So, full disclosure: I have Borderline Personality Disorder.
I know this may shock some of you, but that’s how it is. I was diagnosed when I was 16, slept through most of my classes in high school because I was so doped out on various medications, struggled through college without therapy or medication, and eventually spiraled my way into a very open, very chill DBT ward in southern Germany.
I just got out this morning – again. This was the third time that I was on that particular ward, and I keep going back because it’s unlike any other psych ward I’ve been on before. The nurses actually talk to you, the doctors are actually available for consultation, nobody goes through your bags, and you’re allowed to come and go as you please. It’s this sort of open, trusting environment – the kind of non-dehumanizing environment that I believe all mentally unhealthy people can benefit from – that leads to the patients being calm, quiet, and generally happy there.
What struck me in particular about this visit was how easily I came into contact with the other patients. I normally keep to myself, but this time around, I already felt so comfortable on the ward – a familiar, structured place – that I didn’t find it difficult at all to strike up a little conversation. Furthermore, it occurred to me that even though people with Borderline are perceived to be these dangerous, evil, manipulative, awful people who will stop at nothing to hurt others, that was absolutely not what I was experiencing, being surrounded by others like me. I saw a lot of compassion, and I want to share that with you. I want you to know that people with Borderline are capable of compassion – that we have gentle souls and gentle hearts, and it is exactly this sensitivity which drives our illness.
This past week in the clinic reawakened my faith in humanity.
I saw one woman sleep on a couch in the hallway all week because she was afraid of sleeping alone, and I saw other patients stay up late to make her feel safe.
I saw people express concern for their roommates when they were sleeping all day or when they had stomach trouble. I saw them gently encourage each other to get up, watch TV with us, play a game, get out of bed and show us that beautiful smile.
I saw patients buy candy for each other, I even saw a patient buy coffee for the nursing staff, because she herself is a nurse and appreciates what they do for us.
I saw other patients be kind and welcoming to each others’ visitors, and express genuine joy at each other’s successes, and sadness at each other’s struggles.
I saw patients comfort each other, watch movies together, go for walks together, and go far out of their way to show kindness and concern for each other.
People with Borderline are not monsters. Put them together, treat them with kindness and understanding, and you can really see that.