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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