Posted by: In Memoriam | December 20, 2013

In memory and celebration of ELIZABETH BOGOD

Elizabeth photo biography

1976 -2013

We were very sad to lose our own Elizabeth Charlotte Bogod in 2013.  Elizabeth was unique, and there are many in Victoria who will relate to the help she gave to them on their path to wellness.  Elizabeth was always at the ready for those experiencing difficulties, fighting with courage and conviction for their needs and rights. She was known throughout the Victoria Mental Health Community for her advocacy and for the inspiration she gave to so many in their own battles. At a time when she was, herself, in immense emotional pain, she went for help to Psychiatric Emergency Services at the Archie Courtnall Centre, Victoria, where she was greeted by a social worker, “So you are Elizabeth Bogod, I am proud to meet you”.

Elizabeth Bogod and Baylie McKnight co-founded the Borderline Personality Disorder Support Group in 2010.  The idea for such a group sprang out of the obvious lack of this type of support – in Victoria or anywhere!  It was an initiative primarily to support those affected by BPD through group gatherings, and to which family members, significant others, and friends were encouraged to participate (again a first!).   Participants at this group have said it is the one place they are not judged, and really feel accepted and safe.  In no time the group blossomed, and continues today.  In 2012, building on the group’s success and the continuing need for education, awareness and support, the Borderline Personality Disorder Society of British Columbia was founded –  a registered non-profit society with an active Board of Directors and a membership of over 50.Elizabeth was also the creator of the Society’s blog (https://bpdsupportgroup.wordpress.com/) as a place where helpful BPD-related information and resources can be found.

Elizabeth pioneered the frontiers of the mental health system in Victoria, challenging it to revisit itself.   She long maintained that those with the experience of mental illness were best equipped to help those in distress. She was a strong advocate for the Peer Support System, maintaining that those who have had personal experience of mental health issues are better able to support others. She researched the widely-accepted treatment for BPD, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) created by Marsha Linehan, a Professor at the University of Washington, and then created, built and facilitated the New Light Recovery Program, an 18 week skills-based training program based on the tools Ms Linehan had developed for those who have overwhelming emotions.  “New Light” has been running as a Program through the BC Schizophrenia Society in Victoria, BC, with a waiting list for admission.

Elizabeth hated the label “Borderline Personality Disorder”.  She felt the words in no way described the nature of the disorder. In her view, those with BPD are neither at the border nor do they have a personality disorder. She felt it was very discriminating and the public perception was that of a bad personality, even a bad person.  She wrote to the American Psychiatric Association, the professional body responsible for the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders) about changing the label to Emotional Dysregulation Disorder and also did an online petition.  To-date, the hated and non-descriptive label remains.

Elizabeth did so much for others in the short time she was here despite her own very serious challenges of innate neural deficits and trauma leading to mental illness. Her innovations to help others, her creativity, her writings, her poetry, her art work will live on. Her technical expertise, her ideology, her passions, the many peers she served so well, are here in positive and visible ways for all.  She left a legacy which will live on in many hearts and in many practical ways.

Elizabeth did a radio interview in 2012 with Stephen Andrew of CFAX Radio, Victoria. during Mental Health Week.  CFAX have kindly allowed us to make this available to you. Paste this link into your browser to hear her. Don’t forget to turn your sound on!!!  http://ubuntuone.com/00kSs8i7bDg8XqC64faxEc

“DON’T CALL ME BORDERLINE” By Elizabeth Bogod- Reprinted with permission from “BPD” issue of Visions Journal, 2011, 7(1), p. 13

When I first learned that I have the commonly misunderstood mental illness called borderline personality disorder (BPD), this was my initial reaction: do not call me “borderline!”

The label “borderline personality disorder” says little about the true nature of this illness. In my experience, this diagnostic label has led to increased stigma and misunderstandings—and to the horrible self-stigma that slowly erodes one’s soul. To be told I had a “personality disorder,” especially when I was most vulnerable and hurting, was to be told there was something intrinsically wrong with the essence of my being—that my whole identity and personality was flawed.

