There’s an ongoing sense of “I can’t talk about this,” and “I can’t trust my own mind.” When you can’t trust your own mind, you need to seek reassurance, but there’s always a battle of “who can I trust?” Speaking as someone with quite strong paranoid ideation, this is an uphill battle. You find solace in people who are like you; who experience the world through the same tinted glass. When you talk to people who don’t experience these symptoms, you’re often greeted with fear and disdain, which can feel incredibly demoralizing and dehumanizing.
When people find out I have BPD and DPDR disorder, there’s always a change in their behavior, especially when I discuss what that means for me; paranoia, visual disturbances, tactile disturbances, auditory disturbances, identity crises, rapidly changing emotions, impulsive behaviors and an overwhelming level of executive dysfunction/disorganization. This behavior change is rarely a positive — “Oh, that makes sense, at least you’ll be able to manage it now!” It’s usually a fearful — “You shouldn’t talk about that;” “You’re not that bad;” or an ill-informed, “No, you don’t have those, you’re not that manipulative.”
Then, there’s the media; news portrayals of “psychotic goes on rampage” and the ever present slogans in fashion, “I put the hot in psychotic”/”cute but psycho.”
It’s an ongoing, uphill battle dealing with the uncertainty of your own mind and external influences at the same time. I hope more people learn about the proper ways to talk to/about us. Most importantly, I hope everyone with psychosis, BPD and other “scary” illnesses and symptoms are able to find at least one person they can talk to who won’t shut them down, and who will support them. I hope the healthcare system follows, and we get the respect we deserve.
Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is exhausting.It’s like living on an emotional roller coaster 24 hours a day, seven days a week.You just don’t know how you will wake up or what triggers you’ll have to face during the day — these can be anything from words to sights to thoughts. Emotions fly into your head fast, and before you even really think about it, you’ve totally catastrophized whatever started the thought in the first place.
Or on the other side of the scale, you feel absolutely nothing at all, just emptiness.
The thing with BPD is the constant change of emotions.One minute you’re fine, then the tornado hits.You’re angry, upset or want to hurt yourself (just to name a few). A lot of the time you just don’t know why, let alone when these outbursts will happen.The scary thing is that it only takes the tiniest thing to trigger it all off.Just keeping up with these changes, especially on bad days, drains you of all your energy. Life with BPD is constantly questioning every move you make or thing you say.
You text someone and don’t hear back as soon as you would like to, and then you start thinking: They don’t like me.They don’t want to see me.What have I done wrong?I must be a terrible. What is wrong with me?Are they avoiding me? Why? Why? Why? Now, I sometimes just don’t text people for fear of rejection, making the world both lonely and exhausting.
Plans being cancelled also triggers off these same questions and feelings.I often feel they’ve found someone they would rather hang out with, or something better to do.Once again, I am not good enough.
Another thing I do is keep everything to myself. I really don’t share what’s going on in my life with anyone except family.Until I was diagnosed I did not realize why.Bottling everything up all the time and hiding behind a mask is hard work. You also don’t want to share too much because you don’t want to let people get too close — you’re so afraid of abandonment it feels safer to keep everyone at arm’s length.Abandonment is a huge issue for me.
Imagine keeping up with these constant feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness — it is sometimes too much to bear and you just want to shut off.
Impulsiveness is another thing you have to look out for, though often thoughts come in so quickly it can be difficult to notice.For me, it’s the struggle of self-harming.Sometimes out of nowhere I get this unbearable, stomach-churning urge to hurt myself, just to relieve the heightened painful emotions I feel. (Now I have coping strategies in place to help beat these feelings.)For other people, these urges can be to drink, do drugs, act on suicidal thoughts, go on spending sprees or binge eat, to name a few.
The best way to describe living with borderline personality disorder is that it’s like walking on eggshells — for both you and those around you (as they don’t know how you will be from one moment to the next).
However exhausting living with BPD is, it comes with a vast amount of empathy, sensitivity and compassion for others. So as exhausting as it is to live with, it’s also not all bad.
On the Monday this picture was taken, I received several compliments at work. When I uploaded this photo as my new profile picture on Facebook the next evening, more than a hundred people liked it, many leaving comments about how beautiful I looked. Yet, I felt like the picture was a façade and a fraud, something I uploaded to show all my “friends” I was happy and pretty, even though I felt like neither.
