Being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder has its perks – I’ve had my first covid vaccination.

Yep, you read right. BPD and the covid vaccine.

I had my first vaccination today and it’s all thanks to ‘having a severe mental illness’.

In this blog post, I’m going to write about:

  • What I first thought about the vaccine
  • Why I was offered the covid vaccine
  • What the appointment was like
  • Side effects of the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine
  • What I think about the vaccine now
  • Find out if you qualify

What I first thought about the vaccine

When talk of the covid vaccine first started, I was a bit wary. I couldn’t get my head around how a vaccine could be ready so ‘quickly’ and wondered how safe it was. To try and avoid being overwhelmed, I don’t tend to watch the news so my knowledge was pretty limited. I knew that this was a major breakthrough and that it would make a huge difference to people but I didn’t really think about it too much because I wasn’t in the ‘at risk’ categories. I also didn’t want to take a vaccine away from someone more at risk than me. I would rather an elderly person or someone in danger have it before me so they’re safe.

So when I had a phone call from the GP offering me an appointment, I was really surprised. And here’s why…

Why I was offered the covid vaccine

I didn’t think that people with a ‘severe mental illness’ would be considered in the ‘at risk’ categories. I was surprised that I was eligible and my BPD was considered ‘severe’.

I first saw the information on Instagram but, as is with social media, I didn’t think too much of it. Or look too much into it. Then came an official statement from the British and Irish Group For the Study of Personality Disorders (BIGSPD) which said:

“Our advice to members of our community who have a diagnosis of personality disorder and those who work with them in practice is as follows: You DO fall under the broad category for inclusion in cohort 6 and, if you haven’t already been invited for your vaccination, then please contact your GP to arrange this.”

The government initially just included those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ‘severe mental illness that causes severe functional impairment‘ (source). However, they hit a snag when, quite rightly, charities and other organisations started to question what counts as a ‘severe mental illness’. Now that clarification has been made, this includes people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Good news for me. Well, at the moment.

What the appointment was like

As anyone who’s had the vaccine will know, the appointment times are super precise. So, for someone who’s ALWAYS LATE, I was strong-armed out of the house at 5pm to make sure I didn’t miss it. Like so many other people, I haven’t actually been to the doctor in person since last year and it’s changed a bit since then.

Going to the doctor always makes me anxious and going for my vaccine was no different. I had anxious butterflies the night before.

When I arrived for the appointment, people were queuing outside of the surgery waiting patiently to go inside. Giving my name at reception, I was asked to sit and wait until I was called. However, when the nurses came out to get people they asked ‘who’s next?’, instead of calling out names. This literally nearly crippled me with anxiety because I’m the sort of person who would let everyone else go first instead of being assertive and speaking up. Karl always says if I was on the Titanic, I would’ve been a goner – because I’m too polite!

However, in true British fashion, we all worked out who we’d been standing in line behind so we all worked out a system. You’ve got to love being British!

When it was my turn, I was straight in, asked questions about any allergies, any reactions to previous medications and then jabbed. I didn’t even feel it. I was busy chattering away to the nurses about how many people they’d seen that day. They’d given 150+ jabs which I think is pretty incredible.

Side effects of the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine

The night before having the vaccine, I’d heard on the news that some people had experienced blood clots because of it. I felt a bit alarmed by this because I have a family history of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and a gene mutation (Factor V Leiden) which can cause clots. Luckily, it was a really small amount of people so I put it to the back of my mind.

The night of having the Covid vaccine and the two days following, I felt pretty rough. I had a really dodgy tummy, migraine and my arm was really sore. In comparison, family members and friends who have had this jab, didn’t experience any side effects. It depends on the person. I would say, make sure you have plenty of paracetamol at hand, just to help with easing any symptoms. My mum’s a nurse and advised this so it’s good advice 🙂

What I think about the vaccine now

BPD and the covid vaccine - Just A Square Peg BlogI think that I’m incredibly lucky to have had the covid vaccine, thanks to having BPD. I wonder what difference it would have made if I was recognised by the doctor as autistic. Would I have still had access to the vaccine? I don’t know the answer to that and I guess it depends on a few different factors.

So many people across the world are now having this vaccine in the hope that the number of deaths significantly fall. That’s the most important thing. Knowing family who have had covid and someone who’s died after having it, it’s been so close to home recently.

I’m really pleased that people living with mental illness can access this vaccine. It feels like a big step forward in getting mental health on a similar level to physical health. So many people will feel included and seen thanks to this.

I’d also like to point out that if you feel like you don’t want the vaccine or don’t feel confident about it, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. I didn’t really have any opinion on it either way but that’s just how I am. I try not to get into political debates or strong opinions because I’m pretty happy not having them! My anxiety gets really bad if I’m confronted so best to stay in the middle, on neutral ground. And that suits me fine.

Find out if you qualify

If you live with BPD, you should be eligible for a covid vaccine*. The BIGSPD has a letter that you can print off/send to your GP as proof of eligibility if needed.

Download the letter here.

For more information, click on the links below: 

Rethink Mental Illness: COVID-19 vaccine and those living with a severe mental illness

Mind: COVID-19 vaccine and mental health

NHS: Coronavirus and the COVID-19 vaccination

*Please note: I’m not a medical professional, just someone living with BPD. The above information is from my experience and included are resources I found useful.