Thoughtful man in the living room

To the Doctor Who Told Me BPD Meant Giving Up My Dream

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A lot of moments in life can be defining, even if they seem small. My first one was when my beautiful, wonderful dog (who was just a puppy at the time) took her first steps into my home. It was her unconditional love throughout the majority of my life that birthed my love for animals. I have always wanted to be a veterinary surgeon. Fast forward 17 years and I’m not only a vet student, but I’m studying at Cambridge. My dream truly is set to be a reality.

Yet, I found myself sitting through another defining moment in a small room in A+E (the U.K.’s Accident & Emergency mental health crisis services). This was not my first trip, but it was the first time I sat in the hospital in my hometown. It was midnight. My parents had dragged me there at their wit’s end with worry. They had no idea what to do with a son who was blind to everything but the desire to take his own life.

Mental health teams in Cambridge had discharged and dismissed me up to this point with comments such as, “I think you are actually in control of your emotions.” It is for this reason I had lost faith and, running out of options, I had come back home with my parents.

In this hospital, it was different. The lady opposite me listened for four solid hours. She wrote notes on everything: being picked on in school for my weight and sexuality, disordered eating, turbulent and dysfunctional relationships (which other mental health professionals, in their own ignorant discrimination, have called “typical of a gay man my age”), bouts of psychosis and paranoia, self-harm and emotional instability. This instability fluctuated from suicidal depression to extreme elation, anxiety or anger in a matter of hours. The persistent suicidal ideation is why I sat before her.

The situation I had come in for and the information I had given were exactly the same as that I gave other mental health teams. The response was profoundly different. To me and my parents, she gave me her measured response, “Let me be clear: You are not in control of your emotions. You are very ill. I think you need to take sick leave from university.” These words cut through me, but she offered hope.

At the time, it was assumed I could have bipolar disorder, but nothing was certain. With this in mind, she reassured me even doctors lived with mental illness and it would not be an obstacle. All I needed was time away to recover, a dream halted, not ruined.

I had an appointment with a psychiatrist back in Cambridge that had been arranged last time I visited A+E there. The mental health worker said she would send her four-hour assessment to the team there. They would assess me with all the necessary information.

So, a few days later, I was in Cambridge again at my appointment. The doctor sat down and told me he had no notes on me, apart from some very scant words from a visit to hospital the year before. He had none of the notes from the nurses’ hours of work in the past month in either Cambridge or in my hometown. I, of course, asked him to retrieve them, to which he refused. I told him my plans for treatment back home, and he angrily retorted he could do very little for me, except give me a diagnosis. He dismissed any ideas I had about the possibility of bipolar disorder and told me I had borderline personality disorder (BPD). He offered no explanation as to what this was. Stressed from the situation, my nose started bleeding. He continued to tell me there was no drug treatment.

I ended the appointment abruptly, very uncomfortable. As I left, he said the words that will remain with me the rest of my life, “I think you should give up Cambridge. Not for one year, completely. You clearly can’t handle the pressure.”

That sentence still stings now. I sat in the car with my dad, sobbing, on the phone to the mental health team back in my hometown. They arranged an appointment with another psychiatrist and confirmed I would be able to access services there on sick leave. The same week, I packed up my room and left. I remember driving away, thinking about the doctor, and saying to my dad, “It feels like all my dreams are dying.”

I am infinitely lucky. I was and still am incredibly grateful to have had access to services that, no matter what my opinion, saved my life on numerous occasions. They were focused on making me healthy again. I have friends and family who go above and beyond to support me, understand me and love me (and I hope I can return the same sentiments). While I have worked hard, I have a lot of privilege that has allowed me to get a good education and follow my dream of becoming a vet. I know a lot of people do not and will never get this amount of opportunity.

My mental health was at rockbottom regardless of that. Mental health issues are indiscriminate and attack people in all walks of life, trying to get in the way of whatever personal progress people want to make. Thus, I did not let this doctor’s (probably well-meaning) words define me or shape my future. My diagnosis surprised me, but reading more into it, I realized my symptoms fit. I knew, like bipolar or depression that I had been misdiagnosed with previously, it was treatable.

