Silhouette of a woman behind a curtain of colors

We have heard and seen the reports that rates of severe cases of anxiety and depression are spiking amongst college students. This is an entirely understandable outcome given how competitive and stressful the climate of college is. While it’s deeply important to discuss feelings of anxiety and depression brought on by the pressures of college, I can’t help but feel somewhat upset these discussions have neglected to bring the experiences of college students living with other chronic mental illnesses to light. This upsets me because I am one of those students. In addition to my diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), inattentive type, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), I also have one of the most stigmatized and widely misunderstood mental illnesses, known as borderline personality disorder (BPD).

As someone with BPD, I see the world in black and white polarities. It is difficult for me to reconcile two opposing feelings or concepts. Because of this, I struggle to understand how I can be both a successful student and an individual struggling with a relatively debilitating disorder at the same time. This has caused somewhat of a rift in my understanding of where I stand in society and who I am as a person.

On the one hand, I’m a high functioning student. I finished my first year of college with highest honors, and I’ve been selected for competitive positions, such as university ambassador and student assistant to faculty advisors. I even work as a research assistant in a mood and behaviors lab that focuses on non-suicidal self-injury and suicide, two things many people living with BPD would describe as a daily struggle.

On the other hand, I live with a disorder that has a number of crippling effects, such as emotional reactivity and extreme fears of abandonment and rejection, which for me has resulted in years of self-harm and parasuicidal behaviors. As I sit there in my research lab, I often feel like a counterfeit. I wonder if the professor, the graduate students or the other research assistants in the lab can tell I have BPD. I worry they have figured out why I know so much about dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), the main treatment for BPD, self-injury and suicidal ideation. I think to myself, “You are so stupid for thinking you deserve to be the one working on these studies and not the one participating.”

With every A received on a paper or test, with every day spent working at an open house and giving campus tours and with every invitation to join various majors and honors programs, exists the dreaded and inevitable crash that comes with finishing my day and returning to my dorm room. When the day is over and I have no classes or unfinished homework to distract myself with, I am forced to confront my thoughts. I become enveloped by loneliness, sadness and emptiness. I think about how much happier I would be if I possessed the emotional stability and security to have a functional romantic relationship. I wonder how many more friends I would have if I didn’t constantly operate under the assumption everyone is repelled by me. I worry about my future because if this lonely and isolated life is my reality forever, I’m unsure of how I will survive.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult for me to disclose my experiences to others, specifically friends. Although, I do not hide my general discontent with life from my friends, they do not know the breadth of this discontent. They do not understand when I opt not to go out with them to parties or all-school events, it’s not because I just don’t feel like going. The truth is I am dealing with so much internal pain and chaos that leaving my room and being around people who seem happy and undisturbed by their minds could trigger me.

There are times when I wish they were fully aware of my daily battles, which probably stems from an underlying need to be validated. There is something about BPD that is so perplexing to those who do not suffer from it. Out of a fear of being gravely misunderstood, I keep it a private matter.

Thankfully, I have a very supportive family who has the means to send me to therapy twice a week. I know this is a rare commodity, especially in the BPD community. I am continuously grateful for that. In therapy, I have discussed this feeling of leading a double life to my therapist.

In DBT, you are encouraged to think dialectically. The concept of a double life is highly dichotomous. If I was to think dialectically about my situation, then it would go a little something like this: I am a successful student and I struggle with mental illness. As I continue to cope with my diagnosis of BPD, I must routinely remind myself that this is not a zero sum game, where my credibility as a functioning and high-achieving member of society automatically decreases with each instance of mentally disordered thoughts or actions.

If anyone with BPD is reading this, I want to end by reminding you this disorder is not a guaranteed barrier between you and your hopes for the future, whether it be college or a different venture. You are not a stereotype. You are a person with a beautifully, unique mind, who is capable of achieving whatever it is you set that beautifully, unique mind to.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

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It’s hard to explain exactly how it feels to have borderline personality disorder (BPD). For me, it’s almost like you live your life as a different person every single day, and after awhile, you no longer know which one of those people is the “real” you.

