When I Realized I Was Thankful for My Borderline Personality Diagnosis

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I was recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and upon hearing those words, my heart sunk. It couldn’t be me. When I thought of BPD, I thought of violent people who get angry at the drop of a hat and lash out at any little thing. That’s not like me at all — or is it? The more I researched BPD, the more it felt like someone was writing about me. Everything I read described me exactly.

One of the defining characteristics of BPD is unstable emotions, and boy are my emotions unstable. Something so small, like a causal statement or a particular song, can send me right off the edge. Sometimes I can snap back as quickly as I went into it, but most of the time not so much. I’m stuck picking up the pieces of an emotional nightmare which might not fade for hours. I feel like I’m floating in the ocean and being tossed by the waves. Some days are good and calm with no waves, but on other days the waves are gusting and throwing me so hard I feel I can’t take it.

I feel emotions more easily and deeply than others. I see this as a blessing and a curse. Depression feels overwhelmingly deep and dark, but feeling good feels amazing, like euphoria. I feel intense joy over small things and incredible gratitude for kindness of others. Because of this, I have empathy for others — but even that’s not always a good thing. Hearing about a friend’s divorce can send me into a whirlwind of emotions. While it’s good that I can share her pain and be there with her in it, it also means it may take me a long time to get my own emotions back in order.

Black and white thinking or thinking in extremes is another hallmark of BPD. Things are either all good or all bad. With BPD you don’t see gray, it’s only black or white. For me when life is good, it’s absolutely great. Sunshine, lollipops, the whole deal. But when one little thing doesn’t go the way I think it should, bam — darkness takes over. All of a sudden life is terrible, I’m terrible, it’s all hopeless, I don’t deserve to live, etc. I experience “splitting” in relationships, too. People are either all good or all bad. There is no middle ground. I can think of someone as absolutely perfect and wonderful, and then they do one little thing and they are the worst person in the world. I can’t sit with someone being mostly good, but somewhat flawed.

But when I read about self-harm and suicidal behaviors, the BPD diagnosis really hit me. Because I feel things more intensely, overwhelming emotions are just too much. I can’t even begin to describe the torment it feels like. Imagine you’re in a sickening bright room curled up in the corner. People are pointing at you and screaming horrible things, but you can’t do anything to make it stop.

That’s when I realized my diagnosis was beneficial for me. It helps me understand myself and why I do the things I do. It helps me get support from others struggling with the same issues. A great thing about BPD is that there is a great recovery rate with therapy. It won’t be easy, but now that I can define the problem, I can start gathering the tools to make it a little easier.

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20 Secrets of People Who Live With Borderline Personality Disorder

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There are many things you may not know about borderline personality disorder (BPD). Like how it affects 50 percent more people than Alzheimer’s disease. Or how research has shown people with BPD who engage in treatment have good outcomes. Or how just because you’ve seen one media portrayal of someone with BPD, doesn’t mean you know what someone with BPD is actually like.

To shine some light on this misunderstood mental illness, we asked people in our community who live with borderline personality disorder to tell us what they wish others understood.

Here’s what they want you to know:

1. “I feel everything, all the time. It’s exhausting. But it also makes me passionate, which is beautiful.” — Aliçia Sarah Raimundo

A quote by Aliçia Sarah Raimundo that says, "I feel everything, all the time. It's exhausting. But it also makes me passionate, which is beautiful."

2. “Please don’t point out when I overreact. It’s not easy to get over it myself. I beat myself up over my words and actions fine on my own.” — Tatauq Helena Muma

3. “We feel more intensely. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re more sensitive. Depression just isn’t depression for us; it’s rockbottom. Happiness isn’t just happiness; it’s the greatest high ever.” — Heather Yonkers

4. “My mind and heart could be telling you I love you while my words are the direct opposite. Don’t take it personally. Allow me to take a nap or write down my thoughts for better communication.” — LeChondra Sapp

5. “Don’t believe the stereotype. Not everyone with BPD has anger outbursts and manipulative behaviors. That’s the type of BPD often portrayed to the extreme in the media, but not everyone with BPD is the same! Just because I don’t fit the stereotypical borderline doesn’t make my illness less valid. — Alyse Ruriani

A quote from Alyse Ruriani that says, "Just because I don't fit the stereotypical borderline doesn't make my illness less valid."

