Sometimes I become so frustrated with my own thoughts that I end up completely shutting down mentally, and almost physically. It’s as though my brain works in overdrive and while others have the ability to slow it down, mine tends to be like a car going 90 mph on the interstate, and the only way to stop is by crashing into the guard rail. So that’s what I do: I think, and think some more, and once the wheels start spinning, there is no stopping me, and once my wheels have gained too much speed for my own brain to comprehend what the hell I’m even thinking about, I crash.
It’s an extremely infuriating thing when you feel so out of control of your own mind and self. Most days I feel as though I have my shit together… only to run into one tiny, meaningless problem, and suddenly I’m back to where I was, trying to pick up the pieces as I go. Although this struggle I have with BPD is not something I would ever wish upon any other person, I just wish people would somehow be able to understand when I become the way that I do. It’s so draining trying to make sense of it all while trying to make others think that I have it all together.
I know not long ago I had posted how I finally began to overcome the demon that is depression, and while that does hold true, I partially feel guilty for the times when I succumb to the sadness. It’s hard to allow myself to accept that this is NORMAL and that not every day is going to be easy and effortless. Back when I was at the lowest point I have ever been, almost every single day was unbearable. I am fortunate that now my days are more-so happy than agonizing. However, that doesn’t mean that I am bulletproof. As I said, my conscious becomes filled with guilt when I have one of my “off days” because I want so badly to completely conquer this monster once and for all.
I just wish it were that easy.
Recently I had seen a blog I follow on this site post a lot of about Borderline Personality Disorder and reading it gives me some sort of relief because in a world so big, filled with so many people, it’s not hard to feel alone sometimes. So reading that other people understand first hand what I struggle and experience comforts me in a way; although part of me wishes they wouldn’t have to go through it at all. So I thought I would take this time to post my own experience with this debilitating disorder, in hopes to maybe get others to understand a little better, and also to reach out to those who feel like they are alone in this world.
Borderline Personality Disorder… it sounds much scarier than it actually is, trust me. I do believe the APA is going through the process of changing the name due to the fact of its “unattractiveness” and honestly, I hope they do it soon. Summed up, it pretty much means “emotionally unstable.” That doesn’t even sit well with me, either. It makes me sound like I’m a crazy person who is a walking mess. That is not true. In all honesty, after a few years of learning to manage the mental disease, I seem in a way “stable”. It’s just that I don’t have the ability to cope with certain things that the “average” person would be able to look past and move on from without hesitation… among other things. Another part of the disorder I don’t seem to take well to is that it makes it seem as though I am incapable of maintaining a relationship or friendships. That is not true at all. While I have had my fair share of relationships that were brief, and friendships that didn’t seem to withstand the normal ups and downs, I have successfully had three long-term relationships (not including the one I am in now) and my best friend and I have stayed close for over ten years (without my more uncontrollable moments never coming in our way).
All of those diagnosed with this disorder have it for numerous different reasons, and each person experiences symptoms in numerous ways, sometimes not relating to each other. That is the case with ANY disorder. While there is a “guideline” in which one needs to fit the requirements to be diagnosed with a disorder, that does not mean that person is what you may imagine in your mind. For example, one person with schizophrenia may hear voices and have paranoid ideas about something as simple as people are plotting against them, while another person with the SAME diagnosis may honestly believe we are aliens sent here to torture them. Unless you take the time to understand a person, please do not judge them by a disorder they have been diagnosed with.
So here’s my story. I’ll briefly explain the background of when I was diagnosed and what made me feel I needed to see a doctor in the first place. I’ll then explain why I fit each criteria, in hopes that someone who doesn’t quite understand how someone as “normal” as me would still be victim to this disease.
My whole life I can recall dealing with some degree of depression. My childhood was not easy, although it also wasn’t as difficult as others have gone through. Those things do not matter. My first memory is of being in my backyard watching my father play basketball on his Georgetown Hoyas hoop. My very next memory is of visiting my father in jail and after pleading to him that I wanted to come stay with him at his new “house” and him telling me that they serve giraffe skin there, which immediately changed my mind. My father was in jail for selling marijuana, not something I hold against him at all. He didn’t serve a lot of time, and although my mother and father ended up splitting up during that time, he still remained such an important person in my life. He always gave me constant love, attention, and praise. To this day, he is my best friend. I lived with my mother, so they worked it out where I would only see him on the weekends. A part of me believes if I would have been able to spend more time with my father growing up, that I would not be in the situation I am due to the fact that he gave me all the attention and reassurance a child needs growing up.