Few people have heard of borderline personality disorder. Unlike depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, BPD is just beginning to come into the light as far as advocacy and awareness are concerned.

Struggling through BPD

I am among the millions of people with this disorder, which affects a large portion of our population. According to US statistics (Canadian Statistics are not yet available), 2% to 6% of the population have BPD.  Like schizophrenia, BPD is a devastating mental illness, usually diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood. In my case, it struck when I was very young, around puberty, but I wasn’t diagnosed until 26 years of age.

For more than 10 years of my life, I struggled to get well. There were many times when I honestly thought I would never get better—I gave up hope. I became suicidal. I seriously attempted suicide nine times. These serious-yet-impulsive acts were extremely hard on my family. They never knew whether they’d come home to find me dead or alive. This was before mental health professionals learned that BPD is actually a highly treatable mental illness.

During my illness, I suffered from typical BPD symptoms. I had great difficulty regulating my emotions, especially in relationships with others. I was very impulsive and self-destructive. I engaged in self-injury, cutting or burning my skin to get a sense of relief from emotional pain. I had uncontrollable bouts of rage aimed at either myself or others. I lost a lot of friends during this period, and my family didn’t know how to help me, although they tried their best to be emotionally supportive.

I also experienced severe depression and feelings of being completely empty. I felt like a burn victim—my “emotional skin” was so raw that I couldn’t cope with what others would consider the normal, everyday trials and tribulations of life. At times, I didn’t know who the person looking back at me in the mirror really was. I thought I was an evil and despicable person, although I’d never committed a crime, and was, by many accounts, a caring, thoughtful and highly sensitive person.

There were times I dissociated from reality. I felt numb or unable to feel. For prolonged periods of time, everything around me looked and felt fake. I remember a day when the multi-coloured fall leaves blowing by looked like plastic—nature was ugly and lacked any meaning or beauty. I felt as if I was living in a doll house where nothing around me was real.

At other times, I heard voices in my head telling me over and over again: “You are worthless, you are worthless, you are worthless . . .”

Finding peace and helping others

In the last four years I have found true health and well-being. I now have a sense of peace in my mind, gained through a combination of psychiatric medications that work for me (I cannot go without them), learning dialectical behavioural techniques to handle my emotions, furthering my college education, and engaging in meaningful activities. I am doing wonderfully!

My work at the BC Schizophrenia Society – Victoria Branch has given me confidence and the chance to support others with mental illness through their journey. Supporting others has helped me in my own recovery: I feel less alone and stigmatized, and have gained a sense of purpose in life. I am now a certified community mental health worker. As a peer support worker at BCSS Victoria, I work one-to-one and in groups with people who have various mental illnesses, including BPD. With the help of two young women with BPD, a family member and a committee, I have started a local support group for people with BPD and family members.

I also co-facilitate the New Light Recovery Workshop, a psycho-educational workshop that is part of the Peer Support Program at BCSS Victoria. This workshop is for people with any mental health diagnosis, who experience overwhelming emotions. Although based on dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), the workshop emphasizes that the facilitators are people who are also in recovery (peers) and are therefore not professionals offering any form of therapy. To ensure this understanding, skills are referred to as “dialectical behavioural techniques.”

I am no longer my illness. I am a daughter, a sister, a team member, a facilitator, an artist, a public speaker, a volunteer, a passionate person, a caring person, a nature lover (I see beauty again!), an animal lover, an advocate, a spiritual person, an avid novel reader, a bell collector, a person who knows myself well . . . I am Elizabeth Charlotte Bogod.

“LIVING WELL WITH MENTAL ILLNESS” – Friday, November 4, 2011, by Richard Watts.   Lyle Stafford, Photographer, reprinted with permission of the Times Colonist.

