Help me develop a DBT-based parenting program!

This program will be based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If proven successful there is a high possibility it will be moved online to support moms from around the world!

Here is the link for the survey! Thank you for your help and support ūüôā

Experiences of Mom’s with Borderline Personality Disorder/Borderline Traits

 

What would you want out of a BPD Mom program?

My boss has given me permission to begin research in the hopes of creating a program for Mom’s with BPD improve their relationship with their children and themselves. I am preparing a survey and in the meantime, I wanted to reach out here!¬†If you do not already know me, I am a Mom who experiences borderline traits.

There is a lot of research out there that bashes Moms who experience BPD. Resources for Moms with BPD are scarce and I want to change that! If you feel comfortable, please leave a response in the comments below or you can wait for the survey as it is anonymous.

Who am I looking to hear from:

  • Moms who have BPD, borderline traits or believe they have BPD and have never been officially diagnosed.
  • Moms (of any age child)
  • Pregnant, first-time moms
  • Women who would like to be moms

What I would like to know is: if you signed up for a program on Mothering and BPD, what would you want in it? What would help you the most improve your relationship with your children? What would make you feel confident in your mothering as a first-time mom or someone who wants to be a mom?

 

South Park and Safe Spaces

Today I finished the most recent full season of South Park. The overall theme of the season is political correctness and how far some people will take it. In one episode, Cartman is fat shamed online and Butters is told that he must screen all of Cartman’s social media comments so he only sees the compliments. Butters then provides this service for other people and celebrities like Steven Seagal and Vin Diesel. Butters helps create a safe space for people who are shamed online.

Since South Park is satirical and there is truth in everything they show, no matter how over the top. I wanted to share the video of the musical number in that episode that I thought was important (and funny). If you are not a fan of South Park, cursing and all that then I would advise you do not watch the video and just skip down to what I have to say about it.

In the mental health community (as well as many other marginalized communities), there is a lot of talk about safe spaces. The Safe Space Network defines a safe space as:

A Safe Space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.

Safe spaces are crucial to healing, problem solving and community. When a safe space becomes unsafe the consequences can sometimes be disastrous. Let me provide an example. A handful of years ago I volunteered to sit on a mental health task force at a local University. The particular committee I was on was headed by a Mad social work professor (a friend of mine) and a critical disability studies professor who was a Mad ally. I knew these two individuals, as well as some others who were there, were safe people so I felt safe in the room. One volunteer was a professor from the Journalism School and she made the space very unsafe. While we were all having a discussion on language, mostly surrounding how to keep the space safe we should avoid using words like “crazy”, “insane”, “psycho” etc. This journalism professor flat out refused to change her language, despite myself and another professor explaining that the language is historically linked to violence and cause feelings of violence and trauma within the bodies of people with mental health issues. This person did not care. It was more important to her that she be able to say what she wants (a journalism thing I was told). I later wrote an email to my professor friend telling her that I did not feel safe coming back to the group. My friend agreed that the space was now unsafe and that other volunteers had expressed similar concerns. In the end, the journalism professor went to a different committee that would possibly be a better fit for her.

We all need to have a safe space with “bullet proof windows”, “troll safe doors”, “no shame”, and “people that support [you]”. A safe space can be an actual physical space (such as a peer support group meeting) or even inside your own mind (imagining you are somewhere you enjoy when you experience stress). What I have found important when it comes to safe space, especially the ones we create in our own minds, to not use them to escape reality completely. Such as in the South Park episode, Cartman’s refusal to face the internet trolls and out right have someone erase the mean comments and only allow him to read the good ones, while it seems good, can actually cause some damage. We all need to learn how to cope with adversity and ignoring the current reality will not help you develop coping skills. Avoiding reality also means that we are not actively fighting against the injustice that we are trying to hide from which will result in that injustice continuing. Safe spaces can support us in positively coping and fighting against the injustice we experience.

