The Reality of an Often Overlooked Symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder

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Some days I look in the mirror and I have no idea who’s staring back at me. Logically, yes, I know I am looking at myself, but I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). Some days, I can’t reconcile the person in the mirror as the person who I am.

Often, I try to combat this by changing my appearance in quite drastic ways. Impulsively, I chop off my hair, get a new piercing or radically change my fashion and style. There are periods of my life where no matter what I alter about myself, I still don’t feel like I’m me.

This is really difficult. I think we take for granted that everyone has a “sense of the self,” a knowledge that the body they dress and makeup is the body they see when they look in the bathroom mirror. For someone living with BPD, an unstable sense of who you are is integral to this illness. Yet, I’ve noticed it lacks the literature and information that some of the more widely-understood symptoms have.

This lack of connection to the idea of “self” is not just limited to physical and aesthetical attributes. Most of the time, I have no idea who I am. I feel like I am completely and utterly false, getting through life by creating a mental checklist of things to reel off when someone asks me about myself. Without this list to tick off, ask me to talk about myself and I can’t. Ask me what I enjoy doing in my free time, and I have no idea. Ask me to tell you more about my personality, and I’ll draw a blank.

This is the reality of this often overlooked symptom of BPD. It’s time we start talking about it. Its consequences, such as dissociation or self-hatred, can be detrimental to our stability, mood and overall mental well-being.

Coming to terms with our identity and sense of self as someone with BPD is not easy, but as clichéd as it may sound, recovery is not a destination but a journey. The more discussions we have around this sometimes ignored BPD trait, the easier it will be for us to one day achieve greater stability of our identities.

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20 Songs That Help People With Borderline Personality Disorder Through Tough Moments

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For those with borderline personality disorder who ride a rollar coaster of emotions almost daily, having a good playlist on hand can help bring you back into the moment and take your brain to a place of calm. And while music certainly can’t erase strong emotions – sometimes it can help.

To find out what songs helped people with borderline personality disorder in tough moments, we asked people in our community who live with the disorder to tell us one song that helps them get through.

Here’s what they shared:

1. “Breathe Me” by Sia

“Help, I have done it again / I have been here many times before / Hurt myself again today / And the worst part is there’s no one else to blame.”

2. “On a Good Day” by Above & Beyond

“Little bit lost and / A little bit lonely / Little bit cold here / A little bit feared / But I hold on / And I / Feel strong / And I / Know that I can.”

3. “Drown” by Bring Me the Horizon

“It describes how I used to feel before DBT and now serves as a reminder that only I can save me from myself and only I can stop myself from drowning.” — Niki G.

“It comes in waves, I close my eyes / Hold my breath and let it bury me / I’m not OK, and it’s not alright. /Won’t you drag the lake and bring me home again?”

4. “Skin” by Sixx AM  

“I did a cover of ‘Skin’ for my freshman choir karaoke day right after I was diagnosed with borderline. It made me feel less like a freak and more like a human.” Jey S.

“‘Cause they don’t even know you / All they see is scars / They don’t see the angel / Living in your heart / Let them find the real you / Buried deep within / Let them know with all you’ve got / That you are not your skin.”

5. “Asleep” by The Smiths

“Sing me to sleep / Sing me to sleep / And then leave me alone.”

6. “Broken Arrows” by Avicii

“[This song is] especially meaningful to me, as I have scars from my self-harm and I have black and white thinking from BPD, plus I’ve now got an amazing partner who supports and understands me. It’s a great feel good tune to pick me up!” — Merc Y.

“I’ve seen the darkness in the light / The kind of blue that leaves you lost and blind / The only thing that’s black and white / Is that you don’t have to walk alone this time.”

7. “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten

“This song has gotten me through hell and back time and time again. When I was at my lowest point, it brought me back up. It made me take back my life, and prove that I’m alright. It made me fight, made me not give up. Made me strong. I still listen to this song when I need a mental/emotional boost. It still gets me through my toughest days. This song inspired me so much that I ended up getting a piece of the lyrics tattooed on me, along with an anchor. It was my first tattoo, and it’s my most cherished piece of art on my body. Since then, I’ve met Rachel twice and found my very best friend because of her. I owe her the world.” — Olivia C.

