There are distinct feelings one can get at the holidays. It can be the warm flutter of your heart as you are surrounded by family or the cold frost of being alone and numb to the world. To have borderline personality disorder is to be both at once. The addicting pull of the warmth and attention you receive and the stone cold feeling of being separate from everyone, different.

The miracle of Hanukkah and the symbolic light is almost a life vest to me. The reminder of miracles in the small things and the light that never goes out. I hold dearly to these comforts as if they are what keeps my heart beating. However, at the same time I have to acknowledge the flip side of things. No matter how beautiful the lights upon the menorah are, there is still darkness contained within me. Where there is light, there is the darkness that surrounds. We see light and darkness and marvel where they intertwine.

We know from experience light is warm and dark is cold. Fire brings warmth and night is when the cold can take hold.

Being borderline means you have to see these differences and live the differences at once where others only have to feel one thing at a time in a moment.

Being borderline may not be something I chose for my life. Being borderline may be a challenge and may be a burden, but being borderline can also be a blessing. You see both side of the coin at once and see the beauty in each. The feelings that dwell within you may be conflicting, but they may also help you empathize with others.

This Hanukkah, I’ll marvel at both light and darkness and how I can contain both at once. I’ll again marvel at the miracle of my borderline.

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Christmastime freaks me out!

When you know someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it is very important that you know a few things about that person’s illness and some of the things he or she doesn’t want to hear during the holidays.

Borderline is not the same for everyone, and if it is co-morbid with another mental illness, it is likely that our behavior will affect people differently, especially during this overly happy time.

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be a “Grinch” during this season? Well, it could be that you are either trying too much or not trying at all.

For me personally, these questions can be very triggering:

1. Where is your Christmas spirit?

My Christmas spirit is there, but sometimes it is very hard to find it. It is difficult for me to look happy and joyful when my mind is trying to stay on the right path to recovery and I am still getting used to enjoy small things again.

Christmas is all about appearances, how to behave in parties, how the house is decorated, how big the Christmas tree is, and how much weight I’ve lost to fit in the perfect dress for the occasion. Maybe this is not what other people think, but that is the first thing that comes to my mind when Christmas is approaching.

Another thing that clouds my Christmas spirit is shopping. Overspending has been a huge problem for me and some of the people I have met who share my condition. For people like me, going out for gifts is all about self-control and not necessarily as fun as people might think it is. After Christmas shopping there can be a lot of regret for not buying the “perfect gift” for a loved one or for buying unnecessary things. So, yes, we have Christmas spirit, but it may not be the one people are used to seeing.

2. What will you wear for the party?

Even though BPD is not always treated with pills, many of us have co-morbid disorders, in my case bipolar disorder. Being social has never been my strength, and my bipolar meds have the common side effect of weight gain, so when people ask me what I will wear to any party I’m invited to, most of the time I will just skip it. It’s hard enough to think I have to socialize, to add a worry about how I will look to others when I get there. Even though people tell me I look good, I just never manage to see that when I look at myself in the mirror.

3. Are you allowed to drink?

When I started my treatment, doctors thought it was obvious for me that I could not drink; for me it wasn’t. My family has a love for drinking that became normal to me. I had always equated weekends, parties, vacations, and holidays with drinking.

Alcohol is a depressive. People lose inhibitions while drinking, which may make anyone with a mental health condition more vulnerable to engage in risky behavior. In the past, I was reckless and irresponsible enough to let myself or my friends drive under the effects of drugs or alcohol. I had to quit alcohol completely, and it took me an inpatient hospitalization to get clean and on my feet again. So please, if you know about the condition, don’t ask.

4. What do you want for Christmas?

If you are not ready to actually listen and act on it, don’t ask. Most of the time, material things will fulfill a short-term need and what I really want is more complex than going shopping and choosing colors or sizes. I want understanding, empathy, a shoulder to cry on, a silent ear, non-judgmental advice. I want a day when I can choose what I want to do without thinking that someone is going to be hurt because I did not visit or I had nothing to give them. I want to spend the day with anyone I want or just by myself. I want to have at least a few minutes of quietness in my head. I want to be able to not think ahead. I want to live, just live.

