Seaneen Meets... Kath Lovell
29th April 2010
In the first of the series, Seaneen meets Kath Lovell, National Project Development Officer for Emergence - an organisation that works to improve the understanding and treatment of personality disorders. She has personal experience of being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
When Emergence presented its first user-led exhibition in trendy east London, Seaneen swung by for a chat...
As I enter the gallery, I'm confronted by three strikingly agonised portraits (the work of Jill Illiffe) and I find myself both absorbed and repulsed by their naked vulnerability. In stark contrast, Lillian Kwok's enchanting music box invites you to play in a tone which is both childlike and innocent. As the tune 'My Way' tinkles out, I can't help but raise a smile.
Heather Beveridge's, 'Pick 'N' Tick' machine spits out a diagnosis when fed a pound coin. Lucky recipients can then have their mugshot taken, holding their new personality labels such as borderline, avoidant and narcissistic. I scrabbled around for a quid but alas, my poverty foiled me again!
She says: "I believe creativity is a vital aspect in the journey of recovery. It can help people who have traditionally used quite destructive coping mechanisms to deal with intense feelings and channel them in a more positive way."
The gallery is so bustling that we retreat to the corridor to chat. She croaks an apology for her sore throat, before getting down to business.
Kath agrees, "Many in health care still subscribe to the notion that personality disorders (PDs) are untreatable and people with them are attention seekers, manipulative and ‘difficult’. They can be seen as people who aren’t capable of much and indeed the opposite is true. Instilling the belief that there is talent and opportunity can do much to help individuals and others realise that they are worth something."
generated by Heather Beveridge's machine
I've recently had my diagnosis of bipolar disorder questioned, with my doctor suggesting I may have a personality disorder. My first reaction was one of horror. I thought that there must be something 'wrong' with me in a way I never thought with bipolar. Getting this diagnosis can feel profoundly isolating, as though the medical profession has thrown its hands up to say "I give up on you".
Yet personality disorders are common. Many people on psychiatric inpatient wards will be diagnosed with one. There are a few specialist centres that treat personality disorders, so therapeutic options will vary depending on where you live. But, Kath says:
"There's not a specific type of therapy that works for everybody, and different people will respond to different things."
Kath smiles, "I'd like to see service users treated more humanely, with compassion and empathy. There is more to a person with a personality disorder than challenging behaviours." She favours the approach taken in a recent Department of Health report which states that specialist mental health care services should be made available to people with PDs.
Do you like Kath's ideas on creativity and recovery? Add your comment below.
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