With Borderline Personality Disorder, All It Takes Is 1 Minute

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All it took was one minute.

My manager had kindly given me suggestions to improve in the workplace. Until that conversation, I had been peppy and had been doing what I thought was a good job. Apparently, someone else hadn’t thought that and had spoken to my manager about it. She’d sat me down, told me what the problem was, and how to improve.

All composure had broken in one minute.

Over the course of that shift, I broke down sobbing, rocking myself in the corner of the bathroom, had thoughts of self-injury and lost hope for my future. I emailed my therapist and my depression turned to rage as I vented about how unjust the complaint was, how stupid my coworkers were for not seeing how good I was and how I should just quit. By the end of my shift, the depression had returned. I sat in my car and contemplated driving off the third floor of the parking garage. My life was a failure, I concluded. Everyone hated me.

It doesn’t take much for that wave of emotion to knock me to my knees. People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have difficulty with managing emotions. Any bit of criticism or praise can set off a long chain that can bewilder even the most sympathetic person.

Keeping any sort of friendship is difficult for me. Finding — and keeping — my husband was no small miracle. Even now, I worry I’m not good enough for him. Relationship instability is another intense issue for anyone with BPD. I constantly have to check myself when I’m around people to make sure that I’m being socially appropriate. When I do make a connection with anyone, I cling hard to that person until it unnerves them. When they start to pull away, I panic, apologize and do whatever I can to keep myself close to them. I remember vividly when I was in high school, a girl telling me that my constant apologizing was a huge turn-off for her. Of course, just saying that is enough to unleash the tsunami of emotions. Needless to say, relationships are a very delicate balancing act.

The problems associated with BPD have kept my life turbulent. I’m covered in scars from years of self-injury. I have two separate sojourns at two separate hospitals under my belt. I’ve attempted suicide four times. I can count on one hand the amount of jobs I’ve kept longer than a year. I’ve had times I’ve been so depressed I failed out of class. Impulsiveness has led to reckless and sometimes unsavory behaviors; spending money, sex, lying.

Finding that oasis of stability has been so, so hard. The incident I opened this article with happened just last week. I’m fortunate to have a rock in my husband, my therapist and a community I’m still struggling to integrate myself into. I find that opening up to my professors and close friends about my mental illness helps them to understand why I sometimes react the way I do, or why I sometimes disappear from life for a while. Still, I don’t announce my illness to the world. I’m not ashamed I have BPD, and I’ll freely admit it to anyone who asks about my scars.

However, my BPD does not define me, nor will I try to use it as an excuse. Someday, through therapy and my own personal strength, I hope to be able to regulate my own emotions. It’s a lofty goal for someone like me.

But starting that goal only takes one minute.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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What I Wish People Knew About My Comorbid Mental Illnesses

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Comorbid disorders means disorders that are good friends. They pretty much come together to every party. In my 10 years of experience both working in the mental health system and being a patient in the mental health system, I’ve seen it’s fairly common.

Anxiety likes to bring her friend depression. Depression sometimes enjoys bringing alcohol or drug dependency. Eating disorders enjoys the company of obsessive compulsive disorder. You get the idea.

So when recently my diagnosis from one “official” disorder changed to three, it was hardly a surprise for me. But I think for people in my life who don’t understand how the brain works, it was.

I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), and this is the thing I write about the most, and the thing that has given me the most response from friends, family, professionals and people suffering from the debilitating effects of this pervasive disorder. But I can’t forget the other disorders that are all very closely linked, but equally difficult to cope with.

Bipolar disorder is a disorder of the brain characterized by episodes of mania or hypomania and severe depression. Now, imagine, if you will, the intensity in which I feel my emotions, due to my BPD, running in a yearly bipolar cycle. The results are times when I feel indestructible and can do anything. In these moods, and under the effects of powerful delusions, I’ve booked backpacking trips across the world with no money, I’ve done things people would never dream of. Published a book, been internet famous, written three albums and released one of them on the market, and I’m only 28. Luckily for me this risky and expensive behavior has worked out most of the time. Whether it’s by blind luck or something else, I don’t know.

