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Lessons From 'the Border': How I Changed How I Perceive My Mental Illness

While many would say having borderline personality disorder is a curse, from my perspective neurodivergence is a blessing. It’s taken me a long time to look at it this way. It wasn’t always easy. My sense of self was in constant flux. I could begin the day on top of the world, thinking I could accomplish anything. I would often end the day in tears, gripping my pillow, hoping the world will end. I still do sometimes.

Marsha Linehan says, “People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.”

There’s so much truth to this. I experienced a type of hypersensitivity that made me feel everything that happened in the world around me. A person could walk past me on the street and it would feel as if they would move toward and through me. Everything was blaring. Loud. The wind creeping through my coat, the ground under my feet, and the steady rhythm of runner’s boots as they glided through the park would all affect me, for better or for worse. Some days all I knew was turmoil and I felt hemmed in on all sides. I felt like I was drowning. One story gave me hope.

In Greek mythology, there’s a figure called Charon whose job is to ferry souls across the River Styx. According to the myth, you can only enter the Underworld by going across the River. The journey across the Styx is terribly dark and filled with the cries of those in their own personal hells. However, because Charon is used to the Underworld he knows exactly how to get the newly deceased on the other side. I like to think of people who have neurodivergence as uniquely gifted. Because we understand darkness intimately, we’re more than qualified to help people get through their darkest hour, much like Charon.

Our darkness allows us to see the preciousness of the human experience and it’s diversity. To be depressed is to experience a profound empathy that won’t let you sit idly by when you see suffering. To wrestle with anxiety necessitates that you protect the weak and fearful. To experience mania or psychosis, even at it’s scariest moments, is to appreciate the creative genius in the world around you. Mental illness can be life-threatening, but the way you choose to perceive it can be a game-changer. Will you help others across the River? I know it hurts. I also know you are a light in the dark. You are a wounded healer. Act like it. We need you.

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Thinkstock photo by Jupiterimages


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What I Realized About Pain After Getting My Heart Broken as Someone With BPD

April 2016 my whole world was turned upside down. I had fallen in love. I know everyone falls in love, but imagine falling in love with a disorder as intense as borderline personality disorder (BPD). A love where you feel like you cannot function without this person in your life. A love where you become so emotionally attached that the only way to be detached from the person is to push them away, even though deep down you want them to stay.

I never felt attached in previous relationships. That is one BPD symptom I had little understanding of. I had fear of abandonment, just any person can experience. Yet this time, this time the fear was one of the most paranoid fears I had ever experienced. I had fallen in love, and I felt like I couldn’t escape the feeling this person was giving me.

I learned of the betrayal of this person. My stomach flipped. Some people would not act on their feelings and would have simply walked away. For me, this seemed almost impossible. They say you can die from a broken heart, and I nearly did.

The symptoms started to intensify when I found out the person I loved the most had really hurt me. People tend to think people with BPD “overreact” to painful situations. I felt my whole body shut down. I couldn’t leave my bed. I started to self-harm because of the excruciating amounts of pain I was feeling. I pushed everyone away, and I dissociated to the point where I didn’t even realize I was hurting myself until afterward.

The pain of people who are living with BPD is already at a heightened and intense level. So add being in love on top of that, and you might begin to understand the utter devastation we feel when someone really hurts us. I felt like I was suffocating in a big pool of quicksand, and I couldn’t come up for air. Trust issues played a big part in my life already. So to find out someone you loved more than anything consciously hurt you was a big kick to the curb.

As I write this, it’s early January. I sit here in disbelief sometimes. I also wonder how I got through the most emotional intense period of my life. I learned so much about my symptoms and how to cope/manage them without resorting to self-harm or ideation. I learned who my true friends were, whom I possibly took for granted, and I sought comfort in them.

I moved out of my comfort zone and met people who normalized my feelings and validated how I felt. I know there were parts of my mending where I wanted to shut the feelings out and become completely numb because I felt like I was “overreacting.” I have now learned feelings of hurt are valid regardless of how big or little they may seem to other people. If someone hurts you and you loved them, then you have every reason to feel upset, angry and in pain.

If I can survive that emotional intense period of my life, then I am capable of surviving anything. It’s sad how I have to survive in order to live with this illness, but that is what makes anyone with a mental illness special. They get to experience everything a lot differently than someone without a mental illness. I just want anyone who has been in my position to know, despite your intense reactions, your pain is valid after being hurt. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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

Image via Thinkstock.

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What 'Emotional Blackouts' Are Like With My Borderline Personality Disorder

Here today, gone tomorrow. Out of sight, out of mind. Absence makes the heart grow (less) fonder.

Many people who live with borderline personalist disorder (BPD) know very well the meaning of these phrases. I’d like to share my story so those without BPD can understand us, too.

