A name for the pain

Until recently I used to always wonder what was wrong with me. For
most of my life I wondered if I had the symptoms of a
never-heard-of-before mental illness, which was why the many
psychiatrists I’ve seen had never given me a diagnosis. I knew I
suffered from depression – I’ve been hospitalised several times
because of it – but I felt it was just a symptom of many
deep-seated psychological problems in my life.

Apart from anti-depressants, which gave me an artificial lift, no
tablets changed the way I thought or felt. Every time I went into
hospital and was put on a new course of tablets or injections, I
hoped they would be a panacea for all my ills. Instead, I was left
disappointed when the only results I got were blurred vision and
stiff joints. I couldn’t understand why the medication didn’t work
and was frustrated I wasn’t getting better.

I struggled on, but it was as if I wasn’t cut out for dealing with
life. I found it hard to hold down jobs or have relationships. I
developed an eating disorder and became obsessive about cleaning,
noise from neighbours and order in the home. On several occasions I
took an overdose because I couldn’t bear feeling the way I

It wasn’t until I was 33 that I was offered an appointment with a
clinical psychologist through the NHS. To be offered a talking
treatment instead of increasing my medication made a refreshing
change. It was through my psychologist that I finally found out why
I had been suffering for so long. He often mentioned my
“personality problems”. When I asked him what he meant he referred
back to my medical records and read out letters written by those
who had treated me in the past. In one a doctor wrote that I was
suffering from borderline personality disorder, while in another a
doctor diagnosed me with anxious avoidant personality disorder.

At last I felt my symptoms had credence – there were names for how
I felt. I had spent years racking my brains to understand why I
thought and acted the way I did. What I couldn’t understand was why
the diagnosis had been kept secret from me for so long. I felt
bitter that I had been left to make a mess of my life by those whom
I had trusted to make me better.

I later discovered through research on the internet that many
psychiatrists believe personality disorders (PDs) are untreatable
and mental health staff are often reluctant to take on people with
the condition. This made me angry as I always felt I had the
insight and determination to build a better life for myself – I
just needed the tools to work with.

Luckily, I’m now getting the help I need and it looks as though
other PD sufferers will too. I’ve read that research has shown that
cognitive behavioural therapy allows sufferers to live normally
again. This research has prompted the government’s National
Institute for Mental Health to order psychiatric services to treat
the condition. At long last PD sufferers can look forward to a
brighter future.

Amanda Robinson uses mental health services

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