“This is my fight song / Take back my life song / Prove I’m alright song / My power’s turned on / Starting right now I’ll be strong / I’ll play my fight song / And I don’t really care if nobody else believes / ‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.”

8. “Sunshine”  Matisyahu

“Keep on moving till the first rays of dawn / Keeping it on till the day is done / Morning till the night time blaze is on / All along I keep singing my song.”

9. “Identity Disorder” by Of Mice and Men

“Your heart is a fire / But the cold is comforting / My mouth is a liar / With my silver tongue in cheek / The silence is deafening / My words cut deep / The darkness is blinding / Consuming me.”

10. “Shake it Out” by Florence +  the Machine

“Regrets collect like old friends / Here to relive your darkest moments / I can see no way, I can see no way / And all of the ghouls come out to play.”

11. “Gasoline” by Halsey

“And all the people say / You can’t wake up, this is not a dream / You’re part of a machine, you are not a human being / With your face all made up, living on a screen / Low on self-esteem, so you run on gasoline.”

12. “Torrek” by Hildur Gudnadottir

“Soft songs with no lyrics help me out so much. I focus on the melody and it helps my brain slow down the pacing, racing, emotional thoughts.” — Katie J.

13. “Extraordinary Machine” by Fiona Apple

“I certainly haven’t been shopping for any new shoes / And /  I certainly haven’t been spreading myself around / I still only travel by foot and by foot, it’s a slow climb / But I’m good at being uncomfortable / so I can’t stop changing all the time.”

14. “Warrior” by Demi Lovato

“Now I’m a warrior / Now I’ve got thicker skin / I’m a warrior / I’m stronger than I’ve ever been / And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in / I’m a warrior / And you can never hurt me again.”

15. “Blackbird” by The Beatles

“It’s simple enough that I can sing without music and it always soothes me.” — Katey B.

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night / Take these broken wings and learn to fly / All your life / You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”

16. “Cry Baby” by Melanie Martinez

“‘Cry Baby’ is literally my BPD anthem. It is so relatable to me and makes me feel less alone.” — Aqua K.

“Your heart’s too big for your body / It’s where your feelings hide / They’re pouring out / Where everyone can see.”

17. “Sweet as a Whole” by Sara Bareilles

“But like most creatures down here on the ground / I’m composed of the elements moving around / And I grow and change and I shift and I switch / And it turns out I’m actually kind of a bitch.”

18. “I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers

“I wanna get better / I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change / I wanna get better, better, better, better / I wanna get better.”

19. “Talking to Myself” by Watsky

“Watsky has pulled me back above water too many times to count.” — Eri A.

“Do you ever get lost, deep in your thoughts, tripping when you think about the cost of seeing this through / When you tie your stomach into knots that you don’t know how to undo.”

20. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash

“What have I become / My sweetest friend / Everyone I know goes away / In the end.”

What would you add? Tell us in the comments below.


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Dear Brandon Marshall, Thank You for Speaking Out About Borderline Personality Disorder

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Dear Brandon Marshall,

Thank you. Thank you for using your platform from football to speak out about your struggles with borderline personality disorder (BPD), a disorder that is often taboo. I first learned about your struggles when I was in the hospital, after just recently being diagnosed with BPD.

During that time, I thought my life was over, that I would never get to live a normal life. The next day, my nurse brought a printed news article about you into my room, an article I have to this day. Right then, my outlook shifted. To see that you were able to live a fulfilled life with BPD gave me hope. I no longer was counting the days down in my life. I was counting down the days until I could leave the hospital and start my new life.

A football player is often looked at as invincible, feeling no pain. You were able prove to the world that it is OK to feel pain and it is OK to have a mental illness. Not only have you candidly addressed your diagnosis, but your philanthropy for BPD and ending the stigma is astounding.

You have inspired me to not be afraid of my illness. You have inspired me to not be embarrassed about my illness. Most importantly, you taught me to speak out about my illness in order to break the stigma. Speak out so that someday people will no longer be stigmatized and so someday people won’t be afraid to seek help.

Thank you Brandon Marshall for your humility and continued passion for ending the stigma, not only of BPD but mental illness in general.

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To Family and Friends Who Misunderstand My BPD

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Hi. Remember me? The thin, clumsy, sometimes athletic, blonde girl who you know? Hi! I’m over here. You probably don’t see me because of the fog. That’s OK. I didn’t see me either for a while.