5. What is your New Year’s resolution?

Resolutions are very optimistic and in most cases unreal for me. They usually have to do with sacrifice (weight-loss, quit smoking or drinking, make more money, exercise, etc.). I battle every day with small things like waking up, bathing, and dragging myself to work, so don’t expect me to answer that question right away (if I answer it). This would add a lot of weight to my to-do list and will raise my anxiety levels to the point where I’ve been trying to recover from. In the past, I’ve made so many resolutions that I can’t remember, and they were as silly as writing on my journal every day, to harder things like accepting myself. None of them have been reached or done entirely, and it makes me feel like a failure to myself and others. So, my New Year’s resolution is, none.

It is not easy to identify triggers, but if you do, talk about them.

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I write this sitting in an airport lounge with people passing me by in swarms, the holiday rush visibly apparent in their strides. Yet there’s a certain peace about it. Holiday seasons can be extremely tough on those who struggle to feel “normal” in the conventional sense. But there’s also definitely something positive about it, which I want to let everyone in on.

1. As people with borderline personality disorder, or as I call us “BPD challengers,” one of the greatest issues we face is how to handle the variety of people/situations/emotions the holidays usher in. However, it also brings with it an excitement we probably couldn’t feel otherwise. Perhaps it’s because it’s something new, fresh, exciting, different. Perhaps because it’s simply a reason to celebrate. Whatever it is, it’s an occasion to feel. Something I really struggle with. Only this time I get to feel amazing. Feel holiday cheer. Feel joyful. It’s really rare, so let’s cherish the moments!

2. People tend to rush around a lot. They’re always in a hurry. Buying gifts, putting up decorations, organizing social gatherings, meeting expectations. It doesn’t have to be that way. Think of it instead as a season to accomplish a lot of things. Use the month of December particularly to revisit and renew ties that might have been neglected in the midst of daily mundane routines. To challenge ourselves to really think about those who are near and dear (even if we may be currently splitting and hence “hating” them ) and truly appreciate them instead. Perhaps replace expensive gifts with a personal letter. And not just an email. Those good ole handwritten ones that seem almost too good to be true nowadays! Instead of buying decorations, choose to spend evenings when you feel unloved and alone by occupying your mind and heart. A good example could be making festive ornaments out of used items. And then making more to gift others. (Below is a picture of Christmas tree I’ve made out of recycled newspapers! Method courtesy Stephania blog).

paper christmas tree

It’s a great cathartic outlet and keeps idle hands (and minds) busy. There’s no expectations when it’s one of a kind and it’s made with our own hands! And it doesn’t have to be limited to crafts. If you can’t craft, you can sing or read a book out loud and record yourself. Or make a play list. Or a slideshow. Or write a story/poem/letter. Or volunteer to help others who have much less than we have. The possibilities are endless!

3. Family gatherings are inevitable. And they often tend to get a bit too emotionally draining. However, they also present opportunities for growth. It’s the same people each year. We know them inside out and what to expect from them. If we set aside some time to prepare ourselves for what we know that uncle is going to say or what that cousin twice removed will do to get on our nerves, then it’s really not unexpected, isn’t it? Rationalizing their thoughts and actions well in advance removes a lot of the emotional strain on that particular day. And what better season than the festive season to practice self-awareness and depersonalization? The best part? We get to pat ourselves on the back for getting an early start on our new years resolutions!

There are tons more where these came from. As BPD challengers, we often find it difficult to see the good in what we have. It’s just too much emotionally. Or we just can’t. But we can. You can! And I’d love to hear from you on all the other ways in which the holiday season is really positive and wonderful for you!

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a highly stigmatized and misunderstood mental illness that affects about 14 million Americans, or 5.9 percent of adults in the U.S. But because the symptoms usually first occur while a person is a teenager or in their early 20s, it’s too easy to dismiss those early signs as “bad behavior” or “teenage angst,” when in actuality the person is really struggling.

