Being Bi – Borderline Personality Disorder

118HUsually when we talk about sexual behaviour as a symptom, it’s metaphorical, but when you’re bi and living with Borderline Personality Disorder your sexuality really is seen as a symptom, representing emotional and social instability, promiscuity and volatility.  Friend of Biscuit Cat shares her experience navigating the way.

“I’m bisexual and I have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behaviour, and relationships that has been in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders since 1980.

Mental health issues are prevalent in the bi community, with a higher than average number of bisexuals having suffered from mental health problems at some point when compared to the general population. Bisexual women in particular are more likely to suffer (in a Biscuit poll earlier this year only 12% of respondents said they had never suffered from mental health problems), and for those who have been formally diagnosed BPD is a fairly common.

Despite a lot of good work from mental health charities and other campaigning organisations to raise awareness of BPD and other mental health conditions in recent years, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health problems and those with a diagnosis of BPD are particularly affected by this. Adverse treatment of individuals with BPD just doesn’t stem from the public but from within the mental health profession itself – professionals often label those with BPD as attention seekers, difficult and manipulative, and some even refuse to believe that BPD is a genuine disorder.

In addition to this stigma, BPD is poorly understood so individuals with this diagnosis often receive inadequate or downright unsuitable treatment and find themselves unable to access appropriate treatment in terms of medication and therapy. I was on medication for the best part of 15 years before I was prescribed what I believe are the right types of drugs for me and my condition; a combination of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics are what works best for me, but for a long time only my depressive moods were treated. Even now, when I need to be signed off work the GP signs me off with depression even if it’s general instability of mood that is the reason for being unfit for work.

But what has any of this got to do with bisexuality?

I believe that the poor treatment of my BPD has been further compounded by a poor understanding of what bisexuality is from health professionals, through to outright biphobia. I have lost count of the amount of times that I’ve had to deliver a Bisexuality 101 talk in an appointment, and nearly as many times have seen the professional I was dealing with still completely and utterly fail to grasp what I’ve been telling them.
And then there’s the biphobia. Some professionals refuse to take on board the Bisexuality 101 talk because they don’t believe that it’s possible to be attracted to more than one gender, thinking you’re kidding yourself and that you’re really gay or straight but in denial. Then there’s the professionals who believe that bisexuality exists, but buy into all those tired old bisexual tropes – we’re promiscuous, we’re undecided, we’ll cheat on our partners, we’re doing it for attention, and so on and so on… These myths are then conflated with the diagnostic criteria for BPD – claiming to be bisexual is seen as an indication of unstable and disturbed identity and sexual encounters with more than one gender are seen as evidence of sexual impulsivity. Unsurprisingly the diagnostic criteria that the bisexual stereotypes are conflated with are what are seen as stereotypical BPD.

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Things won’t change until a) professionals’ perception of BPD is improved, and b) training on LGBT issues for mental health professionals, as well as the medical profession in general, are improved. I’ve been in the system for over 20 years now and I can say that things have very much improved in that time – one ‘diagnosis’ I had as a teenager was that I was a lesbian but in denial about it (this was after I’d been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for several months as I was considered to be such a danger to myself; a couple of years later I was formally diagnosed with BPD following a suicide attempt, but was never actually made aware of this diagnosis until years later).

However I can’t say I’m happy with the level of improvement in this time as I still feel that there’s a long way to go – I’m still having to explain my sexuality, I’m still having to fight for appropriate treatment (which if I had a different diagnosis I believe would be less of an issue).

Where training exists on LGBT issues it’s often minimal, and largely focuses on the ‘L’ and the ‘G’. Some LGBT charities and other organisations can provide training, but this is usually very much still focused on the first half of the acronym. One welcome exception to this was the recent Pink Therapy conference ‘Beyond Gay And Straight’ for those working in the mental health profession, and focusing on working with bisexual people.

[Speaking of Pink Therapy, if you’re after getting treatment for BPD, or any other mental health issue, and are able to afford to pay then they’re a great place to start looking for a therapist in your area as you can search their directory by the gender and sexuality of the therapist as well as by what client groups they work with. Failing that, if you’re unhappy with treatment you’re receiving through the NHS you can ask to see a different professional (although, unfortunately, that may significantly delay treatment)].
So what do we need? We need the awareness raising and campaigning to continue – both on bisexuality and Borderline Personality Disorder. We need to make sure that health professionals are educated as well as the general public. And part of that awareness raising involves talking more, and being more open. We also need support – accessing the right treatment and being treated fairly can involve a lot of fighting, and constantly doing battle is tiring. We need support, not just from our nearest and dearest, but from our allies as well.

I’m lucky. I’ve been able to get the treatment that I want and need. Sometimes that has been down to luck, but a lot of that has been down to a combination of patience and tenacity, and there’s been a lot of heartache along the way. Although a lot of this is down to me I couldn’t have done it without my family and friends, who’ve helped me to pick up the pieces and move on time and time again.

For those of you who aren’t so lucky, this is for you – so you know that there’s someone out there who understands just how difficult and painful this can be.

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Cat Rocks

Cat is in her mid 30s (and is rapidly approaching her late 30s at an alarming rate) and has identified as bisexual for longer than she cares to remember. In between working, being a parent, knitting and battling a Frijj addiction she occasionally finds time for writing and other forms of activism.

5 Responses to Being Bi – Borderline Personality Disorder

  • Lottie Dingle says:

    Love this! Thank you so much. Yours, your BPD/bi editor-in-chief of Biscuit xxx

  • Carole Bartlett-Mobbs says:

    This is a great article; well-written, interesting, informative and concise. I really enjoyed reading it. <3

    I do however need to point out the typo in the bio. It looks like autocorrect has changed 'In between' to 'I'm between'.

  • Victoria says:

    Thank you so much I thought I was the only one honestly. I know I’m bisexual and equally attracted to both genders. I also have bpd and no one believes me when I say equally attracted. I hope to get treatment soon for bpd as it’s ruining my life.

  • Mariana Aguiar says:

    Hi there,

    I’m from Brazil. I sometimes think my sexual preferences are a bit related to BPD even though I’m not equally attracted to both genders.

    Thanks for the useful information.

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