Social Impact

Keeping My Feet Firmly On The Ground

A graphic designer writes about her personal experience with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and finding ways to cope with it.

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Since I was in primary school, I have struggled with unstable emotions, intense relationships, impulsive behaviour, and chronic feelings of emptiness. I had no idea where these feelings came from—until I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Depression Disorder. The diagnosis has changed the way I perceive myself.

Having always dealt with situations differently from other people, I have had a hard time trying to manage my strong emotions and rapid mood changes. As a result, I avoided socialising. The moment I accepted my mental health problem, I felt relief. I can now explore this knotty part of myself where I have never once reached out to.

There are doubts about people with mental illness in Thailand’s creative industry—if they are capable of being creative, dealing with work stress, or handling interpersonal conflict. For me, working in the industry is a bit like walking on eggshells. I have to work in peace to keep my career. The Thai society appreciates people who are calm, collected and in control, which people with BPD struggle with.

I get through each day with fears looping in my mind relentlessly: fear of expressing my feelings, fear of stressful environments that will sway my emotional stability, fear that I cannot be there for myself and the people that I love.

After I was laid off from a job—they said that they liked my work but I was “sick”—I developed an uncomfortable feeling of talking about my mental health. Expressing our emotions often makes us look unprofessional even though it’s natural, and we know that there are people who struggle with mental health issues. I often wondered, why do we choose to sweep it under the carpet? Perhaps people generally act negatively to problems they can’t understand.

From my standpoint, visual communication is not only about aesthetic. It is also about what I want to tell this world: emotions, values, diversity, and so on. Graphic design develops the mind and character of a person. With a creative personality, people with BPD can learn to face the fear of vagueness and ambiguity.

When I feel like my spirit and instinct take flight on me, I cannot identify my essence. My mind is disorientating. Life doesn’t have a fixed meaning in each moment. Illustration by Suppalak Tantiwanitchakorn (Kim)

Today, there are two strategies that I automatically follow: to focus on my breathing to be present and to distract negative thoughts with activities.

I choose to treat myself lovingly through creativity outside the industry by illustrating, drawing, and sketching the interpretations of my beliefs, dreams, and personality. This gives me the strength to deal with the future. It is my home remedy, apart from seeing a psychiatrist and therapist. It is a place where I do not have to prove myself, have someone define me, or worry about how my emotions will appear to others, and, most importantly, I can now accept who I am.

I am also helping myself with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). What has been effective for me in managing my emotions is the practice in observing what triggers situations that upset me. I keep a journal of my behaviour and emotions. After something has triggered me, I write down how I felt at that moment, what was going through my mind, how I reacted to the situation, and what were the consequences of my reaction. Through that, perhaps I can start to see a pattern in my problems and learn better ways to overcome them.

There is no Magic Wand in real life. There is only self-consciousness and it’s a constant effort.

Suppalak Tantiwanitchakorn (Kim) is a graphic designer based in Bangkok. Her academic training is in architecture but she feels that her fullest self-expression is through graphic design and illustration, something for which she has a deep-seated passion.

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