With this in mind, what followed was long and hard on me, my family and my friends. I spent every day of the two weeks surrounding Christmas as an outpatient at my local acute, mental health hospital in intensive therapy. There, clinical psychologists explained the ins and outs of my illness. Crucially, they recognized academic pressure was not the underlying cause and I could return to study veterinary medicine when I recovered. A new doctor changed and increased my drug treatment. These appointments, though only small things, bolstered my confidence. I would get better.

I was referred onto therapy specific for BPD, which taught emotional regulation, interpersonal skills and distress tolerance. These eliminated old coping mechanisms like disordered eating, alcohol dependency, self-harm and suicidal ideation and replaced them with more healthy ones. They filled the empty hopelessness and the uncertainty of where my life was going. They taught me to create long-term goals. One goal was to use my time off university to take an exam in flute performance, a hobby in disuse due to the stresses of my illness. I learned how to change my own perceptions of abandonment and criticism, my emotional reactions and to incorporate a sense of rationality through mindfulness. I met a group of fantastic, brilliant people to learn from and share experiences with.

I took the flute exam. It’s very likely I didn’t pass, but it was good to show myself I could put my mind to something again. I completed and continue to use the psychological and drug therapy. All the symptoms of my BPD became manageable. I took time out to recover. It took diligent work. The support of my therapy group, my family and friends were instrumental in recovering. I owe so much to all of them.

A few weeks ago my doctor signed off a letter approving my return to university in October. Through the many hard years and the terrible experiences I had, I was blessed to end up having a positive outcome and good treatment. I know this is a story so many people in a similar situation have not been entitled to.

Mental health services in the U.K. are in disarray, underfunded and too inconsistent in different areas. Something must be done to change this crisis. If you are living with BPD or live with any other mental illness, then you should know you are not alone. There is hope, and the fight, even for the little things (like getting out of bed in the morning), is worth it. I spent years thinking recovery was impossible or a dream. Now I’m here, admittedly still with my bad days, but looking forward to the future.

So, the only thing I want to say to that doctor is: thank you. You are a good doctor. Our short meeting and my interpretation of events were not representative of that. For this, I’m sorry. However, you should know your throw-away comment inspired and still does inspire me to get better, to love my life, to keep going and, most importantly, to prove you wrong.

Image via Thinkstock.

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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A Night With Borderline Personality Disorder

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This is my story of what some of my nights are like with borderline personality disorder (BPD). I wanted to write this to show the number of thoughts that go through my head because of my condition. I wanted to show their randomness, speed and how difficult they are to control. Secondly, I wanted to write about my amazing partner, who has given me unconditional love, kindness and patience and who always wakes up with a smile, even at 1:56 a.m.

11:23 p.m.– I, sleepily, wake up on the couch.

11:24 p.m.– I am wide awake and can’t go back to sleep. Why can’t I ever just sleep? Just one night. Remember the relaxation techniques. Quickly, go to bed. No light. No phones. That’s what it says to do. Why is it like this? He really needs to get this snoring sorted out. Ten deep breathes. That will help. 1, 2… it’s not working. Get up quickly, before it starts.

11:25 p.m.– I drink a glass of water. I walk around the house, pee and get back to bed.

11:26 p.m.Please sleep. Please sleep. Please sleep.

1:52 a.m.– I am wide awake, again. I look at the time. Three more hours and I can get up without it being weird. Tomorrow will be different. It has to be different. If I do all the right things, then I will sleep. Tomorrow is a new day. If I start exercising tomorrow, then I can be skinny by summer.

It’s hot in here. Is the heater off? Don’t eat tomorrow and exercise. There’s nothing to do tomorrow. Tomorrow I am by myself all day. Why don’t I have any friends? Why doesn’t anyone want to help me? After everything I have done for people, and now I am the one who has to feel like this and live like this?

What is the point of even living? I have no purpose on this earth. How many pills are in the kitchen? Not enough. I just need help. Why won’t someone help me?

I need to pay childcare and internet bills. I have no money. I need to go back to work. I’m too sick to go back to work. I’m too “crazy” to work, too tired to work, but I need money. I have no time to get better. There’s never any time to get better.