TC Interview PhotoWhen Victoria’s Elizabeth Bogod helps someone cope with mental illness, she opens a tool kit filled with her own experiences. Bogod, 34, lives with Borderline Personality Disorder. She wasn’t diagnosed until 26 and spent her life bullied, misunderstood and confused.

She says she attempted suicide nine times, cut and burned her own skin and would lash out in huge bouts of rage at people who cared for her.

“I lost a lot of friends during this period and my family didn’t know how to help me,” she writes in an article for Visions, a quarterly journal that works to provide a forum for people living with mental illness. Bogod now deals with her mental illness with medication — an anti-depressant, a mood stabilizer and an anti-psychotic — and with behavioural modification skills.

She also works as a community mental health worker with the B.C. Schizophrenia Society, leading a workshop teaching behavioural modification skills that allow a person to deal with the emotional overload that can accompany mental illness. “You can live well with a mental illness,” Bogod said in an interview.

“I just want other people to speak out and not feel ashamed.” Bogod describes the behavioural modification techniques as a synthesis of opposing feelings and realities. For example, a person who is feeling worthless will not have their feelings disputed. Instead, the emotions are acknowledged, accepted and then joined with a reality stating that person is actually quite good. “And the synthesis would be ‘I’m OK,’ ” she said.

Bogod’s colleagues at the B.C. Schizophrenia Society believe it is the first time these techniques have been taught by a peer, someone who lives with a mental illness. Hazel Meredith, Executive Director of the Schizophrenia Society’s Victoria branch, said Bogod deserves praise for her leadership and dedication.

Meredith said Bogod offers an authenticity to people who are living with mental illness that can be a transformative experience. “It sure is different to hear someone say, ‘I’ve licked this and you can too,’ ” Meredith said.

Bogod also volunteers leading a peer support group that focuses on people with borderline personality disorders, but also accepts people who are dealing with other mental illnesses.

Here again, in the volunteer setting, she has been an innovator by insisting the group be open to family members of people with mental illness. Bogod believes the learning potential is enormous when everybody can listen respectfully to the feelings and experiences of others.

A relative or caregiver gains insight into the emotional state during a period of inappropriate behaviour from somebody living with mental illness. But the person with the mental illness gains their own insight when they hear how their behaviour made others feel.

According to Dr. Elisabeth Hallam, a psychologist with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Borderline Personality Disorder is best described as “a disorder of the emotional regulation system.” Hallam said it was first noticed during the 1950s when psychiatry tended to split disorders between neurotic disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and psychotic illnesses.

The “borderline” term arose because doctors realized some patients presented symptoms of neurotic and psychotic disorders at the same time. Hallam said studies have estimated anywhere from three to 10 per cent of the population have some level of Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s also a Disorder that has been researched more thoroughly in the past 10 years. So as knowledge has increased, so has the number of people diagnosed.

VIHA offers a year-long series of treatment therapies but only for 20 people at a time. “There will always be a greater demand for what we can offer.” In the meantime, Hallam said Bogod’s efforts have gone a long way. “She has done great work in having the community pay attention,” Hallam said. “She is really de-stigmatizing the diagnosis, giving people some hope.”

Bogod now looks back at her earlier days with a sense of acceptance. She acknowledges she could be difficult, but she also doesn’t bear grudges against the teen peers who bullied her, or the teachers and social workers who decided some of her symptoms were merely attention-seeking.

Since her diagnosis, she has completed high school and attended Camosun College to take courses in mental health support. And she now allows herself outings with friends, and the luxury of thinking about long-term possibilities, maybe a move to Vancouver, future relationships and even children of her own. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, my whole entire life,” Bogod said. “I have come such a long way.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

Reprinted with kind permission of the Times Colonist
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Responses

  1. Thank you for sending me this beautiful memorial. What a great loss for so many!
    Elizabeth

    >

  2. Gosh, I was looking forward to doing the peer training with Elizabeth next year. Can you say how she passed? Love and prayers for her and all those she touched. Sincerely, Robert James


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