A Day Inside the Mind of a Borderline
An average day from the perspective of someone struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder
Disclaimer: The experiences detailed in this article are congruent with my personal real-life experiences. However, they are not reflective of certain people within my life either currently or in the past. This story is meant to be purely anecdotal and to portray the average daily experience of someone struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder.
The alarm coming from my phone begins to ring, pounding on the inside of my skull, turned up all the way to cut through the 4 hours of sleep I received last night. I keep telling myself I will go to sleep earlier, but I tell myself that same thing every morning. That very same commitment broken every night while I lie awake, feeling exhausted yet restless. I roll over and pick up my pill case along with a glass of water. I swallow the handful of pills I am forced to take everyday, just to have a little more control over my emotions.
I haven’t left the confines of my bed yet, for some reason I feel more tired in the morning than I do when I am trying to sleep. I begin to wonder if that’s normal. Then again, I find myself wondering if a lot of things are normal. I try to force myself out of bed, but I can’t seem to find the strength. I really don’t want to be late for work, but my brain seems to have a different opinion. “If you get up, you could eat breakfast, drink coffee, read the news, and feel much better today.” None of these ploys seems to work.
I finally got the strength to get up. I now have 30 minutes to get ready and drive to work. I skip breakfast and coffee, there’s no time. Hell, I don’t even have time to style my hair or put together an outfit today, T-shirt and jeans it is again. I make it out the door just in time.. to make it to work 10 minutes late. Again. I hate doing this to myself, but I can’t seem to stop doing it.
I feel so tired already, why am I always so tired? I manage to find some coffee at work, luckily someone made some today. I’m not sure I would be able to make it through the morning otherwise. No one has said anything about me being late yet, then again, they never do. Do they even care? I am sure that they do, I am sure they silently resent it. I start to worry about my job, whether or not it’s even a valid thought. I start forming a backup plan in my head, looking up jobs just in case, and I end up losing focus on the actual work that I have to do.
My girlfriend hasn’t texted me good morning yet today. I begin to wonder whether or not she really loves me, even though she reminds me of it everyday. “You’re just overthinking things,” I reassure myself. It’s enough to hold back my fears of abandonment for a time.
I regret not eating breakfast, like most other days. I feel starved at this point, and I am already teetering on the edge of anorexia, but not on purpose. At least I have gotten some work done now today, and have managed to calm myself down about being late. “It happens” I think to myself. Albeit far too often.
I finally made it through the morning, one of the hardest parts of my day. I’ve finally eaten and I don’t feel so sick to my stomach anymore. It’s time to take the second round of my daily pills, which will hopefully help me make it through the rest of my day. But hey, that’s a lot to hope for.
My boss assigns me some dull work and I find it hard to get interested in it. I try to get around it, but it needs to get done. I get increasingly frustrated, though it’s easy for me. The frustration only makes it harder to concentrate.
The dull work is finished, but the frustration remains. I make a suggestion to my boss on a way to improve something at work. My idea is shut down, as the system in place works just fine. I feel offended, though I shouldn’t at all. After all, my boss was very nice about it and appreciated the suggestion. Even so, my brain doesn’t care, and my emotions begin to split. Suddenly the world becomes black and white, almost instantaneously. The only thing I feel toward my workplace is anger and frustration. I begin to consider quitting and I lose focus yet again. I could make it work, I am sure I could find another job in only a couple weeks time. I have enough money to pay my bills until then, but really only until then.
I feel silly, I have a really cool job working for people who are supportive of me and my endeavors. What was I thinking? I can’t quit, I definitely don’t want to quit. I feel stupid for having lost another hour of focus. After calming down, I make up for it by working twice as hard in the last hour of my day.
It’s time to head home, but I am not as excited as most would be. I know when I get there, I have a ton of chores that need to get done. “My girlfriend will appreciate a clean house,” I tell myself in order to muster enough motivation. My girlfriend promised she would stop by after school later tonight, and it’s enough to prompt me to go straight home.
I receive a text from my girlfriend, she has too much homework to stop by tonight. Logically I understand, but my emotions begin to get out of control. Yet again, the world turns black and white. I feel angry, sad, and abandoned, even though she will likely hang out tomorrow. I lose the motivation to finish my chores, which continue to pile up. I consider moving on, after all, I no longer feel loved. Something as simple as this text was all it took. I start to think about downloading a dating app or messaging an ex-girlfriend, but I find the strength to hold it back. I eat my feelings: an entire pint of ice cream, a nutritional shake, and two sandwiches. “At least I ate,” I think to myself.