What no one knows about this picture is I was struggling with my borderline personality disorder (BPD). It was running on full speed. I wanted to self-harm just 15 minutes before because of the number I saw on the scale. Clothes were scattered all over my room because nothing fit or covered up everything I wanted it to hide. I had just taken an extra anxiety pill and was even considering taking a shot of vodka to get me out the door and to work. My head was full. It was loud and inundated with negative internal dialogue. I screamed at myself to stop, said a prayer and quickly walked out the door.
That morning I wanted proof I was a messed up “crazy” person. So I snapped a picture in the hallway of my apartment building. At first, all I saw was the extra weight on my face and my acne-scarred skin and wrinkles. However, I didn’t hate it and decided not to immediately press delete.
Throughout the Monday and Tuesday before I posted the picture of the “happy, pretty me,” I thought a great deal about why I felt that picture was a fake, what I knew no one could tell about my BPD in it and what even I couldn’t see at first glance. I carefully examined the photo and saw what I had missed, the slight sadness in my eyes. Then, it started making sense.
That picture was real and was exactly who I am. I saw I was every bit that sad and happy girl in the picture. I realized those wrinkles and scars are not ugly. They are simply a part of my story. And the extra weight? Well, that was too, because I had gained it during months on a steroid that kept me alive after a severe asthma attack left me with a partially collapsed lung and a 10-day hospital stay.
Everything “wrong” with the picture proved I was alive for a purpose and on an incredible journey. The realness of that picture portrayed me exactly how I was at that moment, a girl battling a severe mental illness. Although the intense emotions that accompany BPD may have been tamed in that picture to everyone else, they were most definitely there in the details.
It reminded me of one of the most truthful quotes I have ever read from “Perks of Being a Wallflower.” It says, “So, this is my life, and I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” And I am perfectly OK with that, whether you can or can’t tell in that picture.
“I’m too sad to walk. Just give me a few… hours.” — Sadness from “Inside Out”
Sadness is a complex, compassionate, and pragmatic character from the
movie “Inside Out” who is constantly over thinking situations. She is a realist, and she understands that sadness is a crucial emotion — a powerful and influential emotion. I relate to her as a person with BPD (borderline personality disorder) because she is real life, blunt, and unfiltered.
Sadness is black and white. Her reality is different many times from the other emotions in the movie. When I’m having a “BPD Moment,” as I’ve come to call them, I believe everyone is out to get me. It feels like no one understands me — just like Sadness felt many times throughout the movie. Sometimes, when her life becomes overwhelming, she lies down and cries on the floor. Oh, I can’t tell you how many times I have shut down and cried or slept for hours because of my own overpowering emotions.
Although her sadness is engulfing, Sadness accepts her limitations — she doesn’t feel guilty. When you have BPD, learning to live with your limitations and not holding yourself to unreasonable expectations is a necessary strategy to function well in life.
Sadness is also patient with herself, and she isn’t interested in changing for anyone else. I believe sadness has the most common sense of any emotion.
People who live with BPD realize they must also take their extreme emotions — both good and bad—and make friends with them. Borderline brings not only intense sadness, but also euphoric happiness. All of us with BPD must continually practice strategies to help us successfully ride the roller coaster of emotions we experience on a “normal” day to find the delicate balance between sadness and joy. Although borderline personality disorder makes finding emotional stability tremendously difficult, I will not give up. I refuse to shun any of my emotions or try to keep them buried inside because they make others feel uncomfortable. Through years of therapy, I now know I am allowed, even encouraged, to embrace all my feelings including sadness.
Because Sadness grasps what the other emotions cannot — that without her, there would be no joy; and that joy through sadness is truly beautiful.
There are nine criteria to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder — and I want to explain them as someone who has experienced them in an “internal” sense. A lot of these do not apply to me anymore due to my hard work with recovery, but I sometimes struggle with a couple of them.
1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
Sometimes I would have frantic thoughts about how I’m going to handle, manipulate and control certain situations that have not happened yet. During an episode, I can get myself worked up with facts and detailed research about situations that have not happened, making myself extremely upset.
