Woman on a Balcony Sits With Her Eyes Close, Splashing Water From a Bowl

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. 

When I was first diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I did what anyone in this internet age would do, I Googled it. I didn’t like everything I read, but a lot of it made sense, except for one thing. Everything I read said those suffering from BPD sometimes go without having real and lasting relationships.

This scared me, and I worried for the new friends I’d made in the BPD community. Then, I remembered I have one of the best friends to ever grace my personal planet. My best friend holds me accountable for my actions. She doesn’t let me get away with things because of my mental illness. Not to say she doesn’t cut me slack on some things. She cuts me more then I give myself sometimes. She asks questions to gain understanding. She Googles. She reads.

Yes, she is a psych major, but she has never treated me as a “test subject.” Everything my best friend does, she does to make my life easier and better. She lets me fall back on her in moments when I’m flailing. She lets me go solo when she knows I need to learn to do certain things on my own.

Without me ever having to ask for help, she has done things for me I cry just thinking about. She’s filled my gas tank when I was unemployed and dangling on a tightrope. She’s started conversations with new people for me and slowly built my confidence. She’s gotten me over debilitating aspects of my illness a little at a time, like my crippling panic when I was even a minute late (I still like being early, but I don’t hyperventilate when I’m five minutes late).

This beautiful woman has, without me realizing it, jump started my recovery even before I got my official diagnosis. She was actually the first one I called, tears in my eyes because I finally knew what it was.

“I have borderline personality disorder.”

I hadn’t even left the parking lot of my psychiatrist’s office. I dialed her number on the way to my car. She didn’t miss a beat. She didn’t judge me. She just asked how I felt about it. She asked what this meant for me.

I cried. I had never felt so relieved in my life. I wasn’t relieved she hadn’t judged me. It never crossed my mind that she would. I was relieved to know what it was I had been fighting since I was 14. I know without a doubt she’ll be there for me like she always has been.

I have had a lot of friends in the past, some were great and more were not. I have never had a friend like this. I never thought I would be able to have a real, without a doubt in my mind, best friend. My disorder has convinced me in the past in order to keep people around, I needed to lie and manipulate. All that does is make me feel worse and exhaust the people around me. I have cost myself countless relationships and friendships because I felt like I couldn’t trust them or myself with them. I constantly pushed them away and then pulled them close, only to push them away again.

My friend has taught me I can be 100 percent myself and she’ll still love me. I don’t have to prove anything or work to the point of anxiety to impress her, in order to keep her around. She is the strongest, most patient and passionate person I know. I am lucky to know her. I know in the future she will change a lot of people’s lives because I know she’s changed mine.

selfie of the author and her friend outside
Hannah and her friend.

In high school, I desperately wanted to be known as a rebel. I clung to every label I could and wore it with pride. Why, yes, I stood up for animal rights with my vegetarianism! I wore long, flowy pants in lieu of jeans and called myself a hippie. I hung up the signs I got from a peace protest and a bisexual pride flag.

It was nothing more than a quest for an identity. I needed to prove to everyone I belonged. With borderline personality disorder, the abstract idea of identity is something we have difficulty comprehending. To me, it was all about finding a label and sticking it to myself, crying out, “This is who I am!”

However, who I was (and am) continuously changed. I find myself, even now, grasping for anything that would hint at who I am. I wanted to fit in a box, snug and safe.

According to the DSM-5, one of the criteria for BPD is “identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self.” I didn’t know it at the time, but this was one box that fit like a glove. BPD has many other criteria, but what people don’t see is how it can trap mental health professionals and patients alike.

To doctors, we’re puzzles consistent enough to be solved with a diagnosis. Across the years, I’ve been diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), depression, bipolar disorder II, and BPD. The amount of medication I’ve been on over the past eight years is pretty impressive. With each new diagnosis, I kept thinking, “Aha! This is who I am. This is what’s wrong with me.”

But you know what? In the end, it doesn’t matter what my label or diagnosis is. I am mentally ill; this much I know as a fact. I recognize the different parts of each disorder in me, from the desperation of BPD to the unbearable depression to the wild hypomania. I may not fit each diagnosis to a T. I may never have a label that fits me perfectly.

Because ultimately, my only identity is Margaret.

Image via Thinkstock.

The very nature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) can make relationships difficult to manage. Symptoms include unstable personal relationships and efforts to avoid being abandoned, coupled with a distorted self-image and impulsive behavior.