Of course, there are times where we do need to completely remove ourselves from an unsafe space and recover from what has happened. Feminist author, Jessica Valenti, recently quit social media when she woke up one morning to find her social media filled with horrible threats towards her young daughter. She needs to remove herself, heal, and come back fighting in a different way if she so chooses. In this case, her daughter’s safety is in question and is her highest priority.

Any time I am with my like-minded friends I am in a safe space. I enjoy talking with these friends about all of my experiences and their experiences and there is only support. Pride in Madness has also turned out to be a fairly safe space for me although I am completely aware that the internet is never actually safe. I have had rude comments left pending in my inbox but the positive comments far outweigh them. The safe space I go to in my mind is usually a forest. In hypnobirthing, my safe space is a completely purple room and it is a room I can go to calm my mind and my body during labour.

Where are your safe spaces?

Motherhood & Madness: Pregnancy meets psychiatry

Motherhood&Madness

A few weeks ago I had my first appointment at a local women’s hospital in their psychiatric program that supports pregnant women and mothers with mental health issues. It was a very different experience from my other psychiatric encounters and I don’t know if I could explain why. Possibly because the concern is not only my but also my ability to maintain a healthy pregnancy and eventually people a healthy mother to a newborn. More scrutinized! That’s what it feels like! This was also the first time I have ever spoken with a female psychiatrist.

It has been difficult to shake the unsettled feeling that I have had since I left the psychiatrist’s office. I feel like I was answering her questions and then later in the conversation when I would bring something up that was related to a previous question she would say something like, “Oh, why didn’t you say that earlier?!” Well, maybe because you asked the question in a way that didn’t make me think a particular experience was relevant, or you didn’t understand something I had said or you didn’t let me finish a thought. For example, she asked me if I had ever experienced abuse. I said yes, that I have experienced emotional abuse from intimate partners and “so-called friends” when I was younger. Later on, when I gave specifics about what the “so-called” friends would say as it related to another question she said, “Oh, you were bullied! Why didn’t you say that?” I just smiled and laughed as she flipped back a few pages to make notes. I said my friends emotionally abused me. That is bullying. Bullying is abuse. Maybe you should have¬†asked earlier how that emotional abuse looked in each scenario? Just a thought.

This psychiatrist also disagrees with my borderline traits diagnosis which according to a colleague is common in this program. No one wants people to have a borderline label. This is a label I am 100% ok with so saying it’s not good is not something I would like to hear. I have found the borderline label to be a nice, all-encompassing name, to give my experiences and this psychiatrist ended up breaking my experiences into little pieces and giving each one a name. Here is what I wrote on a Facebook Group about it:

“I found it interesting that the psychiatrist didn’t like my current “borderline personality traits” diagnosis. Every psychiatrist has their own view of our experiences. So what she ended up giving me was major depression, generalized anxiety (I have never had that diagnosis before) and then said I have severe reactive interpersonal sensitivities. I feel like she just broke down my experience into small chunks, making them seem separate when they are really deeply connected. All of my emotional pain really stems from my sensitivities and I am worried that these professionals will just focus on how to make me less sad and less anxious and ignore the “interpersonal sensitivity”.”

I will have to wait and see how the counsellor I am assigned to deals with these different labels but I do not know if I feel very hopefully. I think I will ignore these labels and the assumptions that come with them and focus on what I know will be my biggest barrier: getting myself out of the house (which the psychiatrist bolded and said must be addressed ASAP).

The part that sent terror running through my body was how casually the psychiatrist talked about psych drugs. I know that this is her job and for many people psych drugs are not a big deal but for me, it is a huge deal and actually a life or death situation. The psychiatrist did acknowledge that I do appear to consistently experience the suicidality side effect of psych drugs and said that there is no reason I should be on psych drugs right now. The fear set in when she said that if at any point I start going downhill then it is something she would suggest ¬†to me. She said that it’s important to have a healthy mother for a healthy baby. Trust me, I do understand that. I want a healthy mother for my baby. I just have no reason to believe that psych drugs will create that health. They have never created that health. I have made amazing progress in my life without psych drugs.