Some days, you can wake early and you’ve never felt more ready to face the day ahead. Everything is achievable and nothing impossible. You can plan your entire future out in the space of an hour. In your own little world, the sun is shining brightly and nothing can hurt you.

You are invincible.

Other days, you will not be truly “awake” until the late afternoon. Your head feels heavy and your sight is dim. All motivation is gone, and the anxiety inside you builds and builds, until eventually, it overflows in the form of tears and panic attacks. Nothing can be said or done to console you. You are trapped, a prisoner of your own mind.

You are invisible.

Then, there is the issue of attachment. And it is an issue, at times. Relationships can be difficult to form, but sometimes, as someone with BPD, you wish you had never formed them in the first place. Once you feel a connection with a person, it’s like a seed has been planted in your heart.

The more the person waters you with attention, the bigger and faster the plant grows. Eventually, it’s too big for the tiny pot that is your body. You start to suffocate, but you can’t pull away. You can’t uproot. You are trapped once more. Tiring of your need for love and attention, the other person will start to chop away at your leaves and branches. They may be your whole garden, but to them, you are nothing more than a weed.

As the distance grows between you, your love for them turns to resentment. They may try to get close to you, noticing your need, but you will ensure there is no way they can get near you again, as they will only cut you down. At least, that’s what the little monster in your mind thinks.

“Money is no object.” That’s what you think when you go on an impulsive spending spree. Only to find the following day there’s no money left to pay your bills. Yet, once in awhile, we are compelled to do it. We know what the outcome will be, but in that moment, we live. It provides a temporary feeling of happiness, but once this passes, the novelty of the new things wear off and you are back at rock bottom.

Rock bottom, for a lot of us, can mean locking yourself away, not eating and not sleeping. Abusing your body becomes a normal thing for a while. You are miserable in your own skin and you hope something beautiful lies underneath. All you find though, is ribbons of angry red and pain. You feel good for a second, and then worse for a month. The cycle begins again.

This is a typical month in my life. Sometimes all of this can happen in a week. Sometimes even a day. If I could describe my illness in one word, it would be unpredictable. Every day is a surprise, even for me.

Manipulative, scheming, blackmailing: These are some of the words which have been used to describe me, along with many others in the past. Perhaps, after reading this, people will think again before opening their mouths or taking to their keyboards.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
 

I understand where you are coming from. I know why you are here. I know you sprouted from my mother leaving me and my father failing to understand me. I know you opened the doors to let dependent disorder in. I know you helped anxiety take a hold of my brain.

I get it. You are what you are. I don’t have a choice to change you. I know life tells you who to afflict and like a brainwashed soldier you march. I know like a parasite, you fed off any self-esteem I had when I turned 10. You told me how I was only good for caring for my sisters, and I should have never been born. Then, my parents would have split earlier, sparing my sisters’ lives. You told me I was not worth love.

When I was born, I was already more sensitive to others’ emotions and had a greater ability to empathize with other creatures, human or not. So at age 9, when my mother began disappearing, life ordered you here and since then you haven’t left. You have been feasting on my self-esteem, shaking my emotions and playing games with my brain, as I desperately tried to understand what was going on.

I know you don’t seem to care, but I trust that, somewhere, you actually do though. If you didn’t, then you would have shaken my magic emotion ball again when I met Nate. You would have done like you did with my ex date-mates. You would have let me fall and then shake me up so I would get angry when they didn’t catch me, like you did with date-mates one through five.

Yet, you didn’t. You let me stay happy for two years. I still experienced the mood swings. I was still shaky at times, but I was truly, utterly happy. Then, like an explosion, you came back. The self-esteem I gained while you were quiet plummeted. You did what you were born to do. You shook the ball and ate the self-esteem. You even broke the four years I was clean. Clean from one of the biggest tortures I did to myself. I self-harmed again and again, desperate for you to disappear.

