Real Story: How to have a successful career while living with Borderline Personality Disorder

Split personality. Inner conflict. Mental stress. Bipolar disorder. Conceptual art portrait. Calm and depressed man in emotional reflection each other isolated green blur light double exposure.
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE – For 34-year-old Singaporean PR Daniel Dale, discovering that he was suffering from a mental health issue came as somewhat of a surprise.

“To be very honest, I did not really acknowledge my condition until it reached a breaking point, which unfortunately seems to be a recurring theme when we look at people with mental health challenges,” Mr Dale explains.

I never considered that I would face issues with depression and anxiety myself, and yet, there I was, unable to manage my emotions, unable to see the good, and really feeling as though there was no place for me in this world.

“I tried my very best to convince myself and those around me that I was fine, that I could correct this, because well, I’m a man, I’m a husband, and I should be strong enough to handle anything, right? This was where I went wrong, and only when I broke down, hit rock bottom and admitted defeat, did I realise that this was not something I could resolve alone, and thankfully I had strong people around me to help."

Mr Dale adds: “Only once I accepted it and sought help from my family, friends, colleagues, employer and professionals, was I able to take control of the situation. Ultimately, medication was prescribed, and I spent many hours with psychologists and psychiatrists to firstly understand the immediate issues - anxiety and depression - but then to really try and understand the much bigger picture and how I got to where I was

“This led to a number of striking discussions and observations, and in the end, I was assessed to be a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and, like the vast majority of people I speak with, I had no idea what this was or meant at that time.”

For Mr Dale, it is more important that the public is generally becoming more aware of and accepting individuals with mental health concerns. (PHOTO: Daniel Dale)
For Mr Dale, it is more important that the public is generally becoming more aware of and accepting individuals with mental health concerns. (PHOTO: Daniel Dale)

Living and succeeding with a mental health concern

Being open and detailed about his mental health condition is something that Mr Dale feels strongly about. As a director at Jones Lang LaSalle, Mr Dale wants to show that it is possible to function successfully in your career while acknowledging mental health concerns. Mr Dale is also a volunteer with Singapore Association for Mental Health.

“I live my life as I always did. I have good days, and bad days, just like any other person. By definition, I would say that BPD means that I can go from extreme highs to aggressive lows, but I continue to try and acknowledge when these things happen. With the support of those around me, I can better manage myself and the situation,” Mr Dale explains.

“Do not get me wrong; I do have times where I start to slide into a negative tailspin, but really the point is that I can see it happening, and I am now able to take control, be it through taking a break, talking to my family, or seeking time with [mental health professionals].

“Talking is the key here, and I cannot stress that enough,” Mr Dale points out.

While Mr Dale admits that the initial issues and diagnosis made an impact on his career, he says that his company and management team were very supportive: “I worked for an organisation and management team which was forward-thinking, supportive and genuine in their concern for me as an individual. Without the support they offered to me, I am not sure the outcome would have been the same.”

Today, I do not feel that my underlying condition has any negative impact at all, and the organisation where I am now is extremely conscious of work-life balance, mental health and wellbeing in general, to give employees the flexibility to manage themselves as needed and putting the support structures in place to ensure employee happiness.

“I am focused, dedicated, and most importantly, happy in the work I do and constantly trying to better myself, be it in my career or personal life,” says Mr Dale.

Mr Dale is also happy that he is no longer relying on a large number of medications to deal with his mental health issues: “This took time, and patience, for me and those around me. But, ultimately, I was adamant that I did not want to live long term just relying on medications.”

Sharing personal mental health issues

Not everyone may be comfortable sharing their mental health concerns with the people around them; Mr Dale says that he has received a lot of positive responses and support.

“Honestly, I do not think that I have had any negative experiences with people in the workplace, across different organisations, and to be very frank, I would not put my energy into those situations even if they did come up. Not everyone will understand, appreciate or even care about my/your situation, which is ok. I am focused on bettering myself, doing the best for me, and ultimately being around positive people,” he says.

For Mr Dale, it is more important that the public is generally becoming more aware of and accepting individuals with mental health concerns.

“People are becoming more aware of these sorts of issues, be it because they have some challenges, or simply because they want to try and understand and support. Talking about mental health and wellbeing has always been a bit of a taboo, especially in Asia; however, the great news is that this is changing, and it is becoming much more acceptable,” Mr Dale says.

(PHOTO: Getty Images)
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

Educate yourself and those around you

When it comes to improving understanding about various mental health issues, Mr Dale emphasises that it can happen to everyone.

“In some ways, it is a good thing that many people don’t know or understand first hand, as it means they have not been through that situation,” he explains.

“I think the important thing that people need to realise is that mental health conditions manifest themselves in many different forms, and everyone’s situation is different. For example, anxiety can present itself in many different ways, and a person who smiles at work and joins in the odd joke can also be depressed.

“It’s also important to listen and not try to provide solutions. For example, a person may open up to you and discuss how they feel, but it’s likely they are not expecting you to fix something, but just to listen,” says Mr Dale.

“In short, don’t make assumptions, and most importantly, do not judge.”

The Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) is a non-profit and non-government social service organisation that provides a comprehensive range of mental health services, including rehabilitative, outreach and creative services, to the community in Singapore. For more information, go to