"You didn't anger me, I just don't think it was okay to go to al-anon meetings which is supposed to be a safe space without the best intentions"
(for those unaware al-anon is not AA it is meetings for friends and family members of alcoholics). Confused, I asked her if she could explain what she meant. I told her that because of my disorder I have memory issues, and I wasn't trying to "play dumb" or pick a fight. I genuinely was trying to understand what she meant. Her reply?
"Look, it's clear you can't understand that your actions have consequences, and I can't further deal with this."
Of course now I am racking my brain trying to think of what she meant. I had missed a couple meetings, but that was due to lack of gas and the weather. I had walked out of a couple, but I was experiencing high anxiety and the best thing is for me to remove myself from the situation. These are not reasons to accuse someone of not having the "best intentions." I don't speak about Al-Anon unless it's in regards to me (which is allowed, I checked). I don't name people I see at meetings or even meeting locations (though it's very easy to find meeting locations with a simple Google search). I continued to try and understand what she was talking about, and I probably let my frustration show a bit and came across hostile the more she ignored me. But I was honestly trying to understand and have a conversation. I once again explained that I have memory issues caused by my disorder. Her final message before blocking me was,
"Okay, seriously, this is all too much. You can't just use your mental illness as a catch all to excuse your actions, and expect people to just accept it."
This is a tremendous pet peeve of mine, but I'm going to come back to it in a second. I want to first share some stuff my therapist told me during my session today.
"People with Borderline Personality Disorder understand and experience consequences more deeply than most of the general population because of the nature of the disorder."
"It's not that I use my diagnosis as an excuse to behave the way I do. I behave the way I do because I have BPD."
Let's say I started sneezing, coughing, and looked run down. Chances are you would say, "hey looks like you have some cold symptoms!" Those cold symptoms may cause me to not want to get out of bed, blow my nose a lot, use cough drops. If I said to you, "oh man, this runny nose is causing me to go through so many tissues!" you wouldn't reply with, "you can't just use your runny nose as an excuse to use tissues!" Do you see what I'm getting at?
I have an illness. That illness has symptoms. Those symptoms cause certain behaviors. Yes I can learn to manage and control it and learn skills, but would you expect someone who got over a cold to never have a cold again in their lives? No? So why would you condemn a person with a mental illness for being affected by the symptoms of their illness?
According to my therapist and many professionals BPD is one of the most, if not the most, difficult disorder to treat. It's because there is no pill for BPD; it's skills based and the person has to be willing to change. We are also extremely high risk (I think we have one of the highest suicide rates). Change is incredibly difficult and the best hope we have is DBT which means committing to a year of intensive therapy.
Also, according to my therapist when a person is in very high emotion mind it is very common for us to experience memory lapses. That's not an excuse, it's literally a fact.
I think people mistake being insightful and aware for excuses. If I have a broken leg and I am aware that walking on it will cause me problems does that mean if I refuse to run a race I am using my broken leg as an excuse? I think (and my therapist agrees) that being able to not only recognize when my BPD is affecting me, but also to be able to clearly reflect and point out which part of the disorder caused my behavior shows tremendous awareness and insight. To me that's not using it as an excuse, to me that is using it to better myself.
But, I'm still stuck on how someone would think that stating something a symptom does is, "using my disorder as an excuse." If I wasn't affected by the symptoms of my disorder then I wouldn't have it. Using my disorder as an excuse would be not accepting I have it; saying, "I have BPD so I'm gonna be an ass to you!", or denying my behaviors are an issue. As my therapist and I talked about people with BPD feel tremendous guilt and remorse. If I flip out I spend a lot of time beating myself up and feeling remorseful. I put it on my diary card, I talk about it in therapy. This is not "using my disorder as an excuse."
"Ugh just get up and walk! Stop using your wheelchair as an excuse for immobility"
"Oh god, Tina called out again. Probably another chemotherapy appointment. She's always using her breast cancer as an excuse to get out of work!"
"Do you really need to take insulin? Stop using your diabetes as an excuse to inconvenience our meal!"
These all sound pretty ridiculous, right? So why do we do it with mental illness?
I get that my behaviors have caused problems, have pushed people away, and I can be difficult to deal with; but you know what? It's not always my fault. You know what's funny? I've had the fact I have a mental disorder used as an "excuse"
-To warrant being abused
-To blame me for every conflict I have
-To get out of explaining stuff to me (like a super vague comment)
My illness has been used to gas light me so many times.
So tell me, who's using my illness as an excuse?