Out of everything I have experienced in life, one of the things I find most difficult to talk about with any real candour is my diagnosis of BPD, or Borderline Personality Disorder. There’s something about it which I can’t bring myself to explain in words; that feeling of fear and distrust which dogs every move. It’s not simple enough to just call it ‘anxiety’ or ‘worry’, because it goes far deeper than either of those things and I often find myself tongue-tied, unable to describe just now BPD affects me. As a result, very few people in real life know I have the diagnosis. I just can’t bring myself to tell them.
Earlier, I read a brilliant post called What Is Borderline Personality Disorder? on the site “You Know You’re Borderline When…”. Since my diagnosis, I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about BPD in the hope of finding some sort of understanding of my often ridiculous actions, and the post I just mentioned is easily the best article I have ever read on the subject.
One point the author, Jaen Wildfly, makes is particularly meaningful to me.
I guess the keywords here are: Unstable Self-Image
That still sounds a bit fancy. In essence, it means “I have no fucking idea who I am or what I want since my desires change from one minute to the next.”
I suspect one of the reasons why I can’t bring myself to admit to having BPD is because it all sounds a bit, well… self-absorbed. Nobody knows who they are, right? It’s not like we have the monopoly on wonky self-image. Try telling the average person on the street that you have an unstable self-image, and listen to them talk about how everyone doubts themselves; it’s impossible to get across just how much of an impact being impaired in identity can have on your life without sounding like an attention-seeker.
When I was diagnosed last year by a psychologist, I had a hard time explaining why the label of BPD – or rather, any label – was so important to me. Over the years I’ve been given many diagnoses – clinical depression, chronic anxiety, schizophrenia for a short while – and usually they’re as welcome as a kick in the teeth. Each label has changed me in some way and determined the path my life took, and most have resulted in disaster. However, I started to realise that my life has been governed by my total inablity to react rationally to imagined disasters, and without knowing the reasons why I act like that, how could I ever improve?
Jaen also uses the word ‘fragmented’, which to me is the perfect description of how it feels to live with BPD. Sometimes I wonder what I’d see if I could open myself up and look inside; whether everything would be shattered and broken. I wonder if there would be a visual clue as to what’s causing me to destroy every relationship I have.
To describe BPD properly, you have to grit your teeth and be prepared for others to judge you, for them to think you’re a cold, uncaring freak with a tendency to fly off the handle at the smallest provocation. BPD, like any other mental illness, is very unattractive when it makes itself known.
Regular readers will know that I haven’t quite destroyed every relationship; I’ve been with S for over a year now, and through some sort of divine intervention we’re yet to have a single argument. Not even a small one. This defies everything BPD is about, and I can only assume that the combination of cipralex and beta-blockers I take – along with the ten or so joints I smoke a day and the tendency to turn to opiate painkillers when things get too stressful – numb the fears which make me irrational and obsessive. It’s the fear which makes me angry, you see; the fear that I’ll lose somebody, or they’ll think less of me.
We are romantic junkies. Borderline behavior will increase with each new partner; thoughts of a perfectly passionate soul mate will drive us to do things that can be considered “impulsive.” But we are driven by a primal urge for this special someone to be our ultimate romantic love and savior. It is hard for us to look for realistic love when we crave this intensity. We are “in love” with being “in love” and will do stupid things to get our desires quenched. Usually, we end up disappointed because we don’t understand the transition from desire to love.
When I met my ex-fiance, O, the relationship was already doomed to fail although I didn’t come to realise that until many years later. Throughout past relationships, my behaviour had developed into a seething cluster of resentment, mistrust and paranoia which ruined everything I came into contact with, and my tendency to fall for men who would take advantage of me had given me an incredibly skewed view on love. I believed equally in the great love story and the cruelty of men, hoping for the first but inevitably finding the other.
During the relationship, I rarely saw my behaviour as unreasonable. To my mind, all the injustice of the world was constantly thrown upon my shoulders and O simply didn’t understand how much his words hurt me. Looking back, there’s no way he could have known, because very few people would react the way I did. Most wouldn’t slam doors or bury themselves in the corner of the room, banging their heads against the walls. Not everybody would smoke ten cigarettes in a row, lock themselves in the bathroom and punch themselves in the face, just because their boyfriend didn’t answer his phone.
Storming out of his house in the middle of the night and waking his parents became a common event; I’d wait at the end of the driveway until O came out and apologised. On an almost daily basis I would walk away from him over a small argument, stomping down the road with tears running down my face, first marching along then slowing down as I realised he might not follow me if I went too far. I always wanted him to follow me. I needed him to.
The Borderline has been taught they are unimportant, so they believe that life is unimportant. They know pain, they know hopelessness, but they don’t understand happiness. So the idea of “dying” isn’t really a hope for death but a hope for happiness. The thought process is “Can’t be happy here, maybe I’ll be happy dead?” So when suicidal thoughts are in action the person is unable to find anything to help ease the emotional pain.
Like many BPD’ers, I’ve made a number of suicide attempts. I’ve barely mentioned them so far because the feelings behind the attempts are still quite raw, even years later. Also like many people with BPD, because I survived it’s assumed they were a cry for help or attention, and so the doctors who treated me in A&E for paracetamol and antidepressant overdoses didn’t take me seriously.
Each and every time, I wanted to die, and was disappointed when I hadn’t. The efforts of others to save my life were lost on me; I just wanted out. The last time I considered suicide, I found myself running out of the house in the middle of the night, into a storm. My mother and I had been arguing about the amount of control she has over my life, as usual, and I suddenly just couldn’t take it any more. For a few minutes, the idea of walking into the sea crossed my mind. I even set off along the embankment, planning on getting to the sea wall and letting the tide pull me away. The urge was addictive, and I couldn’t think of anything else but ending my life. The ability to see how my death would hurt others was lost to me, and I still don’t quite know why I went back home after two hours. I stopped being angry, I think.
I have never considered suicide when depressed; even thinking about it would be too much effort in that situation. However, anger and panic are what drive me to think such thoughts, to harm myself, to chain-smoke and take more pills than I should. Any type of fear sends me into a blind panic; I just don’t know how to deal with the emotions. Or any emotion, really.
- Four Types of Borderline Personality Disorder (risablairlovitz.com)
- Borderline Personality Disorder- Criteria and Me (bipolarmuse.com)
- A Response to a rather Negative Blog I read about ‘Borderline’ Personality Disorders! (cerebralhealth.wordpress.com)
- Borderline Personality Disorder (cozyblanketsnowflakerepetitioncompulsion.wordpress.com)
- Unstable Moods in Borderline Personality Disorder (showard76.wordpress.com)
- Breaking it Down: Borderline Personality Disorder (psychologiques.wordpress.com)