And that’s only when I’m up, which historically has been between six and 10 months of the year.

And you may be thinking, oh wow, that doesn’t sound so bad. But just imagine waking up after a long sleep to find out you’ve given yourself a financial obligation so huge you can’t possibly comprehend how you’re going to get out of it. That blind panic when you realize you owe people money you don’t have.

And when I hit rock bottom, which usually happens between September and December, a cycle I’ve tracked for the past 10 years, the other disorder comes into play. Schizotypal personality disorder. This is a fairly new diagnosis, with a new set of symptoms like psychosis. For me, this means hearing terrible voices from inside my own brain, having visions of horrible events both happening to me and to the people I love for days on end, until you feel you have to act upon them. Imagine being barraged by these visual images that you can’t switch off until you’re ready to snap.

Again, amplify that with my BPD, and my bipolar depression, and you might begin to understand how intense these crashes and peaks can be.

My life hasn’t been all bad. I can admit I’ve done some amazing things and I’m thankful for the life I’ve managed to lead, against all odds. But I’ve paid a high price. I’m almost impossible to have a relationship with, I find it incredibly difficult to connect to people and if I can, then I find it hard to continue that connection. My family life has suffered. My personal life has suffered. My professional life has suffered. And I’ve suffered.

But there is still hope for the future.

Through medication and intensive therapeutic intervention, I’m starting to build a future worth living. I’m starting to learn how to control those impulsive and disordered behaviors so I can become a healthier member of society.

And one day, soon I hope, I’ll be able to live a life of normality.

But until then all I can do is ride the rollercoaster and hold on as tight as I can.

It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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The Inner Monologue of Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

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I wake up with a sense of dread.

How is today going to go? How are my moods going to be? How are the people in my life going to act towards me today? How am I going to perceive the people in my life who interact with me today? Are they just being nice to me because they want something? Are they being condescending? Are they just pretending to care like everyone else? No one really loves me. How could they? I don’t even love myself. They tolerate me because I’m nice to them and I help them if needed. They can ask me to do anything and I will do it. I just want them to like me. I want everyone to like me.

I mean, why would anyone be mean to me?  How could anyone not like me? I go above and beyond for everyone. People are so ungrateful. Here I am, bending over backwards for these people and they couldn’t care less! I’m so done with them. I’m never helping them again. How hateful and terrible can someone be?? 

Wait, I haven’t heard back from them yet. They didn’t answer my text. Oh my gosh, they didn’t answer my phone call. They are avoiding me. They hate me. Oh no. I’ve ruined a good relationship again. Everyone hates me. I’m such a terrible person. I can’t handle them being mad at me. Oh no, I have to make this right. I can’t live without them. I can’t go on knowing they are mad at me. I’m so stupid. Why can’t I just be normal and get along with everyone! 

Oh never mind! They texted me back.

They want me to go to the store with them.

Really?

You ignore me and then you ask me to just get up and go to the store with you? What kind of person does that? I’m busy today anyway. I have to clean the house. It’s a total disaster because I’m a horrible homemaker. I can’t do anything right. I can’t cook, clean, take care of the kids, hold a job, finish school, be a good wife, etc. I’m just worthless really. What is the point in trying?

They aren’t responding to me now that I told them no anyway. Of course not. I told them no so now they aren’t going to talk to me until they need me again the next time. Why do I keep trying to make them happy? They are so terrible. I’m so done talking to them. All they want is for me to be around to do things for them. What kind of relationship is that?

I’m just going to text them about something funny and unrelated and see if they respond. If they don’t, I don’t even care! I am done trying.

Oh my gosh they didn’t answer. Crap. They hate me. I should have just said I would do it. I am so awful. What is wrong with me? They just needed someone to hang out with. I should have been there. No wonder everyone hates me. They would all be better off without me here.

My life is a series of questions and reactions in my head. All day long, until I finally fall asleep in complete exhaustion from constantly going back and forth between happy and completely debilitated by emotion. A life with borderline personality disorder is not just someone trying to get attention. Most of this never even leaves my head. It’s a constant battle inside my own head about whether or not I’m worth living another day.

