Help! What to do if I find out that I have mental illness or a personality disorder?
Well, the first thing I’d like to say if you suspect that you may have mental illness or a personality disorder or you have gotten an official diagnosis is… don’t panic! The fact that you’re here reading articles like this or seeking therapeutic help is rare. Self awareness and treatment is invaluable for people who suffer with personality disorders and it’s a huge step forward to even begin to see that one needs help. Congratulations are in order! I do not purport to be a psychologist, I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and have worked as a mental health counselor and wellness coach. More than training, I have been the recipient of narcissistic abuse for the good part of my life from my primary relationships. As a survivor and hopeful thriver, I have a lot of first hand experience with the dynamics of relational abuse and have encountered many modalities for healing, that I’d like to share.
Compassion for All
A lot of the self-help books and trainings and even therapists are geared toward helping the people who are the recipients of abuse. However, I’m finding that there’s not a whole lot out there to help people if they find out that they themselves have a personality disorder. Many professionals and online forums consider people who are narcissists, or people to suffer from antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy) to be wholly dysfunctional, predatory and conscienceless. Many therapists refuse to work with deeply rooted untreated personality disorders like borderline as the borderline can be emotionally manipulative and harmful, even to the therapist. They talk at great length about cutting people out, no contact, boundaries from “toxic people” and how to walk away.
One of my Buddhist teachers in contrast said, the people that are unwell, hurt, angry and reactive are the ones that need our love the most. I still love the disordered person that is in my family, I know they will never seek treatment. Yet, I see their past, their trauma that caused them to become like this: reactive, rageful and never, ever admitting fault, it’s always everyone else’s issue and they are the poor victims of mistreatment. Inside, they are broken, hollow and alone. Education is the key, for me to be able to create a safe environment to be around this family member. What they had to endure just being them, is enough “punishment” for their lifelong and continuous hurt to me. I’m grateful actually, to have been raised by a full spectrum narcissist and then to seek out a spiritual community headed by someone with a similar psychological profile. I admittedly struggle with being a wounded healer, codependency and care-taking as the fallout of my upbringing. However, they say “take it to the path,” the pain, many tears and years of therapeutic and healing modalities has I hope, caused me to grow and love even more deeply.
There is Hope
I would like to offer a different perspective on how people with personality disorders came to be and feel that if they were to ever seek help, no one is beyond redemption. I believe that no human being, even hardened criminals, even if they go so far as to identify as a predator, abusers who uphold the persona of the “wolf in sheep clothing” con men, gang members, people in political power, people that hold trusted roles as spiritual leaders but are exploitative and use people to glean sex, money, power, control and narcissistic supply, could not be treated and learn to uncover their innate dormant conscience and no longer harm others.
If the disorders that we experience come from: early childhood physical or sexual abuse, neglect, bullying, loss of a parent, growing up with a lot of intensity or trauma, then in order to survive, the child learns to dissociate and protect the vulnerable part of them from being hurt. As they age they perceive people who love them as people who are going to hurt them, a myriad of maladaptive, reactive, controlling or dissociated behaviors can ensue. Experts say often that the age that the abuse started is the age where the person stopped developing emotionally. Often you have people that are adults on the outside but yet broken, the “walking wounded” on the inside. This is not evil, this is sad, and we must safely help each other as much as we can, both “victim and perpetrator” in this hard and fragile life.
This organization, The Compassion Prison Project does a lot of work to help us all to be “trauma informed,” having compassion for unfortunate people that come from trauma and abuse that results in committing crimes. The project offers ways for us all to understand and heal, rather than mere punishment of doing years of time. I myself, used to volunteer in prisons and saw large, muscled, grown men, with tattoos, seemingly hardened, cry and express real regret. These images stay indelibly, with me.
Indeed, some people are born with neurological deficits which are the constructs of antisocial personality disorder, the traditional psychopaths or sociopaths. These are traditionally defined as people that are not capable of feeling real love, compassion, empathy or having any conscience. The statistics are staggering- 1 in 20 people are considered to be on the spectrum of antisocial personality disorder so there’s a very good chance that each of us encountered someone like this in our lives or… maybe ourselves? If you have been diagnosed with a personality disorder and you’re trying to seek help you are not too far gone to be considered un-treatable, then it’s time to take this very seriously and begin the process of self-awareness and healing right away as to not hurt yourself or others any more. The pain of living with untreated personality disorders can create a lonely and hollow life for the person that suffers from this and the impact on people’s family and social relationships can be devastating.
