Google results for borderline personality disorder

What is borderline personality disorder (BPD)? If you ask Google, you can find answers like “it’s not real,” “it’s fake,” and a series of questions like, “Is borderline personality disorder actually real?” You’ll find out that BPD is a serious mental health disorder categorized as an Axis 2 illness. That it falls under Cluster B personality disorders. BPD is marked by instability in emotion, identity and oftentimes relationships. There is also a noted existence of impulsivity, which may be linked to the instability of emotion and identity.

But unless you talk to someone with borderline personality disorder, it’s hard to understand what it’s really like.

BPD is a serious mental health disorder. It permeates the mind, grasping at every interaction, twisting neutrality to something more sinister and creating a fearful and angry response. It forces you to stare at the mirror, trying to figure out if you’re human or something else entirely. It forces you to reinvent yourself every month, at minimum.

It touches every happy memory, every positive interaction and turns the dial up, overloading your senses. It makes you giddy when someone acknowledges and validates you, but makes you horrifically depressed and suicidal when they don’t. It makes you care too strongly and too deeply about your friends.

It then flicks a switch. You can’t feel that strength anymore. You feel hatred. You push them away. You question every positive interaction, exhibiting a paranoid ideation. “Did they really mean that, or were they manipulating me?” Questioning, questioning and questioning. People with BPD are categorized as manipulative, but perhaps that’s just an effect of our brains manipulating our world.

BPD is like someone has put an octopus in your brain and given it the key to your emotional responses. Multiple switches flicking constantly. BPD is feeling like your body is not your own, and you don’t need to take care of it. It’s not something you asked for, and sometimes, you can feel your essence pushing its way out of the body.

Other times, you can still feel the octopus flicking switches. There’s a broken wire, and your emotional response and thought patterns aren’t linked. There’s no emotional response to thought patterns. Occasionally, the octopus tries to fix it, but it gets the wires crossed. Now, you have the wrong emotional response to thought patterns.

Sometimes, the octopus falls asleep on one of the switches. You become chronically depressed, angry or elevated. There are a variety of ways the octopus manipulates the links between thought processes and emotional responses. You may feel any number of emotions, a single emotion or none.

BPD is a serious illness and desperately needs to be regarded as such. It’s not simply a label health care workers can place on someone who is “behaviorally difficult.” It is a personality disorder which can infect your interactions and sense of self. It is something that is incredibly difficult to understand if you don’t experience it yourself.

So stop and listen. Listen to people with personality disorders. We need to tell our own stories. It can be incredibly useful to us. It may help us conceptualize our thoughts and consequent emotions and behaviors. This can help us can get better. Help us find out more about ourselves. Help us to help other people with personality disorders.

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


Eight years ago I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Two years ago, I was given a further diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD). I remember so clearly the day the BPD label landed in my life. At this point, I’d spent years in the public mental health service, and years trying and failing to come to grips with my extremes of emotion. We were dealing with the depression as best as we could (medication and ongoing therapy), but for every step forward I took, there seemed to be three backwards.

When BPD was finally mentioned, it made so much sense. I remember coming home and reading up about it. I was relieved to finally know what I was dealing with. Yet, I was horrified at the implications, how difficult it is to treat and to manage and how it had impacted my behavior for most of my life.

I struggled on for another year with my therapist doing the best she could to support me. Yet, it was becoming increasingly clear I needed more help than she could give (particularly as I found it more and more challenging to respect the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship).

The turning point came last May. It wasn’t a spectacular, “everything is better now” turning point, but rather one that made everything so much worse. I had an overdose. While I thankfully did no lasting damage, it was the nail in the coffin for my relationship with my therapist. She knew I needed a different intervention, and my psychiatrist had started talking about dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), so we agreed to finish. I went on the waiting list in my local adult mental health service.

All good, right? Wrong. It was decided I needed a break of at least six months between therapies. So my DBT start date was pushed out to March.

During those six months, with no emotional support of any kind, depression came back with a vengeance. By November of last year, I was signed out of work on sick leave (I’m yet to go back). We, my husband, family, friends and I, were hanging on by our fingernails. The promise of DBT was the only thing keeping me going. I was suicidal, self-harming, severely depressed and functioning at a bare minimum level. As I have two young kids, this was incredibly difficult. My general lack of ability to cope was starting to take a toll on my family.

Then, at the last minute, my treatment was pulled. Not only was I not going to get a place, it was not going to happen at all. (Mental health services in Ireland are in severe crisis and have seen significant cuts to already paltry funding over the last few years.)

I probably don’t need to describe how I reacted, how utterly devastated we were. There was something quite uniquely horrifying about being told my last available option had just been taken away from me. It felt like drowning, watching the lifeboat get closer and closer all the while struggling and losing strength. It was like watching them change their minds at the last minute and sail away, leaving me to fend for myself. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, we had been expecting this.

I’ve been let down by our mental health services so many times over the years I had never fully believed they would come through for me with something as huge as DBT. We spent a couple of days in shock, then started to consider alternatives. Private treatment wasn’t an option. It’s prohibitively expensive and we just do not have the means, particularly as I’m currently on unpaid sick leave. The more we looked, the more we realized there was no alternative. We would have to find a way to make private therapy work.

This next bit was really, really hard to do. I’ve been blogging for years about the various aspects of my mental health drama. I have a decent following, people who’ve been incredibly supportive of me and were very aware of just how badly I’d been let down by the HSE (our national health service).

I needed to raise €5,000 to fund a year of therapy (about $5,581). So I decided to try crowdfunding. It felt horrible. What right did I have to ask for money? Why did I deserve to get help above any of the other people who’d been let down just as much as me? We thought long and hard about it, but eventually decided we had been left with no choice. There was literally no other way for me to make this happen, and a future without treatment would quickly have become no future at all.

The response was just staggering. In less than 24 hours, I’d been donated enough to provide me with a year of sessions with a private clinical psychologist, one who specializes in personality disorders. I started with her a couple of months ago, and am quite literally astounded at the difference the proper treatment is already making to my life. She’s explaining so much to me about how our brains work, how our bodies react, how inextricably linked the two are and how they constantly feed into each other. Most importantly, she’s helping me to see none of this is my fault.

I have a lot of work left to do, but I’m doing better now than I have done in years, possibly ever. I’m aware I’m fairly limited in what I can take on right now and I have to work hard to keep myself well. I need to keep things as simple as I can, avoid stress and watch my diet, my sleep, my exercise and the demands I put on myself. I also need to be able to function as a parent. With all of this, going back to work just isn’t on the cards for the immediate future. Right now, it would be a push too far, a push that would take energy away from everything else that has to happen.

With the help of my new therapist, I’m in a far better place to accept that. I’m not jumping ahead to what’s going to come next or what could be around the corner. I am where I am, and that’s the absolute best I can do. I’m just so incredibly grateful to the people who made this possible for me. They have quite literally saved my life.

This post originally appeared on Healing From BPD.

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 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

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