I have spent a while writing this. I have found it much harder to write than I anticipated, which is often the case when we talk in detail about the parts of ourselves we aren’t so fond of. Borderline Personality Disorder is a horrible illness. With a shockingly bad name. As if people with low self-esteem and self-worth want to be told there is something wrong with their personalities!! Even if that is not what the name means.
BPD affects everything. It affects the way you behave, interact with other people, see the world, see yourself, how the world sees you, how you feel your emotions and for how long and how/ why you make decisions. And it can have a pretty huge effect of the people in your life too. Being taken ‘the wrong way’ (e.g. to be seen as being critical when your intentions are to be supportive) is part of life for those around BPD sufferers.
BPD is particularly difficult because there is no cure. The aim is to learn to cope with the symptoms without damaging yourself. The long-term prognosis is a little better. In many people with BPD, the symptoms lessen with time, and by the time the sufferer reaches their 40’s they should be much more stable. At least that is what I have been told.
BPD has a huge blanket of ‘symptoms’ and behaviours under its belt, and not all of them will apply to each person. So I am going to list some of the symptoms that affect me the most, and then write a little about them. If you have read my blog before, you will know they can get rather long. I apologise in advance as I feel this one may well be long too, so feel free to skip to the bits you feel are relevant to you.
- Intense emotions: I often feel emotions more deeply than others deem rational. Where you feel upset, I may feel devastated. Where you feel annoyed, I may feel rage. Where you feel happy, I may feel euphoric. Not only may I feel emotions more intensely, but often I will feel them for longer. Whilst your rage may last for 30 seconds until it becomes anger, mine may last 4x that. And re-firing. Not sure what the technical term is, but my brain re-sends those emotional cues regularly. So whilst I may have calmed down, if you ask me if I have calmed down I could be back up to rage. There have been cases when even someone’s loud breathing can set it off!
- Intense fear of rejection: It does not take much to make me feel rejected or abandoned. It could be something as simple as not responding to my texts. So what do I do? Usually, I abandon you just so you can’t do it to me first. It is not a conscious choice, understand, but in my head, I am protecting myself.
- idealisations and devaluation: I tend to have intense relationships with people. I put them on a pedestal and admire them greatly. This may result in spending lots of time together and forming a deep friendship quickly, often people see me as a dear friend in weeks while with ‘normal’ people that bond can take months to form. Which is all well and good, until you upset me. Which you will. I struggle to deal with it, and take it as a great personal insult. The result? You lose me just as quickly as you found me.
- Black and White: Sometimes I see things as very black and white. Either you did something that was right, or you did something that was wrong. This issue, unfortunately, is not black and white at all. Whilst I only tend to think like this when I am at my worst, it can be troublesome for my family. If, for example, I phone my family at the wrong time (and it is always the wrong time in a house with that many people!) and they sound stressed when they pick up the phone, I often take it as a personal insult (something it is clearly not) and resolve never to phone them again.
- Dissociating: So, we are having an argument, debate, or discussion about a topic I can’t cope with. One minute, I am getting upset, or angry, or generally responding normally, the next, I have a blank face and you are no longer getting acceptable responses. My voice will go flat. And that is pretty much that. I am gone. There is nothing we can do to change it, so your best bet is to move the conversation along to something else. However at that point, it is very unlikely you will get anything more out of me, and I am best left alone.
- Self harm: I have spoken a little about this before. I have permanently and irrecoverably damaged my liver. Not surprising really after a decade of overdosing. But it is a sobering thought, none the less. Self harm and/or suicide attempts are key when diagnosing BPD, if have not intentionally hurt yourself, (or at the very least have plans to do so) you don’t have BPD. Around 8-10% of people with BPD kill themselves, whether intentionally or as part of self harming gone wrong. Which is crazy scary when you think about it.
- Impulsive: So, my big one is money. I spend it without thinking, often leaving me without money to pay the bills, or even buy food. For some reason the ‘You don’t need it’ or ‘You don’t have it to spend’ switch in my brain is permanently set to OFF.
One of the things I have learned whilst writing this is that written down, it is much easier to see just how bad things get. Imagine reading all that about yourself, you will feel quite depressed right? Times that emotion by 4 at you might be approaching what I feel at the moment. I have had a lot of time to reflect on certain behaviours recently, and it only makes me more grateful to have my amazing family in my life who support me despite all my flaws.
Quite often, I feel so drained by just being me that I want it all to end. I get so sick of fighting, all the time. Imagine being forced to spend every moment of your life with someone who at best does not irritate you and at worst makes you despise yourself. If it were a partner in your life, it would be considered an abusive relationship and you would be urged to leave by those who care about you. We do not have that luxury with ourselves. It is not as easy as simply changing. There would be no mentally unwell people in the world if it was. Nobody chooses to have this life thrust upon them.
Another thing has come to light whilst writing this. I am strong. Perhaps stronger than anyone realises. Perhaps even stronger than I realise. Walking through life is hard enough for everyone. And every single person on this planet has had (or will have) a fall so spectacular they feel they feel it is impossible to go on. For some people, they don’t cope, and can’t go on. The end result is death. Whether by suicide, or excessive use of drugs or alcohol. For most, they muster every ounce of strength they have, get up, and carry on. The scars will forever be there, and are a thing of beauty. Proof that they are strong. Leaving them wiser, stronger, and more empathetic. I average two of these spectacular falls each year, and not a day goes by where there is not a little fall. Each time I fall, I lose hope. I wish myself dead. I know without any doubt at all that the world would be better off without me. And, each time (so far at least), I have stared at the very depths of hell and screamed ‘is that all you’ve got??’. And each time, I got up again. Stronger. Better. Wiser.
There are some that see this struggle and are foolish enough to believe that person is weak. Be careful though, because when you fall, you might just need their strength to carry you back. Trust me, you would get lost on your own. And without help from people who have been there before, you don’t stand a chance.
Think about it. When you have a new baby in your arms, and you can’t figure out how to turn it off, do you speak to your childless best friend, or do you speak to someone who has done it before? And when your iPhone breaks, do you speak to your grandma or a professional?
That is, in part, why I blog. Not all are as open as me about their flaws and mistakes. However, we learn from our mistakes. And we save ourselves a huge amount of bother learning from other people’s mistakes too. I taught my daughter not to touch a hot iron. She would have learnt soon enough herself, but she would have been hurt in the process. Far better it is to spare others pain if we can.
There are some good bits to suffering. Every cloud and all that. Because of all I have been through, I am an empathetic person. I try my best to help people in similar situations, and I speak out so others don’t feel alone. I am truly grateful for the help I get, I don’t take things for granted. I have a certain understanding of the world well beyond my years. I wont leave people behind. I am fiercely protective of those I love. I will fight until I am blue in the face for what I believe in. Sure, I am a bit of an idiot now and again, who isn’t? But I am proud of my scars. They are proof that I wont quit, of the battles I have fought and won. And I am certainly not anyone special. If I can do it, anyone can.