BPD can involve a lot of emotional “mis-wiring.” I’ve struggled with the absence of “normal” emotional responses for as long as I can remember. For me, it more often than not manifests as a lack of emotion. I know it may sound strange, considering many with BPD are often considered overly sensitive and/or over-emotional. And I am. Yet it’s not like I’m a permanent bomb waiting to explode, or an incessant source of waterworks. Those odd, over-the-top bursts of (often unexpected and uncontrollable) emotion are the culmination of days, weeks, possibly even months of feeling nothing. Absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada.

It’s hard to explain this lack of feeling. I could experience the pits of despair or summits of elation one moment, and then entirely forget the feeling ever existed. I call it an “emotional blackout.” I know, in theory, that in the past I’ve endured pain, sadness, hopelessness, and enjoyed moments of joy, pride, achievement. I’ve gone on fantastic holidays where memories were created and the spirit in me was moved. I’ve loved with all my heart and felt mountains move. I’ve had my heart crushed. But then I’ve forgotten. Everything. It’s like it never happened. And try as I might, I just can’t remember the feeling.

I feel it’s worse when you know you can’t remember. You often know you’re causing those around you pain in some way. And there’s not a thing you can do about it. I’ve learnt to cope by pretending I remember, acting extraordinaire! Loved ones often would like you to multiply their joys and divide their sorrows. But when you can’t feel anything, let alone empathize with them, I’ve found it’s all I can do to just sit there and hope they don’t notice I’m pretending.

I’ve hated myself for it. I wish I could apologize to them for the umpteen times it seemed like I didn’t care. I really want to be there for them. I just cannot practically bring out the correct emotional response (even when I know what it should be).

What worries me is the thought of being in any relationship. I know I’ll likely forget all the good times if I don’t keep reminding myself of them and forcing myself to feel something. Because if I let time pass and remain for too long in the comfort zone of not feeling, even a small, not-so-good incident (something as silly as forgetting to buy something from the grocery store) could instantly propel my loved one straight into the “I hate you” zone. And then it’s a whole lot of effort to start all over again.

A lot of my relationships have been ruined over this. But I’ll keep working at it. Some people understand. Some don’t. Relationships that could stand the test of BPD do. Those that don’t may have at the very least helped both parties become stronger. Yet there is hope. I refuse to give up. I know there’s more to this than meets the eye. And I know there’s hope for all of us with BPD. Our loved ones want to help us and be with us. We just have to work harder to reach there. We will.

Image via Thinkstock.

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The Thoughts That Followed My Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis

Upon my initial diagnosis of having borderline personality disorder (BPD), I was overcome with two very conflicting emotions: relief, but also fear.

I was relieved there was finally something that accurately described how I’ve been feeling for so long. This diagnosis meant there was an explanation for my unstable relationships, my rapid cycling of emotions, my overwhelming rage at moments, and the moments when I felt so horrible I just wanted to end it all. All the moments when I would feel 10 different emotions all within the span of an hour, feeling so out of control and detached from reality. When I was so overwhelmed and scared of myself that, eventually, I would reach such a low point my only answer was to harm myself in any way I could think of in hopes of relieving the intense pain I was in.

I was also extremely afraid. Just the term “personality disorder” seemed to confirm my worst fears — that everyone did in fact hate me, and it was my fault because I am a “horrible person.” I began to rerun every single moment in my life I thought was significant and wonder if it was real or not. As if I didn’t already feel like I didn’t know myself at all, I felt my whole life had been a complete lie. What emotions were real and what emotions were just an effect of my BPD? Would I ever be able to have a stable relationship, a true friend? Would I be able to get married or have a family? Would I ever be able to have a stable job and life?

These first few weeks were especially rough dealing with all those fearful thoughts, in combination with all of my medications being altered. I felt like there wasn’t a moment in my life that wasn’t plagued with deep regret for my actions and my reactions to my emotions. I felt like my life was completely out of my control, and there was no possibility of reeling it back in.

I regretted hurting so many people in my life, saying things I didn’t mean, doing things I didn’t want to do just because I was in so much pain. I was ashamed of all the times my fear of abandonment and my inability to trust anyone had affected others. I’m still scared nobody will ever be able to understand me, to sympathize with me, or to realize that sometimes I’m in so much pain I may lash out through unjust means. It doesn’t make it right, but I also think about all the times I wished someone would have helped me instead of just walking away.

Of all the things I cannot change, I am beginning to realize I don’t have to let my BPD have complete control over me. It is never going to be something I can change or something I won’t have, but I can change what I do from here on out. Taking care of myself needs to be my top priority. I need to take ownership of my experience. I realize this may come along with a lot of hurt, but I need to have faith that those who care about me will stick with me through the good and the bad. Saying that as someone with BPD means a lot, as I’ve struggled to feel as though anyone has been there for me. But I guess this is my time to prove myself and my BPD wrong!