Since I was 10, I had never been hospitalized because of you or any of your mental illness friends that have called my head your home. Yet, this resurfacing, it broke me. I ended up in the hospital because I was keen on suicide. Yet, the ambulance workers, who brought me to this unit said I seemed fine. That made me laugh to myself because they couldn’t see the visions of me ripping my skin off until my disorders went into hibernation.

I wanted this to end because nothing helped anymore. The self-harm didn’t help like it did when I was 11 through 15 years old. You broke me at 19 and with the help of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flashbacks, you made my emotions scream, helped anxiety twisted my insides, aided bipolar disorder in making me too tired for anything and fed depression my smile. You, borderline personality disorder (BPD), smiled as you began shaking your dooming magic ball.

In the unit, I sat there with my insides burning and twisting, while outside I was just staring at walls. During meal times, I ate slowly and vacantly watched as the summer brushed its lips against trees and grass, causing the flora to dance. I ceased to process things that brought me joy.

I think back now and despite my world being in color, in reality that unit was gray, except for the psychology doctors. They are red. They hurt me just as much as you. There were too many people for them to even take time to get to know any of us at all. They listened for a moment. Then, they wrote down a problem, suggested a medication and then on to the next patient they went. It was like an assembly line of people and doctors. Patient, prescription, pill, patient, prescription, pill.

I felt like I was in a nightmare with no way out because no one would help me, while BPD and its friends tore at me inside.This unit was not beneficial. If it wasn’t for the fact I noticed one patient fill out a menu and leave before lunch time that day, then I wouldn’t have even known how to leave this place. If I wasn’t born with the ability to observe, the people there wouldn’t have even let me know I was capable of leaving. My anxiety held my tongue. Unless I was told something, I wouldn’t have been able to ask at the time.

Thanks to you BPD, I didn’t understand how to feel. While my brain had no logic to hold it to reality, you enjoyed shaking your ball like a baby enjoys a rattle. I was confused and yet calm. I was terrified and happy. Yet, I could barely muster up the energy to even eat. I would stare off and wait for my visitors. Nate, best friends, close friends and a friend’s mother.

Why no family? Well, the last time I had a bad mental breakdown, I was yelled at. I was told if I wanted to be “crazy,” then maybe my father should send me to an asylum. Screaming he asked if I wanted to be seen as “crazy.” Now, if I could go back, then I would tell my father, “Yes because at least then, maybe, I wouldn’t get to this point.”

Sitting here, I am 20 years old now, and as of this moment, I have over 3,500 scars and around 17 suicide attempts under my mental illness belt. If I had gotten help earlier, learned the skills of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and learned healthy coping skills, then maybe my count would probably be around 90 scars and two attempts.

BPD you have driven me to try and claim my life, while letting me scar my skin. So I say this now: If you are given more names for who to inflict BPD on, I will find them. I will hug them because no one deserves to not have anyone there when they go through this. No one deserves to be alone.

So I say this to you BPD and you better remember it well. No matter what you say to me or how you shake my emotions, I am valid. I am worth it. Even though you are part of me, you are not me.

Sincerely,
Chris,
A BPD survivor

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

It can be difficult to think positive when you have a mental illness, and it’s especially difficult to think positively about your mental illness. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) has affected me for as long as I can remember, and it seems like it’s all been in negative ways. My self-esteem, relationships and moods have all taken hits from my BPD, and sometimes that is all I can think about.

But, on my worst days with BPD, I try to remember the unexpected benefits of my illness, and the best parts of BPD. It’s true that having BPD makes it hard for me to regulate my emotions and control my actions in both positive and negative situations. When having an argument with my partner, I may overreact and threaten to end the relationship without even meaning to. On the flip side, when having a heartfelt conversation with my partner, I may express my intense love for that person. BPD allows me to love harder than most people, and I see that as a definite plus. And though it’s hard to regulate my emotions, I am grateful I am able to experience deeper emotions than most people. Yes, sometimes those emotions are bad. But I choose to accept the bad ones so that I can experience the good ones.

