A Different Kind of Normal
As a filmmaker who has mental heath conditions, I have always been sensitive to how those of us with such conditions are portrayed in television and film. A good friend of mine, writer Kriss Erickson and I met in an internet forum and became fast friends.
We are now working together to help raise awareness about two conditions, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), that are often misunderstood by the general public and used by screenwriters to create drama with poorly written characters who often bare no resemblance to the real people who have such conditions. We are often warped into frightening characters who are essentially forced into the role of a monster.
This can cause genuine distress and hurt feelings to those of us who live with these conditions that can be surprisingly not dramatic in real life. It also does the public a disservice by causing unnecessary fear and can prevent people with such conditions from being diagnosed and/or seeking treatment. And in our opinion all of this is a poor trade off just to provide drama in entertainment.
Anne’s Awareness Campaign
Due to misunderstanding of the condition, many mental health professionals are reluctant to diagnose my condition, Borderline Personality Disorder, in all but the most dramatic cases, because there is still a culture in the profession that sees BPD as a ‘wastebasket diagnosis’ for difficult patients who no one wants to treat.
This is a shame because while they see it as an insult to give the diagnosis, most if not all people with BPD find it as a huge relief to find out what we are living with and that there are techniques that we can learn to ease the frustration it causes for us.
The term Borderline is outdated. It used to be considered on the borderline between psychotic and neurotic but is now known to have no psychotic component. As Kriss mentioned, personality disorders are not mental illnesses. They are adaptations that are quite normal in the particular circumstances under which they are created.
It is important that accurate information be circulated about BPD because we are the lowest functioning of those on the dissociative spectrum and almost with out fail we suffer a major crisis at around the age of 27 when we start to realize that our lives are not developing in the same way as others our age. It is beneficial to be diagnosed before coming to this point so that a major emotional breakdown can be avoided.
Hopefully by circulating more accurate information about BPD and preventing filmmakers from using misleading information to build inaccurate characters, more of us will be diagnosed earlier and more people will be able to avoid a major breakdown.
If you have not heard of BPD a good example of a well written character with BPD is the lead character in the film Good Will Hunting. In contrast I was shocked to hear a psychiatrist say that the character played by Glen Close in Fatal Attraction was a good example of someone with BPD, a statement I disagree with and illustrates the prejudice that still circulates in the profession.
I have tried to find a good article or website to recommend but unfortunately while some of these do have accurate information, they all seem to also include quite a bit of misinformation as well.
Kriss’ Awareness Campaign
“Sky Eyes: Dissociative Identity Disorder from the Bottom Up” is the true, autobiographical story of how one became many and many became one. A story filled with heart-wrenching abuse that had no name until I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) in 2005.
DID is not a mental disorder. It is a choice. When abuse goes beyond physical, beyond emotional, even beyond sexual, to tear the soul, often the best choice for survival is to break off bits of the self in the hope that at least a small part of the self will survive.
“Sky Eyes” is told through one of my Inner Ones, a girl named Stacy. Inner Ones can be male, female, animal or inanimate objects. Each Inner One has a job to do. One of my Inner Ones, Radio, played music to help me survive beatings and other abuses.
“Sky Eyes” is the only book that exists that shows how a child comes to choose to separate parts of herself, and the kinds of abuses that cause that decision.
“Sky Eyes” is available as an e-book from AKW Books.
A YouTube video ad has also been created by Anne, a very gifted film maker.
When I learned that Kriss had published a book and wanted to make a short film to promote it and better understanding of DID I offered to donate my time to make that happen.
With her script we quickly put together a short advertisment to begin promoting the book and set out to produce the full eight page script into a short that
could be entered into film festivals to hopefully bring the film to the audience that needs the most education in this area, filmmakers.
We were hoping to produce the film in Canada in early 2010 but were not able to network with Canadian filmmakers to make that happen. So unfortunately we won’t be able to work together in person.
I will be producing the film in Texas. Cheri Clemons has signed on as the Director of Photography.
Through support groups I have met numerous others with BPD and a number of good friends with DID and far from being frightening or dangerous I would trust any of them with my life. Hopefully Kriss and I can help more people to become aware that we all represent a different kind of normal.