I’m Katie. I’m a 30-year-old mother of three. I have bipolar I and borderline personality disorder. This is just a glimpse at what goes through my head in a regular day. It has nothing to do with anyone else — and yet everything to do with them at the same time.

Follow this journey on Relax and Enjoy and the Crazy.

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When a Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis Turns You Into a Ghost

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When I got my borderline personality disorder diagnosis I was almost relieved. Relieved that I am not alone, that my condition and dissociative experiences actually have a name. That there were others who self-harmed. Others who have felt suicidal for most of their lives. That I wasn’t just a standalone individual who was affected by an unrelenting curse others seemed to have evaded.

Every question I ever had about myself seemed to be answered as the pieces of the invisible puzzle were finally grafted together. But it turned out this diagnosis will hurt me more than it helps me. It did not take long to take notice of how people treat those with borderline. I remember reading a website that told you to run if your significant other turns out to have borderline, Christian pages that insisted people with borderline are destined to hell by nature… and most sadly ”professional” articles that made us all look like attention-seeking, manipulative, promiscuous, unbearable drama-queens who do not deserve to be cared for by mental health professionals. The media did not help us much either. Almost every film depicting people with borderline employs unlikeable characters, who pose an immediate threat to everything they touch. At first, I wanted to write about how I don’t fulfill the stereotypes, but then I thought of something different. The story I want to share is how it feels to be stigmatized. How it feels to never be taken seriously even when you get to the verge of suicide.

It feels like being buried alive. Just imagine it. You wake up in the darkness. At first, you are just confused. You don’t know where you are, how you got there and how you will get out. Then you tap the four walls of the coffin and slowly realize you’ve been buried alive. Suddenly the air runs out. Not because all air is gone but due to the panic that chills your bones in an instance. You scream with your heart in your neck for hours, but then have the terrible realization that no one is going to hear you. You are buried too deep. You don’t know if it is night or day outside but inside it makes no difference anymore. You start scratching the lid of the coffin as if to claw your way out. It takes immense effort. Meanwhile the thoughts just race through your head. Thoughts like ”Has no one seen I am still breathing?” or ”I have to die now just because people thought I was dead.” In the end your strength leaves you and you just don’t fight anymore. Years later they exhume you… just to find the marks of your nails on the lid. Then come the ”should haves” and the ”could haves” but that does not save you now does it.

It feels like becoming a ghost. The people shift by you, step through you… talking about wishing you were there. Wishing you were something else. Visibly present. They reminisce on how different you were before. So full of life. So pleasant for the eye. They wish they could get through to you but in reality it is you who cannot get through to them. You wave, scream, shake your head frantically… Try to tell them you are still there. In vain. You are no longer one of them. They can no longer accept you.

The only difference is… when you are a ghost no one blames you for becoming one. When you are have borderline you have to face such a vast amount of shaming. Blame. Suddenly everything you say is a lie and everyone who encounters you should just run for it. Suddenly your condition is your fault, and you just don’t get better because you are not trying hard enough. Even today these sentences make me want to crawl into a hole and hide. But I will not hide. I will no longer succumb to silence.

Because maybe you have the same experiences, which is why I want to leave you with some good thoughts. You are not a monster. You are worth caring for. You are lovable, and I wish you would join me in standing up against the stigma in any way you can.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Follow this journey on Reanne’s site

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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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To Anyone Who Thinks Borderline Personality Disorder Is a Life Sentence

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To the person with borderline personality disorder (BPD),

First of all, know you are not alone. There are men and women from all walks of life who can identify with those three letters, and though they may not always be people you would choose to have in your life, they are your allies and your kin. We walk these paths together; and as lonely as it can be, because of that we are never truly alone.

Know that when you research your condition, you will come across websites that call you evil; you will come across websites that claim you are narcissistic and lacking in empathy. Know that being diagnosed with BPD does not equate to these things. Being diagnosed BPD means many things, but know that it does not make you a bad person. No website calling all people with BPD “evil,” “manipulative” or “narcissistic,” or calling for extreme avoidance of all those diagnosed is an automatic reflection of you.

