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The Worst Thing Friends Can Say to Me as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

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What do I think is the worst thing you can say to someone who struggles with borderline personality disorder (BPD)?

Nothing at all.

Let me clarify: Say we’ve been having an argument. You may think it would be best to just go to sleep and leave things to cool off until morning. So you roll over in bed, turn your back to me, and say nothing.

Or we’re texting, and things have become heated. You leave the last text from me just hanging there because you’re tired of the discussion and you don’t think there’s anything left to say.

Bad move.

Nothing is the worst thing you can “say” to me as someone who struggles with BPD. You see, having BPD, I can have difficulty just “letting things go” in a disagreement. I don’t just “get over it” when things go wrong. Seemingly insignificant things can start a spiral of self-loathing and despair that is often impossible to overcome without excruciating amounts of effort. While you may think just saying nothing is better than saying something “wrong,” to me it is actually the worst thing you can do.

Without closure, my mind goes into overdrive. First, there’s the anger. I have all kinds of things I need to say, to get them out of my head so they stop circling endlessly in there. But you’ve made it clear that you’re done, so I can’t. I’m stuck obsessing over them for the next 24 hours or more.

Then there’s the self-recrimination. You hate me. Obviously, you simply can’t stand me anymore. I’m worthless. Not worth the time of day. Let’s face it, I’m sh*t.

After that comes the bitterness and fatigue. I become so exhausted from the inner monologue that I shut down and spiral into depression. Nobody cares. What’s the use in trying anyway?

I understand that sometimes you may walk away because you just can’t handle the drama anymore. Sometimes you may have to walk away so you don’t lose what little patience you have left. But maybe reading this will help you understand the effect it has on me. Walking away, turning away, not returning a text, giving me no closure is saying, to my mind: I don’t care about you. I don’t care what you have to say. You’re not worth my time anymore. This relationship/friendship is over.

So the next time you’re finding yourself tempted to just let the sun go down on your anger, please reconsider. Let me have closure. Please. It means the world to me.

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On a '5150' Hold in the Psych Ward

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I didn’t know what “crazy” looked like until right now. I’m watching myself have a nervous breakdown, half-naked, in front of a mix of friends and strangers.

This isn’t good.

I’m crying and writhing around on a bed. I’m screaming and hitting myself. My fists are balled up, white with fury. I’m holding onto pills, lots of pills.

This isn’t good.

People I know and don’t know try to calm me down. I don’t listen. I just grip the pills and continue to scream and cry. I look different. I look wild. I look like a Jack that’s just popped out of its Box.

A voice says the ambulance is coming.

This isn’t good.

I wake up in the hospital. I’m tired. My brain is sizzling and my throat is splintered. I am happy. I am laughing. My best friend is here. She looks perturbed. I look at her, relieved, like “Well, I’m glad that’s over!” It’s not. She leaves and I’m left wondering why I’m here. I close my eyes.

I wake up in a small, cream-colored room. I’m sat at a table opposite two women. They are stern, wearing navy blazers, and asking me why I tried to kill myself. I’m confused. I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I was trying to make it stop. They question me for an hour. I tell them I can’t answer any more right now. I’m tired and not able to think straight. They stop and diagnose me with borderline personality disorder.

I’m taken to another room. It has a bed and a small desk. A stocky, black lady called Angela tells me to remove my clothes. I’m still confused. 

“Why?”

“You have to shower.”

“I have to go home.”

“You’re on a 5150 hold. You have to stay here for the next three days.”

“I’m not staying here. This is a fucking nut house and I’m not fucking crazy!”

“How about you shower first and we’ll talk after?” 

“I’ll shower first, then I’m going home.”

I wait for her to give me some privacy. She doesn’t. She leads me to the shower. It’s more of a wet room. The walls are lined with small, dark blue tiles. There’s no curtain. There’s nothing but a faucet. Angela stands in the corner of the room. I turn on the faucet and let the lukewarm water run over me. I stare at Angela.

“This is ridiculous.” 

She says nothing then hands me a small bar of soap. I half-heartedly rub the soap over the tops of my arms and nothing else. I will not wash my genitals in front of a stranger. I turn off the water. Angela hands me a towel. I dry off and we return to my room.