On the other side of the spectrum is what my therapist and I decided was the main factor that fucked up my mental development. I am the youngest of five daughters. My oldest sister is fifteen years older than me, and although I don’t remember this time in my life, before my step dad came along, my oldest sister was my main care taker. She dropped me off and picked me up from school, fed me, took care of me. My mother worked third shift, so I never got to spend time with her growing up. When she did have time, she was either tired and worn out, or went out with her friends and eventually started dating. Please don’t be confused… I loved my mother so much growing up, and still do to this day; I just felt as though by the time I had come along, she never got to live a life for HERSELF and she had already seen all of the excitement of a little kid. Honestly, there aren’t many pictures of me and my milestones from my mother, while all of my other sisters have snapshot among snapshot of mundane things they all did as a family.
When I was probably five, my mom met my step dad. In the beginning, he was like a superhero in my eyes. I felt so blessed to have a loving and supportive father on the weekends, and all of the other days, I had another “dad” who loved to play with me and made me laugh and smile so much. I’m not exactly sure when the moment happened, but one day he wasn’t that person anymore. He became cold and distant and I felt like he wanted nothing to do with me. Simple things such as teaching me to tie my shoes became a nuisance to him and my mother was busy working so it’s not like she could teach me. I also don’t remember the first time it happened, but my step father began hitting my mom and they would frequently have verbal matches so loud that I would hide under my covers and pray for it all to stop.
I suppose one day he became bored with taking it out on my mom, and began taking it out on my sister (who was 14 months older than me) and I. He would constantly berate us and tell us how worthless we were and how we were “pieces of shit.” Usually over a simple math problem we were having trouble comprehending. It never made sense to me. I didn’t understand how someone I once loved, who loved me back, seemed to hate me so much. I began despising him and it got to the point that when he’d come home, I’d hide under the dining room table until I could run up to my room for the rest of the night, praying that he wouldn’t find an excuse to scream at me. Nothing sent chills throughout my whole body more than when he would call my name up the stairs.
My mom stopped working third shift, but she spent most of her new free time doing things she wanted to do without her kids: shopping, traveling, etc. I can recall one time when she was going to visit my aunt in New Jersey and I bawled begging her not to leave, begging her to stay and spend time with me. I began trying to find any excuse to get her attention, such as thinking of stupid questions to ask her in order to hopefully create a conversation. Most of the time she would answer me, completely annoyed, and I would sulk back to my room, lay in bed, and cry myself to sleep at the thought of no one loving me. That is, except for my father.
My whole life seemed to be nothing my constantly trying to impress those I loved, only to fall short and feel completely shattered about myself and the effort I put in to making them love and be proud of me. I endured much more than that, but for the sake of making this post shorter than a novel, we’ll just skip through all of it. But that is the main factor in why I developed BPD. While there are many other factors that can attribute to making a person emotionally unstable, mine stemmed from the fact that I was not nurtured properly, along with the physical and mental abuse I received growing up. When I finally told my mom that, not even a year ago, she cried for what seemed like forever and I felt so guilty for making her feel like she was a bad mother and person. I felt bad even confessing all of that to my therapist, in which he replied, “It’s not that you think she was a bad mother… she provided for you, she worked in order to make sure you were healthy and had what you needed… you just feel like she didn’t want to be bothered by you, probably because she was too worn out by everything else.” I know if she could, she would rewind time and do it all over, but that’s life and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the struggles I have endured.
So as I grew older, I would act out in ways that I knew were irrational and I just didn’t understand. I never looked at myself and thought I was a good person, on the inside or the outside, although I have always been an extremely empathetic person and have been told numerous times how caring and supportive I am. Usually those with BPD are seen to be selfish, but luckily I suppose my extreme need make sure no one ever feels left out or alone, I didn’t develop that downfall in the disorder.
After being at one of the lowest points in my life, I felt like I was in a downward spiral. I felt more out of control than I have ever felt in my entire life and the overwhelming weight I felt sent me into one of the worst panic attacks I had ever had. I remember being in the bathroom at work and I literally felt like I was dying. I paced back and forth in the tiny space I locked myself in and felt so conflicted by the need to run but the inability to even process the thought of moving. I wanted to scream; I wanted to cry; I wanted to throw up. I shoved my fingers down my throat in hopes that the ball in my stomach would come out, but nothing. I sat on the floor with my head in my hands and my chest felt like it was on fire. I swore on everything holy that I was having a heart attack. I could barely breathe and suddenly I began to sob. The whole thing lasted probably a total of 3 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. It was the most terrifying experience of my life and I immediately went to my doctor who referred me to a psychiatrist.
And here is where I tell you what he and I discussed on my first appointment. Yes the first appointment, and he immediately knew what was “wrong” with me. Once we began talking about all that I had just discussed above, he looked around and said, “I’m going to read some things to you, and if you can relate to this with an actual experience, I want you to tell me.” I didn’t know he was reading the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder.