I just want this to stop. Why can’t it just stop? Just for one second, ever. What kind of a life is this when your worst enemy is your mind? I hate this so much. Just go to sleep. Just go to sleep. It’s not working. It never works. Someone help me. Make this stop. I just want to be happy. Why am I being punished like this? What did I do?

1:53 a.m.– It’s getting bad. Between the thoughts blaring at me, my mind is frantically grasping at the techniques I have learned to stop this from getting worse. Ten deep breathes. Mindfulness. DBT. F*ck. I am done. I can’t do this all the time. I can’t even just think. I have to stop this.

1:54 a.m.– Can I wake him up? He has work today. Try and calm down. Just get up again. I just did that. I am so tired, all the time. What is the point of this? I can’t do this forever.

I need help. Maybe I should go back to the hospital? I don’t want to go back to the hospital. I can’t go back to the hospital. They will take my kids away. I need to calm down. No one can take my kids away. I am a good mum. I am a good mum. No, I’m not. My kids are better off without me. I miss them. I want them here. I just want a normal life. I just want my kids.

This is too hard. No one should have to live like this. This is an awful illness. No one should have to do this. How are people living like this? It will never stop. I’m scared. I need help. This isn’t stopping.

1:56 a.m.– “Babe? Baby, please wake up. I’m not good.”

1:57 a.m.– A hug. A smile. He is perfect. I am the luckiest person in the universe.

1:58 a.m. – He would be better off without me. How does he even live like this? He can’t even sleep without me annoying him. One day he will see this is a big mistake and leave. I have to be OK if he does. So if he ever wants to go, he can. I don’t want him to stay because I am like this. Why would anyone want to be with me? My own family don’t want to be around me, why would he?

1:59 a.m.– He takes me back to the couch. We are talking. A hug. A kiss. My mind calms.

2:15 a.m.– I’m falling asleep. I need to get back to bed.

4:59 a.m.– I’m awake. It’s morning. It’s another day. I’m scared. Please, be a good day.

5:00 a.m.– I’m startled by a loud snore next to me. Looking over, I know even if it’s a bad day, I’ll still be OK.

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.




A Night With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Sea, Sand, Sun and Sadness: The Challenges of BPD in the Summer

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It’s summer again! Sun, sea, cheery children and happy families all over Facebook and everywhere you look. It is also a time when my borderline personality disorder (BPD) rages and rants like a snubbed toddler. It is when the full extent of my “damage” shows itself in glorious technicolor, to anyone who happens to be looking.

I’ve spent the majority of my 43 years watching others on the beach, in the street, on the news and now, in this digital age, on the internet. Sunblushed children, “yummy mummys,” giggly “date nights,” gangs of extended family and friends in tow. It all looks so right. It looks so normal, so great. Yet, it is all utterly foreign to me.

My brain illness sets me apart and colors me in grey. With a concerted, exhaustive effort I can just about act like I fit in, for maybe half a day. I can wear the right cosmetics (but never the bikini) and “blend” in with a group of friendly strangers who don’t notice or mind me photobombing their lives for an hour or two. Truthfully, life doesn’t work that way for me, and I can’t see how it ever could.

I can’t go to the beach with my kids. Well, not without wearing jeans, trainers and a button up coat. I can’t bear the physical exposure, the perceived judgments. I give myself so many limitations. I feel so inadequate amongst those “other mothers.” Where they seem so warm, open and filled, I judge myself to be cold, distant, frightened and empty. They are at ease enough to “have a drink,” to lower their inhibitions and necklines with admirable abandon. They are au naturel, with no desire to make up their faces when the bright and friendly sun is happy to bring out their natural glow. They are comfortable with their imperfect bodies, letting go of constraints so effortlessly or so it seems.

How increasingly envious I feel seeing this through the safe and anonymous eyes of Facebook, all my deepest horrors rise to the surface. My misconceptions, which are common amongst people with BPD, mean I assume everyone else is happy. I catastrophize everything, waiting for the walls to come crashing in, as surely they must. (A tsunami in Cornwall? Rare, but still!)

