borderline personality disorder · mental health · Mental health culture

Mental Health as a brown person.

This post has been on my mind for a while so I guess I better get this out of my system. As someone who’s not caucasian, I feel like the topic of Mental Health goes by even more unnoticed. It’s ignored or at best, acknowledged and then ignored. As in, in my culture (which has a lot of issues I don’t agree with but that’s a whole other list for a whole different site…) if a family member has a mental health problem they’re labelled crazy when they engage in problematic behaviours, rejected, isolated, or the family continues on and just lets them continue behaving in that way, often with a disruptive home environment as a result.

For example, if the family member in question has anger issues as a result of handling extreme mood swings, or out of control moods, they are called names for behaving ‘crazy’ or ‘psycho’ or whatever else and then left to it. They just argue it out and the behaviour continues the next time they feel that way. There is hardly, if any, intervention.

My own family life is also a result of this. I was labelled as the ‘black sheep’ of the family and treated as such, despite having grown up in a neglectful, turbulent home environment, neither parent seemed able to put two and two together and realise all of my behaviours were as a direct result of what I grew up in. Learned behaviours from the environment they put me in. But, I guess, if people started thinking that way that would mean they would have to assume some responsibility too, and well, no one likes added responsiblity do they?

I am not saying those with MH issues who ‘act out’ in ways that may harm other people is okay, or that they have a license to do whatever they want because they’re mentally ill. My point is, if there was at least some discussion, at least they would be able to get support from family members to look at recovery. If the problem isn’t even acknowledged how are they meant to improve? Their relationships suffer as a result and then that leads them to an even darker place.

The stigma is even worse in my culture. I have not even considered telling other people of the same culture as me about my MH problems because the way I might be viewed would be in a much more judgemental way than when I have spoken to others. It even proves true when I have been online dating, sure, I’m not saying every person from my culture is this way (they’re not, my own friend is an exception). But, I have experienced it this way. I have spoken to guys who have gotten along with me fine for about 5 minutes, until they ask me about my past and realising it’s a little shady (BPD can do that to a girl, you know?) immediately decide there’s not enough compatibility to continue. You know, not that they ever asked me why I might have engaged in those behaviours, sexual abuse, domestic violence, neglect can cause you to act just a little crazy sometimes, but hey, why bother truly getting to know me to find that out, when you can just blank me for not being an angel instead?

Maybe I sound a little bitter, I guess on some level I am, on the level that we’re left not only to deal with the real struggle of recovery but then we’re also shunned because of it, or ‘looked down on’. I can’t imagine being looked down upon for having some kind of chronic physical illness, but because it’s MH, it’s ‘okay’.

I have had to look up BPD on my own, I have had to research, to pay for therapy, to get to the GP’s, to get to DBT and see it through all on my own. When I was married my in-laws were the same and so was my ex. He was so anti-medication that I never got the chance to explore meds, and despite telling him about BPD, he didn’t take the time to read up on the diagnosis, to look at therapy with me, or to even listen to any of my counsellors suggestions about how he could help me and our relationship which was very stormy, but again, it was easier to just blame me and expect me to change because I was ‘crazy’ (he did call me that many a time). I can directly compare this to my last ex who, as a white english guy, was totally able to listen to me talk about my BPD, to ask me what the best ways to support me were, to research on his own and he didn’t once stigmatise me for it. In fact, he called me out every time I unintentionally did it to myself.

I’m a big girl so I get it’s high time I engaged in recovery for myself, but I’m not going to hide the fact that I feel a little hurt when I hear about other people’s families supporting them so much through therapy, financially, mentally, emotionally, people who have parents who are reading all about their child’s diagnosis to try and support them. I get none of that. I am grateful I have been able to do as much for myself as I have been able to, and that I finally opened up about it to my family so that they cannot go on pretending my MH issues don’t exist, but sometimes I do wish I had someone to lean on on the tough days. It’s a no-brainer to me now about why I was always seeking a romantic relationship.

The blogs on this site and youtube videos I come across also seem to fit neatly into this theory, the majority of discussion is coming from white english/american people, and I applaud them for that, they’re making real steps in removing stigma. I have seen some equally brilliant blogs and dialogue from people of colour and I’m so glad they have had the courage to put themselves out there like that and show that MH is an issue across cultures and colours. It needs to be talked about no matter where you are from and support should not be based on where you originate from.




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