woman sitting along with light shining through a window

I had what I would like to call a roller coaster day. Because I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), my emotions are intense, my perception is often warped and I am very, very impulsive. Usually, since I started dialectical behavioral therapy, I am able to cope pretty well, look at the facts in a situation and then respond accordingly, without overreacting.

Not today.

Today I felt lonely. With this feeling came thoughts: “I always feel lonely. I have no friends. Everyone has somebody but me. Nobody loves me. Nobody really cares.” These thoughts triggered more feelings, such as anger. Which in turn triggered more thoughts. “I can’t believe no one called me to hang out today. I’m always there for them. I need new friends. And where’s my family when I need them? Oh, wait they are never there. Remember? Oh, and they are so judgmental! No one understands me. No one loves me. No one cares!”

Quickly, my mind went on a downward spiral. I was obsessing over my emotions and in a deep state of self-centeredness. As always, it didn’t end there. With my anger always comes guilt and worthlessness. “I shouldn’t think this way. My parents did the best they could. My friends are probably busy. I’m such a bad person for getting mad at them. I’m so useless and worthless. I can’t even take care of myself. I wish I could escape. I wish I could die… should I die? How could I think that. I would hurt my family. They would be mad at me. There I go again, making everything about me. I don’t know what to do.”

I broke down, cried and as always I went to Facebook for an update. There on my newsfeed, someone posted a quote. In big bright letters, it was as if it was demanding my attention:

“Are you being led by your spirit or your wound?”

Wow — just wow! It hit me loud and clear. These feelings and thoughts were the product of my past wounds. The abuse, rejection, abandonment and lack of security, but they are not a reality of who I am now. Today I was being led by my wounds. They trapped me. My wounds, they want me to hurt. To self-destruct. To cut. To get high. To push people away. My wounds want to lead me in dark places.

But my spirit, my spirit is kind and loves and enjoys being loved. My spirit knows I am worthy and cared for and able to do great things. My spirit leads me to happiness and gratefulness. My spirit wants me to live!

Next time I start to feel intensely and my thoughts get out of control, I know exactly how to fight it. I will ask myself: am I being led by my spirit or my wounds?


I cannot tell you how much I want the people in my life to understand my disorder. I wish those who are close to me would understand. This letter is for those of you who want to understand, from the viewpoint of someone who walks this uphill battle every day.

I am sitting here at the computer. Not knowing what I want to say, but knowing how I feel. I’m not able to put it into words, as if butterflies are fluttering in my stomach and I can’t catch one. It’s almost an empty feeling. You’re not sure exactly what’s going on inside of you, you just know it doesn’t feel good. This is what it feels like to have borderline personality disorder (BPD).

My thoughts seem to jump in a million different places during the day. One minute, I think you’re the nicest, best person in the world. Do something small, like look at my message and not respond, it seems like the end of the world. Automatically, you become my worst enemy. I feel very sad and think you hate me and you’re going to abandon me. Then, I do all I can to prevent you from doing what I fear most.

Sometimes I get paranoid. It is like this because I’ve been controlled my whole life. I was the puppet whose strings were controlled by the abuser. In my head, I think someone’s out to get me. All of the sudden, I don’t feel safe. I feel like I am being watched, and my thoughts can be heard. At this point, I get scared and whip my head in every direction, looking for those I think want to hurt me.

My emotions are scattered everywhere. It is hard to put into words how I feel in my daily life. All I know is I feel. Sometimes it is a good feeling. Other times, it is bad. All I know is it is all of the sudden. One minute, I can feel great! Minutes later, I can feel very depressed. Sometimes it’s triggered by something, and at other times it’s spontaneous.

This is where my actions kick in. To you, someone getting mad at you may feel terrible. Then, it blows over eventually and it doesn’t bother you anymore. To me, someone yelling at me is the end of the world for a few minutes to a few hours. I jump from a one to a 10 on the emotional scale.

The difference is my thoughts take over. “I’m stupid,” “It’s all my fault,” “I should have never been born. It would be better that way.”  Then, I do something drastic that could bring serious harm to myself, and sometimes even to others. Visits to the emergency room may be necessary, if it means keeping yourself in a place where you won’t do anything fatal.

Relationships seem hard. There are some of us who think we’ll never be in love or ever form lasting friendships. We fear being abandoned. Sometimes we expect people to walk away or hurt us, and we grab on tighter and try to do everything in our power to prevent abandonment. Sometimes we don’t trust, and it makes it hard to come out of our shells. It is easy to put up borders. Those who will love us are those who will work with us. Those who understand us and who are committed to being by our side.

Understand, you can’t see BPD. We look like everyday people. We’re not freaks. We just have a hard time controlling our emotions. We have a hard time with our thoughts. We have a hard time not acting on our impulsive behaviors. We are capable of everything you are capable of. Sometimes we may have to work a little harder.

You can have a true relationship with us. You just have to be committed to being there for us. We’re afraid of getting hurt, yes, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from learning more about our struggle. This shouldn’t stop anyone from finding good ways to be a helping hand in times of great battle.

