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The part I struggle with most is the addiction.

I’ve read many accounts of people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) who rely on drugs or alcohol to cope, and I understand as much as anyone how easy it is to fall victim to such an extreme coping method. But my addiction was never in the form of a substance. Instead, I was a people addict.

Not everyone satisfied my desire for connection. It was always someone who was guaranteed to hurt me in one way or another. It was self-sabotage and a cry for help.

If I was friends with someone, the addiction would never manifest itself with that person. But the moment they displayed any interest in something more than friendship, any and all sense of my self-preservation and caution just flew out the window. Even though I was aware of my problem, I couldn’t stop myself.

The scariest part was the significant amount of power these people had over me and over my life. Sometimes it would seem like they were distant or growing bored of me, and I would shut myself away and cry because that’s how much it hurt. For days, even weeks, I was so depressed I couldn’t bring myself to do anything except lie in bed.

Nothing could distract me. Not my friends, not movies, not books, not even my job. I couldn’t force myself to study or do anything productive. And my mom would ask everyday why I was getting nowhere with my online studies, why I wasn’t making any progress. She would get angry and say I was mopey or lazy or in a bad mood.

I wasn’t always like this though. If the object of my addiction was displaying interest or affection, then I’d feel good about myself and even occasionally happy. But a life spent basing your own self-worth on the opinion of others is not a life at all. At least not one I would want.

For months now I’ve been trying hard to distance myself from the wrong people and surround myself with the right ones. It’s a lot easier said than done and sometimes I still make bad decisions. But I am convinced I can manage this problem. It’s only as powerful as I allow it to be.

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Along with borderline personality disorder, I am also diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. The difference between the two is so subtle that they are often misdiagnosed as each other. Most of the time it’s impossible to tell whether my symptoms are caused by bipolar or BPD. But if you look closely, there are some key differences between the two disorders. Understanding these differences is important in making sure I get the correct treatment.

Bipolar disorder primarily affects my mood and energy levels, whereas BPD affects my personality and interpersonal relationships. Bipolar episodes are a departure from my typical baseline personality and aren’t characteristic of what I would normally do. On the other hand, BPD symptoms are always present and are a part of who I am, no matter whether I’m having a bipolar episode or not.

I’ll address depression first. Depression can be particularly severe in both bipolar II and BPD; I will lose interest and motivation to do things I used to enjoy doing, replacing them with suicidal thoughts instead. This can be triggered by either a traumatic event or seemingly nothing at all. If it lasts hours, I usually attribute it to BPD. If it lasts for weeks or months, however, that’s more indicative of bipolar disorder. The negative voice of BPD feeds upon my depression, though, and will tell me awful things like “everyone hates you,” “people are just going to leave you,” “you’re ugly and worthless,” etc. Hypomania is dramatically different from a regular good mood with BPD, so here’s how I differentiate between the two:

Sleep:

I usually get about six or seven hours of sleep a night, but when I start staying up all night researching new ideas and feeling fine the next day without any tiredness, I know I’m on the brink of hypomania.

Energy:

Normally, my energy level is about average, with a few sluggish days here and there. When I’m hypomanic, however, my energy level goes way up and I feel extremely restless and “wired.” I become a lot more active than usual and begin to talk so fast about different things that people find it hard to keep up. Sometimes, I will feel irritable and snap at people if they get in the way of what I want to do. I become goal-oriented.

Self-Esteem:

Generally, my self-esteem is average at best, fluctuating between very low and normal when I’m not hypomanic. During hypomania, however, it will inflate to the extreme and I will feel exceptionally confident and have grandiose thoughts about how special I am. This might seem like a good thing on the surface, but looking back after an episode, the entitlement and conceitedness that goes along with a false sense of high self-esteem is less than flattering.

