I F^cked Up

It wasn’t the worst fuck up imaginable, but it was not good. 

I was on a podcast talking about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial, and the host asked me to explain what it means when someone is diagnosed with both borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder. 

“So what does that mean? Other than being like, oh, Amber Heard’s crazy. Is it that simple? How can we better understand this diagnosis and how does it play a role in the relationship?”

And, as though he and I were sitting in my living room having Sunday dinner together, I said, “It’s a specific brand of crazy.” And because that wasn’t dumb enough, I said, “And I don’t use that term lightly.”

The haters came for me. 

I get it. It was an inappropriate answer. I am, after all, a therapist with a PhD. What I should have said was, “People with these two diagnoses have very little self-control, very low tolerance for emotional discomfort, and their response to distress is unpredictable in a way that seems both out of proportion to the situation and deeply irrational to others.” 

Same answer. But without the judgment. 

Here’s something you may not know: The JUDGMENT is baked into the diagnosis when you have a personality disorder. Every shrink knows this. 

Still, it was a terribly insensitive way for me to answer his question. And I’m sorry I answered the way I did.

My answer is also correct.   

Both of those things can be true, because they are true. 

The inability of people to understand that seemingly incongruous things can go together is the fucking hallmark of people who have these diagnoses — they don’t get nuance, or dialectical thinking: It’s black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. That’s why they struggle in relationships. Because successful relationships require both partners to acknowledge responsibility for conflict. People with these diagnoses need to make their partner wrong. 

They’re also highly resistant to getting feedback about how they behave. Which is why I don’t work with them.

To be clear: their diagnoses are behavioral diagnoses, meaning, were they to throw themselves into the right kinds of therapy, they can completely recover, no longer meeting criteria for either. 

Instead, they attacked me, because I stupidly asked for it. 

See? Both things = true. 

And because I realized that my comment both sucked and that I truly hurt some people, I responded to those who emailed me, offering to have individual Zoom calls so they could tell me how my asshole comment made them feel and so I could repair any hurt I caused. 

I mostly offered it to the appropriate ones — those who had the courage to be vulnerable, telling me they’d recently been diagnosed with one or the other — and expressing their hurt and confusion about how to make sense of what I said. 

That last part, btw, gutted me. Nothing could have made a deeper impression on me. Anyone who knows me knows this to be true.

Hell, you probably know it to be true, because I did not get one negative comment from an email list in the ten-thousands. And I often get responses from my emails — good and bad — both of which I welcome.  

I even heard from a therapist who wrote: 

I’m not sure what type of therapy you do but I have a highly traumatized client who somehow saw some content of yours that apparently calls people with “BPD” crazy. I’m reaching out as a fellow therapist to see if I could call you to consult? What did you mean by this statement and did you realize it would be harmful to other clients when you said it? What kind of license do you have? Please let me know if you have any availability for a phone call this week or next to address this. I’d be happy to provide some psycho education.”

Dear Enabling Therapist: 

The person who needs psychoeducation is your FUCKING CLIENT. 

Instead of using this as a teachable moment — helping your client to practice tolerating discomfort, providing tools to tune out the noise of real life (which is often upsetting) — you decided to rob them of agency and tell off the therapist who said the dumb thing?

No wonder your client is so distressed. How’re they getting better with a therapist whose first response is to yell at the external event rather than focusing your energy on empowering your client by teaching coping mechanisms? If that doesn’t doom them, then the fact that you see someone with borderline personality disorder in a private practice when the only evidence-based treatment for BPD is a DBT program, undoubtedly does. 

Also, that you actually thought your email might possibly result in a phone call from me — offensive as it was —  just confirms why we were taught in grad school to do our own therapy: because we attract what we are. 

You’re welcome in advance that I didn’t publish your name. 

I was going to make an apology video — because I was wrong to use the word crazy. 

I even filmed it. I felt like someone taking a mugshot, trying not to look like she was taking a mugshot. 

Then, someone on my team said I should re-record it because I kept breaking eye contact with the camera, looking off to the side. 

“You look like you’re trying to gather your thoughts.”

“I was gathering my thoughts.”

“I’m worried the trolls will attack you for it.”

Which got me thinking… 

Who am I apologizing to? And why? 

I haven’t gotten one drop of hate from anyone in my tribe.

Also, I see myself talking on camera 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. 

I know what I look like.

I always break eye contact — it’s in every social media video I film — because that’s how I talk.

You want me to pretend? To act? Sorry, I’m out.

Haters are going to hate. 

And if they hate me, they’ll find something wrong with any video I film. 

I’m not willing to act like a guy with #Metoo allegations. 

I didn’t cheat on my wife. 

I didn’t walk on stage during an awards ceremony and slap someone.

I spoke in an unfiltered way. 

Which is what my entire brand identity is known for. 

It’s why clients seek me out — because I respect them enough to tell them the truth. 

It’s why I’m sought out by the press every week of my life — because I’m creative in how I phrase things. 

Usually, it works out. 

This time it didn’t. 

Even a batter with a 400 average strikes out (I definitely had to look that up).

They’re not perfect. 

Neither was I.

I’ll do better in the future. I promise. Lesson learned.