Posted in Borderline Personality Disorder, Career, Charity, Life

Constant career changes – the BPD unstable sense of self and identity

Silhouette of a woman in a cave looking at her...
Image via Wikipedia

One of the many issues a person with BPD, such as myself, can suffer is the problem of ‘unstable sense of self and identity‘. The DSM IV criteria describes this as:

‘Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.’

People with BPD often feel they don’t know ‘who’ they really are, where they fit in the world and their sense of who they are can vary depending on the situation they are in, change often and rapidly. Not knowing who you are or where your life is going can lead to making many major life changes. For me this biggest area this has affected has been career aspirations…

As a small child all I wanted to be an author, as a teenager I wanted to be an air-hostess, then an artist.  At these stages such changes of mind are normal, kids often want to do different things.  It’s the lingering of this, coupled with actions to switch from one idea to another that are where it becomes more problematic.  Now I know that even non-bpd folks will change their mind about their career choices, or no know which path they want to take.  But, the difference between us and them (other than the BPD label) is that we will make frequent, extreme changes to our lives to follow our latest ‘dream’.

Justice and law
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When I left school I was dead set on becoming a Lawyer, first I did a GCSE in Law (I got an ‘A’ for it) then I went on to do the Legal Executives Training course.  The course was made difficult by teaching problems, and I complained about it in a local newspaper, which resulted in one tutor saying to me ‘You come from the wrong background to be studying law’ when I indicated maybe I should teach the class as she was so useless (oops!). My career plans were interrupted by my husband being diagnosed with a brain tumour, but when I eventually started going for interviews at Law firms I quickly decided I didn’t want to work with ‘these’ people (the lawyers). By now, although my family life (I was a full time carer) prevented me working in paid employment, I had already done a variety of voluntary work – Youth Work assistant, Charity Shop assistant, Teaching assistant in a primary school, Charity trustee and Charity fundraiser.  I have always ‘thrown’ myself in 100% on everything I take on, but often taking on far more than one person should try to juggle at a time…

Immediately, I decided I wanted to do something scientific or medical related instead, and being really into the TV show CSI at the time Forensic Science was appealing, but also Medicine as due to my families multiple medical problems I had been learning a lot about several medical conditions (cardiology and neurology mainly). Strange thing about this career choice was that I had ‘hated’ science at school, and I also had a problem of fainting at the sight of blood… Still, I enrolled on a Biology A Level course.  Part way through the course I gained my first ‘real’ job which just happened to be as a Casework assistant for the Forensic Science Service (my dream job at the time…).  I hadn’t been in the job 6 months before I went off ‘sick’ with stress and depression (It was actually a BPD crisis, but I was undiagnosed at this point).  I left the job in the end due to pressures at home.

So, to keep me occupied whilst getting back t my role as full time carer for my family (all of whom had medical problems) I enrolled with the Open University to study Science, with the intention of one day going back to Forensics. I also continued my charity work, becoming a fundraiser and secretary for a local charity, and training in writing policies, procedures etc for charitable organisations.

What Medical School is Like -or- Studying for ...
Image by SendakSeuss via Flickr

Then I became involved in community work and studied the ‘business’ management side of charitable and community organisations. I set-up  a community group and Paintball team, which I managed and raised funds for, and working with local youth groups engaged the community, taking the youth groups on paintball trips. The team had some success in paintball tournaments, winning a few trophies and I gained a few awards for my charitable work.  Eventually costs prevented the team continuing and my studies, for what was now intended to be a BSc Honors in Health Studies as an entry route to Medical School, consumed most of my time…

Despite my dreams of Medical School, I was getting bored of just studying health and science subjects all the time.  I took on a Painting and decorating NVQ, and whilst on the course considered setting up my own business with the only other girl doing the course, but I got bored again, left the course once I had learnt enough to do my own decorating and enrolled on a Catering NVQ course. I completed this one, so I am a qualified chef, but I never wanted to work in a kitchen, just wanted to be a better cook (thankfully!).