Along with experiencing my own emotions intensely, I am empathetic toward others and am able to feel what they are feeling, too. This allows me to form close bonds with others and offer genuine advice when I’m asked for it. BPD allows me to be passionate about the bonds I have with other people, instead of being a friend only when it is convenient for me. I am also compassionate when it comes to other people and animals, and go out of my way to help them and express my love for them, even when I don’t help or love myself.

Some people may see that as a flaw, but I see it as a benefit of having BPD. 

Having BPD makes me overly sensitive to a lot of things. My surroundings and my emotions are intensified because of my BPD. This means I can see and appreciate the little things in life; the soft texture of a rose petal, the feelings behind a painting in a museum and the taste of something as small as a chocolate chip. I am sensitive, also, to people’s comments and opinions about me, which can sometimes put me in a bad place. But again, I accept the bad in order to experience the good. I am overly sensitive to criticism, yes, but I am also sensitive when it comes to someone saying they love me, or when someone compliments me, and to me, that is good. 

In order to live happily with my BPD, I force myself to see and feel the best parts of it. In order to survive my BPD, I have to remain positive and encourage those close to see my BPD in a positive way, too. If I let every fight, every bad decision and every sensitive moment control my life, I will never be happy. I choose happiness, and I choose to pick out the best parts of BPD, and accept the bad ones for what they are.


Editor’s note: If you struggle with suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

I’ve tried to reach out blindly to so many people for help these past few months, and all that’s done is given me the label “attention-seeker,” written off as manipulative, a liar and a waste of time.

Attention-seekers like myself are written off as lost causes instead of treated like people who are seriously and constantly hurting, who are only “wasting your time” because they know their own is running out. I want your attention the same way a person drowning wants the attention of a lifeguard, but I can’t scream for help and raise my hand because instead of drowning in water I am drowning in my own heightened emotions.

One of the most severe symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is recurring self-harm and suicidal behavior/attempts.

When it comes to feeling suicidal, I’ve noticed people stop taking you seriously after a while. If I was going to kill myself, surely I would have done it by now. In the minds of those who aren’t consumed by this disorder, I’m simply crying wolf in order to feast on some nice juicy attention again. The thing about “crying wolf” is that the wolf is invisible, but it’s still there. The reason I’m crying wolf is because the wolf is going to kill me.

I don’t know how anyone can feel like this for even one second of their entire existence and not explode fragments of their bleeding heart everywhere, because every second of being alive is exhausting. BPD has been described as the emotional equivalent of having third degree burns over 90 percent of your body. This disorder I wasn’t even aware I have has impacted every single part of my life.

The sleepless nights that turn into empty days.

The drugs and alcohol that numb for a minute and pain for an hour.

The constant, always present feelings of worthlessness and shame and of guilt. Guilt for who I am and what I’ve done to the people who used to be around me or are still tied to me because of relation or university class or a lease.

Cooking enough food to feed four even though I’m not hungry because it’s been days since I’ve remembered to swallow anything solid and that’s how many attempts it’s going to take to stay down. Pretending there’s something wrong with my scales because there’s no way I could be that weight, is there? It hasn’t been that long since I last ate…has it?

Holding knives against my throat at 3 a.m. because I can’t stand another second alone with my thoughts, tying scarves and chords into nooses that break, routinely overdosing on drugs not just on weekends with “friends” but in the middle of the afternoon alone in my bedroom, praying this is it. This will be the time my heart finally gives up and shuts down.

Crying, then laughing, then needing to cut, then laughing, then crying again, then arguing with myself about jumping off a building, then needing a hug. All in the space of an hour. Every hour. No breaks, no time outs, not even when I’m asleep because apparently with BPD even your subconscious is as unstable and spasmodic as you are. Nightmares and pleasant dreams lurch back and forth at sickening speeds until you awake confused and frightened, your reality questionable.

