a selfie of the author and her boyfriend

I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is incurable, but it is treatable with counseling, therapy and medication. It’s scary, and every day I have to fight to keep control of my own mind. Some days I win, some days I lose. I would like to walk you through one day I did not win.

I get up in the morning, and I’m normal. Calm and under control. I get dressed, do my hair, put on makeup. I’m ready to run some errands. I feel good. My makeup looks great, and I feel confident in my outfit.

Then I have a meltdown known as “splitting.” I split over something that most people wouldn’t even bat an eye over. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s usually something stupid. Something random that triggers me. Sometimes a trigger I didn’t even know I had. A word spoken in the wrong tone. An action I feel is dismissive. Usually, whomever I feel has hurt me doesn’t even realize they’ve done it.

I cry, I scream. I can’t control myself. I hate myself. I hate everyone else. I hate BPD. I can’t think. I can only cry or scream, or curl up in a ball. I’ve undone all the work I put into getting ready. Why did I bother? What was the point of pretending to be “normal?” I should know that my BPD controls me. My actions convey the exact opposite of what I want, what I need. I push everyone away, but inside my head I’m begging, please, don’t leave me. Please, hold me. Love me.

I can’t run errands, I’m exhausted to the point of almost being catatonic. It takes so much out of me. Physical touch calms me down faster than anything else, but I can’t figure out how to ask for it. It’s not that I’m too proud, too angry, too stubborn to ask for help. I simply can’t. I’ve forgotten how.

I disassociate. My boyfriend hugs me, pulls me into him, kisses me. He tries to comfort me. My body is like a rag doll. I’m not in there anymore. I can’t get out of my head and I’m barely aware of what’s going on around me.

Eventually I come back. I’m embarrassed, ashamed. I feel terrible for the way I acted, for who I hurt. I’m scared. I’m scared out of my mind every time this happens, that my boyfriend, my Favorite Person, will leave me. He will eventually have enough of it. Who wouldn’t?

The rest of the day is a chore to get through. I’ve ruined the day again. For myself, there is little chance I will be in a good mood at all for the rest of the day.  I’ve ruined the day of everyone around me, and I can’t fix it. It’s all my fault.

My body so heavy, it’s so hard to move. My shoulders are slumped over. I don’t have the energy for this. I can’t even run a simple errand. It’s depressing that this disorder has such a hold on me.

Most days are good, with medication, counseling and support. But some days are a war with myself. A bloody battle that no one wins.

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Recovery is a long process, much longer than I ever anticipated when I began treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD) earlier in the year. It’s been incredibly tough at times; however, the rewards have, so far, outweighed the challenges. I can finally say I am on my way to overcoming my disorder.

However, there are a number of things I wish my loved ones really understood about my recovery. Mental health cannot be reduced simply to being sick and being recovered. There is a huge gray area between those two points, and most of us will fall somewhere within that gray bit. Moving into the new year, these are the five things I would like my loved ones to understand about my BPD recovery.

1. My moods are still intense.

I’m learning to regulate the intensity of quickly-shifting moods, but I don’t always have it completely under control. Sometimes, I may still be irritable, sad or angry for reasons that perhaps even I don’t understand.

2. I have trouble concentrating.

Medications for mental health problems can affect levels of concentration, and I still have trouble staying focused. If I seem like I’m drifting off mid-conversation, then feel free to gently let me know. Usually, I don’t even know I’m doing it.

3. It’s OK to ask me questions.

A big part of recovery, for myself, has been learning to open up and talk about my diagnoses. If there’s something you don’t understand or would like to know more about, then please, ask me. Communication is a two-way street, and if you ask me something I’d rather not discuss, then I promise I will let you know.

4. Trust me.

I know I haven’t always given you reasons to think I can make healthy choices for myself. Yet, part of my recovering from this disorder will come from those around me trusting me enough to make my own decisions. You can feel free to ask me about these decisions, but ultimately, only I can guide my recovery.

5. Sometimes, I just need space.

I know I’m not good at communicating when I’m overwhelmed, but I’m trying to be better. There are times when things are just too much for me. I need to recharge because social situations can be draining. It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, but sometimes, I just need a few quiet minutes on my own.

The biggest tool I have been utilizing in my recovery has been communication. A lack of communication between myself and those who care for me has always been a major obstacle, not only in my journey to wellness, but also in my relationships. In expressing what I need them to understand throughout this holiday period, I hope to better communicate the needs of my disorder and gain more control over my life with BPD.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Stacy Pershall is an author and mental health advocate who lives with borderline personality disorder. She’s part of the Active Minds, Inc. Speakers Bureau

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Andi Chrisman is a mental health advocate and suicide attempt survivor.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

If anyone out there doesn’t like me, I’m doing something wrong.

Not just a specific person. Anyone.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a massive people pleaser. As a child, I would write down the names of the other girls in my class (not the boys because ew, cooties) and evaluate my friendships with them. I would call them if I hadn’t done so in a while. I painstakingly hand-wrote invitations to birthday parties. I would go out of my way to be nice to absolutely anybody who might like me back. I’d laugh at unfunny jokes, I’d nod in agreement if someone said something that probably wasn’t true. Don’t disagree, or they’ll hate you was my philosophy.

Most kids seem to grow out of that phase as they realize not everyone in the world wants to be their friend. Heck, there are people out there who they don’t want to be friends with in the first place. Their own self-worth starts to be defined by more than just the opinions and friendships of others.

Yet here I am, desperately baking things for every single coworker’s birthday. Even if I don’t like them in the first place, I need them to like me. If even a single person out there doesn’t like me, how could anyone? Once that thought trickles in, I start hating myself. If I don’t know the particular reason someone might not like me, I’ll just hate every single thing I say or do, as well as how I say or do it. I moan to my therapist, “I have no friends! Why doesn’t anyone like me?” when in reality, I have plenty of friends.