I feel ruined. Worst of all, my children miss out. They can’t have those fun-filled, carefree beach days, not with me. My social reasoning is so impaired. I dissociate further and the instability of my self-image leads me down into the darkness of self-loathing (with a hefty double side order of guilt.)

I am capable of losing myself on the internet in a positive way sometimes, mainly during the other three “safer” seasons. I like looking for support groups. I have a thirst for information, a need to find answers and a quest to locate “fun.” I look at beautiful, dark architecture, multi-colored clowns and elderly rescued Labradors, and I like it. Yet, as the weather gets warmer and the good and the sane jet away to further shores, documenting it all gleefully on Facebook, my paranoia starts to kick back in. I have the suspicion that all my (so-called) FB friends are doing it just to spite me. Irrational, right? Well that’s the name of the game.

My symptoms start to rumble and flicker, then spring to life in all their jangled toxicity. They hadn’t gone. They were just in hibernation. I can’t afford to take my children away, even if I could stand to. My marriage has failed. I’m trapped. The kids must hate me. I’m confused, sad and lonely and on and on and on.

Watching these seemingly easy family holidays transpiring via sparkling satellite racks me with regret about every element of my life. It is hard to live with. My kids never see me barefaced or barefooted. My self-doubt and prickling anxiety forbids it. This leads to anger, anger at myself, at those healthy, wonderful “other mothers,” and at God himself for having cursed me with this illness.

The impotence of this self-hate becomes too much. All too often, walls get secretly punched. The sudden and immediate pain extinguishes my overstimulated senses, but only for a while. Then, the tears arrive. Tears of grief at the notion of a better life denied to me by genes, early experiences and rotten luck. I grieve the life we could have had if this illness not had been written through my core, like the words through a stick of seaside rock.

So this year, as the planes fill up with trios, quartets, droves of fun seekers, eager to dance their easy dances on beaches, in restaurants and in theme parks everywhere, I will find a way to ride my own wave. This year, I have a better reason than ever to try harder. My kids are growing up. They are more aware and more observant. Hiding my pain behind this mask of normalcy won’t fool them for much longer.

So off the laptop will go, as well as the internet and TV. Instead of yearning for a slice of someone else’s easiness,  I will work with what I have, and I do have quite a lot, an inquiring mind, a tenacity born of desperation, a much loved big brother and four fabulous children.

Tomorrow, I will be with my (no longer so little) babies, hearing and seeing them, not just nodding and smiling at them through the smeared and confusing partition of guilt that has traditionally obscured our view of each other. They can visit the beach with their father, then they come home to me. I will hear their tales of adventures with my own two ears, consciously unfiltered by the old, ruinous feelings of uselessness.

Because I’m not (totally) useless. I may not (yet) have found a way to wear a pretty, yellow maxi dress and frolic with abandon on the sand. Yet, I refuse to waste another summer yearning for another life, a life that may just remain but is too far out of reach.

Image via Thinkstock.

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A Journey With Borderline Personality Disorder

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My Childhood

“We were born to be real, not perfect.”

The author as a small child

I was always very shy and timid growing up. I never did drugs, I never ran away, I never drank or broke the law, I never self-harmed. I didn’t have a lot of friends and was often bullied or made fun of for my appearance. I tried to participate in sports but never made the cut. The lack of validation and inclusion took a toll on my self-esteem. I often felt I wasn’t “good enough” for anyone or anything. I didn’t have a sense of self for years and this resulted in being a “follower” and only being interested in the things my small social circle was interested in.

Overall, at home and at school, I didn’t have the best childhood or teenage years. I felt trapped and worthless. Although I didn’t believe it at the time — I know now I was a good kid. The moment I could, I tried to escape the pain. I graduated high school early and started working full-time immediately. I fell in love, got pregnant and married at 18 and bought a brand new house by the age of 20. Everything happened so quickly. Then, what felt like “out of the blue,” I found myself with intense emotions that were out of control. I felt clueless, lost and completely alone surrounded by everything I could have ever dreamed of having around the age of 22.

