Madness. What is it? How do we define madness? To me, although I have labels, I am just quirky, mildly eccentric and sometimes entertaining. And you know what? I used to be happy with that. I ceased to be happy when a label was placed on my eccentricities.
So I tried to suppress my differences, withdraw from society, keep the world safe from the horror that I must obviously be.
This I know is childhood conditioning, not meant to be cruel, but something dark always held over me ‘You will become mad. You will develop schizophrenia.’ Then frequent contact with institutionalised patients over the phone in the throes of things my young mind could not comprehend. Visiting 1970s institutions – not the most pleasant of places then for a short time living down the road from Broadmoor, an asylum for the criminally insane with its frequent escapes, the warning sirens, the car searches and the fear of going outdoors because the mad ones, the murderers and the rapists were hiding around the corner in the woods.
From there, a terror of mental illness developed in me.
For me, being given a label was horrific. In fact, it felt worse than any kind of physical abuse I had previously endured.
Mum was right. She had been all along.
I was the family mad person, the one who should be locked up behind closed doors, shunned by society. An embarrassment not to be mentioned.
I was the thing the family kept in the closet.
This journey has been a hard one for me because my self-stigmatisation is extreme.
Linehan teaches radical acceptance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTG7YEWkJFI) – I was barely able to find a modicum of acceptance in anything – for over two years, let alone radically accept anything!
I have found it now and being able to radically accept events in my life wow, that is a liberating experience. I never thought I would be able to say that.
Accepting my label for what it is and not being afraid of it is a huge deal. Because I am not some knife-wielding serial killer; I do not deserve to be locked in an asylum for the criminally insane; I do not need ECT and the majority of the time, provided I maintain my routine, use my mental toolkit and am strict with meditation, diet and exercise I can self-manage.
I can still be my quirky, creative, feeling self because this label is not the ‘madness’ I have feared it will be.
There’s a lot worse ‘madness’ than BPD.