Always letting down the people in my life because no matter how hard I try I can never be more than what I am. Knowing that everyone I love who hasn’t already done so will leave me and never look back because they think there’s nothing left to look back on.

The look of disgust but not surprise on my beautiful housemate’s face when after everything I have put him through, from suicide attempts to uncontrollable emotional outbursts that required him to physically restrain me and call the police, he comes home to find me in my room drunk or high.

He thinks I don’t care, but all I do is care and that is why I can’t stop doing the things that are ruining my life. There is no neutral or in-between emotions for me, and until I learned what borderline personality disorder was I thought everyone felt the way I did and just handled it better.

Every emotion is like getting in the shower and either being hit with a stream of freezing ice cold water that makes your skin turn blue with cold and your teeth chatter, or getting assaulted with boiling hot water that stings your flesh and burns you deeply. I understand what lukewarm showers are, but I am unable to experience them.

The shower analogy also explains the way I see people around me. Black and white. All good or all bad. I will meet someone at a bar, share a laugh with them, accept their friend request on Facebook and then all but propose to them. Strangers will become family almost immediately and things like them not replying to my messages within a quick manner or rejecting an invite to hang out have the same impact on me as if they had punched me in the face or told me they wished I was dead. They have just confirmed everything I had always known about myself to be true. I’m disgusting. I’m unlovable. I’m nothing. Everyone hates me. I’m alone.

One of my best friends who now refuses to speak to me, once spoke to me on the phone for four hours when I was distressed. Not for the first time that week he did everything humanly possible to put me in a better headspace and reassure me I was loved, and it worked. Until he said goodbye and hung up the phone. Then it was as if those four hours had never happened. I remembered everything he had said and I still believed it all to be true, but I couldn’t retain the positive emotions I felt when he was speaking to me. I couldn’t hold on to the sense of relief and love I had felt only seconds ago, the shower was turned back on full blast and I was burning. So I called someone else. And when they hung up I messaged another person. My phone became full of screenshots of words of support and love from all those I communicated with, and for a while it helped me, but if I wasn’t continually receiving messages that proved people cared about me I would assume they had come to their senses and realized they would be better off without me in their lives. This fear of abandonment consumes me and causes my emotions to manifest into situations in which I will impulsively act out in dangerous ways in an attempt to communicate my pain to those around me or to try and sooth the storm inside me. These impulsive behaviors may seem like they are for attention, but more than half the time they take place when I am alone and no one is aware of them.

I’ve woken up more than once on my bedroom floor after purposely overdosing on a cocktail of drugs, surrounded by suicide notes I have no recollection of writing and a bleeding wrist. I have then continued on with my day because the world doesn’t stop just because I have. On my mother’s birthday I nearly took my own life after an argument with first my housemate and then her. I sat sobbing for nearly 10 hours trying to simultaneously convince myself to “just do it!” and also “Don’t be stupid!” I had convinced myself the best present I could give my mom was to not be in her life any longer. I convinced myself the only way I could make things right with my housemate was to permanently end my existence so he never had to look at me again.

I can’t remember the last day I’ve had where I haven’t seriously considered killing myself as the most viable option at least once. I am plagued by hopelessness. I can’t hold down a job because my emotional breakdowns happen out of the blue and I am unable to turn up to my shifts. I can’t do or say anything to get the friends that mean absolutely everything to me back in my life and in my corner again because no matter how badly I want to change and get better, I am a prisoner of my own pain and there is no key. I can’t find permanent accommodation because I can’t afford to live by myself and no one can stand to live with me. I can’t walk past a store without spending whatever small amount of money I have saved for bills or food on something to numb the pain.

It never stops and I don’t know where this disorder ends and I begin. Realizing what was causing my life to be so hard also made me realize I don’t know who I am, but I know who I’m not.

I’m not J. Jarvis anymore. Maybe I never really was.