To find out some ways people knew (in hindsight) they had borderline personality disorder, we asked people who live with it in our community to share what it was like to grow up with undiagnosed, or maybe not-yet-developed, borderline personality disorder.

Here’s what they had to say: 

1. “Ever since I can remember, even as far back as first grade, I have always been extremely sensitive to everything. I remember I would always feel different and really alone… Looking back, it really set in around age 14. That’s when the anger started coming out, the abuse of drugs and alcohol, the impulsivity, very rocky relationships — basically all the symptoms of BPD. I’m 20 years old now and I have gotten some aspects under control, but it’s still a battle I fight every day.” — Julia F.

2. “The impulsiveness, reckless behavior and trouble maintaining healthy relationships. The black-and-white thinking, self-harming behaviors… pushing and pulling people in and out of my life.” — Melissa R.

3. “I always thought I just felt everything a lot more than other people. I would get super excited about things other kids didn’t seem to care about. I can remember jumping up and down because my team scored a point and looking around wondering why no one else was as excited as me. I was told over and over to calm down, be quiet and even when I expressed outrage over an injustice, I was told there is nothing I can do.” — Melanie M.

4. “A friend of mine, who I thought was my BFF, wanted to sit next to another girl in class next. When she told me that, I threw myself on the ground and cried my heart out as I thought she hated me. In that moment I hated her with my very soul. I was crying for days because of that.” — Lenka W.

5. “It was like no matter how good things were, I could always find a negative in everything… [it was like the] wall that was up was always getter higher could never reach it.” — Stephen J.

6. “Extreme sensitivity. I would idealize people, then push them away. I had the biggest fear of abandonment. Anger would consume me, and I felt I could not get rid of it unless I self-harmed. Then, I would feel horribly guilty and ashamed about it. I remember scratching at my face and hair as early as 4, I think.” — Amy W.

7. “Going from being best friends with someone to hating their guts, and then going back to being best friends after a while… My self-harm as a teenager… having only two to three close friends growing up. I found it very hard to make and keep friends. I was very emotionally sensitive and would get hurt easily. All these things I can see now as signs of my BPD.” — Michelle M.

8. “I was only diagnosed a year ago, but looking back it all makes sense. As far back as I can remember, I was extremely sensitive, had highly fluctuating moods including intense anger and I would self-harm. I would freak out over any sudden changes in plans, and I was terrified of abandonment. It wasn’t until years later I realized it was something much more than just depression and anxiety.” — Kelsey M.

9. “Making impulsive, life-changing decisions without thinking through the consequences, moving from city to city and job to job thinking my problems would go away if I moved to another city. I now have a very unstable work history and am finding it very difficult to find employment.” — Pam M.

10. “Dissociation. Feeling like you’re out of your body — like it’s not even yours, is the most terrifying feelings ever, and was the main symptom/sign that I had something different from depression. Nobody ever really talks about dissociation, and I have no idea why, it horrified me more than anxiety attacks ever did. It’s like this huge seemingly endless brain fog. You can’t think, you can’t talk, you just can’t function. You feel completely numb from the inside and out. To me it gets so bad it feels like I don’t ‘exist,’ and it’s terrifying. Especially when you think you’re the only one who felt this way (which was the case for me for months).” — Alexis W.

11. “I felt like I’d always be alone, like I was not worthy of having friends. I’m in a better place now and have been in treatment for five months.” — Isobel T.

12. “Being extremely sensitive, wanting to be everybody’s best friend, being insanely hard on myself, thinking everyone was talking about me behind my back, loving people way too much, being co-dependent, thinking in absolutes, being very black and white, constant fear of abandonment.” — Marissa L.

13. “My whole life I have been extremely sensitive. If an adult so much as raised their voice a little, I would burst into tears. I also once I hit puberty could never seem to have a steady relationship with peers. My friendships were always very up and down and one-sided especially as I became a teenager. I never had a self-esteem and I started cutting when I was 13. I was misdiagnosed with depression and anxiety first. I always wondered why I was so different, why weren’t other kids like me? Now it makes perfect sense.” — Jessie B.

