- Erin Johnston, Erin Johnston is a clinical social worker who specializes in borderline personality related-related diagnoses.
Following a stint in a rehabilitation clinic, the diagnosis felt isolating. Left navigating a side of mental health I’d never dealt with, I felt alone and unlovable. Information about BPD online can often be negative, painting individuals as manipulative and toxic, fueled solely by rage and emotions. I internalized the misconceptions about people with BPD, and I slowly cut myself off from the world.
Then I found Tiktok, a video-sharing social media app that allows users to post content ranging from comedy to education. And believe it or not, it’s become a big proponent in breaking down the stigma around BPD and other mental health disorders. “It doesn’t feel good to have emotional dysregulation, so to be able to go on to the internet and see other people experiencing and struggling with the challenges of everyday life can be incredibly validating,” says Erin Johnston, a clinical social worker who specializes in BPD-related diagnoses. “It decreases feelings of isolation and decreases the idea that someone is ‘crazy,’ because that’s not true.”
Often, people’s content normalizes past or present behavior including intense texts, categorizing symptoms, or even highlighting experience of dating someone with BPD. Sometimes, people even go as far as posting about their hospital visits.
Between explainer Tiktoks and people processing life experiences, the content on BPD is endless, even highlighting aspects of the disorder people may not be familiar with. Specifically, for me, I was unaware of symptoms such as favorite person, an intense attachment and reliance on one specific person in your life, and mirroring, or behavioral mimicry, in which one takes on the personality of another.
Unlike past representations of BPD, on TikTok, people with the diagnosis openly embrace the messy parts of their lives with the understanding they are not some monster; however, with progress there is always pushback. Liberating as it is to post and find community with people who post about BPD, one should always be cautious when using the internet as means of connection. “Social media can be good or bad depending on the user,” says Johnston.
For many, TikTok can be an intimidating app to navigate and indeed, users must separate the negative comments from the positive. “When someone on the internet is dismissive of the experience of the original poster, it can feel very invalidating and hurtful, a complete and total shut down,” says Johnston. “You should look for and disregard the comments that feel hurtful.”
Before discovering people posting about BPD on TikTok, I spent three years in the dark sitting with a diagnosis I thought would slowly implode every relationship I’ve ever had. Now, as I attempt to understand myself, I have a loving partner utilizing Tiktok to understand how better to support me. Finally, I can embrace the mess working alongside my therapist to accept I am more than my diagnosis. With Tiktok, I can connect with a community confronting, overcoming, and living through the pain together.
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