In order to be diagnosed with BPD, a person much meet at least five of these criteria.
Extreme Reactions to Abandonment (whether real or perceived)
– Many times, when faced with even the idea of someone leaving me, I would instantly become so depressed that I would send myself into a panic attack. I would often feel so angry that I would hit walls, scream at the top of my lungs, anything to let out of the rage I felt inside of me. One time I was dating someone for a total of three years and although at this point I didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore, once he said he was going to leave me, I felt such extreme despair that I literally begged and pleaded for him to not leave. I felt as though I would die if he left me, even though I, myself, knew that the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. After I had begged him to stay, and he did, I felt not only embarrassed with my actions, as well as childish, but mad at myself that I didn’t just let him leave. Luckily I have never gone to those desperate measures to keep a negative relationship in my life since, even though I still have felt the deep feelings of depression and despair at the thought of being “abandoned.”
Pattern of Intense and Stormy Relationships (with family, friends, loved ones, veering from extreme closeness to extreme dislike or anger)
– Although I have not felt extreme love and then extreme dislike when it comes to a deep romantic relationship, I have dated people and it was as though suddenly out of no where my interest in them died out and I wanted nothing to do with them. Luckily in the relationship that I’m in now, I have never once felt any type of hate or dislike toward him. The love I feel for him is realer and more stable than anything I have ever felt in my life. When it comes to friendships, I can say the same as well. I have a plentiful of friends and when I spoke to my therapist about how I didn’t think I had anything for this certain symptom, he pointed out that it doesn’t have to involve romantic relationships or friendships, but my stormy relationship with my family is what placed a check in this area of the criteria. Up until probably about two years ago, my mother and I still didn’t have the best relationship. There would be times when I would feel like she was the best mom ever, because she would display such a tremendous amount of love for me, but once she and I would fight, I would revert back to thinking she was the worst human being ever and the damage she ever did to me was unforgivable. I would go back and forth with this feeling uncontrollably and it’s due to the fact that growing up, whenever I felt as though my mother would allow me to be close to her, she would become shut out and leave me in the dust wondering what I did that was so bad to not deserve her love. Because of that, my only learned reaction was to shut myself out from my mother the second any tension would arise. Luckily, after discussing the issues, my mother and I have a much better relationship today. The relationship with my step father is still a struggle and I sometimes feel as though we will never be able to get past certain things, even though at times we get along great.
Distorted and Unstable Self-Image or Sense of Self
– A part of this symptom for those who have a more “extreme” case of BPD would be changing opinions, views, interests. That usually means those with a more extreme case tend to change their appearance radically and often. I, however, am not like that. While I am willing to explore new interests and am accepting and open to other views and opinions, I have always remained true to what I believe and who I am. I have always enjoyed fashion and the latest trends; dressing up and doing my makeup and hair have always enjoyed taking the time to make my appearance look nice. I have always enjoyed rap and hip hop as far back as I can remember. I have always laughed at my own jokes and felt passionately about helping others and my love for animals is inevitable. However, my self image is completely shot. I have body dysmorphic disorder to top it all off, meaning when I look at myself in the mirror, I literally do not see what other people see. My mind exaggerates my flaws and I obsess over them. Anything from the shape of my nose, to my eyebrows being uneven, my mind makes me believe that these are noticeable to others, ultimately detracting from my self-worth. I have suffered with anorexia among other things. I told my therapist I felt even more insecure when people would compliment me on my looks because when I couldn’t accept the compliment, I knew they think I’m doing it for attention when that is far from the truth. He responded with, “I can understand why people think that because looking at you, you seem to have it all together. You take time in your appearance with your outfit and your hair and your makeup, and you know objectively you’re a very pretty girl, but subjectively you don’t feel that way.”