Some good things did happen in this meeting. The psychiatrist was very happy that I am not married to the idea of breastfeeding. She asked me if I planned on breastfeeding and I explained that I’m open to it, would almost prefer not to and care more about the baby being fed then how the baby is fed. She was very vocal with her approval as she explained that some women refuse to consider bottle feeding and then when their baby or their own bodies have difficulty with breastfeeding they become extremely sad and at risk for postpartum issues. Breastfeeding is one way to feed a baby. Some women do not want to breastfeed, some women physically cannot. Some babies cannot physically breastfeed because of mouth issues or their bodies reject breast milk.

She was also glad that pregnancy wasn’t giving me mood swings. I explained that if anything it has calmed me down and given me time to think about where I should put my efforts. This is another protective factor.

I know I wrote a lot of bad. I’m still giving this program a shot. I know I need support and will need it a lot after birth. This is just beginning and I need to see where it all goes. I know that I can advocate for myself and the more we all get to know each other the better it can become.

 

 

A Mental Health Win or Fail?

Navi Dhanota, a York University student won a precedent-setting human rights complaint against the school. She pictured near her home on a cold January day.

Image: A young woman (Navi) with black/brown hair that falls just below her shoulders, standing outside on a sidewalk, wearing a black jacket. She is looking directly at the camera.

Recently, a young women named Navi Dhanota (Phd student) got York University to change its policy around academic accommodations for students with a mental illness diagnosis. Presently, many Ontario universities and colleges require a letter from a psychiatrist stating that the student has a mental illness, the SPECIFIC illness(es) and that because of this they require academic accommodations. Navi did not want to provide a specific mental illness diagnosis and when the University demanded one she filed a human rights complaint against the school with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Her hard work paid off!  York University has changed their policy and now,

“…students seeking supports at York won‚Äôt have to label their illness to get help. The school still requires an assessment from a licensed doctor to confirm the student has a legitimate condition that may require faculty flexibility or other supports, but the focus is now on determining how the disability affects their learning. For example, some students may need to take tests at a particular time of day because medication makes them drowsy.” ( Diana Zlomislic,¬†Toronto Star, Jan 12 2016)

As with anything, there are critics. Heather Mallick (columnist, author and lecturer) is very much against this policy change stating:

“The legal requirement that a stigmatizing diagnosis be a secret from helpful universities smells of mould and asylums.” (Heather Mallick, Toronto Star, Jan 15 2016)

Mallick may have a point if her article wasn’t written from a place of what I can only interpret as ignorance and privilege (she lectures on human rights so that’s a little scary). Why keep mental disability a secret she asks? There are many reasons, all of them valid and worthy of respect.

In an open letter to Mallick,¬†Rosalind Robertson¬†makes many great points that I support such as the stigma people face when they disclose their diagnosis, that it is not being our job to educate everyone by being “out”, and a person’s right to privacy.

Those who support and oppose are separated by a line etched in stone. Some that I know stand behind Mallick ¬†and others stand behind Navi. I personally, if you haven’t already guessed, stand behind Navi. Many of us with mental health concerns and have gone on to post-secondary education probably have experience with their academic accommodations department. Please read about my experience with academic accommodations here.

I strongly support York’s policy change because the specific diagnosis shouldn’t matter. What matters is that a doctors identifies there is a need, a “mental disability”, and that support will be needed in certain areas. There is stigma when people find out your diagnosis. Keeping that information to yourself is NOT stigmatizing or taking a step backwards. It is respecting yourself. It is respecting where your story is told and who knows your story. IT IS A PRIVILEGE TO KNOW MY STORY! A specific diagnosis doesn’t tell a person about your learning needs. I gave my specific diagnosis, as required, and they still did not meet my learning needs. Our privacy needs to be respect and our exact learning needs have to become a priority.

Image: a hand partially covering the word “privacy”.

