World Mental Health Day: Borderline Personality Disorder? Write please
It’s difficult being borderline. It should not be this hard to write about it.
I’ve written about being borderline before — but never at the greatest of lengths. I doubt I’ll ever write one, defining BPD piece, but maybe a series of smaller insightful articles. I’ve always thought a barrier exists for writing about myself — for a journo should never become the story... right?
Borderline Personality Disorder is the most common of a cluster of personality disorders. Its victims are recognised by their extreme emotional responses, impulsivity, psychotic experiences, paranoia and fear of abandonment, among others. Unlike many other mental health illnesses, many BPD sufferers will have a physically enlarged Amygdala — the emotional centre of the brain.
Emotional pain and emotional joy — and the length of either experience — are both hugely increased for those suffering from Borderline. We feel emotions in ways that are deeper and more damaging. We crave stability while being the least stable people we know, and we’re completely terrified of being left alone.
People hear “personality disorder” and think “split personality” — this could not be further from the truth. A quote on the Mind website describes BPD: “[For me] having BPD is like the emotional version of being a burn victim. Everything in the world hurts more than it seems to for everyone else and any ‘thick skin’ you are supposed to have just isn’t there.”
We’re not all bad, though: Borderlines can be some of the most passionate and intense people on the planet. We make up for a large proportion of the globe’s spontaneity and we have lots of (A*) sex.
Throughout my career in journalism, I’ve wondered if my choice of profession has been impacted by my mental health — and I can’t see a way in which it has not. In effort to avoid the kind of social situations where I would feel negatively affected, I forced myself out of society and became a part of the fifth estate. How naive to believe that people could not hurt me, so long as I was not involved.
To sound like a massive cliche: I’ve never felt included. I was (or so I thought at the time) the only kid in my year to be going to therapy three times a week — and I was certainly the only kid being checked for early signs of psychosis. The need for work, money or success, in my mind, was only to make the people around me happy.
The transition away from being “directly included in society” to becoming an outsider with the ability to commentate became more real by the day and I acquired a confidence that I’ve since humbled.
Becoming conscious of the above is quite an experience in itself. Becoming conscious of the below, however, changed my life forever.
I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in the latter part of 2014 and the subsequent shockwave it sent rippling through my life was game-changing. I shut down. I refused to speak to my family, I got rid of my partner and neglected my friends.
It became increasingly obvious that the life I understood in my head was, in fact, not real. The emotion I’d felt for my entire life was validated, but completely unjustified — something I was always so sure of. Borderlines, generally, have a very strong sense of what is right and what is wrong — we see things in black and white, with few grey areas — so for these certainties to be discarded was very difficult.
Through the suicidal thoughts and worthlessness, many people with borderline, particularly men, go completely undiagnosed for their entire lives. The illness is more common in women — although most feel that is because women are less likely to feel stigmatised by the ordeal, treatment and diagnosis.
In a year where I thought I could learn no more about myself and my enlarged amygdala, I’ve decided that it’s no longer viable for me to live as central as I do. The stresses and strains of London, things that a working class man like myself has never been concerned about before, have taken their toll on me and it’s starting to show. The idea of a quieter life, perhaps with a field nearby to write in, fills me with joy, where the very image of a London bus gives me a headache.
Borderlines don’t live for the day where they might suddenly get better. There is no pill for borderline personality disorder and most of us have been through the outdated CBT and DBT routines.
While World Mental Health Day gives us all the kahunas to gratuitously write about our feelings, but it also gives those of us that have suffered a chance to end the stigma against our respective diagnoses.