Cry for Help

“Not all wounds are visible.”

screaming-1

Although I wore a cheerful facade and kept my life busy, eventually I started behaving in ways I didn’t understand. I wasn’t myself and I began reacting to certain situations and people in ways I never thought I would. I started seeking out attention, being angry often, found myself crying immensely, cared less for others and didn’t appreciate anything around me. I was crumbling on the inside. My husband at the time didn’t understand what was going on or how to handle it. He had me on a pedestal and it still wasn’t “enough” for me. I was lacking the emotional support in my life. “It’s just hormones.” or “It’s just post-partum. You’ll get over it” or “PMS’ing again I see.” I knew it was more than that but instead of seeking help, I continued to act out — quietly. My facade came crashing down after my illness took me hostage. Not long after, I left my marriage and house behind and wanted to live alone and free to do whatever I wanted. I behaved selfishly and was self-destructive in a lot of ways. I tried escaping the pain yet again by leaving. It didn’t work. That’s when I was introduced to Rock Bottom.

My Diagnosis

“We are survivors from the moment of diagnosis.”

buddha

It’s been four years since my diagnosis. I can remember the day vividly; being handed a pamphlet from my psychologist titled “borderline personality disorder” (BPD). I was relieved and scared. I finally had answers to my years of suffering, but I didn’t know where to begin to recover. The word that stood out to me most that session was “recoverable”.

My psychologist immediately advised I should be on a mood stabilizer and considered me an “at risk” patient. A few painful months later, I decided to take the medication, albeit reluctantly, due to my own ambivalence. I did so to help ease the intensity of my emotions in order for me to learn how to cope in a healthier more positive way, for myself and my two kids.

My Research: 

“Research is formalized curiosity.”

The writer holding a book

According to the DSM, an individual must meet five of the nine symptoms to be diagnosed with BPD. At the time of my diagnosis, I had seven of the nine symptoms: avoided real or imagined abandonment, unstable interpersonal relationships, identity disturbance, impulsivity, emotional instability, chronic feelings of emptiness and intense anger. The two other symptoms I never experienced were suicidal behavior and dissociation. One thing I learned was that everyone experiences every condition differently. Some have more severe symptoms than others.

After reading, I learned that I was a “high-functioning and introverted borderline.” In other words, just about anyone and everyone in my life didn’t know I had a mental health condition because I have always been self-reliant and capable of meeting all of my basic necessities. I have always held a steady job and maintained a good work ethic all my life. Although I acted out, many people didn’t see it or recognize there was a problem aside from my husband. I was suffering quietly inside and was afraid to show my intense emotions to friends and family members for at that time and growing up I believed that emotions were “wrong” or “bad.”

Help Is Out There

“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it.”

dont-give-up

Once I committed to recovery and changing my whole lifestyle, I discovered how much help was actually out there. I initially created mindslikeours.org to jot down my thoughts, feelings and emotions regarding mental illness. I wanted to track my recovery and record everything I learned on my journey. That’s when I found this amazing mental health community online. I had no idea how many people out there that struggled as much as I did. E-mails, comments and Facebook messages came pouring in from people all over the world thanking me for sharing my story and how much it helped them to recover. These beautiful people I barely knew offered love, support and admiration and it made a profound impact on me. Their loving energy I felt from them and my therapist gave me a sense of empowerment and the realization I didn’t have to hide or fight this battle on my own. Since, I have become close with several people all over the world that I met through blogging. I am truly grateful for each and every one of my supporters!

Recovery

“Recovery isn’t something you do; it’s a lifestyle.”

a author standing, with the text: Recovery isn't something you do, it's a lifestyle

This is the part where you find out who you really are. This is where I found my true self, my passion, my true friends and my strength to overcome just about anything. Recovery starts with willingness. It’s a long road but I assure you — it’s worth it.

As of June 2014, I got out of my unhealthy relationship of three years and decided to make a change in my life; focus on recovery, self-care and overall life-improvement. Aside from my two beautiful children, these have been my top priorities. I was terrified to leave my relationship and face my fears, I was scared to face them alone but I knew I had to. My lifestyle needed to change — I needed a healthier social circle, I needed away from home-brewing beer with the gang, I needed less drama and an overall better support system.