I lost her somewhere between the sixth drink and the second pill. After the nightmares started happening while she was awake and the sun went down permanently.

I’m not the stand-up comedian or the soccer player or the writer I once prided myself on being.

I’m not anyone’s friend or anyone’s housemate or someone you met at a party once.

All I am is pain and loneliness and defeat swirling around in an underweight, scarred and tired shell. I’m only 20-years-old and already my life feels over. I want it to be over.

If you know someone with BPD please, just give them a hug because for that three to five seconds, you’ll make the unbearable agony inside of them endurable, and that’s all we are trying to do. We have no other choice. Every poor decision, every attention-seeking action is us trying to endure.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


I’ve become an advocate for mental health and use social media as the platform I bravely stand upon. I’ve quickly become comfortable with sharing my story with strangers and have fortunately become numb to any negativity I receive. I’ve talked about most aspects of my illness: my symptoms, my need for medication, how I cope and what my good and bad days look like.

However, there is one aspect of my borderline personality disorder (BPD) I find extremely difficult to think about, let alone talk about. I’ve always denied this part of my illness, and I still do. I’m ashamed and brought down by the reality of it. The part of my BPD I’m usually silent about is the relationship aspect of my illness, of which I’m openly talking about for the first time right now.

I’ve always denied the affect my BPD has had on my relationships and because I’ve remained in denial for so long, accepting the reality now hurts, a lot. It’s hard to accept there’s something I can’t control taking a toll on my relationships, whether they be platonic or romantic. I can’t control my illness. Although most of the time I can manage it, my relationships still suffer. The relationships that have suffered the most because of my BPD have been my romantic relationships, and so I have experienced so much heartache in my life.

My symptoms have taken the biggest toll on my romantic relationships, and only after all of those failed relationships did I realize and try to rectify this. My BPD comes with a lot of unpleasant symptoms (unpleasant to say the least). I experience mood swings, impulsivity, promiscuity, hypersexuality, fear of abandonment and what are now infrequent suicidal thoughts. Each of those symptoms, particularly the mood swings, have been the partial culprit of my many failed relationships.

My mood swings come hard and fast and are hard for people close to me to tolerate. When one moment I’m pleasant and happy and the next moment I’m the complete opposite, partners from my past have become irritated and confused. After months of this, they ultimately ended our relationship and deemed me “crazy.”

I believed them because I didn’t understand how my symptoms affected me. I didn’t see how they affected my relationships. Thus, I felt crazy. It was only after several confusing breakups and my heart taking a beating, did I figure out it wasn’t my fault. It was my BPD, and the symptoms that come with it.

Along with accepting why I’ve had unhealthy and unstable relationships with men, I’ve accepted I’m not totally at fault and that my past partners had a part in our failed relationships, too. They didn’t understand my mental illness, just like I didn’t, but they didn’t try or want to understand. They only “knew something was wrong” with me, but instead of sticking around to figure it out with me, they called me names and left.

Not one of them were patient with me or compassionate during my difficult times. Not one of them supported me. Lack of patience, understanding, compassion and support can certainly put a strain on a relationship. The lack of those things, in addition to my then undiagnosed mental illness, is what ended those romantic relationships.

I always thought my romantic relationships ended because I was “crazy” like my partners often said with gusto. Though I’m not and wasn’t crazy, my relationships did end partially because of me and because of my BPD. That’s hard for me to accept and admit, and it’s hard not to place the blame entirely on myself. It’s difficult to talk about this, but as I do, I feel a giant weight lifted from my shoulders. My BPD has has a negative effect on my past romantic relationships. I won’t deny that anymore.

What I’ll do is work vigilantly to manage my BPD and its symptoms so that my future romantic relationships won’t suffer. I will also start talking about this part of my BPD, in hopes that this part of my story will help someone else and continue to help myself. It’s hard to talk about, but I’m doing it for my sanity and for the sake of people who have BPD like me.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 
 

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