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What It Feels Like for Me to Experience Mania in Borderline Personality Disorder

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Tonight I can do anything.

“Take me to the cinema,” I say to my carer. “No, no… let’s go bowling,” I beg. “God, I really wanna go visit Megan,” I say. Or wouldn’t it be awesome to take a flight somewhere and just get out of here? I think to myself, secretly Googling prices and times. We could leave now. We really could.

While most of these suggestions might seem perfectly harmless, they are the workings of my manic mind — a mind currently high on life, ready to fly, though likely to burn out at any given second.

I have borderline personality disorder and am more prone to experiencing borderline’s depression than I am its mania, so I am familiar with suicidal thinking, hard-hitting depressive episodes that last anywhere from hours to days, feelings of worthlessness, lack of hope, etc. But once in a while, I will experience small bursts of mania. I can’t quite decide if these small bursts are positive or not. On the one hand, they fill me with energy and drive, but on the other, they consume me and fill me with a dangerous sense of urgency.

Largely due to my severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which I have previously written about on The Mighty, I have spent the past seven years inside and fully dependent on my carer. Realistically, I can’t set foot outside my front door without panicking. Right now, however, in the height of a manic episode I tend to forget about my illness. It’s with extreme anger and rage that I tell myself I can “defeat” it, that it doesn’t exist at all. When my carer gently reminds me I shouldn’t push myself, I want to scream at him and tell him he doesn’t know me, he doesn’t understand. I want to run outside into the wind and rain. Literally. I want to run and keep running – it doesn’t matter where I’m going so long as I am moving forward, away from this illness.

There are times, rare as they are, that I will give in to the mania. Take the past weekend for example. I woke up early and asked my carer to take me into Belfast, the largest city in Northern Ireland. He was shocked and wary, but I convinced him I’d be fine. See, that’s one thing I’ve gotten really good at – manipulating myself into believing I’ll be OK. It’s so convincing that I managed to fool us both. Now, Belfast was hard, really hard… but I did get through it. And as I expected there was a lot of mania: compulsive spending, wanting to go everywhere, to experience everything. I talked to people, I laughed, I later cried. I felt alive – and that felt wonderful.

What I failed to prepare for, however, were the days that followed. After our trip into Belfast, I had to spend three days lying in bed recuperating. I couldn’t move. My energy levels were low, my muscles ached to the point of crying. I was massively emotional and suicidal – all because of one day out. I experienced extreme guilt and shame at my reactions to things. I mean, if you could have seen me out there, running around Belfast like a kid on too much candy, and that’s just it; my moments of mania are extremely childlike. I was wild and free, but then something terrible happened. The child became afraid and ashamed for having “lived,” for having felt excitement. And then I go into myself again — tired, torn, eaten and spat out by the world, scared I would never feel that excitement again.

I cannot begin to explain the fear I experience when I feel the mania slipping away from me. It is like watching a beautiful sunset dissolve into darkness – never to reappear. I can feel the energy inside of me dying. I watch as it turns from happiness and possibility to despair and hopelessness.

I begin to loathe myself for having wasted it. Ten minutes ago, I was ready to book a flight to Glasgow, just because. Now the idea alone would give me a panic attack.

Once the mania has worked its way out of my system, it is replaced by a dark and gloomy, heavy depression which tends to last for days. And even though I know this cycle never changes, that the mania leads to depression, I still crave it, still desperately hold on to the next time I’ll feel those small bursts of energy, those giant waves of possibility.

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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Recognizing When My Logic 'Switch' Is Turned Off in BPD Episodes

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If you are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it isn’t your fault.

If you love someone with BPD, it isn’t your fault.

I don’t believe people with BPD shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. I know there is somewhat a “no-man’s land” with regards to accountability. Can someone really be held accountable for their actions if they have no idea what they are doing?

For example, there were many times I hurt my various ex-partners. I believed so powerfully I was going to be abandoned or hurt that I would lash out and attack at the merest hint — imagined or otherwise — that something wasn’t quite right in the relationship.

My immediate reaction would be a full breakdown, complete with self-harming, crying, sometimes getting aggressive and the standard “we’re breaking up.” Sometimes I would seriously consider it and even attempt it.

I thought if I wasn’t around to hurt, I couldn’t get hurt. Or sometimes I believed “you couldn’t hurt me if I hurt you first.” It’s the worst ploy in the world. “I’m going to show you how much I don’t care about you so you don’t think I’m weak and leave me, but in reality I care deeply about you, please never leave me.” None of it made any sense.

I find a lot of my worst experiences with BPD have heavily featured contradictions that somehow for the moment, made complete sense. In the midst of any kind of emotional breakdown it’s as if there’s a tiny switch representing logic that gets flicked off in all the ruckus and all semblance of decency, understanding and empathy just vanishes.