If you suspect you may have a personality disorder, first and foremost, I would adopt this mantra-
“I am a good person but through this illness, I have hurt myself and many people. I am so proud that now, I’m brave enough to see it, and will diligently seek help. I know I can get better and stop these negative recurring patterns. I will someday become a loving, healed and helpful person.”
Here are some helpful steps as to how to get treated:
- I would read this book immediately it’s called the Five Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life. I listened to the 5 hour Audible version, gripping and insightful! https://www.amazon.com/Types-People-Ruin-Your-Life/dp/0143131362
- Find a therapist and commit to seeing them weekly for an extended time. You can even try some of the online free therapy: https://www.onlinetherapy.com/free/
- There are powerful, compassion and empathy generating meditation practices called Tonglen that exchange yourself for others, so you can feel what it’s like to be abused and mistreated.
- If your doctor or therapist suggest medication take it diligently.
- If you have problems with alcohol or substance abuse, go to detox, often covered by insurance and then join a supportive 12 Step Community.
- Consider consulting with a Functional Medicine Doctor, there are many powerful OTC supplements that can help.
- Consider a longer term, immersive treatment program, like the one at Menniger, they have been around since 1925- https://www.menningerclinic.org/for-patients/admissions-appointments
- Journal– Make an extensive list about every single thing you have done to hurt others in your whole life prior to treatment and if possible, contact all of them to apologize, even if it has been decades.
- Real Self Love– Forgive yourself for any harm you have done by acting out of the untreated personality disorder or mental illness.
- Self Energy Work– Learn how to do reiki healings, EFT tapping or self care acupressure like Jinshin-jitsu, take regular warm baths, support, cradle and re-parent a taxed, damaged nervous and adrenal system.
- Seek Emergency or therapeutic help if you uncover memories that are too painful or encounter any mental or emotional state that’s too much to handle alone, or if you have any desire to harm yourself or others.
- As you get stronger and better and are in treatment, if you have committed crimes, you may choose to work with your counselor and contact a lawyer and turn yourself in and explain that you were mentally ill when committing them, and plea for a lesser sentence or a mental illness waiving of sentencing.
- Make sure that you follow the law, always, there are no exceptions or special permissions for you. If you belong to a rebellious group of friends or religion that gives you special permissions to break the law and harm others, leave any unhealthy culture or organization that supports and enables disordered thinking.
- Vow to be mindful of your body, speech and mind, notice if there’s a tendency to feel hurt, reactive rageful and when you notice this come up, take a deep calming abdominal breath, feel your body, look at the other person with kindness and start again.
- A well balanced nutritive diet, daily exercise and sunlight are the basics of any human mind-body-spirit health!
- Contrary to popular thought, I do not recommend meditation, solitary retreat, withdrawal or solitude for long periods of time or any high yogic practices until you have been treated and are stable and psychologically healthy.
- Self Talk– believe that each day is new, each day is a new you, full of potential and renewed!
There is no shame in being diagnosed with any type of depression, bi-polar personality disorder or mental illness. (!) The statistics for us all collectively suffering after the past few years with the disasters, pandemic, loss of life, isolation and economy are all pervasive. I know it’s easier to be in denial, project and blame others, that’s how personality disorders keep their stronghold on those who suffer, but I trust that somewhere, people know when they are unwell and need help. We must remove the mental health stigma, get whatever help needed, to create the best life for ourselves. I love the mantra:
Hurt People Hurt People, Healed People Heal People
Taking steps toward our personal inner health- mind-body-spirit becomes the building blocks of a healthier society, families and spans into the next generations. There are so many amazing powerful and transformative healing resources out there. We can bring light to our shadow, and admit if we are in pain and we’ve hurt others and need help. We can take whatever steps we can to become the best, most healed people we can be! As long as we are still here, with faculties intact, there is always… hope.
Disclaimer and Emergency Information
Disclaimer: Please do not use these articles as a way to diagnose yourself or others. These articles are for educational purposes and they are links, reposts and personal opinions of the author. If you relate to any content, we have a list of hotlines below that you or a loved one can use to seek help for abuse, trauma or mental health issues. Some content can cause “triggers” as sensitive content is discussed.
Resources: National Child Abuse Hotline (US and Canada): 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)
National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233) TTY: 800-787-3224 Video Phone for Deaf Callers: 206-518-9361
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) TTY: 800-799-4TTY (800-799-4889)
Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 (US and Canada) or 85258 (UK) National Runaway Switchboard: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)
More resources: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/personality-disorders/what-are-personality-disorders