So it began — I moved in with my parents to pay off debt and build up a savings plan again, spent more time with family members, joined a women’s group, stopped drinking so much, focused more of my attention on the kids, finished my associates degree, joined the Recovery International community group, mentored teenagers who have my illness, started my bachelors program in psychology, focused on dialectical behavior therapy, and made therapy a weekly visit rather than a whenever-I-have-an-episode visit. I faced a lot of fears, traveled alone and attended mental health conferences in my free time. It took a lot of courage and strength to take these steps ,but I was determined to be healthy and happy, and now I am.

It’s easy to lose sight of self-care. Life gets busy being a single mom, working full-time and attending school, but it’s important to stay focused on your road to recovery, even if you’re doing OK for the moment.

Two years into my recovery, I was/am considered a recovered borderline. Today, I don’t meet the number of criteria in the DSM for borderline personality disorder. I do, however, still struggle with my emotions. I will always be an emotionally sensitive person but with my DBT therapy, skills and high emotional intelligence, I am capable of handling my emotions in a healthy and positive way. Recovery has led me to new clarity and a deep appreciation for life.

Outcome

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”

The author walking on train tracks. Text reads: It's a long road but it's worth it.

Recovery is possible! I am living proof. This is truly the happiest I have ever been in my life. The experience has lit a fire in my soul. From that moment forward, I have been inspired to seek out new avenues to nurture my inner self. I still continue therapy twice a month for overall personal development. I am passionate about learning and becoming a better person every single day. Recovery has become my lifestyle and I can’t imagine ever going back to any other lifestyle. I still have many things I want to work on in my life and I’m aware that nothing is perfect, there will be bumps in the road, but I am stronger than I ever have been before and I know I can handle any challenge that comes my way.

I often get asked, “If you could go back and change things (past mistakes, my illness, suffering, and overall life path) – would you?” My answer is no. I have no regrets and everything I have done and been through has made me the person I am today — and I am proud of the person I am now. I wouldn’t be here or learned everything I have learned if I didn’t go through the past pain, mistakes and sufferings. I am wiser and more intelligent because of it all. I firmly believe everything happens for a reason. It all plays out the way it’s supposed to. I own my story.

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4 Ways Borderline Personality Disorder Affects My Life

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I am diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It affects four main areas of my life:

1. Emotional irregularity.

BPD is exhausting and confusing to live with. I’m never sure whether to trust my emotions, if they’re justified or if I’m just overreacting. My moods are mostly always triggered by something in my environment, but if something good happens five minutes later I’ll immediately feel euphoric.

Every emotion I feel is amplified. They can change at the drop of a hat and can last only minutes or hours. When I am in a severe crisis, where I am experiencing intense emotions, I will sometimes dissociate to deal with it. It will feel as if the situation isn’t actually real and I’m watching myself from outside of my body.

I have had difficulty controlling my anger and have often succumbed to attacks of extreme rage, throwing things, screaming or crying. It is usually very inappropriate for the situation and I can be very sarcastic and bitter. It is during these episodes of rage I am most likely to intentionally hurt myself. I am much more in control of this symptom now with the help of medication, but I still have my moments. I also usually feel very internally restless, like something is missing. I get bored extremely easily and sometimes feel like a hollow shell. I never have a sense of fulfillment.

2. Unstable relationships.

I am very sensitive to what I perceive as rejection. I’m convinced people hate me and/or are just going to leave me eventually. I will do whatever it takes to stop people from leaving me. I will even unintentionally manipulate the person without being aware I’m doing it. I also alternate between idealizing people relatively quickly, and then devaluing them just as fast because of a perceived slight.

I take everything personally, so my relationships with others are usually very strained. I can also get paranoid and suspicious in close relationships with people. I will subconsciously try to sabotage my relationships because I am terrified people will hurt me. I will reject people before they can reject me, or even test them to see how much they care about me.

Obviously this behavior will drive some people away. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, I don’t actually want to end things, but I literally cannot cope with being hurt. So I’m trying to protect myself at all costs. Everything I do is protecting myself somehow. I know you have to let yourself be vulnerable in a relationship, but I can’t afford to do that. The risk is too great.