6. “BPD is the best curse. To be able to feel every emotion to the fullest can often be very rewarding. However, we feel the bad to the fullest, too. The smallest problem could feel like the end of the world. Personally, I have lost a lot of people because I’m ‘too much to handle.’ The struggle is real, but guess what? Without stuggle there is no progress.” — Tia Marie

7. “There’s no reason to be afraid of me.” — Jennifer Davis

 

8. “I’m not trying to start drama.” — Mary Hannah Cleve

9. “My moods change constantly. I have zero control of my own emotions. If you think it’s a roller coaster knowing me, imagine how hard it is being stuck in my own head. I promise you that I’m trying hard to keep myself in check, it’s really difficult though.” — Sam Thayer

A quote from Sam Thayer that says, "If you think it's a roller coaster knowing me, imagine how hard it is being stuck in my own head."

10. “I wish people understood the fear of abandonment. It’s so hard to trust.” — Aunt Sam

11. “I’m not ‘difficult’ — even psychiatrists assume this! I’ve had doctors make up excuses not to see me when I mention borderline. I’ve learned not to even talk about it.” — Jenna Bagnini

12. “We are not all manipulative, selfish people.” — Maureen Damico

13. “I’m just as confused by it as you are.” — Vikki Rose Donaghy

A quote from Vikki Rose Donaghy that says, "I'm just as confused by it as you are."

14. “Please don’t say, ‘It’s because of your BPD’ all the time. My opinion matters even if it doesn’t line up with your opinion. I am not my diagnosis.” — Victoria Torgerson

15. “Sometimes my constantly switching moods may seem conflicting and make you frustrated, but I’m the one experiencing it. Sometimes I can’t make sense of it either.” — Christina Chalgren

 

16. “When I say my moods switch within seconds, I mean literally seconds. That’s why I always say ‘I’m OK’ — because I’ve been called a liar when my mood changes from an extreme high to an extreme low in two seconds. It’s like being on a roller coaster I can’t get off of, no matter how badly I want to.” — Dylan Jonathen Kirchhoff

17. “We’re not all lying, attention-seekers. Sometimes we’re just doing our best to survive with the limited skills we have.” — Mirella Joy

A quote from Mirella Joy that says, "We're not all lying, attention-seekers. Sometimes we're just doing our best to survive with the limited skills we have."

18. “Living with borderline can be overwhelming, horrible and wonderful all at once. My emotions can be all over the place, but I’m doing the best I can. This is part of who I am, but it doesn’t make me any less of a person.” — Miranda Tymoschuk

19. “I have trouble regulating my emotions. Something someone else might be able to let roll off their shoulders might overwhelm me. Living with borderline personality disorder means I have to fight to survive every day.” — Meghan Winter

20. “My personality disorder doesn’t define who I am, it explains it. Yet in many ways I’ve learned from having it. It’s not all bad — it’s a humbling learning experience.” — Kerri Wolfton

A quote from Kerri Wolfton that says, "My personality disorder doesn't define who I am, it explains it."

*Answers have been edited and shortened. 

 

Editor’s note: Number seven has been reedited to delete a line pertaining to “multiple personalities.” 

20 Secrets of People Who Live With Borderline Personality Disorder

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7 Things You Learn About Yourself After a Borderline Personality Diagnosis

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As someone who’s been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I know it can be an intense daily roller coaster ride. But getting a diagnosis can lead to some important self-discoveries, too.

Here some things you might learn about yourself after getting diagnosed with BPD:

1. You might have to accept most people won’t get it. 

When you’re trying to explain your diagnosis, it might be hard for others to understand. If they think they get it, they’re probably being misled by pop culture references like “Girl Interrupted.” Do your best to educate your loved ones about what BPD means for you.

2. Sometimes you can’t trust your instincts.

If you have BPD, arguments with people you love might feel like the end of the world. I feel like if I argue or say the wrong things, my loved ones will abandon me. Part of living with BPD is learning to accept that sometimes what you’re feeling or thinking is brought on by your disorder.
 
3. Your diagnosis can be a relief and a curse.

Finally being told you have a legitimate disorder can be a massive relief. But at the same time, it can make you start questioning everything you thought you knew about yourself. This can be the beginning of self-exploration. The journey is a hard one, but it’s worthwhile.