Then afterwards when you’re putting all the furniture the right way up again, you notice the little switch was off this whole time. And so you just flick it back on like, “Hey what does that do? Oh God.” And it all comes flooding back in in the next barrage of intense, overwhelming emotions. But this time it’s the guilt and the shame and the dregs of the logic you forgot.

I understand BPD is not an excuse for any sort of bad behavior towards another person. It’s not an excuse, but it is a reason.

In a way, it isn’t your fault. You don’t have the right tools yet. You don’t have the right skills to help you to communicate better. You haven’t learned how to grow thicker emotional skin yet and you’re still very vulnerable.

However, what you can do is recognize when these lapses in logic happen. Recognize and accept they happen. Don’t try to forget it or it will just repeat over and over and over. Once you recognize it, then you can begin to work on it.

Follow this journey on The BPD Informer.

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.

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

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Meet My Monster: Borderline Personality Disorder

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

I’m writing this in the midst of a borderline personality disorder (BPD) episode.

I’m sitting at my laptop, tears streaming down my cheeks, painfully aware of what feels like a hollow cavity where my heart is. My throat is tight; my head is spinning. All I can seem to think about is what I should be doing: writing my book.

One of my current projects is a non-fiction book about my immigration journey with my husband, Adam — he’s English and I’m American. We’ve had to cut through a lot of red tape just to stay on the same piece of earth together, only to discover a room full of lasers on the other side.

And my “monster” has picked the perfect time to visit. She’s trying to convince me this book isn’t worth writing, that I’m not good enough to write it anyway. She’s asking me why I bother. She’s wondering why I didn’t kill myself four years ago, like she urged me to. She tells me I could’ve spared him from this mess, and he would’ve been none the wiser.

And she’s winning. The proof is in my tears. It’s right here, in this very article, which I’m writing instead of working on my book or my freelance articles which are due in two days.

I know I need to do something productive, so I’m talking to you, because maybe you know how I feel. Maybe you know how frustrating and stressful it is when the monster decides to perch on your shoulder when you have so much else to do.

Maybe you know how it feels when she tries to convince you that she’s not even real, yet she’s right there, in your face. She tells you that she’s just a mirage, something you made up to excuse your own laziness and lack of talent.

But she’s not a mirage, and I know that, deep down.

She’s there and causes the emotional “brakes” of my brain to malfunction, sending my train of thought careening off its tracks. She’s really there, and she won’t leave me alone today.

To people who don’t have this disorder, personifying my mental illness probably sounds — for lack of a better word — “crazy.” But it’s the only metaphor I can come up with that accurately describes how this feels. My BPD isn’t really a monster, but it’s so powerful and sometimes so alien that it feels like a separate entity.

Now that I’ve gotten through a good chunk of this article, my tears have dried. In an instant, my mood has transitioned from the strongest winds of a catastrophic hurricane to the eye of the storm. I can feel my heartbeat again. I can swallow and breathe comfortably.

Ten minutes ago, I wondered if there was any way I’d be able to get out of bed today. Now, all I can think about is the sandwich Adam’s kindly making me, because my hurricane mood eclipsed my hunger. Ten minutes ago, I stared at the blinking cursor of my manuscript, wondering where I’d find the motivation to write even a single word. Now, my borderline brain is quiet, purged, empty. Ideas and motivation are slowly returning.

Maybe I snuffed out my monster’s voice by writing this. Maybe she went away on her own, as she sometimes does after she’s wreaked sufficient havoc.

That’s how quick it is. I go from 100 to zero in 10 minutes. And who knows? Maybe 10 minutes from now, I’ll read over this article again, and my monster will come right back. She’ll probably tell me it doesn’t deserve to be published, that no one will care how I feel, that it doesn’t really matter.

For now, though, I’m going to enjoy this brief wave of peace and quiet and get some work done, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

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When Your Family Doesn't Think Your Diagnosis Is Real

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To be diagnosed with any mental disorder and have your family doubt if it’s real is one of the toughest things someone could ever deal with. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is difficult to deal with on its own. Emotional instability that manifests itself in unstable relationships and self-image, like you’re jumping from one extreme to another all the time. There is never an in-between.

Before I was diagnosed, I spent a great lot of time wondering if other people function the same way I do. It didn’t feel right, how I function, but I thought if someone else did the same things, maybe there was nothing to be bothered about.

It was always just one of two things. Either, I was really depressed or really hyper (but not necessarily happy). The only consistent thing about me was that I was always over-thinking. Sometimes, I literally feel total chaos in my head as thoughts race and jumble into one massive pile of mental torture.

