Borderline Personality Disorder
Let’s talk about it. Why? Because I have it.
And what’s more exciting than talking about me?
Additionally, it’s estimated that around 6% of the population has BPD within their lifetime — that’s around 18 million people in the US. Borderline Personality Disorder is an illness that centers on the inability or struggle to regulate one’s emotions. Major symptoms include emotional instability, fear of abandonment, self-destructive behavior, unpredictable mood, unstable relationships, isolation, impulsivity, distorted self-image, etc. It’s always thinking and seeing things in black or white — there is never a gray area. It’s feeling euphoric highs and really frightening lows. Panic. Emptiness. The feeling that you’re constantly putting on a show for other people because you don’t really know who you are. Impulses you can hardly resist.
I consider myself to be an “extroverted introvert.” I love people, I love interacting with them, and I love making new friends. But I get my energy from being alone. As someone with BPD who feels most things to an extreme, getting through a day or partaking in normal social situations can be exhausting. So, now matter how much I care about you, sometimes you just gotta get out of my face. When people think of the stereotypical person with Borderline, they probably imagine someone out of control, violent, unpredictable, and prone to angry outbursts. The reality is that BPD takes a lot of different forms, and I consider myself to be in the “high-functioning” category, so most of my battles go on in private or internally. Rather than being destructive to my surroundings, I tend to direct it toward myself so I can then go out into the world and appear to have it together.
Sounds like BPD can present itself in pretty confusing and contradictory ways, right? Now imagine living with it. Every single day is different, and my mood can change drastically in an instant. Growing up, I really identified with The Verve’s classic lyric, “I’m a million different people from one day to the next,” and I plastered it all over my social media, thinking “this is the best way I can think to describe myself.” I am constantly redefining myself in my own mind, and within a few hours I may feel a range of emotions from heart-wrenching sadness to liberating joy. Depression can be even worse than heightened emotions; it’s a feeling of crippling emptiness, pointlessness, and isolation, and it is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. A lot of people with BPD experience multiple disorders at once, including depression, anxiety and panic disorders, eating disorders, trichotillomania, substance abuse, etc. You may not be able to see it, but I’m constantly fighting monsters in my own head. Sometimes the monsters are bigger than others, and sometimes I lose. But I’m trying.
Many of these feelings are undeniably common; I think everyone feels like a fake sometimes, and emotions can be brutal. With BPD, though, it’s nonstop. I don’t get a break. It is all the time.
So… I have a personality disorder. Writing those words is hard, and saying them is even harder. Sharing this with the entire world is terrifying. But the reality is that I’m just a person with a mental illness and, a lot of the time, to put it simply, it just sucks. But it’s not necessarily a lifetime sentence, and I have a stupid amount of things in my life that are unquestionably positive. I’m still me; I’m still a staunch feminist, I can still recite pretty much every line from Parks and Recreation, and I still make great dad jokes. But I also have a mental illness.
This is not something that’s easy to talk about, but I feel it’s necessary in order to end the stigma. I have felt ashamed and lost friends in the process, but I’ve gained even more. Everyone faces their own monsters and everyone addresses them in different ways, so I hope that one day they won’t feel like secrets. Do you have experience with BPD, or another mental illness? Have you ever felt silenced or shamed for it?
Helpful links about BPD or the stigma against mental health in general:
Borderline Personality DisorderStigma & Myths of BPD
Stigma & Mental Healthcare
Coming Out of the Mental Illness Closet
Unwell & Unashamed