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The people making a difference: the mental health campaigner on the truth about personality disorders

0 2 years ago

Katja Pavlovna doesn’t think any mental illness is sexy, of course. But her mental health initiative, Sorry My Mental Illness Isn’t Sexy Enough For You, addresses a very real issue, namely the way some conditions carry a greater stigma than others.

“When we think about mental health,” says Pavlovna, “we often think depression, anxiety, PTSD or bipolar disorder. But have you ever talked to someone about schizotypal personality disorder?”

Pavlovna, 34, a language teacher from the West Midlands, founded the project in 2021, shortly after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). “I set it up with my friend Kay Garbett, who also has a personality disorder,” she says. “We had numerous conversations about the way that if you Google ‘personality disorder’, you get loads of information, but few stories about lived experience. We set up the project to give a voice to people who don’t normally have one.”

Their website shares anonymous first-person testimony from people all over the world living with a mental illness. At first, people in their social circle shared their experiences but now, most of their stories come in through social media.

It was tough at first, says Pavlovna. “People didn’t want to talk to us. Most representation of serious mental illness is really negative and reinforces harmful stereotypes.” But when users saw honest and accurate reflections of the lived reality of mental health conditions, the submissions started flooding in. Pavlovna and Garbett often discovered conditions they had never heard about.

It took Pavlovna six years to be diagnosed with BPD. “I am what you would probably describe as high-functioning,” she says. “I have a family. I work full-time. It’s hard, unless you know me well, to know something’s not right. I’d be put on a waiting list to be referred somewhere, go for my appointment and be told, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you’.”


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