But that doesn’t mean people with BPD are unable to make friends, and it certainly doesn’t mean they can’t form deep relationships. In fact, the opposite can be true. To get some insight from those affected, we asked people in our mental health community to share one thing they wish their friends knew about living with borderline personality disorder.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Even the slightest sign of rejection destroys my world. Things like not answering texts, not picking up the phone or canceling a date on short notice leaves me devastated, thinking my friend hates me and doesn’t want to be with me anymore. Fears of abandonment are hard to deal with.”

2. “I’m crap at keeping in touch; I don’t mean to be. I love all the people in my life, I just don’t want my illness to affect them. I also carry shame from the times it has, making it hard to face people.”

3. “I wish friends knew how sensitive I truly am. I feel so deeply in every emotion. Bear with me, and don’t walk away. BPD really shows you how many of your friends are true. Stay strong, fellow BPDers.”

4. “I don’t mean to be annoying, but fear of abandonment and rejection makes me feel like I need constant validation.”

5. “I keep absolutely everything to myself to avoid the embarrassment, rejection and the anxiety I go through trying to get out what’s inside.”

6. “I always feel like a burden on my friends. Or like I’m just in the way. I’m scared I annoy everyone around me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to show my friends how much I love and appreciate them.”

7. “I don’t cope with cancelled plans very well, especially if they’re last minute. I feel as if they have found something better to do and don’t want to see me — even if that’s not the case.”

8. “That person who comes out sometimes isn’t me. I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’m stuck in this tiny corner of my mind, watching as I lash out at people, inwardly screaming to stop. Afterwards I’m so ashamed and embarrassed I feel like I don’t deserve to live. The people who stay with me despite Jekyll are my heroes. I couldn’t make it through this without you. I love you all, and thank you for not abandoning me.”

9. “I wish other people could know the pain I feel inside. It feels like I’m internally bleeding the vast majority of the time, and if I don’t feel scarred and raw, I feel numb. Overall, I feel like a wandering, vacant hole who needs constant affirmation that I exist. Sometimes I struggle and wonder if I am real. I feel like a tremendous burden to everyone, especially my boyfriend and therapist. I feel constant shame about the way I behave, and my therapist usually gets the brunt of my “love-hate” cycles. Most of the time I can hide my symptoms from others, but they can spill out. Sometimes I want to disappear. I work in the world of mental health, and frankly, people with BPD are often treated like lepers. I’ve seen ‘difficult’ people labeled as ‘borderline’ if others can’t understand what’s going on. Even my therapist gets frustrated at me at times, and it makes me feel like I’m too much, like I’m damaged goods.”

10. “No matter how great our friendship may be, no matter how much fun we have and laughs we share, if I’m having one of those days it doesn’t matter what you say or do: I just constantly think my friends hate me. I feel like I’m not as good as them. I feel they must not really like me because I don’t like myself, so how could they? No matter what I try, whether it’s trying positive thoughts like: ‘Would they be with me if they didn’t like me?’– it doesn’t matter. I will always feel I’m not good enough for anyone — friends or family.”

11. “People with BPD have tremendous compassion and empathy. We can feel with people in a way others often can’t. We have a lot of strengths even though we feel fragile.”

12. “If I had any friends, I’d ask them to understand my extreme emotional sensitivity. I’m sorry I can’t watch ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Walking Dead.’ The violence stays with me. I can actually feel the fear, the sadness, the horror the victim experiences.”

13. “When I have an upswing, I forget myself and just go on impulse. Sometimes that means endless reposts on Facebook, to the annoyance of some. But it’s just my way of working things out in a less dangerous way than I could be.”

14. “I put on a very hard confident shell every day, but it’s not real. Not in the slightest.”

15. “When I flake out on plans all the time, it’s not that I don’t want to spend time with you, it’s that I’m afraid if I spend too much time with you, you will discover I’m as horrible as I think I am.”

16. “My emotions are extreme, and I can’t control how I feel. I feel things so over the top, and it’s hard to come back to baseline. The abandonment feeling happens if it’s just an acquaintance, never mind if it’s someone I’m close too. And yes. I cry in response to my feelings. And no, I’m not acting childish. It’s just how I’m wired.”

17. “It’s not the easiest thing to explain. And when I finally do find the words to explain it, their first reaction is self-diagnosing themselves with it or saying everyone has that.”

18. “I don’t even understand BPD myself, so be patient with me.”

19. “I don’t seek attention. And every single day I get up and force myself to keep going and function is a huge accomplishment.”

20. “I am not a lost cause.”

21. “It’s incredibly lonely to have a disorder that affects how you handle interpersonal relationships. We wear loneliness like a cloak, weighted down with insecurity and doubt. We love our friends and families. Even when we pull away, even when our emotions are out of control, even when fear keeps us from demonstrating or saying the words, we still love you. We are not perfect. No one is. But we are worthy of your trust and your love.”

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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