A few weeks ago I went to an international conference on BPD in Berlin. It's taken me this long to recover sufficiently to be able to blog it. Where to start?? Well, to contextualise my grievance which follows, I recently spoke at a conference run by Broadmoor, on social inclusion and recovery. 4 of the 5 speakers were service users, and there were plenty of service users in the audience.

In Berlin, however, there were dozens and dozens of plenaries, workshops, seminars, poster sessions etc - not one of them run by a service user. The whole event was framed in terms of us as patients, research fodder, medical curiosities. I did write in very good time to the conference organisers offering to run a session - and didn't even get a reply!! (Perhaps my mentioning, for the first time in a conference context, that I've got an OBE backfired. They probably thought it stands for Obviously Bloody Empty-headed.)

The irony is that Germany has an outstanding, dynamic, warm, creative, constructive organisation of people with BPD - Grentzposten. They had a stand at the conference which generated huge interest, not least because of the excellence of their regular magazines. The very very best part of the 3 days for me was meeting and becoming instant pals with the women who run the organisation. It is a real honour to be able to publish the video of the interview with Tina and Franzi below.

(The one concession to service users was that there was one session where German service users met with professionals to discuss their views, priorities etc. My almost fully evaporated O level German didn't stretch to managing the session.)

I went to the conference because I wanted to hear and bow down in gratitude to Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectical behavioural therapy. It's not really appropriate to go into details here, but I was 'surprised' by the tone of her presentation and it triggered a bizarre meltdown. At one stage, when I was finding it almost impossible to contain the suicidality the presentation had evoked, I did think that it would be ironic if a presentation all about how many lives Linehan and DBT have saved resulted in one being lost. I am soooo lucky to have a genius, super-skilled, continuously accessible crisis therapist, Patrick Doyle. It only took a few hundred (or at least 2) calls to Patrick for me to be sane and stable enough to be able to return to the conference the next day.

In contrast, the presentations by Anthony Bateman and Peter Fonagy were phenomenal. Accessible yet highly specialist, humorous yet palpably empathetic, self-depracating yet conveying powerful credibility. I'm very grateful to Prof Bateman for letting us include the videos of his demonstration of mentalisation based therapy on the website. Click here to watch these.

Right. I'm off to email my new big pal Tina from Grentzposten. Please do watch the video below as Tina and Franzi are exceptional advocates for those of us with BPD.

I've read and heard some great quotes and stories this week:

Lance Armstrong (Olympic cyclist who overcame cancer):
"Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever."

The following is a pretty weak joke, but it really resonates for me in terms of my wrestling with the decision to die:
A man falls off a cliff. As he plunges to the ground, he's heard to mutter: "So far so good."

I've started doing stand-up gigs. Not an obvious choice for someone with severe depression, suicidality etc - and perhaps that's why my routines aren't very good. But I get to hear great gags! These are my favourites from the fabulous open mic night run by The Dead Comedian's Socks:

"My mother suffers from Parkinsons. She can't stop going around interviewing people."

This gag was delivered by a bloke who exaggeratedly staggered on stage looking all dishevelled and holding a pint: "I'm a recovering alcoholic. I had flu last week but I'm feeling better now."

Thanks to my lovely niece Esther for showing me this quote, from a book by the drama educationalist Gavin Bolton:

“the notion of ‘protection’ is not necessarily concerned with protecting participants from emotion...but rather to protect them into emotion”.

I like the idea of protecting us from feelings, but can't deny the attraction of protecting us from very painful feelings.