Some are arguing that by keeping the diagnosis a “secret” that they are stigmatizing themselves and contributing to stigma. No. I can see how that can be an argument and I truly do not accept it as a decent argument. People should NEVER be forced to disclose. People should NEVER ben shamed for not disclosing. My health is none of your business unless I chose to let you in. If you can provide a service without specific knowledge then provide me with that service. My borderline personality isn’t the important part. The important part is that I have trouble with my memory, especially when under stress, so I would like to write essays instead of tests. Writing essays allows me time to sit down and go through my knowledge and write it all down so it makes sense. A test¬†makes me think on the spot and tests me on what I can remember, not what I know or how I can apply what I have learned (this is also a critique of testing in general). Knowing I am borderline will not tell you that.

Some may argue that many people are blogging about their mental health issues so why should it matter if they have to disclose to their school. It’s about choice. Blogging about my mental health is something I chose to do. I control what I put out, I get to speak for myself. I don’t need or want to disclose to everyone. If I don’t disclose to someone and they find my blog it goes back to knowing that I have control over how I represent myself. I should be given that same control when seeking academic accommodations.

I am big on choice. I believe we should have more choices in treatment, more choices in ways of being and more choice in who we disclose too. If a student wants to tell accommodations faculty their exact diagnosis then that is fantastic. Schools should not force students to share something about themselves that they may not wish to share. Forcing someone to disclose should not be the only way to receive support!¬†You don’t need to know I am borderline. You need to know what I need.¬†

 

 

 

Mental Health Accommodation Fail

When I began my social work education in 2007 at Ryerson University I avoided getting accommodations. I didn’t want to prove that I was “sick” and I didn’t want to deal with the potential “looks” and comments that I may get as a person reads over my note that says I have depression (which I did at the time). I also didn’t have a psychiatrist to write this note. Now, I did very well without supports (graduating on time in 2011, with many A’s in my classes) and that doesn’t change that it was the fear of people knowing that kept me from reaching out for help when I needed it.

When I went back to school for early childhood education at George Brown College in 2013 I was on Effexor, in a horrible relationship, and feeling suicidal. I had come a long way with my mental health and my identity. I knew I would have to claim I had a disability (which I do not believe I have) because it would give me what I felt I needed to be successful. I still had to talk myself into it and felt sick to my stomach handing over my psychiatric evaluation (Note: psychiatric evaluations are NOT required for proof of disability. This was all I had and because it was only a year old they accepted it as I did not have access to a psychiatrist again.). I was terrified that the faculty member would read “borderline¬†personality” and completely lose it! I was going into a profession where I would be working with child! What would they think of me and my ability seeing that I am labeled as emotionally unstable?! Will they kick me out of the program?! What if everyone sees this? Who will see this?! Can I trust them to keep my diagnosis safe? In reality, everything was fine. I still dreaded that that piece of paper was now in my student file and it said that I had a borderline personality. I ended up never using the accommodation services because they didn’t actually accommodate my needs. Mental health accommodations are currently cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all. I’m glad they help some and they didn’t help me. I was actually told by one faculty member who was giving me some time management and organization strategies that I had been “snuck in”. The strategies she offers are only supposed to be for people with learning disabilities. Her strategies were nothing new to me either, I already did a handful of them. My issue wasn’t organizing and managing my time. My issue was

I ended up never using the accommodation services because they didn’t actually accommodate my needs. Mental health accommodations are currently cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all. I’m glad they help some and they didn’t help me. I was actually told by one faculty member who was giving me some time management and organization strategies that I had been “snuck in”. The strategies she offers are only supposed to be for people with learning disabilities. Her strategies were nothing new to me either, I already did a handful of them. My issue wasn’t organizing and managing my time. My issue was memory and emotional instability. I wanted to write essays instead of tests (would I rather a 60% on a test or an 80% on an essay of the same topic?) and I wanted to have some leniency¬†in why things might be late or why I may not come to class. I did not get this. I did very well in this program on my own. I made the Dean’s List for the Fall Semester and won an award for my excellence in my field placement. I would have also made Dean’s List for the Winter and graduated with honors if I had finished the program (leaving my 5 year relationship put it on hold and now going back would be too financially painful).

