Inside the head of a “crazy effing borderline”
*cw self harm
You’ve said it, you know you have. Or you’ve thought it for sure. At some point in your life you came across a person with BPD (borderline personality disorder). Maybe you didn’t know it, maybe you did, but either way you probably said that that person was “effing crazy.”
The kind of crazy like send you 15 frantic messages when they haven’t heard from you in an hour. The kind of crazy like threaten to hurt themselves if you don’t come save them right this minute. The kind of crazy like turning a little piece of constructive criticism into proof of how worthless and pathetic they are.
That kind of crazy.
I can feel the sting on my left arm from the last time I cut as I write this. I didn’t want to cut, not really. I wanted to not feel this way. And the only way I knew how to do that was to hurt myself and tell someone so they would hurry over and rescue me from my brain.
So as I sit here thinking about cutting again I wonder what that would do for me. I can still remember the shock of how much pain I felt for days after and the shame I carried around below short-sleeve t-shirts, scars hidden carefully by downward facing arms or a scarf casually strewn across my body.
If people see the scars, they’ll think I’m crazy. They’ll reject me. They’ll judge me. And I don’t think I can stand it if that happens.
For most of my life I just thought I was a little sensitive.
I start crying when I get upset at work. I rage in my head for hours over one tiny comment a friend made. And a Saturday night with no plans is the end of the world as I know it. I sob as I down glass upon glass upon glass of white wine that I buy by the 1.5 litre bottle because it’s cheaper that way, and I go through a lot.
Sure I had a little depression, a side of anxiety and a bowl full of seven different pharmaceuticals to try to keep me happy, but I kept thinking I just hadn’t found the right one. Maybe acupuncture would cure me instead, or naturopathy or neurofeedback. Surely, I just hadn’t found my solution yet, right?
Well, kind of wrong.
When I first met my therapist (who is one of the best people in my life by the way) I immediately knew we would get along. She had a spunky approach to therapy that made it seem like a children’s game of marbles or lego, and I was SO up for the construction.
She told me she believes that you can skills your way out of a BPD diagnosis. I signed up for DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) in a heartbeat. Twelve weeks to freedom and a life of pure happiness!
Or so I thought.
But the thing is, even if you can skills your way out of BPD, that only really means you find a way to stop the behaviours. The stuff inside stays the same.
So you will still get that visceral gut-wrenching pain when someone cancels plans at the last minute. It will still feel like your entire world has exploded because of one tiny cluster of hours you were supposed to spend together. But instead of leaving your friend 10 angry voicemails and 15 Facebook messages, you just say “Darn, I was really looking forward to hanging out, I hope we can do it again soon.”
Or maybe I’m jumping to conclusions.
The only BPD book I’ve read so far is The Buddha and the Borderline by Kiera Van Gelder. It’s a memoir, subtitled My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Buddhism, and Online Dating.
This book, I’m told, is one of the few good ones, because most information about BPD is written by and for family members or spouses of borderlines, and they’re full of words like “abusive,” “manipulative,” “uncontrollable,” “intolerable.” And I don’t need to read that shit. I’m hard enough on myself already.
But “recovery” my ass. Kiera just learned to control her behaviours. And I actually thought that her recovery meant maybe one day I’d be normal again too.
I say again becuase I think I started out normal, or more normal than I am now. I remember being a pretty happy kid.
“What changed for you 15 years ago?” my new ND asks.
“Puberty?” I propose. Because the truth is, I don’t know.
If I could pinpoint the exact moment when my genetic and astrological predisposition to emotional sensitivity mixed with an invalidating environment then maybe I’d at least have some understanding of why I am the way I am. But I haven’t a clue.
I suppose this makes me one of the lucky ones, as lots of folks with BPD have a history of trauma or abuse. But still, I wish I could find something to blame it on.
My partner has been working on setting boundaries for self-care, an initiative that I wholly support, in theory. What it actually means though is that I get a whole lot of texts with heart emojis or “I’m sorry you’re feeling that way”s. I know, it’s validation, like I asked for, but validation isn’t always enough. After five unresponded to crises with no more than a “that sounds really hard,” well I’m completely convinced he doesn’t care about me at all.
Naturally, I devise a plan to hurt him before he can hurt me. Maybe, if I tell him I’m thinking of cutting, he’ll come over. Maybe, if I say I don’t think this is working, he’ll put more effort in. Maybe, if I say I really really need him right now he’ll come save me. Because if he doesn’t come save me, he doesn’t love me. And then I have to leave him before he can leave me!
…SO, in a matter of minutes…
I’ve gone from damsel in distress to crazy effing clingy needy manipulative borderline to I’m running for the fucking hills right now because that’s the only way I know how to avoid pain: leave them first before they can leave you. Guaranteed to work 0% of the time and make you feel like a giant pile of horse shit 100% of the time. But at least, you feel like you’re in control?
So no, don’t worry, I’m not a raging sociopath. But I’m not far off. I’m a crazy effing borderline. And I’m not going to change anytime soon.
*This story is about my own personal experiences living with BPD and should not be applied to any other person’s experience of it. The language I use is language unique to me in the context of this piece of writing. Every individual chooses the words that feel right for them. Please use and respect those.