I Am Not A Demented Chameleon!

Do you remember back in the playground when the overweight kid got called “fatty”?  And the one who told some fibs was branded “liar”?  There were endless names that children named other children without a care in the world.  We (and yes, I probably was one of them too) didn’t know how hurtful those names could be.  Perhaps half the time we didn’t even know what the words meant.  We had simply heard them from others, and thought we’d give them a try ourselves.  I think it’s where the re-phrased “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will always hurt me” fits.  And yes, those names did hurt.

Today, I and all my friends who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) with me, got called names.  We were called  ‘demented chameleons‘.  Apparently Borderlines (like Sociopaths) they said, are ‘demented chameleons‘.  The original name was tossed at sociopaths (as the site was focussed) and my thoughts about that are another issue   I just got angry when I saw someone throw Borderlines into the fire, calling us the same name, with probably no thought at all.

It’s something that I can walk away from.  I’m used to it.  This type of name-calling happens for people with BPD all the time sadly.  Actually it happens to all people with mental illness all the time.  I can walk away and that’s what I did.  The person who labelled me a ‘demented chameleon‘ probably doesn’t personally know anyone with BPD, and simply read it somewhere on one of the awful websites that set out to degrade us.  It is probably a combination of stupidity and ignorance… and so it deserves my walking way.

The difficulty I am left with though, is that ignorant comments like that get read by others, and believed.  It’s what builds up the stigma against both BPD and mental illness as a whole.  That’s what really gets my blood boiling.  How dare they blast me with their stigma but also contribute to the overall stigma that all of us with mental illnesses face.

This is my idea.  For each time I see such a combination of stupidity and ignorance, I need to post here, my opposing view.  Maybe it might not be the same people that read both accounts, but in my world one can still outweigh the other regardless.  If people choose to feed the world with negative views of me, then I can feed the world with the positive.  Does that mean you are going to be reading posts like this everyday?  No, that’s not my intention.  But when my blood boils, I need to speak out.

People with BPD are not ‘demented chameleons“.  If you stop to get to know someone with BPD you will find that actually we are beautiful people.  We are generally very caring people.  That’s part of our disease.  But we are not demented.  While we may change aspects of ourselves in how we come across to the world. we are not cynically one thing one day and another tomorrow.  Moreover that changing does not happen out of an intent to hurt and manipulative.  It is simply who we are as we battle with the internal struggle to own who we are.  It’s not easy having BPD, and name calling such as this doesn’t help us.

I suspect that most people have no idea about BPD.  The label tends to draw a blank expression on the faces of those who hear it.  BPD is  not well known (like say, Bipolar) and is certainly not well understood.  But I will not sit quietly and see myself and my friends named as ‘demented chameleons‘.  That simply comes from ignorance.

And now having said that, I walk away and breathe.  Frankly, the people who choose to live in such ignorance are missing out on you and me.  Emphasis on the missing.  I almost feel sad for them.

Ending on a lighter note… I have been called a ‘demented chameleon‘ but I’m still waiting for the ‘incorrigible’.

Image credit: Used with permission of Sue Fitzmaurice. Facebook: Sue Fitzmaurice, Author
Image credit: Used with permission of Sue Fitzmaurice.
Facebook: Sue Fitzmaurice, Author

PS.  Victory after Publishing.  I’m happy to see that the offending material has now been taken down

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 

― Maya Angelou


10 thoughts on “I Am Not A Demented Chameleon!

  1. John Richardson

    Good post, Cate! You’re right, this is the kind of thing you shouldn’t ignore. It would just let the ignorance magnify itself.

  2. Cate… I’m ambivalent on this one. While I agree with you, I also found myself wanting to disagree as well. Let me explain. I’ve been called a fair share of names over time. They almost always hurt and they are not right, but sometimes standing up against that can only make things worse. Lately, I look around at all the political correctness anxiety in the world on so many labels and words and I want to slap humanity.

    It was never about the words, it’s all about the opinions and perceptions behind the words. I can call you “my dear” and still be thinking {what a weirdo} and you’ll be none the wiser how false I am or how wrong my misconceptions are. So I personally do not like poltical correct enforcement of not using “hateful” or “insulting” words. I’d much rather we let people say them and then dealt with the issues behind them than force it all behind closed mouths.

    And i’ve found that the opposite approach helps a lot more. For example: I once worked as an astrologer. People, for various reasons, hated this. I was tagged as everything from spiritually occult and going to hell to kooky, weird, crazy, deluded, etc. I spent a few futile months fighting a lot and only made myself hurt and tired I decided to try shrugging it off. So.. next time was when I was invited to a friend’s barbecue. She had already told me her husband was “scientific” and sceptic. I walked in the door, he held out his hand and said loudly, “So you’re the crazy astrologer. I don’t believe that ****”

    I smiled at him and said, “That’s okay. You’re entitled to your beliefs.”

