Living with Borderline Personality Disorder, ADHD, and OCD

Maria was diagnosed with ADHD at age 12, Borderline Personality Disorder at age 18, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at age 34. Her OCD symptoms and treatment were the most challenging, and she feared that she wouldn’t be able to work or be independent again. Through exposure therapy and a 12-step recovery program, Maria regained her independence and the ability to live her life authentically. She says, “You can live a full life with mental health conditions, and still be happy. You don’t have to just merely exist. You can thrive.”

Maria’s Story

How has your condition impacted your life?

I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 12, Borderline at the age of 18, and OCD at the age of 34.  Before I got the help I needed with my mental health condition, I didn’t have the luxury of having dreams or envisioning a positive future. I was just trying to survive.

At the same time, getting help changed me for the better in wonderful ways. It has provided me with a unique way to look at the world through compassion and empathy for myself and others. I can relate and connect deeply with others in their pain and give genuine support.

When were you first aware of your condition and what was your most difficult time?

Getting diagnosed with OCD was most difficult. I simply thought I was this terrible person. I had a breakdown where I felt like I truly saw myself for the first time. I was not sure if I was going to ever be able to work again or be independent. Exposure therapy, along with the right medication, transformed my life. But after completing it, I experienced a breakthrough that has served me now for years.

What is your life like now? What does success and living well look like for you?

I’ve gotten a second chance at life to live! I now have a great relationship with my family. I have a career that I love. I am financially independent and now have a wonderful apartment. Most importantly, I like and admire the person I am now! Success to me is being able to live authentically, being myself, and in my relationships with others. One of my great joys today includes being an advocate for others who experience the sting of being stigmatized.  

What help or specific strategies helped you to get well and move to stability?   

Therapy, getting the right medication, writing poetry, and attending support groups to hear other peoples’ experiences puts things into perspective for me.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy on an ongoing basis?

I exercise, meditate, do yoga, enjoy bachata dancing, go to weekly therapy, see a psychiatrist once a month, write and perform poetry, participate in a collaging club, and participate in support groups weekly.

Are there positives that have come from having a mental health condition?

I am deeply grateful that my mental health vulnerabilities have provided me with a unique way to look at the world. Because I have experienced so much pain, and have had to do so much work to get to where I am today, I have a unique vantage point from which I can now offer genuine love to others.

How has your condition impacted your work and your career? 

I live out of a place of deep gratitude for being able to flourish in my work. It is a gift. At the same time, I am always in the space of advocating for others in the workplace and destigmatizing mental health.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours?  

Don’t quit; this too shall pass.  Remember that you are always your own best advocate, and it’s your role to assemble the right support system around you. It takes time (lots of it) to get the right diagnosis, and the right strategies that will work for you. And you need a great support system. As I met people, I’d ask myself, “is this someone I want to ask to be part of my support system?” Create your own “mini-board of directors” who have the mission of serving you! 

Know that you are deserving and worthy of support.

What motivated you to join The Stability Network?

Over the years, I have experienced invalidating experiences in the workplace around my mental health. I want to share the lessons I have learned, along with the knowledge about managing mental health in the workplace. I am convinced others don’t have to suffer as I did! The Stability Network is a wonderful resource for people to utilize to make connections and get resources that can completely change their experience in the workplace. 

What resources have helped and/or inspired you on your journey?

I love Carrie Fisher’s book about her experience with mental health — Postcards From the Edge. I also recommend Crip Camp, an excellent documentary about disability activism.