Impulsiveness:

This is a prominent symptom for me in both disorders, which makes it even more challenging to deal with since it is consistently ongoing, not just within an episode. Gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating, drug and/or alcohol abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship are all impulsive and risky behaviors I’ve had major problems with currently or in the past. I’m relatively impulsive by nature, but during a hypomanic episode, it’s like my impulsiveness is on overdrive with absolutely no regard for consequences.

Hypersexuality:

This is a rather taboo symptom that tends to be swept under the rug, but it’s extremely common in bipolar disorder, and when my sex drive skyrockets from its average level, it’s one of the main signs I’m becoming hypomanic. Mix this symptom with impulsiveness and an inflated sense of confidence and you have a recipe for disaster. Sexual indiscretions can also be a symptom of BPD, so this area has been a struggle for me to say the least.

Making big plans:

When I’m hypomanic, I have an intense urge to completely overbook myself and/or make outrageous, unattainable plans I would never rationally make. I know I’m in the midst of a hypomanic episode when I suddenly want to drop everything and go to Vegas or commit to joining a band. I will also take up several random hobbies that I’ve taken a sudden interest in, only to drop them not long after, leaving half-completed projects laying around the house.

Bipolar disorder is commonly treated with medication, so now that I have those symptoms under control, I’m left with my BPD symptoms, for which I’m in therapy. Because those traits are so ingrained in my personality, such as fear of abandonment and an unstable sense of identity, it’s difficult to manage, but I’m definitely making a lot of progress, so I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

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

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One of the first things you’re told to do when you’re someone with an addiction entering rehab is to cut ties with the people who encourage your unhelpful behavior. These are the people you have formed this special relationship with. People who “get it” and know how to help you through a bad trip. People who encourage you to use again and again because that is entirely the purpose of your relationship. It’s how you bonded and it became the expected dynamic.

The main thing I’ve learned since going into remission for my mental health works along the same lines. It feels like you’ve carried on walking forward slowly but surely, taking each day as it comes. Until, one day, you turn around to check on the people who you have these “special relationships” with and you see them standing where you were what seems like moments before. You don’t want to look down on them or the way they’re behaving because they’re not bad people. They’re just not recovering.

You hear your friends talk about how much they want to hurt themselves, how much they want to die and you can’t relate to that anymore. Do you know the hardest part? You don’t want to. The people you love become people you can’t be around.

So you keep walking forward and away from the person you used to be. It’s not because you don’t love the people who supported you when you needed it. Instead, it’s because you can’t bear to be that person anymore. You can’t even remember how to be that person anymore.

It’s hard.

The only real saving grace is being surrounded by people on the same journey as you. People you meet in group sessions. Peers who are also on the road to recovery. People whose track records would put your old friends to shame.

Yet, when you tell your story they seem just as shocked by it. You inspire them just as much as they inspire you, and it becomes a cycle of pulling each other up by backs of your trousers, keeping on keeping on. You encourage each other into recovery because looking back the way you came just seems so dark and dangerous. You begin to wonder how on earth you used to be that person.

One in 10 people with borderline personality disorder die by suicide. You have more than 10 friends with the diagnosis. It feels like a matter of time until somebody else takes a bow and steps off their mortal coil, becoming yet another number of casualties in a war that seeks to destroy.

You want to help. You want to help those who seem to be drowning under the weight of their disorder, being pulled under by the love/hate dynamic of the drama that seems to revolve around them. You get that too because you used to define yourself by your disorder before you started walking away.

But much like someone with an addiction, sometimes you need to loosen ties with the people who encourage that unhelpful behavior. You understand that. You can’t help them any more than somebody could have helped you when you were still walking by their side, oblivious to any way out of your hellish existence.

So all you can do is get further and further away from the people who used to define you and hold on tightly to the people who pull you and keep you “in recovery.” You hope against all hope, that someday soon, when they’re ready, the people you love and left behind will gradually make their way back to you.

Then, you can walk side by side, once again, into recovery.

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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I believe borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a misnomer; it’s a bad name. I feel it’s an inaccurate description of something that’s closer to massive insecurity in relationships.

