Lived Experiences

Graces Mum’s story

My daughter Grace was diagnosed with emerging Borderline Personality Disorder when she was in high school.

But in hindsight there were signs as early as 8 years old that she was struggling. Grace has always been intelligent and caring. She never misbehaved in school, although she struggled to make friends and would drift between groups. During primary school she would complain to me that nobody liked her. Her school teachers would confirm these thoughts. One day Grace reported that the teacher got other children to explain why they didn’t like playing with her. This only made it worse for Grace.

I was worried about Grace so I had her meet with the school counsellor and a child psychiatrist. The psychiatrist thought Grace’s development was normal and the school counsellor found she had a very high IQ. The counsellor concluded this was the reason for her social struggles. I moved Grace to another school which was less conforming and made room for each child’s uniqueness. Grace appeared much happier here. However, one day when she was in year 6 Grace intentionally scratched her arm resulting in a deep cut. This was the first major sign, although I didn’t recognise it at the time.

Grace is a talented performer and in high school Grace found a group of friends with similar interests. However, this was short lived after her group of friends isolated and bullied her, seemly out of jealousy, when Grace was selected for a leading role in the school musical. Grace went on a downward spiral of self-loathing, depression, self-harm and chronic suicidality.

I became aware of Grace’s self-harm 18 months ago. Grace woke me up one night after burning her skin. It wasn’t until the following morning that Grace confessed she did it deliberately. I made an appointment with the same child psychiatrist. He prescribed her antidepressants but this didn’t help. Soon after, Grace began cutting her arms on a regular basis. I was horrified. My reactions were fear, anger, guilt that I had failed as a mother and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

At the time the psychiatrist was unwilling to diagnose Grace with mental illness as she was not 18 years old. I started researching online and within the community to try and find ways to help my daughter. There seemed little additional help available and I was often told that there was nothing else available if she was already seeing a psychiatrist. In the next few months we presented to emergency twice because Grace was suicidal. Grace was referred to a paediatric mental health unit where she was diagnosed with emerging Borderline Personality Disorder.

As part of her treatment plan, Grace has been receiving Dialectical Behavioural Therapy for the past 6 months. She has also taken it upon herself to volunteer for a children’s charity. She recently performed in a concert for many underprivileged children. While Grace still struggles with social situations, she has come a long way. She has not self-harmed at all in the past few months. Most days are still a struggle but she is growing stronger now that she has the right diagnosis and a treatment plan.

Last reviewed: 5 April, 2016