The all-too-familiar feelings of abandonment begin to creep back from behind the wall I put up. I have so many friends around me, yet I start to feel as if I am completely alone. No one understands, after all. I begin to find it difficult to control the cascade of emotions I am feeling, but I try to distract myself with my favorite TV shows.
My emotions have become more than I can distract myself from, I feel as if I have lost all control. They hit me like a tsunami, within which I begin to drown. I have a last resort, though I know it doesn’t really help. I pull a bottle of vodka out of the cabinet and take a huge swig. I’ve gotten used to the horrible taste and familiar burn. My emotions don’t subside, but I find myself no longer caring about them. I hope this lasts, though I know it won’t.
I had so much I meant to accomplish tonight, but I found myself unable. Every time the emotions returned, I “re-dosed” with another swig. It’s time for bed, but I no longer feel tired. I try meditating, the therapist says that should help to calm down before bed. I find it hard to keep my mind quiet and only get more frustrated. I give up, get ready for bed, and lay down; feeling no more tired than before. I decide to read the news I skipped this morning, and the headlines only make me more sad.
I stare at the ceiling, still awake, having rolled every which way a thousand times over. I can’t sleep again, I never can. I get out of bed to make myself a late night bowl of cereal, hoping that quelling my hungry stomach might help me sleep. It doesn’t. I continue to lie awake, thinking only about my failures from the day before. I’m disappointed in myself, accomplishing little of the tasks I had planned to tackle. “Why can’t I do anything right?” I continue to beat myself up well into the night.
I have finally exhausted my mind. I fall asleep 4 hours later than I promised myself the day before yet again. I know I am going to feel miserable again tomorrow…
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline Personality Disorder (or BPD for short) is a mental illness that affects approximately 3 million adults in the United States alone. It was once, and sometimes still is, considered the hardest mental illness to treat. According to Mayo Clinic, each patient often has a unique subset of these symptoms:
- An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
- A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
- Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
- Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
- Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
- Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
- Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights
The exact cause of BPD is unknown, but many mental health professionals think genetics and brain abnormalities play a role. Environmental factors such as childhood abuse and neglect can also play a part in the onset of the disorder. Treatment is difficult, with a majority of professionals agreeing that talk therapy is one of the best ways to learn how to cope with BPD. Many times talk therapy, such as in my own experience, will be paired with a variety of medications. Borderline Personality Disorder is often comorbid with other disorders, which can include the following:
- Alcohol or other substance misuse
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Other personality disorders
Above was one of my average days for nearly two years. After many appointments of treatment, I was finally able to reduce the number of days like this. Eventually, the good days started to become more frequent than the bad days. It wasn’t easy, and it continues to be a fight. I’m not alone in this fight. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness,1 in 5 adults in the United States struggles with some form of mental illness. These illnesses can affect anyone, and they are many times invisible. This does not make them any less important, and the struggle can be very real.
1 in 5 adults in the United States struggle with some form of mental illness
Where to find help
Finding help is the first step to overcoming mental illness. Concurrently, this is often the most difficult step, as most of us don’t want to think of ourselves as needing help. It is better, however, to find help right away rather than waiting until damage has been done. Unfortunately, this is something that I had to find out the hard way. Remember you are not alone, there are many avenues where help can be found, and I would encourage you to find the one that works best for you. Some of the resources that have helped me and many others are:
- A trusted friend or family member
- Local mental health professionals and clinics
- NAMI: https://www.nami.org/
- PsychCentral: https://psychcentral.com/resources/
- Local NAMI chapters, support groups, and resources (You can find a directory here)
- Online support groups and professionals
If you find yourself in a state of emergency and/or having suicidal thoughts or ideations, please reach out to the national suicide hotline by call or text at 1–800–273–8255. You can also find great resources and a chat line on their website at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. You can also contact local law enforcement or a crisis center near you, and they will never judge your situation.
Why I decided to tell my story
I find it important for others to know that they are not alone in their battles. Many of my peers in the past and even now saw me as a normal functioning person, and no one would have suspected that I was struggling unless I came forward. At first, I was afraid to admit that I struggled, but now I am proud of how far I have come since I was diagnosed. I am no longer afraid to tell my story, because I know I am not alone. None of us are.
Mental Health Awareness Week is October 7th — October 13th. If you see a green ribbon around during the week, you now know what it represents. Many cities across the United States host open dialogue along with other events to raise awareness and gain support for local, regional, and national resources. I urge you to look for these, whether or not you struggle with mental illness. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also provides guides on how you can spread awareness and become familiar with signs of mental illness. It is important for all of us to be aware because you never know who might be struggling.
I am no longer afraid to tell my story, because I know I am not alone. None of us are.