4. It’s not your fault. 

While we do need to take responsibility for our own behaviors and actions, it’s not our fault we have this illness. BPD is caused by a combination of both environmental and genetic factors — but 60 percent of the risk of developing borderline disorder is caused by genetic abnormalities.

5. You can still have a great personality. 

I know that even with my BPD diagnosis, I can still be the life and soul of the party. Most of the people I know who are diagnosed with BPD are intelligent, artistic, creative and charming, despite their disorders. Also, because I have a loose sense of who I am, I’m very willing to try new things. This means I’m generally an open-minded person, and I experience a lot some people might miss.
 
6.  Your partner and best friends are the strongest.

I know from personal experience being with someone with BPD isn’t the easiest — I have a terrible habit of hating the people I love most. The people who stick with me can see through that.
 
7. You’re one strong cookie, too. 

If you’ve just been diagnosed with BPD, you’re one hell of a strong person. It’s difficult living with unstable relationships, impulsivity and inappropriate reactions to stress all while trying to figure out who you are.

One thing I’ll promise you is that the more self-aware you become, and the better you understand your cycles, behaviors and what you need to be healthy, the easier living with BPD will be. Once you’ve learned what parts of your personality are actually BPD and what parts are you, you can become the best person you can be. You’ll be able to respect and be respected, understand and be understood and above all, love and be loved.

The Mighty is asking the following: Give advice to someone who has just been diagnosed with your mental illness. What do you wish someone had told you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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10 Things I Wish My Loved Ones Knew About Borderline Personality Disorder

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To the people who love me with my borderline brain,

I’ve been in therapy for seven months now and have only just uttered the dreaded words borderline personality disorder (BPD). This is my attempt at helping you to understand where I’m coming from and why I do the things I do.

Here are some things I want my loved ones to know about my experience with BPD:

1. I’m not a bad person. 

My behavior is sometimes fuelled by my disordered thinking patterns. I do things some might think are heartless, manipulative, rude, dangerous and downright horrible. And I’m not using my disorder as an excuse! I’m just trying to tell you those things are not the sum total of me. They are a product of a legitimate disordered way of thinking that can be hard to understand. So try to see past the behavior and see the person you love under it, because I’m still here, just trying to control my brain.

2. It’s OK if you can’t understand me.

This is not me “just being negative again.” This isn’t a teenage temper tantrum where “nobody gets what it’s like to be me.” This is a tried and tested theory. Unless you have a personality disorder you will not understand one. Not in any logical sense. And the main reason? Because my disorder makes no logical sense.

3. My impulses are hard to fight. 

When I get a random impulse to do something, it feels like an immediate requirement. It isn’t a want, it’s a need, and if I can’t do what I’m being told to do I become despondent, depressed and probably seem sulky from the outside. But inside I’m fighting a terrible battle of wills. My impulses let me filter out negative emotions when I’m unable to deal with them in a healthy way.

4. I’m not emotionally shallow. 

In fact, I’m the complete opposite.

One of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder is “splitting.” For me, an example of this is when I connect with someone and then almost immediately (sometimes) disconnect from them. I go from idolizing them to never speaking about them again. Understand this doesn’t mean I don’t care about people when we’re connected. In fact, sometimes I need to force myself to disconnect from someone because the emotion I feel towards them is too much to cope with.

5. When I’m down I’m not just down.

My pain is sometimes like a combination of black hole and a Dementor from Harry Potter. It can feel darker than black and deeper than the ocean. It feeds itself and grows bigger and bigger. It feels like all I can do is lie there in a bundle of tears until it goes away. So when I’m feeling down, know I’m not just sad.

6. I’m not “just being dramatic” either.

I can practically hear your eyes rolling at that last point. But I’m being 100 percent serious. Being told to “woman up,” “stop being ridiculous” or other tips to “just stop being depressed” doesn’t work.

7. I play favorites.

When I connect with somebody they are elevated beyond everyone else. If you ever feel slighted, ignored or like you’re second best, it’s probably because I only have eyes for my current favorite. But it isn’t a conscious decision to choose them over you. It won’t even occur to me connecting to someone else is an option. My “choice” is never with malicious intent.