There’s a hospital gown on my bed. This is what I wear now. This is my uniform. I put it on and begin to cry. Crying turns into screaming. I want out. I’m not crazy. I’m normal and I want to go home. 

A short, white lady with red hair comes into the room. She tells me her name is Nina and hands me two pills. Ativan. I swallow the pills and continue to cry. Nina leaves, and I turn to Angela. 

“Where am I? Why am I here?”

“You’re in a psych ward. You’re on an involuntary psychiatric hold because you’ve been deemed a danger to yourself on account of you attempting suicide.

“I wasn’t trying to kill myself! I don’t know what I was trying to do. My brain was melting out of my fucking ears. I was trying to save myself.

I cry harder. After a few minutes, the Ativan takes hold. My tears come to an abrupt stop. I don’t know what time it is, but it’s dark now. The only light is the light coming from the hallway that shines through my always-open door. Angela is reading a trashy magazine. I stare at her. I study her face. She must be in her early 40s. She looks like she’s seen some shit.

“So what, you just going to watch me sleep?”

“Yes.”

“This is what you’re going to do for three days?”

“No, someone else will take over from me in the morning.”

I realize I don’t know what day it is. Angela goes back to reading her magazine and, in that moment, I hate her. I hate her for no reason other than she’s the only one here and I’ve maxed out on hating myself. I glare at her as she turns the pages of her gossip rag. Who does she think she is? Keeping watch over me? I lie down on the bed and turn to face the wall away from her. 

My body is heavy with fatigue. I feel myself sinking but my mind is fighting the Ativan and wins. A deluge of anxiety and despair hits me. I hear the frantic wails of other patients. My throat tightens. I can only hear static, static from hundreds of televisions at top volume. I scream a silent scream. My mind collapses on itself. I go to throw myself on the floor but Angela catches me. She’s on the bed. She’s holding me.

“Get off me!” 

She holds me.

“GET OFF ME!”

She holds me.

“GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF ME!”

She holds me. 

Everything is so loud. The static. The screams. My skull feels as if it’s about to explode and just like that, it stops. Silence. Angela is still holding me and I hold her back. I’m exhausted. I feel my body slipping away from me. I cling to Angela for dear life. There’s a rush of hands on me now. They’re pushing me down and giving me Ativan. I scramble to get back to Angela but there are too many hands, and the pills are taking hold. My vision blurs. I flail my arms one last time, but I’ve lost her.

You can follow Amanda Rosenberg on Twitter @AmandaRosenberg.

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How My Mental Illness Gave Me My Life's Purpose

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From the first day I started struggling with mental illness, I was shamed by stigma.

My experiences with mental illness began as they do for a good majority of people, when I was in puberty. I had a blog where I talked about the normal exciting things teenagers talk about: boys, clothes, school — you get the idea. But I began to write more about my feelings as I ventured into my first journey with depression, as I was experiencing feelings I had never experienced before. The darkness, the sadness… it was all new to me. As with a lot of teens, I didn’t really get along with my parents and didn’t believe I could tell them what I was going through, even as I became suicidal.

But I could blog about it.

Instead of getting the much needed support from my followers, I was faced with cruelty and was cyberbullied before the term “cyberbullying” had even been invented. What was the ammo my attackers used? My mental illness. In what seems like unbelievable evil of humanity, my attackers left anonymous comments on my blog.

“You’re not really depressed, you’re making it for attention.”

“If you were really depressed, you’d kill yourself.”

“The world would be better if you committed suicide.”

And I almost tried thanks to their taunting.

This went on for months, until my depression finally started easing up as spring came around. I didn’t know it, but I had undiagnosed seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and still get more depressed during the winter. I think because I was beginning to regain my self and the depression was lessening, I was able to tell my mom what was going on. After telling her how depressed I’d been, how I had been suicidal, she promised to get me into therapy.

Then we never talked about it again.

This further made me question if what I experienced was really that serious. No one seemed to take it that seriously. Earlier in that first depression, my friends told my guidance counselor I had started to self-harm. She called me to her office in the last 10 minutes of the school day and told me what my friends reported and asked me, “Are you cutting?”