The fog is an easy place to get lost. You see, the fog is misunderstanding. I don’t judge you for misunderstanding, nor do I judge how you present your misunderstanding. It’s scary when you don’t know something.

Let me tell you a secret. I was terrified when I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). But also? I was relieved to finally have an answer to the insufferable pain I’ve been hiding for years.

Having BPD doesn’t make me any different or less me. In fact, it explains exactly why I am who I am. It explains all those nuances that caused yelling, laughter and tears.

I get overwhelmed. I know most people do. You don’t need to tell me that. The thing is my brain is wired differently. So when I get overwhelmed it’s all I can focus on. The pain becomes so unbearable that the only way I know how to stop it is to lash out or make it stop all together. I’m getting better at controlling it, by the way, in case you were wondering.

Having BPD isn’t easy, but it’s not the end of the world. The hardest part is that people don’t understand it. I know I already forgave you for being lost in the fog, but I want you to find a way out. I’m still me. I’m just a little broken, and once I got out of the fog, I was able to start putting the pieces back together.

Please, be patient with me. When I’m tired, it’s not laziness. I have spent the entire day in my head trying not to lose control over my emotions. It’s exhausting having to triple check my reactions to make sure they’re appropriate. I have had severe depression to the point of hospitalization and that might happen again. Please, don’t tell me to snap out of it or that other people have it worse.

Having BPD is like having every single emotion at once firing off like a beretta in your head. Most of the time, I just want to sleep so I don’t have to feel it all. It’s too much for one person to handle. I know how hard it is to understand something that isn’t spoken about openly or informatively.

My own diagnosis was the first time I heard about BPD, but a little research goes a long way. Dear family and friends, before you judge me, before you think you understand what is going on in my brain, before you unintentionally invalidate me, please, just do a little research. Go to the National Institute of Mental Health and browse BPD or ask me questions about certain things. Did you know I have triggers? Things that set me off into a severe BPD episode? I bet you didn’t because I had no idea either.

Let’s get out of that fog and learn together. Shall we? After all, I’m still me and aren’t we all just a little messy anyways?

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How I Would Describe Life in One Word as Someone With BPD

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A friend of mine came up to me today and said, “Describe life in just one word.”

He waited, anticipating responses such as Hope. Love. Fun. Travel.

Without a moment’s hesitation and with fiery eyes, I blurted out, “Survival!”

That’s what life is for me. Survival. When you live with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you can’t possibly plan for the next year, the next month or even the next week. For me, it’s all about getting through the next 24 hours.

Twenty-four hours often seems like an eternity. This is especially true if you go through a roller coaster of emotions in a matter of minutes. It’s all you can do to maintain some semblance of normalcy and not let yourself be forcefully taken on the most devastating of rides.

Sure, I have it all. Beauty. Brains. Talent. Skill. Supportive friends. People who care. What I don’t have is me. I have no sense of identity, and I am almost too scared of myself. I know how awful I can be (without realizing it at the time of course) when am in the midst of a crisis. I sometimes hide away from the world, simply so that one less person will be hurt.

I wake up each day wondering when the switch will be flicked on or off  in my mind, making suddenly even existing too hard a task. In fact, I’ve learned to work around this, by identifying when I’m in a “can do” mood and making sure I supercharge my day by accomplishing all I can in those precious few moments. God forbid I’m in the midst of something hectic or exceptionally stressful when my mood takes it’s next swing! For only I know how embarrassing it is to break down into tears or burst into rage, when I was perfectly capable and confident just a few minutes before.

I have a house, friends, family and a good job, one where I can utilize my attention to detail, my determination and my mathematical prowess. Yet, every day is survival. I need to be able to put up the front that shows confidently what my professional skills can achieve for my organization and our clients. I need to ensure I look up at the ceiling just before the first tear drips out of my eye (a trick my therapist told me).

I need to be able to control my words, which often escape out of my mouth before I could even register the thought that preceded it. I need to be able to laugh, smile, say hello to everyone and make them feel validated and loved, when I can barely feel anything myself.

