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Crossing the lines for a Borderline: A mental health journey

In a compelling fictional narrative, author Shabri Prasad Singh describes life as a person with Borderline Personality Disorder, tumultuous relationships, and the breaking the taboo of mental health

brunch Updated: Dec 09, 2017 22:43 IST
Samreen Tungekar
Shabri Prasad Singh documents her journey of being a borderline personality in her new book
Shabri Prasad Singh documents her journey of being a borderline personality in her new book

A happy child, a father’s princess got the shock of her life when her dad passed away, just a day after receiving her at the airport back from New York. A parent’s death can never be easy, but the trigger of losing her father was going to change Shabri’s life forever, and little did she know if she’ll ever be able to recover from it. That is how it all began, as she writes her character, Amrita.

Borderline is the story of Shabri Prasad Sing aka Amrita Srivastava in the book, who traces her journey of coping with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) through a fictional narrative, naming her doctors, but renaming every character of her life.

Borderline by Shabri Prasad Singh

Bringing reality to paper

To talk about something as personal as a mental health condition and to get yourself to tell people your story is not as easy as it may sound. So what triggered her to bring this issue to light?

“Writing this book was a therapeutic exercise for me. My doctor told me the best way to help myself cope would be to write. And if I am writing, I decided I’ll write my own story. I thought this will be my way to give back to the world, so that other people suffering from the same issue can learn from it. This is the catharsis that I was looking for, all my life,” she says.

To be able to recollect everything that has triggered the worst incidents of your life has got to take a toll on someone, especially if you’re always unsure of what might set you off. Did that hamper her writing process? “I cut myself, I put the book down, I refused to write it. But then I pushed myself because I wanted to write. Those instances played a big role in my life,” she says.

“A lot of borderlines do heroin, a lot of them go through similar issues, they are affected by their emotions, and they don’t have boundaries.”

The journey through hell and back

To be able to come to terms with being a borderline and deal with it would have been a tough decision. Shabri pauses, agrees, and says, “I’ve been to hell and back. BPD is one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat. In fact, psychiatrists all around the world turn you away if you’re a BPD patient, because it’s that tricky.”

Shabri actually wanted to write a book on politics, and this was when she had one of her psychotic episodes, where she would bring an empty book to her parents and tell them she has written this book. “Dr Chugh gave me the idea of writing about BPD instead. I went to Chicago to my brother, and I wrote the book in a month.”

To further explain the issues faced by a BPD person, Shabri created a fictional character Sabrina Khan – a beautiful, thin woman who suffered from half histrionic personality disorder, half BPD – who is a heroin addict that Amrita befriends. “I wanted to explain the problem better through a borderline to borderline interaction, so I decided to create Sabrina’s character. She’s my alter ego. A lot of borderlines do heroin, a lot of them go through similar issues, they are affected by their emotions, and they don’t have boundaries. That’s what I wanted to bring forth,” she said.

“It’s easier to deal with it when you know what your problem is.”

The beauty of acceptance

For the longest time, Shabri’s doctor did not disclose to her the identity of her condition. So in a world where even anxiety is not recognised as a mental health condition, how does one cope with being a BPD? She smiles, takes a sip of her coffee, and says, “I actually had an amazing experience when I was told about my BPD. I researched and researched, got insight into the problem and I think all doctors should talk to their patients about what they’re suffering from, what medication they’re on etc.

She continues, “When I was in rehab, there were people who had the same condition but didn’t want to accept it. It’s easier to deal with it when you know what your problem is. I want to tell people that we need to speak about it, we need to accept it. You owe it to yourself.”

The power of willpower

Medication, the right kind of counselling and people around you can help you only if you help yourself, Shabri feels. “I had medication, I had Dr. Chugh, but it was also my own determination. The demons will always lurk within you but if you don’t battle them, you’ll lose the war. I have been abandoned by a lot of friends but that just made me realise that true friends won’t leave you if you’re suffering from a mental condition,” she smiles.

The problem with borderlines, she says, is that they’re very harsh to themselves. “You have to be kind to yourself, be therapeutic to yourself. I still have psychotic episodes, but it’s nothing that can’t be controlled because I make that effort. My mother sometimes still loses patience with me but now I don’t react. At the end of the day, we just make up.”

Love – the answer for everything

Borderlines are extremists. They love too much, they know no boundaries. “Whether it is a new guy in our lives or friends or family, we go overboard. 20 text messages, 30 phone calls…” her voice trails off.

“But the answer to all of this, for us, is self love. We need to learn to love ourselves and more importantly, self respect. We lack self respect,” she says.

Tracking patterns

To be able to change the outlook towards mental health, Shabri believes it’s important to notice patterns. “Even the mildest neurosis can become psychosis if you don’t catch it in time. Notice the symptoms, don’t call it ‘attention seeking’ if it’s happening more than a few times. If it’s a pattern, it needs to be addressed. It can work both ways, a parent could also be going through something. We all have to be open to each other,” she says.

If someone is going through a mental health issue around you, you should:
  • Have patience. It can be exhausting, but understand that we’re not doing this on purpose.
  • If you feel you can’t cooperate, don’t hamper the other person’s progress. Just let them be.
  • Don’t think economically when it comes to therapy. You would pay for any other illnesses, this is a sickness of the mind. Take it seriously.
  • Help them find a therapist who can become their best friend. It’s important to have a doctor that doesn’t preach.

-Suggested by Shabri

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From HT Brunch, December 10, 2017

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