A good friend of mine brought something to my attention recently. She is not considered mentally ill in the eyes of professionals, but she is openly curious about my own illness. I have Borderline Personality Disorder, and I am just about getting to grips with the ever-burning inferno that it is. During our weekly catch up, she asked me how my ‘condition’ affects the way I view society around me. My friend is a crowd lover, a total light in the darkness and has no fear of attention. Me... not so much.
- See also: Mental Health Today's 'Disorders Explained' information hub
How do I see people? It’s an ordeal, i’ll give it that. I see the world as a platform of judges and critics. All eyes on me, analysing every fault, twitch, hair out of place and strand of thread poking out from my boots. Society is a nightmare for me. And I’m sure I can speak for many people with a mental illness in this instance, it is an illusion that I desperately want rid of.
"I am just about getting to grips with the ever-burning inferno."
A crowd is a plague in which I turn and run. It is to be avoided at all costs. By allowing others to view me as I am, I open myself to criticism. Judgement. Maybe even danger. The world is an unknown, incredibly frightening place for me in which I desperately try to burrow and hide. I cannot do with negative comments or behaviour in my direction, it tears me down from the inside out. Nine women could call me beautiful, and the one woman who disagrees will linger in my thoughts for weeks. Months even. So yes, I do not see people, or the world, in a welcoming light in any sense.
Each individual has their own demons
However, I have recently been able to construct a survival guide for this common problem. We cannot avoid other human beings, no matter what lengths we may feel the need to push to. We must learn to accept, understand, and above all, fight these darkening thoughts about others. Here is a fact; nothing is as bad as your mind constructs it to be. Not everyone is looking at you. They are not all judging you. You are however, negatively judging yourself constantly, which creates the illusion that others will be doing this also. This was hard for me to come to terms with, but once I understood that the judgement came from myself, people didn’t seem so bad.
It’s interesting really. Crowds are petrifying because it is a group, almost like an army against you in which you are hugely outnumbered. A single person perhaps, does not exude the same patronising energy alone. This is due to the fact that we forget each person is an individual; a human with their own fears, demons, hopes, dreams and insecurities. Once we can come to terms with this, it’s an easier battle to face.
They say that when a crowd gets you nervous, imagine everybody naked. Or on the toilet! Part of this has a valid point. The saying only reminds us that everyone among the bundle of faces are human, nothing less or more, and that we should not fear it. The majority of people in those crowds are likely to experience the same anxiety as you do. We are all small jagged pieces of the puzzle of society, and you have a perfect place within it. All of the aspects of yourself that you criticise, judge and belittle are what you assume the outside world is gawking at. I can assure you, it isn't the case. The mind is a powerful thing.
My tips and tricks
• When faced with a crowd or cluster of people, remember to single them out into individual human beings.
• Be kinder to yourself; instead of looking at your physical being in negativity, try to compliment the features you do like. You'll eventually believe your flattery!
• Surround yourself with friends an family who make you feel confident, comfortable and protected. This is a crucial factor in aiding your positive approach to the outside world.
• Once again, don't forget that you are not alone in your isolation. There are thousands of us facing the same battle, and its quite a comforting thought.