What It's Like to Live With Borderline Personality Disorder
Inside My Mind
Oh, how great it feels to constantly have to fight the unstable moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning that push me towards uncontrolled, impulsive, often-damaging behaviour—every single day. Who needs a sense of their own personality, when you can just manufacture a new one every time you meet a new person? You can tailor that new personality perfectly to suit what you think that particular person might like. It's great when your self-esteem relies upon approval and validation from others! And the abandonment issues are so significant that you'll go to any measure to fight real or perceived abandonment. You can switch from loving to hating someone at the snap of a finger, and what about those drastic mood swings that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days? Love it!
BPD is often misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed at all. After a year of receiving multiple diagnoses, seeing different therapists, and trying different behavioural therapies, I was finally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) in 2015. By that point, I'd already been living with the illness for years. I've tried cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), and I also take antidepressants—all of which have helped me manage my illness and control my impulses.
I want you to take a moment to think about someone who you really love. A friend, a relative, a partner or even a pet - someone who has changed your life for the better, who you couldn't imagine living without.
Now, think about how you would feel if they turned around and told you that they hate you, and never want to see you again. Just like that.
It's an awful feeling.
Living with BPD is like this feeling of intense, heart wrenching abandonment happening over and over again daily, in an uncontrollable cycle. Your friend's comment on your new profile photo seems slightly half hearted? They hate you, they never want to see you again, your entire friendship was a lie, you're ugly and awful and should harm yourself for this, right after you text this friend and let them know how sorry you are for everything and beg them not to leave you.
Or... you could make like a banana and SPLIT! They only rate your photo 9/10? Yeah? Well, they're an ugly sack of potatoes rotting in a mouldy binbag, the scum of the universe, they're awful.
And then an hour later, you realise......shit. What have I done? I completely overreacted! Oh no! They're going to hate me for it forever! My life is over!
And it continues. An endless cycle of irrationally overreacting to slight indications that someone doesn't like you. Intensely splitting between absolutely loving and idolising someone to hating their guts. It sounds slightly crazy, right? Irrational, yet uncontrollable? The basis of BPD!
I Hate You; Don't Leave Me!
One of the greatest things about having BPD is that I know these thoughts are irrational. Yes, in theory, I know that you not replying to my text for ten minutes means you were busy... But sometimes it's hard to convince me that it wasn't because you hate me, or because you prefer other people to me all of the time. If I'm not your favourite then obviously I'm worthless and you hate me so I hate you too! I hate you more than you could possibly hate anyone ever!
...but please don't abandon me I need you.
People with BPD often do have some anger issues. We can get angry at the stupidest things, and say hurtful things in the moment, such as, 'I'd kill yourself if you left me.' This is something that a lot of people would turn around and say, 'that's abusive!' - but often, people with BPD can't help but blurt out phrases like this in a fit of rage - because in the moment, it's true. If someone we particularly loved abandoned us, we'd be so intensely upset that we don't see the point in living anymore. Perceived abandonment can evoke these feelings, and make us angry, so we say things like this - which is where the stereotype of 'all people with BPD are abusive' comes from.
It's extremely hard to understand it - we mean these things, but we don't. Sure, I probably wouldn't kill myself if I couldn't find my favourite food in a shop. But, in the moment, it's possible to feel so intensely distressed that it does seem like an option!
Ah, one of my favourite psychotic symptoms—dissociation, or de-personalisation—is a coping mechanism the brain uses to cope with traumatic events. Essentially, the brain 'detaches' itself from the situation, making you feel as though you're living in a dream. When you dissociate, it can be hard to tell the difference between real life and dreaming, and sometimes, you can forget that you actually do exist. Imagine looking down at your own hand and thinking, 'whoa, who's hand is this? It's definitely not mine!'
Have you ever had a moment where it feels like you're watching your life through a TV screen, or a moment of deja vu, where it seems as though you could anticipate what will happen next? Have you ever seen your reflection and had an enlightening moment of, 'whoa, thats me! That's what people see when they look at me, my corporeal form!'
Dissociation is these moments happening constantly. People with BPD often have an unstable sense of self image, and this makes it hard to connect reality with delusions, or to differentiate between what's real and not real - for instance, the perceived abandonment! People with BPD often find it hard to find the difference between 'real' and 'perceived' abandonment, which is tricky, because it means it's hard to know whether you reaction is validated or not!
Make Sure You Consume Three Healthy Meals Of Validation A Day
BPD sufferers often require a lot more validation that the average neurotypical person - so much so that no validation leads to dissociation. For instance, if I were to buy a new shirt, I'd generally feel inclined to ask someone else whether or not they like the shirt before I get it, because their approval would validate the fact that I like the shirt. However, if they didn't like my new shirt, it'd be easy to either turn around and decide that if they HATE my shirt then I HATE them too, or that I also must HATE this shirt.
Also, a characteristic of BPD is frequent and violent mood swings. People with BPD often think in 'black or white' terms - meaning, we jump from one extremely to the next, only seeing love and hate. To put it simply - if I'm not your Favourite and you don't Love me unconditionally, then you must Hate me completely!
It's hard to see the grey, the middle ground. This means it's hard for me to know whether my feelings are valid or not. So if I'm saying that I dislike something, it's nice to hear someone else say that they dislike it, too, as it validates my opinion! But also, if someone else likes the thing, I hate when people flat out say, 'what!! I love it! How can you hate it?' because this feels completely invalidating to me, and suddenly I hate myself, even if what they meant was, 'I can see why you dislike X, but I do like it myself... Not that that means you aren't entitled to having a different opinion to me.'
I Know I'm Irrational
I know I sound scary now. Whoa guys... don't go near that psycho bitch, one wrong move and she'll flip!
But that isn't what you should think. BPD is a mental illness, and just like any other disorder, it can be treated - contrary to popular belief.
BPD is difficult to handle, I know that. Professionals know that too, but there are behavioural therapy techniques that help. Sometimes, I do need a little help to see the grey areas, to understand that I'm being overdramatic and irrational. It's as hard for me to understand as it is for you to try to explain to me. And I know I can be extremely difficult to deal with sometimes.
But this illness needs awareness. Awareness shows the people who suffer that they can get through it, and find a happier, more stable life, and there is help available if they need it - and also, that it's okay to ask!
If you think you may have BPD or any other related illnesses, visit the NHS website for more information.