8. I have fear of abandonment.

This means if I’m “connected” to you and go for periods of time without hearing from you, I might become panicked, depressed, irrational and bitter towards you.

9. I’m scared of losing you. 

I’m irrationally terrified of upsetting you, making you hate me, annoying you and making you leave me.

10. I need reassurance daily. 

I need to feel loved (especially by my favorite). I need to feel like I haven’t destroyed our relationship by being such a “horrible person” (or even by saying something I irrationally interpret as stupid). I need to know you’re here for me and you haven’t disappeared since we last spoke.

Living with BPD thinking isn’t an easy task. It can be painful, frustrating and dangerous for my health. I hope now you can understand me and my BPD brain a little better.

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An Instruction Manual to Me and My Mental Illness

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Often friends and family will tell me they don’t know how to help me when I’m in a mental health crisis, or how to act around me when I’m feeling low. So to make things easier for everyone involved, I present to you: Me, An Instruction Manual.

Thank you for purchasing your very own me, with an included mental illness! Each one of us is made differently and no two are alike! Here are a few things to remember:

1. I am unique. I have bad days, good days and even days I can’t quite understand. But I’m not crazy. I simply want to be me, living life the best way I know how. Although I make mistakes, so do people without mental illness. Don’t treat me any differently.

2. You can’t fix me — please don’t try. Mental illness is treatable, but not always curable. But for the most part, those who seek treatment can lead “normal” lives.

3. Whatever coping skills work for you might not work for me. I’ve done a lot of work formulating my own coping skills, techniques and routines designed to help me cope with everyday life. You can’t make things better for me. Only I can do that.

4. Don’t ignore me. I find it difficult sometimes to find the words to ask for help. When I do, please don’t ignore or dismiss me. If I come to you seeking help, I need help.

5. I am not seeking attention. On the contrary, being the center of attention gives me anxiety. I’d rather blend in the background than have people worry about me.

6. You cannot get sick from me. Funny thought, I know, but I’ve actually encountered someone who thought this.

7. I have borderline personality disorder, but that doesn’t mean I will automatically make life harder for you. I’m loyal as a dog, caring and defensive of the people I care about.

8. My anxiety makes me a safe person to be around. I try my hardest to control my surroundings to make things less stressful for everyone.

9. Don’t be afraid if you don’t know what to say. The worst thing you can say to me in a crisis is nothing. I just like to know someone’s there for me.

10. Know that for me, stigma is still very real. Although I publicly discuss my illness online, it’s still difficult for me to discuss it in real life, especially with people I’ve just met. If you’re one of the lucky few I’ve opened up to, it means you’re important to me. I trust no matter what I told you about my mental illness, you still think of me as the same person. Thank you.

Follow this journey on Manic Medic

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Why Having Borderline Personality Disorder Doesn't Mean I Have to Be Miserable

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To me, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of the most misunderstood and maligned diagnoses out there. Openly identifying yourself as having BPD and talking about what it’s like takes incredible vulnerability. So I was feeling both proud of myself and somewhat afraid when I took the stage along with four other panelists at a large conference this summer to talk about mental health and our experiences with therapy.

The talk went well, we had some great questions and I finished the hour feeling like it was worth it, as I do most times when I speak out about my experiences with BPD. I even managed to introduce some basic ideas of neurodiversity, saying “I don’t hate my BPD. There are good elements to it.”

That all turned sour when one man came up to chat with us after the panel was finished. I was busy trying to help a young woman figure out how to find a therapist who would meet her needs, when I overheard him:

“No real borderline would say that. They all hate borderline and would do anything to get rid of it.”

I felt a flood of cold anger. I was angry at the misconceptions about borderline. I was angry at a society that finds it acceptable to diagnose a complete stranger. But mostly, I was angry I felt like I couldn’t do anything to change this man’s mind, to show him BPD is not a monolith of miserable, malicious people.

But what I can do is tell my story here, to as many people as possible. I can say what it’s like for me to live with BPD.

It seems most people think BPD is just a disorder that makes people angry, manipulative and abusive. When asked to imagine someone with BPD they might think of “Girl, Interrupted,” or picture someone who hurts themselves for attention, yells and screams at the slightest provocation or has impossible rules and expectations. 