“No.”

“OK, you can go get the bus.”

That was the full extent of our conversation. It was winter and I had on long sleeves, but if she’d asked me to roll up my sleeves, the evidence couldn’t be hidden. I was cutting. But she didn’t even spare enough time to have a real conversation about what was happening. She didn’t call my parents to warn them. Again, someone looked at it as no big deal. I felt as if no one cared about my mental health.

My mom. My guidance counselor. The cyberbullies. None of them took me seriously. So I rarely shared with others that I struggled with my mental health. I was alone and hid due to the massive stigma that surrounds mental illness. So I didn’t try to get help as it seemed like no one wanted to help anyway. Each winter, I struggled with self-harm and suicidal ideation all alone, as I was too ashamed to share my pain.

This invalidation led to a series of abusive relationships. I got engaged way too young,. I had a particularly bad bout of SAD during our relationship, but he discouraged me for getting help, even though I was an adult and ready to talk to a doctor about my depression. He told me that if I took psychiatric medication I’d become a “different” person and no one would love me if I was one of those “zombies.” His father, who had been highly abusive to him growing up, was a much nicer, better version of himself after seeking treatment for his narcissistic personality disorder, but my fiance hated this version of his father because he was “fake.”

There it was, another person discouraging me from getting help for what was a very real problem. Since I felt no one believed me, no one believed I had something wrong with my brain, I self-medicated. Pills and alcohol became my life. Though my family knew about the addiction, helpfully telling me to “just stop,” I still couldn’t open up that I yearly struggled with suicidal depression.

But all that invalidation came to a head in my mid-20s when I attempted, and almost died by, suicide via overdose.

The secret was out — I had a mental illness and now everyone knew as my family called relatives and my health deteriorated to the point that they transferred me to another hospital after my liver failed and I needed a transplant. As I was being prepped for my transplant, by some miracle, my liver began functioning again and I never got that transplant.

After that first attempt, I became out of control. My mental health deteriorated greatly and I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). I felt hopeless and was highly suicidal, being hospitalized almost 20 times in one year due to suicide attempts and ideations.

I started dialectical behavior therapy, a therapy designed specifically for BPD, and that was the turning point. It would be a few years and a hell of a lot of work, but I am now living in recovery from BPD. This doesn’t mean I don’t still have BPD, it just means that now I know how to cope with my illness and live a life worth living.

My sister had outed me on Facebook after my first attempt, and everyone knew about my attempt to take my own life. At that point, support poured in from friends around the world. And finally, I was able to admit to myself and to the world that I had a mental illness.

I used Facebook to go back to the days of when I blogged about my feelings, and I shared my struggles and what I was going through on this new platform. First, it was only to update my friends of my next stint in the hospital, but as I met more people online that also had mental health problems, I began to talk more about it. I had always had an interest in psychology, and now I had an insider’s perspective of what mental illness was like. Stigma had silenced me for so long that I finally struck back and began to be open, maybe too open, about my mental health.

And people listened. As I became more well known in my Facebook world, I was asked to be an admin of a mental health support group. It was there where I started to mentor my peers, talking with them when they were lonely, counseling them when they in dangerous territory and helping many people find doctors when they needed professional help.

I became more and more open about my struggles, knew from personal experience the power of stigma and I became an advocate for ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. As I got better, so did my advocacy. When I was actually living in recovery and had finished dialectical behavior therapy, my online advocacy came out of the computer and into the real world when I became an “In Our Own Voice” speaker for NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness).

The stigma that had kept me prisoner for most of my life was no longer holding me back, and I am now a force to be reckoned with. I publicly speak about my journey to larger and larger audiences. When my physical health made me take time off of doing public speaking, I started doing YouTube videos talking about mental health and BPD. I am still part of the online world, tweeting, talking on Facebook and even being featured on a Facebook Live event on The Mighty, where my video has been viewed over 18,000 times.