It wasn’t obvious, to say the least, because I got great at faking it around people. Yet, I had, and still have, sketchy relationships, especially with friends. Sometimes, it seems like I trust too much. More often, I don’t trust anyone at all.

I remember specific moments when I find myself not caring enough, if at all, even for the closest friends I have. I do things, mostly impulsive, ridiculous things, that I know might threaten my friendships without much regard to the possible cause. It feels like some sort of nightmare or a curse.

Then, I wake up and realize I don’t want them gone from my life, and they actually mean something to me. I make it up for whatever I’ve done wrong. Then, the cycle just resets.

I used to think I was just naturally mean (although I knew I wasn’t.) The truth is, it often feels like there are multiple sides to who I am, and there are moments when I cannot figure out if any of them is even the real me.

Yet, the thing that makes it harder is when you have no support from the people you’d expect to be there for you. The support you need becomes doubt as they insist that everyone goes through the same things.

I still don’t know how to deal with it, to be honest. I’m still not sure how to convince my family that this is more than real. If only they could see what goes on inside my head, then they wouldn’t doubt for a second that this is not a matter to be ignored.

To people like me who live with BPD, or any mental illness, and find themselves in a similar situation, let’s stay strong. It is difficult to be met with doubt instead of support, but I am with you. We are going to get through this. We will find ways to be better and live above this disorder. Believe me, even if they don’t believe you and even if there are times when even you don’t believe in yourself, I believe in you.

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

 Image via Thinkstock.

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Borderline Personality Disorder Makes Me a Social 'Chameleon'

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For me, living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is like living the life of a chameleon. I feel like I have no identity of my own. In any given situation, I am both consciously and unconsciously trying to be someone I think others will accept. Trying to “fit in.”

For example, I would say I like a diverse genre of music. Mainly because if I am around you and you like country music, I will then listen to country music. If you like alternative rock, then I listen to alternative rock. And so on and so on.

Sure this makes me flexible and adaptive in many environments, but it also means I don’t know what I like. There is a sense of panic and a wrenching in my stomach when you ask me what I like. The honest answer is really I don’t know. The fear of abandonment with BPD is so strong, it feels like I am constantly drowning and I have to use whatever means necessary to stay afloat. Even if it means putting your needs before my own.

In time, it becomes automatic without forethought. The pain of abandonment is excruciating. It feels like in the blink of an eye, everything I love and hold dear to my heart is ripped away. In that moment, I cannot think rationally and I think the way I feel right then is going to last forever. I spiral into the “nobody loves me and I am all alone” trap. Depression kicks in. I panic. I feel worthless. I feel I am a burden and the world is better off without me. I am sure from the outside, it looks like I am being overly dramatic. I assure you, I am not. I am merely responding based on the sheer intensity of my thoughts and emotions.

If you care about someone with BPD, I hope you can understand why we would do anything to prevent this from happening. It truly does feel like our world is crashing down on us.

And if you ask “What do you want to eat?” and the person with BPD says, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care,” they might be a chameleon like me and they are doing their best to adapt to the current environment they are in. Please have patience. We are doing the best we can.

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via indianeza.

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To My Loved Ones Constantly Trying to 'Cure' My Mental Illness

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Dear friends,

I know you mean well. I know you want the best for me. I appreciate more than you know that you are standing by, wanting to help and to give advice. The fact that you have stuck with me this far speaks volumes to me, and I am not about to discount that.

However, there is one thing I’d like to get straight. These illnesses I have — bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD) — are often lifelong battles. I’m not trying to be dismal, just honest. There is nothing that I can take that will guarantee the symptoms will forever disappear. I am on medication and it is good, but it isn’t always 100 percent effective at keeping the bad feelings, the downward spirals, the depression and anxiety at bay.

Sometimes I will go downhill. Sometimes I will get depressed. Sometimes I will rage against the things that make me scared and sad.

When this happens, I know it makes you sad, too. I understand it makes you desperate to help.

However, when it seems like you’re frantically casting about for an instant “cure” it only makes me feel worse. If you suggest that I call my psychiatrist so that she can put me on yet another medication, it makes me feel like you just want me “fixed.” Like who I am right now is unacceptable.

Instead, maybe just listen. Maybe just sit with me. Maybe just hold my hand. Maybe just love me through it and don’t frantically look for a cure. The spirals and rages do pass, eventually. If you sit beside me and help me to “ride them out,” if you help me to remember that hope lies just on the other side of the storm, then it will be very good medicine indeed.

I want to feel safe with you, to let you see the darkness in me, bare all my flaws and foibles, and know that this illness is not going to scare you away. This is what I need, most of all.

Thank you for your steadfast love,

Me.

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Thinkstock photo via Archv

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