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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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.
Depression: I 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.
Anxiety: Anxiety 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was sitting in my group therapy session last week, and at that point I had been crying consistently for about 20 minutes. I was completely distraught and feeling utterly lost and hopeless about my life. Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) puts a weight on my shoulders — one I feel like nobody can ever come close to understanding. I am constantly thinking about how much everyone hates me and how I feel so alone. I am in so much pain and completely not in control of my emotions, and it feels as though life for me might as well be over.
After screaming and crying about how much I hated myself to my group, one of the therapists asked me to recall any small positive moment that had occurred recently. Anyone who has BPD knows it can be incredibly hard to feel good about yourself or your life, and even if you do, your BPD may work in overdrive to tell you it’s not true or real.
I was trying to think long and hard about anything that had happened that had made me feel even slightly better. It didn’t take me long to realize that something good had happened earlier in the week — something that made me not feel so full of pain and anguish, even if just for a brief moment.
Earlier in the week I had been triggered by someone sending me a text that I interpreted as being hateful. Often times people with BPD will be triggered over small things that nobody else would even give a second thought to. This is one of the downfalls of feeling every single emotion to the most extreme intensity. When I’m happy, I feel invincible and untouchable. Everything is bright, my mind is working in overdrive, having constant thoughts and visions to capture the brief moment where I feel I can do anything and everything I want. When I’m depressed, it feels like the world has come to an end, and I am in the deepest darkest moment where my life might as well be over with.
I had convinced myself the person who sent me the message hated me, never had liked me and wanted me gone. I reacted in my typical fashion and fell into one of my usual BPD episodes. I was having complete “black-and-white” thinking. I wanted to die. I hated everyone, and everyone hated me.
I was walking back from class and to the library knowing that even though my brain was telling me I wanted to act out, I needed to get some work done. I ended up sitting down on the floor of the copier room thinking about how I was probably going to do something self-destructive when I got home. That was when one of my friends came in.
I hadn’t seen this friend for a while because of varying schedules. My mind had told me it was because he hated me and had abandoned me just like everyone else in my life. I was surprised this was the moment life had chosen to throw us in the same room.
I was visibly upset, struggling my hardest to hold back tears. I rarely show my emotions in public so I was mortified that he could see the tears welling up in my eyes. I knew he was busy since finals were coming up and didn’t want to bother him with my problems, but I guess it was so obvious that neither of us could ignore it. He continued to ask me what was wrong, and I continued to reply that I was fine and it wasn’t his problem.
At that moment his friend called him wanting help with a class they had together. He told him in very vague terms that he couldn’t, something important had come up and he would help him another time. I was shocked. I knew he could see the tears rolling down my face, but my mind was so clouded with feelings of unworthiness that I assumed he didn’t care. He then told me to get up and that we were going to go back to my room to talk about things and get something to eat.
So often I convince myself that everyone hates me, nobody cares about me and my life is worthless. I am plagued by feelings of abandonment and that nobody cares about me enough to stick around so I shouldn’t stick around myself. In that moment, I felt like I could overcome myself and my rushing emotions and thoughts. I had expected that even though tears were streaming down my face and my voice was crackling with pain that he would just leave me there alone to cry. I was so touched by his kindness and thrilled I had proved myself wrong. Someone did care about me, and even if it was just for an hour, it meant enough to me for me to remember it at my lowest point later on in the week.
Later that week, my boss and friends gave me cookies and candy in preparation for the holidays, but as someone with BPD I would take that moment of compassion over anything else this holiday season.
Fighting with your partner or loved one is hard enough without a mental illness to contend with. Nobody enjoys conflict. Yet, arguments can occur in even the healthiest of relationships as we explore the things weighing on our minds and express challenging emotions. However, when a mental health problem is thrown into the mix, it can make these tensions even harder to navigate, particularly when it affects our emotional regulation, our ability to control the manifestation and intensity of our feelings.
