What It's Like To Live With Borderline Personality Disorder
I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder at the age of 14. Relationships feel impossible, my brain never stops running and my stress is magnified.
I find it very difficult to distinguish who I actually am and who my mental illness wants me to be.
For the first time in my life, I'm sharing my story of borderline personality disorder with the public.
I want to relate to those who suffer with me, educate those who misjudge me and help those who want to love me.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
While the name is a bit misleading (and most experts generally agree), BPD is "a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects and marked impulsivity beginning in early adulthood and presenting in a variety of contexts as indicated by five or more of the following:"
1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior, as it is covered in criterion five.
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self.
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior.
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-mutilating behavior.
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety, usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
Long story short, it's very hard for those with BPD to have successful and healthy relationships and stable confidence levels. Our version of "logical thinking" is most often overthinking.
We have a very hard time distinguishing between real issues or imaginary issues. BPD is considered to be one of the most serious mental illnesses, as it causes a great deal of suffering and has a high-risk for suicide.
People with BPD tend to change jobs frequently due to their impulsiveness.
We also have intense and sudden mood changes, and we have severe difficulty regulating our emotions.
Unintentionally, we tend to blame others when we make a mistake, which causing us to be manipulative and cruel to those we care about.
Though causes for BPD have yet to be determined, experts generally agree it is caused by environmental or genetic factors.
There is no specific medication for BPD, but people can be medicated for the co-occuring mental illnesses that can make their BPD worse.
These may include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders and substance abuse.
Another option for treatment is specified therapy and support groups, which makes treatment for borderline personality disorder a lifelong commitment.
What It's Like To Live with Borderline Personality Disorder
Friendships and relationships are the hardest parts of my life to control. It's hard to hold yourself accountable for the things BPD causes you to do because you're never really sure if you're right or wrong.
Accepting you're wrong when you've put up such a fight to be right hurts. I've become aware of my patterns, but it's been a life-long journey.
The relationships I've had in my life are very intense.
In most cases, I had this need to spend a lot of time together. If I'm not spending most of my time with my friend or significant other, I immediately believe he or she will abandon me. I couldn't stop thinking I'd be replaced by someone better.
This fear physically hurts me. My eyesight gets blurry, my head starts to tighten, my heart starts racing and I can barely open my mouth to speak. Dealing with this fear is a battle I'm still fighting.
Another painful part of BPD is the way I treat other people. I can go from appreciating people to completely devaluing them.
Sometimes, I'll find reasons to believe the other person doesn't care enough about me or give enough to me.
I can be very mean to the people I care about the most. I never realize what I'm doing until it's too late, and then I'm stuck with guilt.
I create an outcome I try to prevent. In the moment, I feel right. My actions feel logical, and my emotions feel appropriate.
I push people away, and then I wonder why they leave. Monitoring my behavior takes a lot of effort, and it's sometimes very painful.
In my current relationship with my boyfriend, I've made myself accountable to him. I've made him aware of my disorder so he can help when my BPD starts to control my emotions and actions within the relationship.
Because I fear abandonment, I instinctually don't trust anyone. I'm 23 years old, and I have yet to give my trust to anyone outside of my family.
I don't know what it's like to trust your best friend. I don't trust my boyfriend, even though he's more than deserving of my trust.
My mind is always on alert and overprotecting me. I pick at every detail or every word until I find a reason to worry.
I don't do it on purpose. My automatic instinct is to protect myself from people, no matter who they are.
People can't get too close because there's always the chance they could be the ones to prove me right.
But of course, that's a self-fulfilling prophecy. People don't want to punch at a brick wall until it falls down, just like people don't want to work for my trust when it's nearly impossible to gain. So, each time, they leave. And in the end, I know it's my own fault.
Identity Disturbance And Self-Image
While my disorder doesn't make me who I am, I sometimes feel like my disorder. There are times when my personality is sweet and caring, but there are times where my personality is wild and reckless.
There are times when I feel non-existent, like I don't have a personality at all. I just sit there and feel nothing, even if I'm thinking everything.
I can never make up my mind. It runs circles around every option, every goal, every value, every right and wrong and every opportunity until I'm just too tired to think anymore. Sometimes, I think about things so much I don't have energy to do them.
I stress about decisions to the point of not making any decision at all. It's a vicious cycle of self-doubt followed by guilt, which is followed by motivation and more decisions.
But, there are also times when my decisions become impulsive and reckless. I can go from overthinking to not thinking at all. My mentality changes from "perfectionist" to "screw it, I'm all in."
And for me, it's very difficult to hold a job. I get bored easily, but then I find dissatisfaction in the workplace and dwell on it. My performance lacks, my attitude changes, and my mood is negative.
There's also the complete opposite of loving my job, but I doubt myself and push myself too far. I've had moments where I've been so hard on myself, I make myself sick with paranoia.
In my head, I can never be "too perfect." I always have to be better than everyone else, all the time.
Because of my need to be "better" than everyone else, my confidence suffers. My motivation to be a better person eventually turns into hate.
There are days when I can't look in the mirror because I'm too disgusted by what I see. Or sometimes, I'll shower with the lights off because I don't want to feel "exposed."
Some days, I'm very confident. Most days, I can't even stand to be inside of my own body.
In my opinion, therapy doesn't work. For some people, it might. For me, it didn't. The success of therapy relies a lot on trusting the person you're talking to. And as you've read, I don't trust people. So, what works for me?
I've learned to accept it. Let it ride.
My disorder is not who I am. I am not mean, angry or insecure. At least, I'm not by default.
I love to make people laugh, and I love to help those in need. When my disorder isn't controlling my thoughts, I'm adventurous, kind and, most importantly, brave.
There have been times when suicide felt like the right answer. There have been times when substance abuse helped. There have been times I've isolated myself into madness, but that is not who I am.
I am fighting for every second of my life.
I will let my disease slip through the cracks and take control. There will be days I make mistakes and hurt people I care about. But, I have made myself responsible for every mistake, every person I've hurt and every word I've ever said but never meant.
I will learn to apologize when I'm at fault. I will learn to tame my ego and embrace my flaws. I will wake up and look at myself in the mirror with positive affirmations each morning.
I will remind myself of who I really am. When I'm worried, I will speak my mind, not my emotions. When I'm angry, I will speak my fears, not my defenses.
I will seek help and understanding from the people in my life who are on the receiving end of my hurtful behavior. But most importantly, I will be patient.
This is a lifelong battle, but I'm prepared to fight. I will never be cured of BPD, but I believe my disorder does not own me. This is my life, and I know it can be beautiful.