Most of all, I need to make sure no one finds out my “secret.” Everyone looks at you differently when they know you have an emotional dysregulation disorder. It’s not like they didn’t notice you struggled with your emotions before. They simply brushed it off saying, “She’s just quirky.” Now, just hearing the term makes you a monster or a weakling. Either way, you’re someone to be avoided at all costs.

People with BPD aren’t monsters. We’re not weak either. Yes, it makes us more prone to stress, which makes us more liable to be angry than assertive, more teary-eyed than happy-go-lucky, more pessimistic than realistic. That’s only when we’re stressed. When we’re rested (think regular sleep), refreshed (think less caffeine, more water), supported (think family and friends), we’re uniquely wonderful people. Some of the most caring, most intuitive, most empathetic, most helpful, most supportive, most smart, most logical and most confident individuals happen to be struggling with BPD or a similar disorder. This unique combination of traits often make for fantastic people to be around!

I know living with BPD is survival. Every hour I survive is an hour I worked hard to get through. Speaking for other BPD challengers, I am often much harder on myself than I need to be. I know I sometimes hurt those around me, and I really don’t want to. That’s why it’s survival. I get up and try again.

Going back to the encounter with my friend, he then asked me, “OK, perhaps at this moment, life for you is survival. But what would you like it to be again, in just one word?”

I thought about it for a moment and said, “Passion.”

When BPD no longer rules my life and I control it instead, life will be no longer be survival. It will be passion. Passion for friends. Passion for family. Passion for my career. Passion for fun. Passion for life. I know I’ll get there.

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Please Don't Assume I'm a Bad Mom Because of My Mental Illness

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OK, so I’m just going to say it.

Just because I have borderline personality disorder (BPD) doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to be a bad mother. I’m saying this because this is what I instantly thought when I was first diagnosed with BPD. I thought I had failed. I thought, “I’ve got these issues now so I can never be any kind of mother, let alone a good one!”

A mom holding her baby boy at sunset

Yet, I am here to be brave and say I am a good mum. I’ve always been extremely protective of my little boy H. I’ve always given him lots of attention, love and affection. I’ve played games, baked cakes, cooked, been creative and arranged days out. I am always cooking meals from scratch and trying to make sure he is as healthy as possible. My husband and I are always being told what a lovely kind, polite boy H is.

This is so lovely. Amazing in fact because how can this be true? I’ve got borderline personality disorder? BPD rules my life so I must be failing him! I must be doing something wrong!

A hand playing with a small toy truck

This is very much the way you are treated by professionals after your diagnosis. I was, at least. It is wrong and unfair, and it actually feeds the negative views we already have of ourselves.

Everyone would be better off without me.

I may as well disappear as I am failing at everything.

I was terrifyingly thrown into the world of social services after my son was born. Meetings, appointments, checks ins. There was never any questions about whether I was causing any harm to H, but I was told after we had been discharged from social services, the reason they got so involved is because of my diagnosis.

I mean, seriously! My family and I went through hell and back because I had a diagnosis that people think suggests I might not be a good mum.

Professionals should not be focusing on a mom’s BPD diagnosis solely. They should be focusing on and encouraging the positives we bring to our child’s lives. They should be treating every case individually, and of course, if there is a need for intervention, then absolutely, 100 percent I agree with the necessary precautions being taken.

Please, don’t assume because I have BPD I am not a good mother.

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I actually feel my BPD makes me a better mother at times. I am sensitive and feel every emotion intensely. Because of this, it makes me closer and able to understand H more. I can put myself in his shoes and communicate better with him.

Since I like to see the people I care about most happy, I do a lot with him. I take him to his favorite places, play his favorite games and make him smile at every opportunity I can.

Ultimately, I do now believe that I am a good mum. Wow. Did I just say that?

There are always days I look back and feel guilty for the times I was struggling. I imagine what it must have been like for H when I was at my worst. I look back and think that for more than half of his life, I was ill. What a shitty mother!

Then, I remind myself, he spent plenty of time with friends and family, who adored him. He grew in confidence. More importantly, it gave me the time and space I needed to get better. So that I could look after him to the fullest.

I’m not a perfect mother, far from it. Yet, I am no longer striving for perfection. I am just doing the best I can with an amazing, little boy I am blessed to have in my life.

Lots of love,

Amy x

This post originally appeared on Amy’s Boarderline World.

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