Actor Joe Tracini on having borderline personality disorder: ‘I shouldn’t be ashamed of having a mental illness’

The former Hollyoaks star talks about misconceptions of BPD and the voice inside his head he calls ‘Mick’.

Joe Tracini has opened up about living with borderline personality disorder
Joe Tracini has opened up about living with borderline personality disorder Joe Tracini has opened up about living with borderline personality disorder

Former Hollyoaks actor Joe Tracini has opened up about having a voice inside his head due to borderline personality disorder (BDP) – a hugely misunderstood condition.

“There aren’t two of me,” says the 35-year-old, who was diagnosed 10 years ago.

“It’s an awful name for an illness, because I’ve got an emotional illness, it’s nothing to do with my personality.”

In a no-holds-barred Channel 4 documentary, Me and the Voice in My Head, Tracini, the son of comedian Joe Pasquale, explains he’s given the name ‘Mick’ to the voice inside his head.

According to the NHS, BPD is a disorder of mood and how a person interacts with others. Someone affected will ‘differ significantly’ from an average person in terms of how they think, perceive, feel or relate to others.

Some of the symptoms of BPD include emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking or perception, impulsive behaviour and intense but unstable relationships with others.

“It’s so difficult to understand what these things are and what they can do to you, and it’s counter-productive sometimes, because people take the way I explain it with ‘Mick’ the wrong way.

“I’m not saying I’ve got another personality, there aren’t two of me, that’s not the point,” says the actor, who played Dennis Savage in Hollyoaks from 2011-2014 and again in 2018. “I shouldn’t be ashamed of having a mental illness – I know it’s not my fault.”

The causes of BPD are unclear but it appears to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, the NHS says.

Many people with BPD also have another mental health condition or behavioural problem, such as misusing alcohol or drugs, and depression. Tracini also opened up about battling drug and alcohol addiction and having suicidal thoughts.“I’ve been suicidal for so long now, and such a big part of me is talking about the fact that I think about it, and this is to try and get some level of understanding about suicide and about how relentless it can be,” he says.

The actor, whose book about his condition Ten Things I Hate About Me, was published in 2022, said it was only after being diagnosed that he felt there was hope he could be “fixed”.

Speaking about finally being diagnosed, he said: “When I found out about it, I was over the moon, because I just thought I was mental. When I found out it was a thing and there are books that help, that immediately felt like I had a foundation, which was not an experience I’d had before.

“But that wasn’t a quick event, because as soon as I finished drinking or doing drugs, my life got worse, and I was doing s*** then that I didn’t have an excuse for.

“I was the last person to think I had a drug problem, and I did think I was getting away with it forever, and it was only when I came out of that first rehab that I realised everybody thought I was going to die.”

He says the way his BPD has affected his career has been a “nightmare”, and during the pandemic he stopped being able to go to auditions and being able to work. “Over the last couple of years, it’s become really detrimental, but thankfully I’ve been able to talk about it and I’ve had opportunities – it’s not been an easy ride.

“Talking about it is so important, being able to talk about the past – from my experience, therapy helps. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had a psychiatrist that I can talk to – I’m not in regular therapy because I can’t afford it.”

Tracini is thankful for the support he’s had from his family too. “I’m very grateful to my family for being as honest as they were, particularly Dad – we’re in the same business and we run them very differently,” he said. “The way I speak about stuff and have made it part of my career is like the opposite of what Dad does. The fact he’s been as honest as he has with me, I really appreciate that. And also my heart breaks for them.

“It’s part of me, there’s nothing I can do about it, and that’s why I’m hoping that having made something [the documentary] I’m proud of.

“I wish that after all these years I was better than I am, and I’m tired. I think the past couple of years has really changed me, so having made the documentary is trying to make myself feel like I fit in the world.”

Me and the Voice in My Head is on Channel 4 at 10pm on May 13.

Anyone can contact Samaritans, free, 24/7, on 116 123, email or visit Samaritans