Whilst on the Catering course I got a job as an Office Manager for an IT company.  I had no experience in this area but my varied work with charities meant I had all the skills necessary to manage the accounts on a basic level, create documents and all the typical office work… but getting this job put a new idea in my head… My boss enrolled me on a Business Studies course with the OU (I was still working on my degree as well!) and I started thinking about setting up my own business, but what in???

I decided to finish my degree as at this time I was getting quite unwell again (the start of my current ongoing BPD crisis, still pre-diagnosis) as I had nearly 700 credits with the OU and although I needed to do one more course to get the BSc Hons in Health Studies I no longer wanted to study health related courses for the time being, so I cashed in 360 of my credits for an unnamed 2.1 Bsc Hons… I had my graduation ceremony in June 2010, but due to the course counted for the degree I had actually ‘graduated’ in December 2008…

I realised that with much of the policies, procedures and documents I had been doing for years for charities and now for the IT company I had actually gotten quite good at ‘Quality Assurance‘.  So, I enrolled to train as an Internal Auditor with BSI and did a Customer Service NVQ through work.  When I was made redundant I started to plan setting up my own business ‘Quality for IT’ providing quality assurance, namely ISO 9001:2008 support for IT companies.  I then enrolled on a graduate program that proving training, support and finances to start-up businesses.  I put a lot into getting the business set-up before ‘crashing’ again mentally (the business is ‘there’ I have just not taken on any customers, but I could always go back to it at some point…).

I needed to get another job, but by now I wanted to go to Medical School (again) so I started looking at options that would help me gain a place, hospital work seemed the ideal choice. Just as I was getting ready to start working again I got the BPD diagnosis, but I tried not to let it affect me at this point and plodded on, not realising I was getting worse. I landed a job as a Medical laboratory Assistant as soon as I went for my first interview.  I briefly flirted with the idea of studying biochemistry instead of Medicine, but then I landed the job in Radiology which involved more patient care and contact, so I decided to stick with Medicine.  However, by the time I started the new job I was getting really ill with the BPD and after just 3 weeks in the new job, I went off ‘sick’.  While off sick I realised that my dream of medical school might be very bed for my health, being such a high pressure career choice.

Image via Wikipedia

I started writing a lot more for my blog, and telling everyone that what I now want is to become known for my writing, get published, be an author and though I am back at work, this is still my current career aspiration – to write.  the only difference between this and all my former choices is that I recognise this is just another symptom of my BPD now. So, who knows what will happen from here…

Do you have BPD?

How has it affected your work/job/career choices?

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Self-published author whose first book Coffee Break Companion, a collection of short stories and poems is now available on Amazon. S.L.Grigg lives in Bromsgrove with her family. Working in the NHS and enjoying reading, Pilates and travel, amongst other things when she isn't too busy writing.

23 thoughts on “Constant career changes – the BPD unstable sense of self and identity

  1. Dear Slgrigg,
    Thank you so much for penning it all down. I can so relate – one moment it’s ‘I’ll do this!’, two days later, it’s ‘No, this is unworkable!’.
    This cycle has played out over the long term (degrees, jobs) and the short term.
    And right now, I’m tired of it all, and tired of its invisibility as well.
    Once again,
    Thank you a whole lot


  2. I really like this article. It is both interesting and informative. I too, have BPD and am also a writer and have in the past, concentrated on poetry although now i have recently started blogging, i often combine the two. I enjoy blogging for the freedom of expression it offers. I wonder how many of us diagnosed with BPD are writers/authors too. I can really identify with all the common features of this condition, such as self-harm in its many guises along with other common features. This is an excellent piece of writing. Thanks for shedding light on an often misdiagnosed condition.


    1. I’ve been in my current job for 8 months and I’m dying to get another one cause I don’t want to do this one anymore! I don’t think this part of my BPG will ever improve. I constantly need a new challenge, variety and get bored far too easily!