Know that your future is not assured. BPD can be not “cured,” but it can be treated — it is not a life sentence. Life can get better. If you’ve done dialectal behavior therapy and found it unhelpful, know there is more than one option out there. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all treatment for BPD, no matter what anyone tells you.

Know that your feelings, as strong as they are, will dissipate if you allow them to. Your anger will fade; your sorrow will ease. Nothing lasts forever, and your feelings are not the exception to the rule. You are the emotional equivalent of a third degree burn victim, but you have the ability to graft yourself with thicker skin. You can get through this.

Know that you can learn to control your behavior. What you do in impulse now, you can learn to contain. Your angry outbursts, your uncontrolled spending, even your self-harm can all become more controlled and can even be overcome. It will take time and it will take a great deal of hard work, but it can be done.

Know that the world is not as black and white as you’d like it to be, but you can learn to be OK with that. Know that your instinct to cast people or events into categories on the extremes can be worked with. You will learn, in time, that nobody is all good or all bad, and that is OK.

Know that you will learn to know yourself, gradually. Maybe you will start with your favorite color, or you’ll choose an animal to love. Maybe you’ll discover you like your eggs scrambled, or you dislike jelly.

Know that sometimes people will leave, but it doesn’t mean you are being abandoned. Life is full of change; people move on, or are taken from us suddenly. Not everyone was meant to be a permanent fixture in our lives; some people will stay for a heartbeat, others will fill our hearts for years. Know that you can learn to be OK with the changing landscapes of friendships and loved ones, despite the pain.

Know, most of all, that there is hope. BPD is not a negative reflection on your personality and life can get better.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a love letter to another person with your disability, disease or mental illness. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Taming the Inner Child That Is My Borderline Personality Disorder

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I have a inner child. She is needy, demanding, temperamental and she can throw tantrums worthy of an Oscar. She has needed parenting for many years while I was dominated by her, unable to tame her and overtaken by her. This parenting came in the form of services; emergency departments, home treatment team, respite care, psychiatrists, psychologists and police.

I was ill-equipped to cope with the ever-changing emotions of her, often unaware of what had triggered the latest eruption. Overwhelmed and crippled by emotionally-fueled chaos, I would lean on services to help support me through these distressing times. I became a revolving door patient, desperately dragging myself before professionals each time it became unbearable, and hoping for answers to put an end to the stream of bitter arguments between myself and the inner child.

The inner child who was terrified of people leaving her, who had no sense of who she was, and who behaved impulsively and recklessly. She had rapid mood swings and outbursts of anger, hated her appearance and had such so low self-esteem. The little girl who hated herself and felt so empty she wanted to resort to self-harm to cope with these feelings. The relationship I had between myself and my inner child spilt out and affected all aspects of my life: work, parenting, education, relationships, housing and finances.

After 10 long years, I entered a day therapeutic community. Initially, this was extremely difficult. It challenged everything my inner child had believed. Beliefs that she was alone, that she didn’t belong, that authority was uncaring and neglecting, that she was unlovable, change was impossible and that everybody would leave in the end, so it was better for her not to make attachments. Over time the program helped with boundaries, expectations, belonging, identity and coping mechanisms.

I left therapeutic community 18 months ago, and haven’t needed “parenting” from services since. I have been given the tools to care for myself affectively, but my inner child still very much exists. I can see her rearing her head in situations often, at times when I’ve overthought a situation, feel rejected or feel like I may be abandoned. Now, I offer her my hand, coax her out and embrace her in my arms. I give her a cuddle, care for her, listen to what she is telling me. I have a past that has left a mark on me, and sometimes I need to be kinder and more considerate to myself, offering the same support and kindness I would be willing to offer others. Once I have done that, I can lay my inner child back to rest and begin to use my own mind to think about whatever it is that has upset me. I have slowed the process down, not reacted in the emotional, distressed state and cared for myself instead, giving myself the time for those feelings to pass. I have learned to live in harmony with my inner child.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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