14. “Black/white thinking. Am I a good/bad person? I love/hate you. Don’t ever leave me/I want be on my own. With everyone of these issues it is extreme and intense, there is no middle ground, no balance or stability.” — Roma S.

15. “It was a constant up and down. I didn’t have steady friendships. I felt insecure and had a low self-esteem. Oftentimes social interactions induced intense emotions that completely overwhelmed me and made me feel isolated and invisible. I felt anchor-less and didn’t know where I belonged or if I would ever find someone who would love and understand me. I was so afraid of my friends leaving me that I tried everything to make them love me. I started self-harming at 14, desperately trying to keep me grounded and gaining recognition.” — Mona B.

16. “As far back as I can remember as a little kid I’d deliberately push people away to test their limits and kind of prove to myself that I wasn’t a lovable person. As a teenager it mainly showed in my complete inability to handle breakups and extreme impulsivity, self-harm, constant suicidal thoughts, etc. This was all shrugged off by everyone around me as ‘being a teenager’ and ‘attention seeking.’ As a result I struggled for years without treatment. I’m still in shock that I survived that to be honest.” — Lucy R.

17. “I have had a serious problem with overspending money and self-harm. I would get so emotional at things that were not even real (fictional things or playful things) and the constant changes of my moods were hard for me to handle. Now I have been diagnosed with BPD and as I look back I see that I’ve had this for quite some time. It feels good to have a name for it now.” — Mackenzi D.

18. “I felt alone, unwanted and so different.” — Seth B.

19. “Definitely getting overemotional at almost everything. Sensitivity to violence, I couldn’t even handle violent TV shows like CSI. Even reading books would put immediately in a mood related to the book — it would make me happy or sad depending on how it ended. I was and still am more sensitive in my interactions with people. I would get easily upset even if they didn’t mean to upset me. I thought for years that something was wrong with who I am. That everything about me was wrong and it was all my fault. Even at age 9 I was self-harming. I hated myself and had no self-confidence. I was dual diagnosed with borderline and bipolar at age 19, and everything finally made sense. All the things I thought were wrong with myself actually had a name. Not that that made it any easier to accept. I’m now 24, and I’m finally starting to accept this is just how I was made. And it’s not my fault.” — Meghan W.

*Some answers have been edited for length or clarity.

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.

19 Signs You Grew Up With Borderline Personality Disorder

I am sad. I am angry. I am OK. I am anxious. I am happy. I am numb. I am every emotion rolled into one.

I hate you. You’re horrible! Leave me alone. Please don’t leave me. You’re a good person. I’m lonely. I need you. I’m a bad person. Go away! I don’t need you. I’m sorry. I hate you. Don’t leave me.

I am inconsolable when I cry. I am bubbly and bright when I’m happy. I throw things, shout, scream and hurt people when I am angry. I hurt myself so I don’t feel so empty. I tell myself deserve it. I feel like a bad person on my bad days. I attempt suicide because I feel like there is no other way out. I am sometimes uncontrollable. I am impulsive. I make reckless decisions. I hurt people because my head tells me they’re bad. I want people to hurt as much as I hurt. Things are black and white, there is no in between. I push my friends away. Please don’t leave me.

I am treated like a criminal. Society tells me I am “crazy,” that I should be locked up, that I will never amount to anything. The police tell me I am childish, that I am wasting their time, that the next time they see me they’ll treat me like a criminal because that’s what I’ll turn into. I am a bad person.

Borderline personality disorder.

“You know what that is, don’t you? A disorder that’s very hard to treat. You’ll probably end up killing yourself or locked up.”

A police officer told me that. A force supposed to make me feel safe, from both others and myself. BPD makes me feel like the world is a bad place, and comments like this validate that.

What’s it like having BPD? Surely it’s not that bad?

