Homegrown is running a month-long campaign called #HGHeadspace leading up to Mental Health Awareness Week. A part of this series will break down symptoms and personal experiences of people living with mental illnesses and give people a platform to speak and share their stories. This week, we’re putting a spotlight on Borderline Personality Disorder, a condition that is rarely discussed in society or represented accurately in pop culture.
Conversations on mental health in India are severely lacking and this dearth of dialogue creates a vacuum of knowledge and empathy. Society’s spaces of expression are then wrought with stigma, leading those who struggle with their mental health to internalise shame. Many young people grapple with mental illnesses but are hardly ever encouraged to talk about it.
To create a space safe for such narratives to flourish, Homegrown sat down with Pooja Krishnakumar, online editor and curator for Gaysi Family and mental and queer rights activist. Pooja, a 23-year-old individual, is genderfluid and “vvvvv gay,” in her own, proud words. She was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in March 2018 and had met with four therapists before finding one she really connected with.
HG: What is the biggest difference between Borderline Personality Disorder (referred to hereafter as BPD) and Bipolar Disorder?
Pooja Krishnakumar: “The most basic difference is that Borderline is a personality disorder, which means it has an ongoing pattern of behaviour. Psychologists and psychiatrists have seen that people with bipolar have breaks between their manic episodes, meaning that there are periods where their disorder does not affect their lives. Also, Borderline does not have manic episodes.”
HG: What are the top 3 red flags or tell-tale signs of BPD?
PK: “Borderline Personality can be diagnosed with a combination of signs. The biggest is pushing people away and telling yourself that they want you away. For example, if someone invites me to a party, I will say no because my head will tell me that they don’t actually want me there. This is fueled by a fear of abandonment, which is the first red flag. It’s like I’m pushing you away before you can push me away. The second one is having very intense moods and emotions. When I’m happy, I’m euphoric, which is great! But, when I’m sad, I get depressed. The third one is self-harm, which is also a big part.”
HG: What is self-harm in the context of BPD?
PK: “Self-harm is also not always physical; feeling self-pity is one form. To get rid of the fear of abandonment, you’re constantly trying to change yourself and shoot yourself and your self-respect down, which is very harmful.”
HG: Tell us your best and worst experience with therapy.
PK: “My worst experience with therapy was in college when I was 18. I went to a therapist in Santacruz for only about three sessions. She listened to everything I had to say and then she yelled at me, which is not the correct way to deal with someone who has a personality disorder that makes them so self-critical. She said my self-harm would hurt my parents and it made me feel like a burden even more.
My best therapist is my therapist right now, but she’s in Bangalore and I miss her. Her name is Dr Tanya Machado in Jayanagar. In the first five minutes, after I spoke about all the intense things I was going through, she takes a sheet and puts it in front of me and says “Bachha, you have Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s nothing to worry about. We will deal with it and go through it step by step.” And I felt no pressure. Through the sessions, she taught me how to deal with the moments I’m spiralling, she taught me exercises and concepts like generalisation and catastrophisation. She taught me how to rationalise my emotions.”
HG: Other than therapy, what alternative self-care methods have worked for you?
PK: “I couldn’t afford therapy for longer than two or three sessions. So, what I started doing is educating myself about how I could help myself. I took a Udemy course on Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, the most common form of therapy for people with BPD and learnt techniques from there. There are tons of ways to help yourself if you’re willing to research. Apps like Aura can teach you mindfulness, which means to bring your attention to things happening in the present. People with borderline should go for Vipassana because it is free and teaches you mindfulness and regulating how you should express your emotions. There are also free support groups all over the city where you can just sit and listen and aren’t forced to share. You can find them on sites like The Mind Clan. There are also free therapists that are crowdfunded— you just need to know where you look.”
Feature image by Paroma Soni.
This article is part of a month-long campaign leading up to Mental Health Awareness Week. If you’d like to share your mental health journey and experience with us, write into [email protected]
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