paper christmas tree

3 Ways I Enjoy the Holidays as a 'BPD Challenger'

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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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19 Signs You Grew Up With Borderline Personality Disorder

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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
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I Have Borderline Personality Disorder, and I Am Not a Monster

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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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When Living With Borderline Personality Disorder Feels Like a Bomb Is Inside of You

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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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The Calm After the Storm of Borderline Personality Disorder

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As hard as it is, as many of you already know, dealing with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is absolutely exhausting. I’d like to invite you to share with me in the space I’m going to refer to as “the calm after the storm.” It’s been four years since I got my BPD diagnosis. Since then, I have gone through books, documentaries, therapy and multiple other related subjects that helped me find practices and concepts to understand and help myself during periods of crisis. Much research has been done, and with it came new possibilities for me to take control over mental and emotional turmoil. Nonetheless, I am still not a master of these skills.

I couldn’t sleep last night. In fact, I haven’t had a good night of solid, uninterrupted sleep in a while. Fortunately, right now, I’ve managed to arrive to a state of calmness, where it is almost natural. Yet still, it was quite hard to recognize that last night, when my mind was consumed by my own insecurities. I could have made a choice. I just did not.

Let’s be honest. You know the voice that speaks all the things you’re afraid of and runs a movie in your head that plays them out in your mind? It’s literally right in front of your eyes, and you are right there, just taken by the whole thing, feeling too small to stand up for yourself. Yet, you know inside the turmoil, there is shiny little light that’s worth so much more than that exhausting moment of despair you can’t seem to defeat.

I am trying to invite you to recognize that shiny, little light. To let you know that you must hold onto it during the moment you have the slightest doubt that any of your struggling is worth the pain in your chest or against others. I want to invite you to look for yourself when you are not in the condition of pain and to see if you recognize the shiny, little light. It is sometimes in the shape of the hope that we have to not just conquer, but also work with, our demons. Therein lies the switch to distract your struggle. Therein lies the opportunity for you to realize that all pain is real, but agony can be a choice.

Maybe next time, because I know there will come a next time, when I’ma bout to be taken down by a wave of fears and pain, I’ll chose not to go with it. I will absolutely acknowledge it, but I will not choose to carry its weight. Hopefully, I will manage to remember this moment of calmness, this critical moment of well-deserved calm after the storm, when I am emotionally sober enough to know I saw the shiny little light that I deserved better. I know I have to stand up for her because no one will ever be able to do for her (and I mean me), what I can’t even do for myself.

I get it now. BPD therapy techniques are all about training the brain to alternative routes of behavior, to be less harsh on ourselves, to be kinder to ourselves. We know we hit us hard. We feel run over days after emotional distress. So please, acknowledge the shiny, little light as much as you acknowledge the giant pain because oh man, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So let’s choose the “opposite reaction.”

At this point, we may start learning from all this constant pain and understand the repetitive message behind it. We must learn some self-reliance because we know it will be impossible to feel completely safe with others. The moment we can see that shiny little light, hold on to it and know it’s real, we must stand up for it. Befriend and accept your mistakes so that you can finally become more fluent at not inducing yourself into despair.

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What My 'Good' and 'Bad' Days Look Like as Someone With BPD

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

My borderline personality disorder (BPD) comes in waves. I’m successful, social and bubbly. Until I’m not. My mask is so permanently plastered onto my face I barely recognize myself without its fake smile and cheerful laugh. Until the real empty, shapeless shell hidden underneath can no longer be bottled up.

My alter ego is highly functional. I’m an ambitious pre-med student at a prestigious institution, founder of a new student organization, member of a professional pre-med fraternity, a volunteer in the emergency department of a nearby hospital, a practiced EMT, the list goes on and on. My padded checklist of reasons why I’m granted to survive another day, goes on and on. The only thing harder than working every second of the day is having time to be left with my own thoughts.

My accomplishments are my armor. The endless extracurriculars keep me busy enough to avoid the crumbling reality that is my mind. When my self-inflicted anger volcanoes, at least I can let myself exist long enough to attend my next class. I schedule myself to the brim to postpone the inevitable emotional disaster that can spontaneously erupt at any time. When I share I feel overwhelmed with my endeavors, I’m shamefully reminded “didn’t I do this to myself?” How could somebody so driven actually be falling apart at the seams?

On my good days, I am an invincible superwoman. I study for my classes. I ace my midterms. I’m a good friend. I listen and empathize. I genuinely care and love my friends like I may lose them at any moment. I get high off the order, the stability, the temporary feeling of being “fixed.”

On my bad days, I don’t have the energy to get off the couch. I am a breathing disappointment. I am an eternal burden to others. I am a disgusting bag of fat binge food. My everlasting emotional chaos and suicidal thoughts engulf me. Nothing matters anymore, I’m hopeless and unfixable. I just hurt people. My loved ones would be better off without me. If they knew who I truly was, they would be repulsed. There’s no point in trying to survive anymore. I don’t deserve the right to live.

With professional help, therapy and support from friends – even if they can’t fully understand me – I’ve embarked on the journey to recovery. With help, I’ve created a life jacket. With ample time spent working through my past traumas and remembering to take my medication, I have been able to ride out some of the waves. I know I’m extremely lucky to have gotten help. I am so incredibly thankful. But it doesn’t make my pain any less real. It doesn’t completely assuage the hurt. It’s still strenuous and tumultuous and unfair.

The future is bright. I can see the lighthouse near the shore. Maybe one day I may be able to thoroughly believe I have an intrinsic right to life. Until then, I will have to helplessly latch onto anything that will save me from drowning in my own thoughts.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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