Mental illness and stigma cursed my life and ate up many good years of it. Now, I consider myself to be a voice for the voiceless. I speak openly and honestly about my journey with mental illness, and I speak loudly to speak for those who are still stuck in stigma’s cage or can’t speak out due to work, church or other institutional stigma. I never thought the worst thing that ever happened to me would eventually be my purpose in life. This year I was also trained to be a Peer Specialist, so I can also work using my lived experience to help others, but I prefer my work as an advocate and speaker.

Much to my surprise, I have become an inspiration to many people. People see me and know that recovery is possible. It’s still always surprising when someone tells me I inspire them. My favorite quote is “I want to inspire. I want someone to look at me and say because of you, I didn’t give up.” (Author Unknown). And they have. I now have found my purpose in life.

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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What ‘I’m Tired’ Means to Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Everyone procrastinates. We do it when we would rather watch a movie or read a book than start that work project, when we would rather go out with friends for coffee than start cleaning the house or when we would rather listen to music and relax on the couch than fixing whatever needs to be done around the house. It is human nature, but we get ourselves out of it rather quickly and tackle the task at hand with full force.

However, when I procrastinate it is not because I don’t feel like it or would rather be doing something else. It is because I simply cannot get myself to function and find inspiration to do anything. It is so much more than procrastination. It is the fact that I am too tired to exist. I’m not tired because I stayed up late working on something profound. I’m not tired because I had a great night out with friends. No, I am tired of being me.

Living with borderline personality disorder, I am in a constant love-hate relationship with myself and those I care about the most. One moment I absolute love my life and the challenges I face and the next I hate everything. I hate myself for being weak and pathetic, and I struggle to comprehend who could possible love this piece of work. I expect, no, I actually welcome, loved ones leaving me because if I can’t even live with myself how can they?

I am tired because it is a battle between good and evil every.single.day. I am constantly trying to find an equilibrium, a sanctuary for the ghosts that haunt me. I am yearning for a moment in time when the voices in my head will just stop — that they will stop saying I am worthless, I am not good enough, I am a failure, I am weak, I am alone, I am a burden, I am ugly, I am fat, I am old, I am a lost cause, I will never amount to anything… These voices tell me this is the truth about myself and there is nothing I can do to change it. The people around me will soon find out what a fraud I am and leave me. I try to act out and supply them with reasons to leave because if they do at least I know I was right and actually did them a favor. However, if they don’t leave, I have a predicament. I don’t want to be alone, but I cannot bear to put my loved ones through the upset I face every day. At this point the only way out is to eliminate the chaos and stop being a burden, and the battle in my mind continues.

How can I think about suicide if I have so much to be thankful for? If I do this how will it affect those around me (I am “so selfish!”)? “Giving up” feels like showing what a failure I am and that I cannot handle pressure. To make this turbulence stop, I reach for those pills and swallow as quickly as I can before the voices fight again.

And then I wake up in the hospital. I didn’t die. People say I “survived,” but if they knew the constant war going on inside my mind, they may not see me as a survivor. They will understand what I mean when I say, “I am tired.”

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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When a Doctor Said My Borderline Personality Diagnosis Was Wrong

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Back in May, I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. I had spent most of that afternoon in the emergency room until I was sent via ambulance to a hospital where they could better help me and provide inpatient services. I did not want to go at all. In fact, I fought my parents for allowing the ER doctor to send me away.

I got to the hospital and was ready to hate everything there. My eyes were threatening to release tidal waves of tears again. And before I knew it, I was in my bed, listening to the steady breathing of my roommate, wondering how on earth I was going to survive there.

I woke up the next day with my eyes red and puffy, too scared to speak to anyone. But I was lucky. My roommate immediately initiated conversation with me and introduced me to all her friends, and soon enough, I didn’t feel so out of place. I was ready to go at all the therapy sessions with my best efforts.

I was soon assigned many people to care for my needs. Each day, I was assigned a new nurse to answer any questions I had and to look after my general health. I was even assigned to my own psychiatrist. I wished I could’ve met with the psychiatrist I already had worked with at that hospital, but she was too busy.

So, I started over with a new psychiatrist. And although I was nervous to go over the same old questions and pour out my whole life to him, he seemed nice enough. I began to relax around him, and I actually enjoyed meeting with him.