Image via Thinkstock.

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.

Secrets of People Who Live With Borderline Personality Disorder

Tattoo that reads "Destroy what destroys you"

21 Tattoos Inspired by Life With Borderline Personality Disorder

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) sometimes experience an unstable sense of self, often coupled with heightened emotions and black and white thinking. And while it’s sometimes easy for those with BPD to feel misunderstood, they want to be seen and heard like anyone else. Whether it’s a reminder to the world or for themselves, tattoos are often a beautiful way to tell these stories.

We asked our mental health community to share their tattoos inspired by borderline personality disorder (BPD) and the stories behind them.

Here is what they shared with us:


A semi-colon tattoo on a man's wrist

“My semicolon tattoo. I’m not supposed to have tattoos in my line of work, but this is my symbol of fighting. The fact that I made it to where I am now. It’s my favorite thing.” — Kennedy W.


A woman shows off her forearm with the word "Love" with the "o" replaced by a semicolon

“I got this one last year after a few hard years with BPD and suicidal phases. Now I want to live and fight for my dreams and health. The tattoo is in a Disney design to remind me of my inner child who I want to protect and take care of. Stay strong everybody and fight.” — Kim K.


A tattoo of the word "ingragilis"

Latin for unbreakable. A constant reminder that when I feel like I’m breaking I’m actually getting stronger.” –Ashleigh T.


A tattoo of small symbols on a woman's upper torso.

I adore reading, and these runes are taken from my favorite books — they mean heal, strength, angelic power, fearless and love. To help me through the bad times.” – Courtney S.


A tattoo on a woman's shoulder of an X-ray of a tattoo

Things are not always as they seem. This is my flower X-ray to symbolize that things may look good on the outside, but the inside is where the struggle lies.” — Amy K.


A woman shows off her tattoo of a key with the word "happiness" written on along the side of the key

“Through my struggles over the last seven years, I have always tried to ‘get back to happy.’ Got this tattoo last year as a reminder to keep going and to keep working on getting back to happy.” — Alison T.


A tattoo of a deer, an arrow and flowers around its antlers

A stag to represent strength and courage. It’s half skull because of the times I wanted to give up. The flowers wrapped around its antlers symbolizes ‘a wound to heal.’ The arrow means no matter how much life pulls you back, you will go further in life. It’s not everyone’s taste, but I love the tattoo I designed for myself. It keeps me going through my battles.” — Chloe H.


A tattoo of a compass

My daughter’s compass to keep her heading in the right direction! She also has footprints on her other wrist to keep her moving forward.” — Emma B.


A tattoo with text that says, "the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant."

This is a quote from ‘Doctor Who.’” –Milo M.


A tattoo that says, "Never give up."

Diagnosed with BPD at 19 and got this two years after. It’s kept me going at times.” –Anna L.


Two images of a woman's forearms side by side. The first of a tattoo that says, "Stop bleeding." The second that says, "Start breathing."

“Got it about two years ago! When I look down at it in times of struggle, it reminds me to take a moment and breath!” — Beckie-Louise C.


A butterfly tattoo with a semicolon as its body

Semicolon butterfly. Small but with meaning.” — Kate M.


A tattoo of an eye on leaves on a shoulder

Tears water the fallen leaves and in time the tree will regrow.” — Linzi D.


A tattoo that says, "Destroy what destroys you."

Keep fighting.” — Marie D.


A tattoo that says, "Fall down 7 times ; stand up 8."

Fall down seven times; stand up eight.” — Lana J.




A tattoo that says, "I myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions."

I myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” — Mary D.


A tattoo of an orange ribbon and text that says, "You are more."

The orange ribbon represents self-injury awareness. The phrase is from a song my sister sent to me while I was in treatment. More than anything, at that time I needed to hear that I was more than my injury, more than my past and more than my diagnosis. This was five years ago. I am now married, graduating graduate school in May and a homeowner. I am more than what I spent years telling myself I was.” — Darbi H.


A sketch of a tattoo design with a flower

I’m getting this done next month — a blue rose to represent my irrational choice of hair during my hardest period and a celtic to represent Boudicca because my mum has always called me her warrior queen.” –Isobel T.


A tattoo that says, "Love is the movement."

I got this before I was diagnosed. This tattoo is inspired by a charity, To Write Love on Her Arms, which helps support victims of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Love is the movement.” — Ashleigh B.


A tattoo of a feather and a heartbeat

The arrow represents that I’m always moving forward and the heartbeat reminds me to ‘choose life.’” — Wendy E.

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.

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

Image via our Mental Health on The Mighty page.

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