Many would probably say that since I succeed in school that meant I didn’t need accommodations. Maybe. I see it as I had no choice. I had to push aside what I was feeling and experiencing and keep going because no one at the school had my back. This is not to say that students who benefit from accommodations are not struggling and having to push themselves¬†because they are. I often recommend to friends who are struggling to lighten their course load and apply for accommodations. ¬†It just feels bad to know that there is nothing to catch you if you fall.

Good Morning Discrimination!

Yesterday morning, I posted on a Facebook page I admin a BuzzFeed article called, “23 Things People with Borderline Personality Want You to Know.” I agree with what is written in the article such as,

1. BPD can make it incredibly difficult to regulate your emotions.

12. BPD can make it really hard to maintain relationships.

17. Some forms of therapy work better than others ‚ÄĒ it depends on the patient¬†and the practitioner.

23. People with BPD are stronger than you know.

I love BPD humour! Image reads: I prefer to not think of myself as having BPD. I prefer to think of it as being really awesome and letting know through outbursts of emotion.

I posted my own comment along with the article on the Facebook page saying, “People with BPD need and want love. It can be difficult for people with BPD is express themselves appropriately because they are sensitive people in a very invalidating world. People with BPD can improve themselves by learning skills (such as through DBT) and by having supportive people in their life who are patient, understanding, trusting and loving.”

The post was Liked and shared and then received a comment that would be the first comment I have ever deleted off of the Facebook page.

Interesting but having lived with someone I am 100% sure was borderline I would say you need to be a freaking incredible person to pull off an intimate relationship with a borderline. I did it for 16 years and had to get out.

I toyed with responding with validation and education (“It can be difficult to be in a relationship with someone who is experiencing emotion dysregulation. Learning about their experience can help both people find a way to be together and there is nothing wrong with needing to end the relationship if it is not working.”) and eventually decided to just delete the comment. This is the first comment I have ever deleted from the page!

I deleted the comment because it is phrased in such a way that I got the impression that education wasn’t wanted. I thought that this person is more concerned with how difficult it can be to be in a relationship with someone who has BPD than how to support a BPD person and how to support themselves in that relationship. It is discriminatory and it had to go!

I have written many times on this blog about BPD discrimination (see links below) and I am fortunate that I do not frequently experience discrimination specifically related to BPD. When I do it cuts me pretty deep as much of it is meant to be mean. What bothers me with the above comment is the idea that only certain types of people can be with BPD individuals and that person must be a god to put up with us.

One of my deep rooted fears is that I am unlovable and unworthy of love. To hear that people think people with BPD cannot be in relationships or can only be in relationships with “special” people is very upsetting and also a lie. Are there some people with BPD that make relationships impossible and maybe even abusive? Yes. Are there some people with BPD who have fun and loving relationships? Yes. You know why both and everything in between can be true? Because people with BPD are like everyone else in terms of having unique personalities, values, experiences, strengths and challenges. Many of us with BPD, myself included, have been in abusive relationships and blamed for the abuse. I wouldn’t say that my abusers are “freaking incredible”.

Let me give credit though to B. He is a “freaking incredible person” BUT not for “pulling off” a relationship with me. He is incredible because he is kind, affectionate, positive, loving, caring, hard working, smart, attractive and MINE! I can only speak for myself when I say that there is no trick to being with me. There is nothing to “pull off”. I ask for respect, love, trust, understanding and support. Is this not what many ask for in their relationships?

Relationships are not easy. I  know that I am not easy. I know that B is not easy. If we want to make it work, if we are both willing to admit our faults, improve ourselves and accept each other then we can make it. BPD has nothing to do with it.

It was a morning of discrimination and hopefully, today can be an evening of education.

Related posts

BPD, Sexual Behaviour & Long-Term Relationships

Bashing Borderlines: Helping Professional Discrimination

New Diagnosis, New Discrimination

The “Science” of Evil

Don’t Stereotype My Anger