and bloggers) who appreciate my reluctance to put people into boxes and think in only black and white terms.  There are many beautiful shades of grey in between the extremes.  That’s one of the best takeaways of moving away from BPD black and white thinking and replacing that with critical thinking and mindfulness.  If that’s evil and crazy, then evil and crazy I guess I will be.   But I really don’t think it is.

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Many people have told me my more open-minded approach has been refreshing and has helped them come to terms with the abuse they had to endure and move past the rage and anger they felt coming out of their abusive relationships, or when they went No Contact. At the same time, one of my aims has become reducing the awful stigma against people suffering from BPD. It’s a delicate balance, but I don’t think it’s undoable.

Being a borderline and a trauma victim who writes about narcissistic abuse issues as well as my own (and other) cluster B disorders,  it’s sometimes a delicate balance.   But they are not mutually exclusive.   I  feel driven to write  about my disorders as they relate to my abuse and attempt to reconcile them because I need to for my own sanity and healing.

BPD Awareness: end the stigma

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Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious mental disorder with its roots in childhood abuse (usually narcissistic or sexual abuse) and as you can see in one of the memes below, it shares much in common with Complex PTSD and may in fact be a variation of the same disorder.

But BPD is terribly stigmatized, with its sufferers being called everything from evil to incurable.  Many mental health professionals refuse to work with Borderlines because of this stigma.  They’re afraid of us!  While some more aggressive borderlines can certainly do bad things to others and be manipulative, for people with BPD, their actions are caused by an inability to control or regulate their emotions, so they act out instead of thinking before they act. Many Borderlines are more destructive to themselves than to others.  They can seem self-centered and narcissistic not because they lack empathy (many borderlines, in fact have an excess of empathy) but because they get too caught up in their own emotional turmoil to be mindful of others.    Unlike people with NPD, they also don’t have a sense of entitlement.   In fact, they often feel like they deserve nothing.

BPD is much more treatable and receptive to therapy than other Cluster B disorders like NPD or Antisocial Personality Disorder.   Unlike those disorders, too, people with BPD can be helped by medication.

 

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