As a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD), conflict resolution can be difficult. What can initially begin as a peaceful discussion regarding a problem that has arisen can end with me hysterically sobbing or screaming vitriol at the top of my lungs. I don’t ever want to get to that point, but sometimes, it feels near impossible to control my mind. Some perceived slight by the person I’m fighting with can lead me to just snap.
This does not happen as often as it once did. Before I understood some of the maladaptive behaviors and coping mechanisms manifested by my BPD, all I knew was I had a hot temper and a short fuse. After my diagnosis, I was able to access the right kinds of resources to help me cope with my illness, but that doesn’t mean I get it right 100 percent of the time.
My partner tends to bear the brunt of my anger, taking over from the role my parents once fulfilled. A wrong tone or a mistaken comment can send me into a paranoid rage, shouting things that I would never say in a more stable frame of mind. I hate the person I become. I hate that I have it in me to say such hurtful things to the people I love and care for. I hate that it is an inescapable part of who I am and that this hateful anger is inside me. Sometimes, I hate that I have to work to constantly keep that in check.
Regulating your emotions is hard with BPD, period. Regulating anger can be even harder. The insults and nasty words sit at the tip of your tongue, begging to be heard, and because this is arguably one of the uglier symptoms of BPD, it is discussed less frequently than other traits. This means there are less resources and information on regulating it. It takes constant work to control that fury and practice self-restraint, especially when BPD tells you that you don’t want to constrain your feelings.
Nonetheless, with work, it can be done. The thing that I have found to be most helpful is to simply force myself to step out of the situation for 10 minutes. Physically removing myself from a situation affords me the space to gain some perspective, and lets me reflect on my emotions to assess whether an argument is really worth having. Sometimes, this is all it takes to get out of that head-space, just a few minutes alone to cool off and consider if my interpretation of things is actually true to reality.
I have also been able to apply this to other issues relating to my BPD, such as impulsive behavior. Telling myself that if I still feel the same in 10 minutes, then I can act on it allows me to sit with the feeling. I, then, can allow it to pass without taking any action, and therefore, there are no negative consequences.
Although, as I said, this doesn’t work every single time. However, by allowing myself to take a breather and gain a better perspective on things, I have found I am more in control of my BPD than I have ever been before. Sometimes, all we need is a little time to sit with our feelings and allow them to pass, getting back into a more stable, calmer frame of mind.
When this doesn’t work and sometimes the emotions are just too intense to sit and cope with, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you have failed, and feelings of shame and guilt that may surface consequently are not fair to yourself when you work so hard to regulate your disorder. Don’t berate yourself for the times you have struggled. Congratulate yourself for all the progress you have made.
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In the few days running up to this act of kindness, I’d been lower than low. I was currently in a psychiatric hospital, my fourth admission this year. I just couldn’t handle the intense emotions that come with borderline personality disorder (BPD). I’d been feeling so overwhelmingly sad. No matter how many people told me, “It’ll get better,” I just couldn’t see any other way out.
So when I asked a support worker if I could go out for a walk, I had no intention of coming back. It was 8:15 by the time I got to where I was going to end my life. All the way there, I had felt this calmness wash over me. I felt at peace knowing that I wouldn’t have to deal with having BPD anymore.
I sat on a wall overlooking a river for what felt like an eternity. As I made my way closer to the edge, I became scared. Scared that I was going to survive. I cried until I felt like there were no more tears left in me. Not one person stopped to ask if I was OK, until one young man came along.
I was scared, tired, suicidal and shocked. Why had he stopped to talk to me? Everyone else had just walked past me without a care in the world. He stood and talked to me for more than half an hour about everything. He made me feel calm and at ease.
I asked him why he had stopped to talk to me.
His reply was, “I know nothing about mental illness, but I couldn’t have it on my conscious knowing I’d walked past someone who wanted to take their own life.”
This man saved my life. Before he came along, I was edging closer and closer to the edge of that wall, and I was gathering the courage to jump. I often think about that man and how if he hadn’t stopped, I might not be here right now.