3. Impulsive behavior.

Because of my dual diagnosis of ADHD, my impulsivity is through the roof. I don’t think before I speak or act, and I will engage in dangerous behaviors like driving recklessly, spending more than I can afford, alcohol abuse and sabotaging success, especially when I’m upset. This kind of behavior has gotten me arrested twice. I struggle a lot with this area. I will sometimes impulsively make suicidal gestures and threats in response to perceived rejection or abandonment.

4. Identity disturbance.

I’m not sure who I am or who I should be. BPD tells me constantly I’m worthless, unlovable and my friends and family secretly hate me. Even though I rationally know this is not true, the voice is so loud and convincing. My self-esteem is very fluctuating and I can yo-yo back and forth between being very confident to feeling inferior. I am a chameleon and usually take on the personalities of those I am around. People with BPD look to others to provide things they find difficult to supply for themselves, such as self-esteem, approval and a sense of identity.

Another aspect of BPD that affects me is perfectionism. I am extremely hard on myself and hold myself to unattainable expectations, accepting nothing less than what I deem as perfection. If I don’t succeed in reaching these obnoxiously high standards, I will fly into a flurry of anxiety, rage at myself, depression and frustration. People with BPD desperately seek validation and approval from others because it determines our self-worth. If we are “perfect” in all dimensions, only then will we have unequivocal evidence we are worth something.

Despite all of the above setbacks, I still believe I am a good person with many positive traits. I am passionate, spontaneous, empathetic, devoted, loyal, creative, determined, flexible, brave, charming, intelligent and resilient. I am much more than my illness, and I refuse to let it control 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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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10 Things I Needed to Hear the Day I Was Diagnosed With Borderline Personality Disorder

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After seven-plus years of waiting, wondering, hopelessness and confusion, I was finally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Although I have several other mental illnesses that coincide with BPD, I identify most with this unpredictable illness.

Here are 10 things I needed to hear the day I vividly remember hearing the life-changing words, “You have borderline personality disorder.”

1. This is not a death sentence. You will have to make adjustments and they will be hard, but you can make it through this…I promise.

2. It will be a long journey to find the right combination of meds and therapy. Don’t give up. There are thousands of medications and many therapies out there. Stick with it, no matter how bad the meds make you feel.

3. Speaking of therapy, it may not “work” at first. You will have to find a therapist you feel comfortable with and trust or it won’t work. This is a crucial piece of the puzzle that is BPD.

4. This diagnosis can feel like both a blessing and a curse at times. You feel all emotions intensely, including the good ones. You will face depression, anxiety and all the negative feelings with excruciating intensity. But you will love with passion, experience euphoric happiness and care deeply for others.

5. There will be hard days — very hard days. You will feel lower than dirt, but hold on. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Your body and mind are temples; treat them as such. Take time to play, get away and do things that fill your soul. Yes, you are worth it — yes, you deserve it — and yes, this is crucial to staying alive. There will be days where all you can do is eat and breathe. Even those are victories.

6. You may need to take time off work, or you may not be able to work during especially difficult periods. Embrace this time as part of your self-care and refuse to feel guilty or less than for needing the break.

7. You may lose some friends and family. They may come back, but some may not. This will hurt profoundly. However, if they truly love you, you will learn and grow together. Your relationships with them will strengthen, and things about you they did not understand before will begin to make sense. Cut ties with those who choose not to believe you or treat you with the love and respect you deserve.

8. This amazing thing will eventually happen if you can find the courage to keep an open heart. The right people will come into your life and fill the voids left by those you lost. These people will form your support system, and together you will fight, love and celebrate. They will speak truths over you, hold you and cry with you. They will say things you don’t like and probably will make you do things you don’t want to do (like taking showers and leaving the house), but this team will save your life again and again, literally.

9. Most likely you will hear many insensitive remarks like, “You’re so dramatic” and “You take everything so personally.” Work on your reactions to these negative words and learn how to “practice the pause” — pause to breathe, to think, to bring to mind those truths you have learned from experience and your team, and then pause again before deciding if the comment even warrants a reply.

10. It is OK. You will be OK. Your story is beautiful and meaningful. Hang in there, you amazing warrior, you.

Fighting and surviving for almost 10 years — I am living proof.

Image via Thinkstock Images

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