  3. This is making so much sense to me. I have this problem with anything I do. I get obsessed with something and it literally consumes me, then I change my mind and forget that feeling. I have a disasterous resume and after each job that I was fired from, quit from, ect… I completely changed paths, gained many backgrounds. I have been enrolled in a university for several years now, started with a goal in mind of couseling, then focused on Mathematics, then Physics, now computer science… and now I just feel like I want to quit everything except good black coffee and cigarettes. My family members have criticized my rapid changes of trajectory. What’s worse is that I do not know what I do besides schoolwork? I can go from being passionate about my ideas to being absolutely apathetic about everything including my own mortality. People in the past have warned me the characteristic line, don’t do this or you will end up that… sometimes I want to end up as that… but I don’t… but I do… the only reason I have never given active measure to certain plans is that death itself seems horribly boring. Just a week ago I thought the world would be better minus me, that I was a monster (then I started the most extreme fast ever, nothing but air and smoke for three days… then back to normal, what scared me was that I had to force myself to start back), so far reading your words have at least let me know that I am not a monster. I really do want to be productive and contribute… But I am afraid to talk about this to anyone that I know whatsoever. I would be afraid that they would be terrified. What led me to your page was a search… I wanted to know why I inflict pain upon myself, fast, and (earlier) rubbed IcyHot on my eyes with the intension of pain. Then I saw your page… I think maybe I should talk to someone about this.


    1. My studies, qualifications and work history read like a mystery tour, so many different things tried, achieved and then left behind as I move on to my latest new interest! and yes, same here still studying with passion but unable to stick at one path for long! It’s hellish how quickly I bore of something that just weeks before consumed me entirely! I think talking to someone would help, but finding the ‘right’ person can be tough, friends and family often don’t get it and even so-called professionals can have a rather brutish and judgemental view of BPD behaviours because even they don’t understand or have been poorly trained in the condition and therefore consider us ‘untreatable, dangerous individuals’ which is not the case! I hope you manage to find someone to talk to who is helpful rather than making things worse for you by berating you and making you feel like a bad person, because you are not a bad person! Best wishes x


  4. I can completely relate to this. I’m 25 and each week I have a different idea of the perfect career. I research courses, enrol and then have trouble deciding if it is what I want to stick with. Some of my ‘brilliant ideas’ include: accountant, lawyer, author, forensic scientist ( I laughed when I saw you had the same!), police officer, nurse, doctor, teacher, insurance broker….. The list goes on! I keep looking for the best career choice to define me. I’m a degree qualified accountant and hate my job. I have a massive student loan.

    I have started a degree in Exercise and Sports Science and am hoping to complete that and then continue on into Dietetics but due to my BPD I am scared of not getting on with co-workers, patients, or I might get bored or disenchanted with the work I’ll be expected to do. I’m concerned about not being able to hold up a job or even get one for that matter due to my mood highs and lows. I struggle with conflict with co-workers and establishing boundaries at work. I am enjoying what I’m studying so much but every so often am completely overcome with doubt and want to pull the pin on this too. I’ve completed many certificates that I haven’t put to use. Just seems like such a waste.

    I wish I knew how to work with my BPD, rather than having it work against me all the time!! *exasperated sigh!*


    1. haha, yeah I both love and hate this aspect of BPD. Which even in my apparent recovery from the other symptoms of BPD I suspect is still with me, I am waiting to hit the ‘6 month’ limit I seem to have identified as my line to cross between loving a job/career idea and hating it and needing desperately to get out of it. I have been in my current job since October so have a couple of months left before I hit that potential problem point! I am currently working in the NHS doing admin/secretarial work, but at the same time I am studying a Science research project completely unrelated to my work. Holding down a job in one area for a prolonged period is something I have not yet mastered. It will be interesting to see what happens at my 6 month point again this time considering how much better I am in all the other BPD areas – has it (recovery) impacted this aspect of my personality or not? and if not how can I overcome this one!?

      I also fully agree with it feeling like a waste, I have over 40 qualifications and at least as many again training courses where you just get a certificate of attendance :/


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