I struggle with my borderline personality disorder traits. I’m just now coming to recognize them and understand how they cause me to act and how they shape the way I see the world. When I see the world through that perspective, the world becomes very unsafe in the sense that I don’t trust people, or I’m expecting them to fail me or hurt me. Once this is happening, I push boundaries to see if these things will happen. It’s pretty easy to see how this often ends up.

People with borderline personality disorder aren’t “insane,” they’re just people who can have a hard time trusting themselves and others. We are wired in a way that can make stable friendships difficult, because we often test friends. We are wired in a way that can make keeping a job hard, because you have to maintain healthy relationships. It can make dating a strange process, because we may not know how to trust without oversharing, we may not know how to connect in a healthy way, so it can be easier to trust someone fully or not at all. “Kind of” trusting someone is a weird concept to me, so I push boundaries to see what happens.

If you have a friend with borderline personality disorder, be patient with them. They may be struggling inside just with day-to-day life. Set boundaries, because they may push them and keep resetting them as needed. Don’t give into someone’s impulsive needs, because if you do you aren’t helping them. If they hate you for doing that, that’s OK. Some people with BPD may seek validation, so they might keep doing a behavior you may not like because it can allow them to feel more secure. And they often do it until you ask them to stop, and they may get mad at you, and that’s OK. Please, if you have a friend with BPD, set boundaries and be clear with them. I’ve found people with BPD don’t tend to do well with ambiguity; we can tend to see life in yes or no, black and white, OK or not. Understanding life in-between those lines can be hard for us, so help your friend out. Let them know what is and is not OK for your friendship.

Living with borderline personality disorder can be a struggle. I evaluate friendships daily, and I make quick decisions about people. I’m working so hard daily not to do these things; I’m working so hard daily to be a good friend and a good student.

If you have a friend with borderline personality disorder, be patient, set boundaries, maintain those boundaries, and if they act out, don’t take it personally. Your friend is likely very insecure and doesn’t know how to feel secure. Allow them to feel that, and don’t try to fix their problems.

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When I talk about the cost of being borderline, I don’t mean metaphorically; I mean, “How much does it cost to have borderline personality disorder (BPD)?” Often when discussing mental illness we talk about how emotions affect a person or their family and friends, but rarely is money discussed when it comes to being mentally ill.

At the moment I’m struggling with my mental illness so badly that I’m unable to keep a job. The reality of this means I’m not in receipt of a decent living income. I live month to month with money, which can be difficult for the average person never mind someone with a mental illness like BPD.

My impulsivity regularly causes me to spend money I don’t have on things I don’t need. It doesn’t feel that way in the moment. I often feel like I have to buy these things to ensure my happiness. This is not an uncommon reality. Many people with BPD struggle with compulsive spending. Not only this, but they may have a range of costly addictions from alcohol and drugs to food. There are also extra costs associated with these addictions you may not realize. For example, food addiction may cause health problems or a need to buy better fitting clothes. These addictions can mean having to spend money on private treatments because, depending on where you live, your government may not cover it.

Often self-destructive coping mechanisms like binge-spending can be triggered by emotional pain. Someone who is usually frugal with money may max out a credit card after an argument with a loved one. Even though we might be aware of the fact that it is going to have a negative impact on us in the long term, it is difficult for us to get past the comfort it provides in the moment.

BPD itself may require treatments and medications that the government doesn’t always cover. At the moment, although I’m not working, I’m still paying for one-on-one therapy, which the NHS doesn’t cover for me. People like me often have to rely on charities to help with treatment because the NHS can’t keep up with the demand for our treatments. It also can be quite expensive having to attend these appointments with little income. It is costly running a car so having to rely on alternatives is a necessity. It can also be daunting to use public transport. For example, because of anxiety, I often have to rely on expensive taxis to get me to appointments, which is difficult to afford on a low income.