We began talking about what I was struggling with, and I told him everything. I even brought up my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, which was given to me only a few months before my hospitalization by two people on my mental health care team. I had never heard of that mental illness before, but it made sense and matched up with a lot of my behaviors and thought patterns.

I was waiting for him to explain further when he cut me off.

“You don’t have borderline personality disorder.”

Wait, what? I had been told by two people that I had BPD, and now apparently I didn’t? It made no sense to me, so I asked him if he was sure.

“My therapist and other psychiatrist told me I do,” I pointed out.

“Well, you don’t. Borderline personality disorder is found in adults and in those who have had a past of abuse. You don’t match up to either of those two standards for this diagnosis.”

“Oh.” That was all I could utter. I felt ashamed. He probably thought I was stupid for matching up some of my behavioral patterns with a diagnosis I didn’t even have. He probably thought I was just some naive teenager trying to find something to blame my problems on. He probably thought I was pathetic.

And after that conversation, I thought I was pathetic too.

I was furious — not even at him. I was furious at my therapist and other psychiatrist for making me look stupid. I was mad I was working so hard in therapy for a mental illness I didn’t even have. So I pushed away that diagnosis.

When my mom visited, I told her I didn’t have BPD. She was confused just like I had been. She was a little annoyed that the doctor had disregarded a diagnosis because unlike most of the people with the diagnosis, I wasn’t an adult or abused. I didn’t really care. I decided he was right and I shouldn’t acknowledge that as a diagnosis anymore.

After my release, I didn’t work as hard in therapy. I became stubborn. And my therapist noticed. I told her there was no point in me working so hard because I didn’t have BPD.

For the longest time, I remembered that doctor’s words and associated the embarrassment and shame with them. I’d believed him. Until recently.

My mom attended a conference about borderline personality disorder in teenagers. And it’s not uncommon, although that doctor made it sound like it was. Plus, you do not have to be abused to have this disorder.

So, what’s up with that? The doctor wasn’t up-to-date on new research. My mom wrote the hospital a letter, giving them the opportunity to attend the conference as well so they could have more recent research.

All this experience with this doctor did was make me take a massive step backwards in my progress, which is not what I needed at the time. I ultimately had to return to the hospital two months later.

I don’t know if he went to the conference, but I do know how little he made me feel when he totally disregarded my diagnosis. All I can do is hope he looks into newer research so nobody else has to feel as little and ashamed as I did nor lose crucial progress in their therapy.

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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When You Don’t Know Which Version of You Is the Real You

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Imagine having this thought on a daily basis: Who am I?

I don’t mean it in some round-about philosophical way. I mean literally. Imagine not knowing who you really are. There’s a point in each day of my life that this strange question intrudes my thoughts.

I am so many different things. I shift so many times in a day to keep up with the different people who surround me I don’t know which “version” is the real me.

See, this is one aspect of borderline personality disorder which is often missed. Like most things, not every one with the condition will experience this. Yet, for me, it is one of my biggest (and often, most unbearable) symptoms.

If my best friends are drinking, then I’ll be a binge drinker. I’ll live for the weekends, dance nights away and spend the following week recovering from a hangover.

If I’m with my musician friends, then I’ll be a musician too. I can ramble on about practice, technique and gigs for hours.

If I spend the day with my work colleagues, then I’ll listen to them talk about their grown children and grandchildren. I’ll try to find a way to join in the conversation, talking about my goddaughter or young cousins.

The list goes on.

Everyone thinks I am someone who I’m not. It is utterly exhausting sometimes trying to keep up with who each person/group thinks I am.

The worst part, though? It has to be the fact that I’ve created so many different “versions” of me that I can no longer identify what I’m actually like as a person. I don’t know my own personality. I struggle to find my own interests. Sometimes, I don’t even know what I dislike because everything changes depending on who I’m with.

Does that make me fake?

No, because it’s OK to take some time to find yourself. When you eventually do, it’s OK if not everyone likes you. I’m still trying to get the hang of that concept myself, but one day, I hope I will confidently be able to say, “I am me,” and that will be just enough.

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