Recently on Twitter I mentioned that I had been "coming out" to some people in my life about my BPD diagnosis. I've also started using my real name - Jess! - on Twitter and now on here for my blog posts.
This has been inspired, like so many aspects of my journey towards recovery have, by Debbie at Healing From BPD.
Reactions have varied, but whatever they have been, the first few minutes seem to be irrelevant as the person is usually just processing everything during this time. You need to explain it and give them a few moments to comprehend before you get the full measure of understanding and empathy that most people will offer.
In fact, so far there haven't been any "bad" reactions, just different ones. Anything from total surprise, to curiosity, to condolences. Interestingly though, a very common response has been the person then telling me about a loved one who also suffers from mental illness.
I have been genuinely taken aback by how many people already know someone they care about that struggles with mental health.
This shouldn't be surprising, as in Australia statistics are that 1 in 5 people will face a mental health challenge in any given year.
I believe that the more we are open and honest about the challenges we face, the easier we make it for other people who are facing similar challenges. Even for those who may never suffer from mental illness, statistics guarantee they will interact with people who do, and learning about one person can inform their caring and sensitivity towards another.
I also believe that there are benefits in naming a part of you and owning it for the world to see. There should not have to be any shame in suffering from mental illness, any more than there would be for having a heart condition or blood disorder.
Understandably, this doesn't mean anyone should have to shout their diagnosis from the rooftops, walk around in a t-shirt saying "ASK ME ABOUT MY BPD!!!" or begin every conversation they have with a disclosure of their mental health. I have chosen carefully who I am choosing to open up to and in what context. And if someone is just not up to talking about their mental health, then that is just fine too. Everyone is at a different point in their journey.
But no one with a mental illness has chosen to have that illness. We should all be proud of ourselves and the path we are traveling, because it is just a part of life that none of us are perfect. (Except you, dear reader!)