This letter is for you who want to understand what BPD is like. Maybe you have friends who have this disorder and have a hard time, like many of us do, putting how we feel into words. Maybe you are someone who has this disorder. I hope this helps make it a little easier to explain to your friends how you feel.

Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can sometimes be an isolating experience. Many people find it difficult to control the mood swings and intrusive thoughts caused by the disorder, which can make maintaining friendships especially hard. But when you do have a connection with a friend, it makes the relationship all the more meaningful.

Sometimes being supportive means giving someone space while still offering love and empathy. We asked people in our community living with borderline personality disorder to tell us what texts they would want to receive from their friends on a particularly bad day when they might need to be by themselves.

If you have friends living with borderline personality disorder, here’s what they might need to hear:

1.  How you are feeling is valid, and I believe you. Stay safe, I am here when you're ready. YOU ARE LOVED.

2.  I know you are having a rough day, how about when I come home I'll cook us some supper and clean up the kitchen after so you don't have to worry or get overwhelmed?

3.  I love you.

4.  It might feel like your world is crashing down around you, but that's just it. Feelings are just feelings. You will get through them. Tomorrow is another day, full of different feelings. Just get through today.

5.  If you're unable to find your way out of the hole today, that's perfectly OK. Please stay safe and know I love you very much.

6.  Hey, I know your brain is a little sick, but that's OK. I know it's not you, and I still love you.

7.  You're not broken.

8.  I know you're sick of feeling like this, but it's not permanent, and you can get through this.

9.  Everything will get better. I am here for you whether it’s 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.

10.  Nothing's going to change my love for you.

11.  You are loved. You are loved no matter how much the monsters in your head tell you otherwise. They will tell you lies and be very convincing, but remember they are not true. You are here for a reason, you might not see it at the moment, but you will, you just need to get through this until you see the rainbow on the other side. Just breathe and do whatever will get you through the next second, the next minute and the next hour, until you see the sun rise again tomorrow.

I expect we’ll have the conversation early, during the dating phase of our relationship. I’ll want to disclose my mental illness early in the relationship for several reasons: to give my future husband the opportunity to truly understand me, to see if there’s a chance he would possibly stigmatize me and to give him the option to go in the other direction.

Hopefully I am wise in choosing who I want to marry, and I choose someone who will accept and love me despite my mental illness. I hope my future husband does both of those things, and will open his ears and his heart and truly hear me as I explain my borderline personality disorder (BPD) to him.

I’ll start the conversation by telling him what BPD is: a personality disorder that makes it difficult for me to regulate my emotions. It’s characterized by unstable moods, behaviors and relationships.

After giving him the definition, I’ll encourage him to not be wary, and tell him that most of the time, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. I will be honest with him, though, and say that for me, sometimes, it is exactly as bad as it sounds.

After defining BPD to my future husband, I’ll describe my symptoms. I’ll be honest about how unpleasant they can be, and be up front about how they may affect him and our relationship.

I’ll start by listing the symptoms I experience most often: emotional instability, feeling worthless and insecure, impulsivity and mood swings. I’ll go into detail about each one and explain how each symptom affects me. I’ll explain how my emotional instability makes it hard for me to express myself. I’ll tell him that my feelings of worthlessness and insecurity sometimes make me hate myself. I’ll describe how I act when I’m impulsive, spending money I don’t have and being dangerously spontaneous. I’ll explain that my mood swings are hard for me to deal with, and that they may be for him, too.

I’ll remind him not to be discouraged, that not all of those symptoms surface at one time and that all of them are manageable.

I’ll be honest with my future husband about my treatment, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’ll list my medications and their benefits and side effects, and be open about going to therapy.

I’ll tell him I’ve learned to cope on my bad days, and tell him how; I busy myself, write out positive affirmations and practice mindfulness. I’ll also tell him what he can do to help me cope, too, by giving me space when I need it, by encouraging and supporting me, and by being busy with me.

I’ll tell him about how I may act out on a bad day. I’ll be honest and tell my future husband that when I manipulate or lie to him, I don’t mean it. I’ll tell him that at times, I’ll be at a loss for words, so I may choose the wrong ones. I’ll explain that sometimes I will be easily offended, that I’ll take everything personally, and that I will overreact.

I’ll ask him to please call me out on my poor behavior, because in order to catch myself next time, I need to be made aware of my hurtful words and actions.

I’ll explain that on my good days, I’m overzealous about almost everything, more excitable than usual and overly ambitious about my daily and life goals.

I’ll let him know that my love for him may seem exaggerated on a good day, but that he should take it as truth, that I really do love him that much.

Finally, as the conversation comes to an end, I’ll ask him to be patient with me when my symptoms become hard to tolerate. I’ll ask him to please be compassionate and patient with me as I experience them.

I’ll ask him to forgive my shortcomings, my outbursts, and every time I slam a door in his face. I’ll ask that he forgive me, but also be honest about his feelings, especially when they are hurt, so I can make it right and forgive myself, too.

I’m not afraid to tell my future husband about my BPD. I’ll do so in detail because I believe honesty is the best policy.

I’ll explain every aspect of my illness, but I’ll save the most important part for last: when I don’t love myself, I will always love you, no matter if my words or actions say otherwise.

Image via Thinkstock Images

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. 

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

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