One symptom of BPD, according to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), can be to have an unstable sense of self. This, for me, often means almost changing my style completely on a regular basis. This means new clothes, new shoes, new accessories, new makeup, new hairstyles. This all costs money, and depending on what style I choose can end up being pricey. It also means new hobbies. I’m constantly flitting from one hobby to another. Some are free and easy to do, such as meditation, but then there are things such as candle making, which can end up being quite expensive.

The biggest cost, though, is someone’s life. According to LiveScience, a human life is worth approximately $5 million. One in 10 people with BPD die by suicide, so when your loved one with BPD asks for help, please listen.

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 Moon Wink.

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The waiting room is small with simple chairs and a plant I think might be fake. I sit there, waiting, nervous for the next 45 minutes. I don’t know why I’m nervous; I do this every week. But without fail, every week I am nervous.

The second hand on my watch keeps ticking. It’s 6:14 p.m. One more minute and she’ll come and get me. Just 60 more seconds. One more minute. Finally the clock strikes 6:15, and all my senses are heightened. Do I hear the creak of the door as she opens it, or is that my imagination? Is the scent of the hand soap from her bathroom really that strong, or am I just overthinking it? Is my heart actually pounding so hard I hear it, or is that just a sound from the next room over?

The door opens. She pokes her head out and tells me to come in. Sometimes it’s awkward because there may be others waiting as well, but it’s OK. I walk into the room and throw my coat on the floor because I’m just so classy. I plug my phone into the outlet next to the big chair, and with a sigh, I finally sit down. I proceed to complain about how terrible public transportation is — that the subway was delayed and I panicked thinking I’d be late. She chuckles. She asks me how I am. I say something like, “delightful” or “wonderful” because how else am I supposed to answer such a big question?

Then we get into the important stuff. The reason I’m there. It’s hard — digging so deep into your mind that even you aren’t sure who you’re talking about. I stare at the floor. Usually I stare at this treasure chest kind of thing that sits next to my chair. It has elephants on it, and I used to stare at a specific elephant, one with its trunk way up in the air. A few weeks ago she got rid of that treasure chest. I don’t know why, but now instead of the elephant I’ve come to know, I stare at the fading carpet. After all, looking people straight in the eye while discussing these kinds of things just makes it all even more real.

Every few minutes I look at my watch. I think I do it secretly, pretending to play with the ponytail holder that sits on my wrist. But really I’m checking how much time we have left. It’s 6:30. OK, I still have a good half hour. But then slowly but surely, the clock creeps closer and closer to the time I dread — 7:00 p.m. At 6:55 she starts to wrap things up. She knows it’s hard for me to leave, so we don’t wait until the last second to end things. She eases towards the edge of her chair and says something like, “This is a much larger conversation, and we’ll have to continue talking about it next week. Same time?” Those words make my heart drop. It means I have to go back out into the real world — one where I pretend my emotions do not exist.

My whole body feels heavy. My legs feel glued to the floor, and the pounding of my heart is so loud that I just want to scream at it and tell it to shut up so I can pay attention to what I’m doing. At this point she is standing next to me, telling me to have a good night and to get home safely. But I can’t move. I try, but I can’t. I cover my face and keep repeating, out loud, “Get up. You need to go now. Don’t do this.” I stand up slowly. I know I need to go. Staying there will not only reinforce the dependence I have on her, but it also may hinder our relationship because it would be pushing boundaries, as I have done so often in the past. Walking to the door feels like a chore, even though it’s pretty much right next to me.

Before I leave I look at her and she says, “Take care of yourself.” Then I walk out. I don’t go straight back to the subway. I go to her bathroom first. I stare at myself in the mirror, at the girl who just went through an emotionally draining 45 minutes. My whole chest has broken out in a rash because that happens when I’m anxious. I wash my face then wash my hands and smell the soap that reminds me so much of this office.

This office. My safe haven. My therapy.

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