Impulsive and Often Dangerous Behaviors (spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
– Again, not all areas need to be met in each symptom. At one point in time, spending was a huge problem with mine. While over the years I have been able to overcome my need to constantly spend, I still sometimes struggle with the urge to want to shop when I’m feeling depressed about something. And while others may chalk this up to “retail therapy,” it’s not so much fun when your retail therapy happens more than once or twice a week considering the debt eventually piles up and you feel as though you can’t control it. While I can confess to unsafe sex when it comes to sexual partners that I have been in a relationship with, I wasn’t unsafe in the fact that I have gone from guy to guy having sex without any protection. Substance abuse in the sense that when I was at that lowest point a few years ago, I turned to drinking to comfort me, ultimately resulting in two hospitalizations of alcohol intoxication where my BAC was .28 and another time .29. For a girl my size, that is extremely lethal, and the fact that I did it twice is even more damaging. But I didn’t care. Numerous times I would black out and not see a problem with it. I looked at drinking as the ultimate escape from feeling so shitty all of the time, even though I can’t imagine the damage I have done to myself. To this day I have trouble knowing when to stop when it comes to drinking so with the help of my boyfriend and friends, I have learned to control my pace and what I allow myself to drink. Reckless driving was also something I did when I was feeling extremely low. One night I had such an extreme fight with my step dad and mom that I started driving to my friend’s house at 3 in the morning, completely sobbing, and looked down only to see myself going over 100 mph and wondering what it would be like to veer off the road and crash my car. Other times I have been driving and wondered the same thing, and while my mind wanted me to just crash, my body didn’t allow it. Some times I did end up crashing, surprisingly not because I felt like I wanted to, but because I was so careless behind the wheel. Binge eating came whenever I would feel so depressed and didn’t feel like starving myself. This often resulted in making myself purge and then ultimately feeling guilty about myself.
Recurring Suicidal Behavior, Threats, or Self-Harming Behavior
– Most people with BPD end up being hospitalized for numerous suicide attempts. Luckily, and I say that reluctantly, I have never been one of those people. Up until about a year and a half ago, I used to cut. I didn’t cut so deep that there was a chance of me being hospitalized, and I only ever did it every few months when I felt like I completely lost all control, but regardless, I still cut. It’s something I extremely reluctant sharing because of the stigma placed with it, but it’s a part of my past I can’t take away or deny. Many times I did feel like I wanted to kill myself when I was in the “heat of the moment” and felt so down and out with no where left to turn. Only one time I made a suicide attempt, only to have the shower curtain break and I sat on the bathroom floor crying my eyes out at the fact that I almost did that to myself. The shame and guilt I felt each time I would threaten myself or self harm myself was overwhelming, and still something I feel terrible for doing to myself. There are times when my depression creeps back in that a tiny part of my mind wonders if I should just cut like I used to, but luckily with the help of my therapist, I found solace in exercise, so instead, I will go on a run and usually half way through, my anxiety completely subsides.
Intense and Highly Changeable Moods (lasting from a few hours to a few days)
– One of the things I told my therapist was that I felt like I shouldn’t have sought professional help because of the fact that a part of me didn’t feel like I was actually depressed. My depression either lasts an hour, or at most a week. I told him I felt like someone who is actually depressed can’t bring themselves out of that hole, not someone who is depressed for some unknown reason one minute, then laughing and enjoying life the next. This is something that I still struggle with to this day. Most days I feel so happy to be alive; I laugh and smile more than most people and can go to bed without a worry in the world. Some days, however, I wake up and feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and I just want to cry and lay in bed all day. Sometimes this lasts all day, sometimes it doesn’t. Some days I wake up extremely happy, then something unknowingly causes me deep despair and agony, and then by the time I go to bed I’m laughing again. It’s frustrating and while I am able to control it more now that I have been before, I still suffer from this roller coaster.
Chronic Feelings of Emptiness/Boredom
– I would say this is pretty self explanatory. On the days when my depression creeps back in, I either feel every emotion of sadness, or I feel like I’m completely empty and not even in my own body. I feel like I’m not myself in the sense that I am literally not even alive or there. It’s honestly worse than feeling sadness on every level. Feeling nothing at all is torture. You ultimately lose the want to be exist at all.
Inappropriate, Intense Anger or Problems Controlling Anger
– Some days I can drop my fork on the floor and say, “Oh shucks,” pick it back up and move on with my day. Other days, I feel like the world is against me and when I drop my fork I become completely infuriated. And then it seems like one thing after another and sometimes I’ll end up cursing uncontrollably, wanting to scream and punch anything in my way. I’ll end up snapping at anyone who tries to make even a simple joke with me, while on days when I am calm I am able to snap back a quick witted comeback and laugh about it for hours with that person.
Ultimately, I am more well rounded than I have ever been in my life. I am lucky enough to have friends, family, and a boyfriend and are willing to support me and are patient with me beyond belief. At the beginning of this post, I felt low and the empty feeling was creeping in; now that I have been sitting here for a little over an hour, I feel a little less stressed and a little less sad. It’s a matter of finding ways to cope with those feelings that seem so uncontrollable. I hope one day I can completely conquer this battle, but I know each day is one step at a time. I sincerely hope any of you who took the time to read this either find some understanding, whether it be with me or with someone you love struggling through the same thing, or I hope that any of you who may be experiencing the same feelings find some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. As always, I am here for any of you who need someone to talk to, and I always will be. We’re in this together.