    He wilted. He wandered off and avoided me all evening. I had a great afternoon.

    My chiropractor went one step even better. 🙂 He knew that a certain surgeon in our town was calling him a “quack” and other colourful insults, behind his back when all the local doctors got together. So… my chiro (who was also a fully trained doctor), went along to this sporting charity event where doctors were taking part as a team. He never said who/what he was. He got to know the guy who hated him. They spent the afternoon working as a team in the sport event. At the end of the day, when they’d had a great time and were exchanging phone numbers to meet up and play sport socially… my chiro smiles at the guy, shakes his hand and says, “By the way, I’m the *** fake quack chiro.”

    He says the look on the man’s face was worth a million dollars.

    My chiro, BTW, was a fat kid who got all those names. That’s why he took up sports. He says learnt to laugh about himself before others laughed at him. I understood that. I did it as well. No, it does not stop the words from hurting, but it can change attitudes. So… I’m still undecided on how to react to insulting hurtful words, Cate. Too much outrage and people start to call you “too sensitive” or “over reacting” and then they just dismiss you under a new set of hurtful labels. I’d rather try to find a way to laugh at them by laughing at their misunderstanding. Not easy! But it’s my preference.

    1. That makes sense to me Michelle, and actually I agree with you. That’s why I chose not to challenge the author of the material I saw. It just wasn’t worth it to me, and I strongly suspect it wouldn’t have been worth it to her. She had made up her mind and me trying to change her mind would have been a wast of my energy. But what concerns me is that one opinion simply adds to others and we end up with an overall opinion of something (BPD this time) which is wrong. While I can shrug it off and walk away, it disturbs me how many people with BPD are terrified of having this illness because of the ‘popular opinion’ about it. That’s why I choose to write about it. While most times I choose to walk away from comments, at some stage we have to start making a change in popular opinion. I guess it’s about getting the balance right, and not letting the whole issue affect our wellbeing.

  3. I tend to ignore these things individually, generally because, as you say, they are made by ignorant people and do I really care what people say. Instead I make sure that I am open and honest about my condition and show people I’m not embarrassed by it (although I hate to admit, when I am down I am mortified by it). I recently returned to work after a fairly long absence. My manager wanted to know how it should be approached with people. I was clear that I had no problem with people knowing and it was much easier to be honest. I ended up sending an e-mail to my team explaining, and asking them to come to me if they had any questions or concerns. The support has been overwhelming and I have had some great discussions about my illness. Those people will hopefully pass this message on. The stigma is related to this whole idea of political correctness. At work, we are allowed to send flowers from the company budget if someone is ill and in hospital….although this doesn’t appear to apply to mental health admissions. Managers can’t disclose why you are off…so people make their own reasons which are invariably worse than the reality.
    I think we should start with the open minded rather than the ignorant. As the great Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’.

    1. I totally agree with you, and I love the way you handled your illness at work. I guess what worries me is when people who don’t feel good about their illness to start with, and see the sort of comments I wrote about, they can take it personally and get them down. I have seen that so many times. Personally I avoid the sites that I know are going to be so critical of us. This one just popped up on a completely different issue. Oh and I love that Eleanor Roosevelt quote. Thanks for sharing it.

      1. I completely understand. The stigma attached is horrendous. I do count myself lucky to have a great group of people that I work with. I’ve also managed to avoid the web sites that have these comments on them. Within my group of friends I am referred to (occassionally) as the mad one or loopy. It’s hard to explain but it helps us talk about it more without people getting embarrassed. I’m not sure if you have anything similar in New Zealand, but I’m a member of a UK based charity aimed at ending Stigma in mental health: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

  4. ‘Sticks and stones ‘ is complete rubbish, my past is a testament of that. These days I tend not to listen/read ignorance. However, when it’s in our face, perhaps it is right to challenge, but without any expectation of the outcome. I think this is what exacerbates and exhausts us the most. It may well be that the author of that rubbish is a closed book, but perhaps there are other readers who might learn from our counter argument. Education of the ignorant partly comes from allowing them freedom (within reason) to speak their ignorance. They might be the last person to listen, but maybe their peers are learning.

    Great post!

    1. Hi Cat, I’m really sorry for the late reply. One of those weeks, or actually perhaps months. I think you’re on the right track on ignoring. I seem to be able to ignore for so long and then I just simply HAVE to say something. Probably more for my own benefit that anyone elses as I know those people usually won’t listen to a word. But then I really hate it when people who have just been diagnosed and don’t know any better end up believing that stuff about themselves. It’s those people that I really want to hear that we’re not demented anythings.

      When I was first diagnosed with a mental illness it was depression and PTSD. That was hard enough, but to be told all these dreadful things about BPD must be heartbreaking.

      Anyway I hope you’re doing ok.

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