"An Illness of Weakness" by Stephanie, DBT graduate
I used to think of myself as a "weak" person, someone unable to deal with even the most minimal of stressors. I thought to be strong, I had to be like everyone else- able to "pull myself up by my bootstraps", so to speak. But then it dawned on me that the very nature of my illness was one of weakness, or vulnerability. Borderline Personality Disorder is essentially that- an illness of weakness and vulnerability. Sometimes I think of myself as having a "compromised psychological constitution".
It's as if the smallest of "stress germs" can do one in! And what proves to be even more challenging, is communicating to others that, what to them may be nothing at all, to you, may be completely overwhelming. And the fact that you look and act normal much of the time doesn't help matters any! The more I think about it, the more I wish I could live in a bubble, like those people who have to exist in a completely sterile environment, free from germs- at least someone can look at them and understand the problem.
Unfortunately, my need for extra tender care is not so visible. As Marsha Linehan has so aptly described it, "…borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering" (1993).
I liken this concept to an individual with a compromised immune system- someone who is extremely susceptible to "catching" germs that most people fight off quite easily. Borderlines are comparable to this in the psychological sense- their experience of self is easily compromised and the ability to fight off stress proves to be an often-formidable task.
So be that, as it may, I have decided to look at my illness from a different angle. I have decided that I will look at myself not as a weak person, but as a "person of strength, with an illness of weakness". After all, to survive and cope with this disorder on a daily basis takes a perseverance and strength that few could argue with, if only they could "walk a mile in my moccasins"!