Rationally, I can recognize that as a ridiculous idea and one of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder. I evaluate myself based on how I think others do. Not knowing why someone doesn’t like me is agonizing. I try to change the way I act, think, talk… I basically try to change the way I exist. It doesn’t work, because fundamentally, I’m the same person, no matter how I act, think, or talk. It’s difficult to see that sometimes through my borderline brain.

I don’t realize I’m doing it. I still laugh at stupid jokes, write thank-you notes, and try to act agreeable. I fantasize about arguing with people, but at this point, it’s almost a physical limitation. I tried arguing with a coworker once, and I thought I was going to throw up. I was convinced she would hate me. In turn, I would hate me. And you know what? I don’t think she hates me. Sure, we were annoyed with each other, but we got over it.

I’m going easier on myself now, finally, in my 20s. It takes a lot of energy to be a people pleaser. So I’m learning how to say no. My husband helps me walk through rational reasons to say “no” to people sometimes, and it helps immensely. It doesn’t mean I like someone any less if I say no. Isn’t it funny how that works?

Before you know it, I’ll like me for me, not just for others.

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Thinkstock photo by Creatas Images

My name is Grace. I have borderline personality disorder. It sucks. I have struggled for so many years, had multiple suicide attempts, used drugs, alcohol and cutting as a way of coping when I couldn’t handle how I felt anymore. I recently completed a year of DBT and it changed my life. Now I’m studying psychology and I want to try to change how society is with mental health, how people treat those who have mental illness, and I want to help others who are going through the daily struggle of living with one know they are not alone. And that there is a way out of the dark cloud you are lost in. Someone is always listening.

three images of the same woman. She is holding herself.

DepressionI struggle some days, I cry, I don’t always know why, just that there is a deep hollow ache in my heart and stomach. I feel sick. Stupid and useless, less than worthless. I go over and over in my head all the reasons why I’m not good. And then I feel stupid for thinking it, and I try to tell myself it’s not true, and I try to remind myself I have friends, and I’m an OK person. But the words feel hollow, because I know in my gut that I’m not good. I must have just fooled my friends somehow. I lie there, crushed under a sadness that overwhelms my rational brain, leaving it a blubbering mess unable to fight anymore. Depression is like a dark cloud that suffocates you; if feels like there is no escape. Your own mind betrays you.

A woman crouched under a dark veil

AnxietyAnxiety is the worst. Worrying about what’s happened, what could happen, what people think of you. Are they judging you? Laughing at you? Do they all actually hate you? Is anything even real, or not? Questioning yourself, doubting yourself, until you want to pull out all your hair and scream, “Stop.” You end up sitting, clutching yourself, trying to breathe as your chest contracts, your stomach rolls and you shake uncontrollably. It eats away at you, making you doubt your friends and your family, cause how could anyone ever actually care about someone like you? You doubt yourself. How can I do this? What if I fail? Of course I’ll fail, I’m a failure. Sometimes it talks you out of even trying, your own thoughts and mind are your worst enemy.

A woman kneeling on the floor, screaming

Alone: When you feel lost and alone, and even though you have friends, you don’t know how to tell them what’s going on. You feel like a burden, like a problem that they would be better off without. Your heart breaks because you’re so scared of being judged for something that is out of your control that you’d rather try to fight it alone and fail than ask anyone and be told you’re attention-seeking, you’re weak, or get over it, suck it up. And even people who sad they’ll always be there aren’t. People leave, they always leave and eventually you’re alone again.

A woman curled up in a ball on the floor

Anger: I get angry. With myself, with other people, with myself for being angry at others. I get angry because I think things should go a certain way and don’t, or when people let me down. I get especially angry when I let other people down or don’t achieve something like I’m supposed to. I have unreal expectations of myself and get so angry because I know I’ll never achieve everything I want or expect to. Sometimes I just get angry about life, at life, living with mental health problems and chronic pain is horrible. It’s not fair.

A woman leaning against a wall

Self-harming: This is the hardest thing in the world. It’s crying and shaking, holding a blade, trying to resist the urge, caving and cutting, then feeling disappointed in yourself for doing it, angry about it yet relieved that you punished yourself. Feeling justified, like you’ve made it a little better. It’s wanting to ask for help because you know it’s not OK, but not being able to because you’ll be judged, called attention-seeker, crazy, stupid, pathetic… It’s wearing long tops and long socks in summer, not going swimming because people will see them. It’s hiding, feeling guilty and confused and lonely and sad. You don’t know who you can trust, because even when people say they’ll be there without judgment, when it comes to dealing with self-harm, they always judge.

Three images of a woman scratching herself

Insecurities: My insecurities are my biggest daily struggle. They are overwhelming and even on a good day when I feel happy and confident they lurk in my mind like sharks circling, waiting for the right moment to attack. Stupid, worthless, fat, lazy, useless, weak, slut, fake, imposter, never going to amount to anything, no matter how hard you try. Just stop pretending, you’ll never be more than a piece of shit, never be more than your past… These thoughts don’t go away, they are tied to my core beliefs so no matter how much I succeed or do right, no matter how far I come, they are still there waiting for a bad day, for someone to say something, that gives them the moment to strike.

A woman with the words fat, stupid and worthless written on her body

Scars: My body is covered in scars. They tell a story of anger, pain, sadness, confusion, heartache, punishment and fear. But what they also tell is a story of strength and overcoming my demons. They are a reminder of every hell I have overcome. Every bad person I have survived and every moment of darkness I have come through. They remind me that although life is a struggle and it sometimes may seem like too much to bear, if you put your mind to it you can overcome anything. You can survive.


If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Images via Miss. Poison

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