Intense. A roller coaster. Chaos. Lonely. Draining. Sometimes violent. Unstable. Suffocated. BPD for me means not knowing what “normal” is anymore and having the equivalent of a third degree burn on my emotional skin. It’s like living in a nightmare that I can’t wake up from.

Unless you’ve been through it, you will never be able to understand.

But let me just tell you one thing: If I tell you I hate you and never want to speak to you again, don’t leave me. It isn’t me talking; it’s the BPD part of me. I love you with all my heart and need you in my life. If I am having a bad day, comfort me. Don’t shout, please.

I am not a criminal. I do not deserved to be treated like one. I am a human being.

I am a good person, and I will get better. Please don’t make me feel like I won’t.

I have borderline personality disorder, and I am not a monster.

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

Follow this journey on Rediscovering Meg.

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Thinkstock photo by Bokasana

Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is like living with a bomb planted somewhere deep inside of you. You don’t know when the bomb is going to go off or even how much damage it’ll cause when it does. Your life is spent avoiding anything that could trigger the bomb, such as conflict or loud places. Mostly though, the bomb is sensitive to anything that can hurt you.

My personal bomb is fragile and highly sensitive. It reacts to little comments people make. It even reacts to the comments people don’t make. What really triggers it though is negative news, local, national or worldwide. You name it. I’m affected.

What’s really scary about the bomb is no one can see it. Most of the time, people don’t even know it’s there, but I do. I can feel it inside of me like a heavyweight, and when it does explode, my body feels as if it is under attack.

Once, I described this feeling to a therapist as if there were a second person inside of me trying to escape. I explained that I can feel her hitting me from the inside. I now believe her to be my inner child, and she’s terrified of the bomb. She is so fearful that I can feel her force in all of my limbs. I can feel her kicking me, fighting to escape.

When the bomb goes off, I feel like I need to tear my skin apart to set her free. There have been so many times I can be seen physically pulling at my skin in a moment of crisis. People will ask me what I’m doing, and I can’t reply. How can I tell them that I need to pull off my skin to make way for this scared little girl running away from the bomb?

Tonight, I saw a news article in which a woman made a racist comment about how many Muslims are living in London. I felt so much anger at this woman. The anger I felt was uncontrollable. It still is. That’s when I decided to write this article though. Writing is the only positive coping mechanism I have right now. I’ve often attested that writing saves lives, and in this moment, it is saving mine.

Before sitting down to write this piece, however, I felt the bomb go off inside of me. There was no warning, no build up even, just “boom,” an explosion of emotions all at once. I sent her a tweet telling her what I think of her, but that only made me angrier (with myself). My anger is never outward, which is why it’s so dangerous. No one can protect me from it, myself included. In that moment, in the height of my anger, I feel only one thing — suicidal.

I’m always one step away from suicide, and tonight is proof of it. Last night was too when I was triggered by something else. This is my day to day struggle. This is BPD. I am majorly sensitive and experience incredibly unstable emotions and moods because of it. This is one reason why the illness is also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder, perhaps a more fitting name.

Tonight, I wanted to kill myself because of one stranger’s racist remarks. I can’t tell you why these had so much affect on me. I am not Muslim, but I am a human being. When I see someone hurting someone else, either physically, mentally or emotionally, I break down inside. I feel despair, and so does the little girl. She and I both want to run away from that bomb inside of me. We want to be free, and in that moment, the only way we know how is to act on our suicidal thinking.

Suicide is a safety net I keep in my back pocket for times like tonight. Sometimes, when I’m honest and talk about what I’m going through, a person might be able to calm me. The safety net gets put away again for another day. Yet, it is always there, always ready to be used.

I hate that I didn’t have a “normal” reaction tonight to that woman’s comment. I sometimes wish I could brush things off like I’ve seen others do so easily. Better yet, I wish I could get angry, get passionate and then use that to help people and to make changes. Instead, all I feel is darkness.

Living with BPD feels like my life could end in any given second. The bomb keeps ticking, even after it explodes. The inner child still resides in me, even after she’s been cut out with a razor. She still crawls back inside of me, always ready, prepared for the next time she needs to run.

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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