I decided a long time ago to flaunt my borderline diagnosis as a banner of autonomy. That liberated me from the shame and humiliation that is a harmful side-effect of borderlining. Rebecca J Lester describes this in Lessons from the borderline: Anthropology, psychiatry, and the risks of being human:
Clinicians generally detest working with borderline patients.1 These clients can present as unpredictable, needy, hostile, overly dramatic, and emotionally draining. As McGlashan (1993: 241) observes: ‘Officially, ‘borderline’ is a diagnostic label. Unofficially, in clinical parlance, it is synonymous with ‘anathema.’’ Gabbard (1997: 26) elaborates: ‘A significant number of professionals within the industry regard borderline patients with contempt.’ And as one psychiatrist told anthropologist Tanya Lurhmann (2000: 113), you look for the ‘meat grinder’ sensation: if you are talking to a patient and it feels like your internal organs are being turned into hamburger meat, she’s probably borderline.
The experiences described by some participants regarding making complaints provide food for thought; the idea that making complaints is typical behaviour for someone with a BPD diagnosis seems to be a powerfully silencing one, positioning the client as someone whose complaints are trivial and/or pathological. The idea of BPD diagnosed clients as prone to making complaints probably also has ties to this client group being seen as difficult and angry, and being responsible for ‘splitting’ staff (Gallop 1985).
In my frame, the symptoms that get labelled Borderline Personality Disorder are symptoms of societal harm, loss, trauma and border violations. The meat grinder sensation is discomfort at getting a glimpse into an invisible war zone that the professional does not want to know about, and the diagnosis of “Borderline Personality Disorder” is generated by a professional Somebody Else’s Problem field and upheld by little homunculi that are jumping up and down in professionals’ heads.
In a strange double bind, psychiatry is clear about there being no need to be ashamed of having been sexually used, hit or gaslighted – and then treats the symptoms of having been used, hit or gaslighted as shameful and contemptible personality defects.
Linking to “Is Anakin Skywalker suffering from borderline personality disorder?” This might seem like a reasonable question to a psychiatrist:
Anakin Skywalker, one of the main characters in the “Star Wars” films, meets the criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD). This finding is interesting for it may partly explain the commercial success of these movies among adolescents and be useful in educating the general public and medical students about BPD symptoms.
We are three generations of Star Wars fans in my family, and my children and grandchildren have often started discussions about this universe. Looking at how the character’s lives shape their actions and their options has led to useful explorations of free will, ethics, responsibility and values in the world we live in, far, far away from the mental illness frame of psychiatry.
A huge problem with the limited psychiatric illness model is that it gives up on people with “personality disorders”. I’ll be following this program with interest:
“Some psychopaths can be treated”
David Bernstein, Sacha Ruland