This is not my experience with BPD.

There are a few hallmark characteristics of the disorder that show up for most people who have it, and these are usually the most misunderstood. While many people are aware of the intense anger that often comes with the disorder, there are some other traits that look very different. Here are the ones that are most prevalent in my life, and the ways they can be positive.

1. Emotional dysregulation

Perhaps the most iconic element of BPD is what’s called emotional dysregulation, but I like to think of it as living without an emotional skin. Compared to nearly everyone else I know, I feel my emotions more. Everything is intense for me. Small things feel overwhelming, big things can leave me so stimulated I shut down entirely and sometimes I get big emotions for no particular reason. That means I react a lot. I cry a lot. Sometimes when plans change at the last minute I can’t follow through because my emotions are too busy flipping out. It’s not an easy way to live, but it’s also not an attempt to be manipulative. Having strong emotions most certainly isn’t abusive. It’s simply different, and it can be managed with good support and resources.

2. Lack of identity

Many people with BPD have a hard time forming a solid sense of identity. I have this problem and often try to make up for it by throwing myself into activities, relationships, jobs and school. I try form my identity by being good at something. I can never entirely tell for myself what my character traits are or what my values and priorities should be. That means I have a very hard time with change and sometimes will hold on to relationships for too long. It can also lead to serious shifts of opinion once I start to see the bad in something.

From the outside it might seem like I am flighty or have serious difficulties with relationships, but internally it feels completely different. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out whether I’m being reasonable or whether a friend or partner is behaving in a mean or unacceptable way. I try extremely hard to see good and commit to my relationships, so when I’ve decided someone shouldn’t be in my life anymore I have many, many reasons. While the shift may seem sudden from the outside, internally I’ve likely overthought things for a long time. This is also not a problem that is impossible to solve. Careful consideration of my values and motivations has given me a much better sense of what I want out of my life and how to pursue it in a healthy manner.

3. Self harm and impulse control

It’s also incredibly common for people with BPD to have impulse issues, including problems with self-harm. After spending more time in therapy, I have better coping skills, which means I’ve been self-harm free for a year. BPD is not a life sentence of self-harm.

4. Chronic emptiness

Chronic emptiness is one of the experiences of BPD that’s hard to explain. Much of the time I feel numb. I don’t have those strong emotions, or I don’t see the point in trying to manage my life. I can have a hard time socializing because it feels as if my whole body is heavy and weak, my mind is dulled with depression and other people don’t understand. To be real, this is one of the symptoms I can’t find any positives in, but one of the ways I combat it is by going back to my strong emotions and accepting these elements of myself. Hating my BPD will only make the pointlessness and despair worse.

5. Dissociation

It seems like people have never heard this word, but most people have experienced at least mild dissociation at some point in their life. If you’ve ever driven home and then realized you can’t entirely remember how you got there, you’ve dissociated. It’s the experience of disconnecting from your body or immediate surroundings. When I’m having a particularly bad episode, I feel as if I can’t move my body. I have a hard time speaking because my mouth doesn’t feel like it belongs to me. But, none of this means I’m ignoring anyone or being manipulative or hating the world. It’s my mind’s way of dealing with intense stress, and sometimes it’s very helpful. I’ve learned ways to bring myself back to reality.

After so much lived experience, when someone tries to tell me what a real person with borderline looks like, I can’t help but laugh. BPD is a widely varied disorder. I want to tell that man who questioned my diagnosis there are times when having BPD is actually really cool. Most of the time I like my life.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some absolutely awful times. But in the last 20 years the treatment for BPD has improved hugely, and remission is possible. That means I can manage most of the negative symptoms and appreciate the positive. I don’t just feel bad emotions intensely, but happy ones too. I have passions stronger than most people I know, and have almost beautiful reactions to plays, music and media. My strong emotions help me to feel empathy, and because I have some fears of abandonment, I work incredibly hard to be a kind and caring person.

It’s entirely inappropriate to ever tell another person how they should feel about their own mental health, and even worse to say you must be miserable if your brain is different. My brain is not entirely typical, but that doesn’t mean I hate myself. I want to combat that stigma by openly embracing my own mind.

Follow this journey on We Got So Far to Go.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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