But to God – to Jesus – we are valuable and beautiful. Each of us is a unique creation.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14


When we think of being stigmatized because of an illness or disorder, our first thoughts are that these kinds of responses come to us from the world “out there.” From the people who don’t necessarily know us very well. But I have come to see that some of the most painful stigma comes from people close to us – our family and friends, people who have known us for years and who we think know us and love us for who we are. People we need for support.

When I was diagnosed only three years ago, I found that some friends started to regard everything I did as part of a BPD issue. The stigma was exceptionally greater than what I’d experienced during my fifty years with bipolar disorder. And yet, I hadn’t changed that much from whom I was before. Within one circle I was a well-respected leader one day, and the next day I was out – rejected – even mistreated.

When friends hear that we have an illness with such an awful sounding name, chances are they will immediately google it to learn what it means, what the symptoms are, and what kinds of things the BPD websites might have to say about us.

Here are some of the reactions family and friends have had to my condition. I have experienced all of them, but probably not from more than a few friends. Yet it’s these few who have hurt me deeply. If I had not received the BPD label, all would be different.


  • When friends became familiar with symptoms they found on the internet, everything I was became suspect. All my behavior was attributed to the illness, although there might have been valid reasons for it. They did not recognize that I’m not all BPD. I have a side that is as normal as the next person.
  • Often the way I express myself in response to something painful is as normal as anyone’s, but because I’m known to have BPD, it’s criticized. What might be normal for others, is misconstrued as a sign of illness for me.
  • I started feeling judged, as though I myself were to blame for the illness. Very few seemed to recognize that this disorder was not of my own making, but that it was in most cases the result of past trauma.
  • Many believe that I willingly release strong emotional responses. But unless I’ve had intensive DBT therapy to control them, I’ll probably have a hard time holding them in. We need to realize that emotions themselves are not a cause for shame.
  • Friends and family do not show the kindness and compassion as freely as they do for other illnesses. (Maybe when we have gone out of control emotionally, it would be helpful if we could talk with a compassionate friend after it’s blown over.)
  • In some cases it’s possible for unfair treatment to occur because we’re not thought well of. This is very hurtful for the person affected. Strong emotions would be a natural response for anyone. But for a person with BPD, chances are that she would be blamed if she were to express such strong emotions. The person who mistreated her will – in her calmness – end up looking good.
  • Even when there is undeniable rejection – something that would hurt anyone – the pain we experience is too easily blamed on our over-sensitivity – and thus not serious, not real, and not worthy of compassion. If they only knew how intense such pain can be! It has often led to suicide.


I’ve lived a rich life with many accomplishments – thought well of. But in some quarters, the BPD diagnosis I received three years ago brought on a disrespect I hadn’t experienced before. I was judged and criticized, no longer having the good in me recognized. Not listened to. All I had done in my life and what I was still doing, no longer received the credit it deserved. Eventually I started questioning my self-worth.

In some circles I’ve been made to feel like an outsider, no longer loved for who I am. I hope those close to me will realize that BPD is not everything I am. There is a large “normal” me still there, as it always has been, outside the BPD box.

I’m very much hoping that those who want to understand BPD better and know how it feels to live with that label, will have learned from the experiences described. Why not use what I’ve shared here as discussion topics with friends and family members who have BPD? Better understanding and support could grow.