When we talk about physiological illness versus mental illness, at what point do we stop envisioning both as just illness? Should a heavy drinker with cirrhosis of the liver not be considered responsible for their situation to the same degree as a convicted murderer with mental illness? If all narcissists who might go on to carry out scams (or worse) were given a magical cure for narcissism, would this intervention and prevention not equate to a remedy that would save the lives of thousands of people with diabetes? If a rich married woman with crippling depression could access therapy without fear of harsh judgment, would this not be as easy as being able to walk up to an abortion clinic free of protesters who despise you despite knowing nothing of your circumstances? Would the man with cerebral palsy be supported well enough to hold a job if we mocked him to the same degree that we might the homeless, drug-addicted person with schizophrenia? I ask you to consider these points while I unfold a tale of recovery and growth.

My time at school was made nightmarish because of bullying, a late diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and an unequipped system reeling from years of strikes and reorganization by my school’s administration. There were those in the school district who had mislabeled me as “retarded” and/or “sociopathic.” My first plunge into adulthood was even worse; I didn’t know how to balance the stresses of work and studying, I had unceasing family woes which often left me looking for a place to stay, and my relationships were all unstable because of my desperate appeals for attention and affection (and my feelings of resentment and inadequacy when those needs were not met). 

Taking time off to travel to Southeast Asia and Latin America broadened my horizons, but it also increased my awareness of my own behaviour by practicing mindfulness. After experiencing the worst and most explosive meltdown of my life in the spring of 2023, when my sister and my ex-girlfriends were thoroughly frightened by my erratic behaviour, I finally pushed myself to seek help from a triad of mental health professionals, including campus counselling and the Wellbeing Clinic. The third — a psychiatric referral from the Wellness Center — led to the unsurprising conclusion that I was suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD), a highly stigmatized condition known in pop culture as Jekyll-Hyde syndrome. The main character(s) of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel became a common representation of the disorder because BPD patients are fraught with pathological black-and-white thinking and may often be observed splitting between an angelic persona and a demonic one. Contrary to popular belief, those afflicted are much more likely to harm themselves than others. The crushing stigma and the overlap with other mental illnesses are responsible for high rates of misdiagnoses, and the disorder is notoriously overdiagnosed in women and underdiagnosed in men because of gender biases and stereotypes about the emotional instability of women.

That same year, I took more steps to embrace my queer identity with aspects of feminine gender expression. I found myself integrating into the drag scene in Kelowna, which is indubitably described as the perfect autism club with a smaller borderline club therein. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I knew I had to capitalize on the experience by devoting myself to mental health advocacy. Indeed, one would find that the interconnecting relationships between queerdom, autism, and BPD are perhaps stronger than any other in the realm of neurodivergence — not because LGBTQ+ are associated with these conditions but because these groups feel the need to find community amongst other “misfits” just as much as any other. 

So, whereas four months ago I was in my tunnel of maladaptiveness and certain that I was going to end up dead or in jail if I kept going on like that, I find that I have come out clean on the other side with an unprecedented transcendental transformation into the strongest advocate for queers, women, and people with mental illness — and even when I am done studying communications, I know that my work will not be finished. To replace the self-loathing of old, I am now discovering all the beautiful things about the conditions I have: enhanced creativity, belief in justice, hardy commitment, unfaltering loyalty, hyper-empathy, fiery passion, and incredible resilience. To my fellow neurodivergent students and the neurotypical ones as well, I want you to remember that it is always raining somewhere. Give all the ill the cure that they deserve, no matter the nature of their illness. Lift the downtrodden so that they, too, can become the best possible versions of themselves, for the love and benefit of all.