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
The love-hate relationships, oh yes! I can feel the intensity inside me just thinking about it; feeling so loved, extremely happy and cared about to suddenly feeling forgotten, neglected, or disappointed. I’m feeling that way right now and I’m not even in a relationship. This can happen for me with coworkers or friends, even family members. Usually I don’t say anything because I’m aware it’s not necessarily something that others are doing, it’s just how I’m feeling or it’s just a part of the disorder. In my past relationships before I was diagnosed, the intensity was bad. They were breakdowns over nothing, really. That happened far more than I care to admit.
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
I was always chameleon like. I adapted and identified myself with whoever I was around or associating with. I never had a personality or a sense of who Kayla was. If someone asked me what I liked, I’d say something I thought that person liked. If I liked what my friends liked, then I wouldn’t feel alone or different and we would all get along better. I was easily convinced others’ ideas and thoughts were always right and I was always wrong. The idea of thinking for myself or working on my own personality was terrifying. I was a follower, I needed decisions and ideas and thoughts to be made up for me. I was scared of being me, scared of being different. I had no sense of self, or what I liked. Now, I can’t tell you how much I love being different. At 27 years old, I finally came into my own. I finally figuring out what I like and don’t like. I discovered a huge sense of self and it is the most liberating feeling. Be you!
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving).
“Promiscuous sex, alcohol and spending money. If I didn’t feel loved by someone, I was seeking a lot of attention from men just to feel something, anything. There wasn’t even any real connection with the person, I just wanted to feel desired during times I was feeling so empty and alone. At that time, I truly thought my worth was defined by someone loving or not loving me. I would drink often, almost every night. I would spend money I didn’t have, put myself in extreme amount of debt just because shopping was, I thought, therapeutic. Now, I will never put myself in these situations again. Maybe it’s maturity or recovery, but I’ve lost interest in informal sex or drinking heavily. I have gained a major sense of self-respect through this journey. If I feel empty or alone, I embrace it and sleep it off or I will surround myself with positive friends. If I’m dealing with an issue or problem in life, I will face it head on rather than coping in a negative or unhealthy way.
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself.
I have never self-harmed or attempted suicide. I’ve had thoughts of not wanting to live anymore because life became too painful. Yes, I’ve thought about ways I could end my life, but never attempted them. If I didn’t have my two beautiful children, things probably would have been different. They are my life and I can’t and won’t walk away from them. They are the reason I get out of bed every day.
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
I’m not sure if people can accurately see how intense my mood is and how quickly it changes. Some say they can, but often times I try to keep it to myself unless I see it affecting somebody else. I get irritable and depressed a lot. I used to have intense anger, but I’ve come a long way with it. My mood swings or episodes can last from a couple hours to a couple days depending on the trigger. Self-awareness is most important because once I realize I’m having an episode, it’s so much easier for me to control my actions. Sometimes it takes a stupid reaction to something to realize I’m not doing OK, but luckily with a lot of work I can catch it before I react. In part due to medication and better understanding of the illness, my episodes happened more often a couple years ago than they do now. If I miss one day of my meds, I will be in a dark place within 24 hours and it’s tough to get out of because I blame myself for causing it, albeit unintentionally.
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
Yup! Sometimes I feel so empty I can’t feel emotions. I can’t cry, I can’t feel anger or sadness, I can’t feel sympathetic towards others. I’m not happy or unhappy, I just simply don’t feel a damn thing. I walk around like a robot. This one rarely ever happens for me but when it does, it can be bad. I have nothing inside me to give or care. I have no filter or motivation to care about anyone including myself. I feel useless and helpless. Empty.
8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
Oh boy. I can’t explain how many things I’ve thrown and broken because my anger was so out of control. I had and sometimes still do have a short fuse. I grew up watching it and living with it so I became it. I didn’t know how to control it or work on it. Now with therapy, I can’t remember the last time I reacted on anger, maybe three years ago? I still get angry, that’s an emotion we can get rid of, but I can control it much better than ever before.
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid idealization, delusions or severe dissociation symptoms.
I dissociate in my nightmares at night over traumatic experiences in my childhood, but nothing severe or in the middle of the day. I’ve never been paranoid or had delusions.
Two years into my recovery, I was/am considered in recovery. 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’m capable of handling my emotions in a healthy and positive way. Recovery has led me to new clarity and a deep appreciation for life. I hope you can take something from my personal experience with borderline personality disorder.
WATCH BELOW: Hidden Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder