a "monster" sneaking behind a young girl

After struggling with mental illness since I was 10 years old, losing my dad and grandfather to suicide, and losing my husband to cystic fibrosis, life can be hard. I struggled, really struggled. After years of therapy and different medications, I gave up. I thought I was a lost cause and that no one could help me.

A few years later, after talking things through with my partner, I finally sought out help again with his support. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) shortly after I moved last year at the age of 26. Because I struggled with my mental health for such a long time, I’ve become an expert at pretending I’m fine. I hide it so well and seem to be so happy to others, not many people know anything otherwise. Suicidal feelings and attempts along with severe depression, panic attacks, rarely leaving the house, insomnia, emptiness and random emotional outbursts were a part of daily life and I didn’t manage it very well.

After reading up about BPD over and over again since being diagnosed, I noticed one of the topics people seemed to avoid talking about was the rage.

Unfortunately for me, this is a very big part of my BPD, which I really try to get a grip on, but sometimes I loose that battle epically. It could be from the smallest thing to any sort of argument that gets blown out of proportion, and can make me explode inside (sometimes outside, too). Most of the time I have no control of it, act like it never happened as soon as I start to calm down and sometimes don’t remember it happened at all, which can be extremely difficult for a loved ones to get their head around. I’ve pushed many people away with the overload of emotions I experience, and am the best at the self-destruction game. Sometimes I find life extremely difficult to get my head around, but I try to be positive when I can.

I can say I am very lucky to have an amazing partner who doesn’t really understand me, but tries to. He’s super supportive and loving, but he is always on the receiving end of my wrath (poor guy), which can make our relationship very difficult at times. I never mean what I say when the venom pours from my mouth, nor do I intend to hurt anyone with my outbursts. It just happens and sometimes it’s difficult to get over, but we manage to. I feel I sometimes have to be a walking apology. People don’t understand what’s happening when you have an emotional outburst or know how to deal with it. For me particularly, if I’m arguing with my partner for instance, I ask him to just stop and I leave the room and sometimes the house. Getting 10 minutes to calm down and reflect really helps. Well, just the headspace really helps to be honest, but I’ve found getting out of a situation when you feel overwhelmed is the best thing to do if you feel like you’re losing your grip. To me, BPD has an ugly side, and rage is definitely it.

Luckily there is hope and help. Managing it is just another battle for us, and we will get there one step at a time.

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Thinkstock photo via ruddy_ok

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Personally, I am not the biggest fan of labels. I fully respect the people who set out to find the one that fits them the best but for me, the majority of the time I don’t see the point in them. I often find them more destructive than helpful as people can sometimes get caught up in the trap of forcing themselves to “fit the diagnosis.”

However, at the same time, I completely understand how it feels to get a diagnosis and get that overwhelming sense of belonging and finally feeling like you belong to a community of likeminded people. I have experienced both of these. And when my diagnosis changed, I felt them both at the same time.

I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). Often it cannot be diagnosed until the person reaches the age of 18, which is how it went for me. However, at the age of 14, I was diagnosed with depression. Suddenly, when I moved to go to university and had to join a different mental health team, I got reassessed and was told I didn’t have depression after all. Yes, I was depressed, but it was a depressive episode in a BPD diagnosis. This was completely new to me because BPD had never been mentioned to me in the four years I was receiving help for my apparent depression.

It felt like the world had come crashing down. For a while I had known a depression diagnosis did not quite fit me. I was too impulsive, I often didn’t feel emotions but the times when I did, they would be so indescribably intense. I didn’t seem to “tick” the right boxes for depression symptoms. Still, I was told at a very young age it was what I had so, of course, I believed it. When I was told that I wasn’t depressed, I tried desperately to convince them I was. It seems so silly to look back on, but I essentially argued with mental health professionals about diagnostic criteria to try to prove to them I was depressed. I didn’t feel strongly attached to the diagnosis, but I felt like they were calling me a liar or a fraud and that all of the hard times I had faced were for nothing.

And then they explained borderline personality disorder to me. And I suddenly felt this strange sensation as if I had been doused in cold water and awoken from a deep sleep with a shock. It made so much sense to me, suddenly I the ticked boxes of a diagnosis and I was able to make sense of the way I felt. And I’m so glad that it happened.

But the change of diagnosis didn’t feel good. In fact, it felt catastrophic. It was as though everything I was finally getting around to dealing with had suddenly been stripped away from me and I had been dropped into unfamiliar territory and given an entirely new battle to fight. I felt suicidal. I didn’t want to have to go through it all again. But it was a blessing in disguise.

I deeply distrusted the mental health system for a while after that. It felt like they had lied to me all that time about having depression when I didn’t. Now, of course, I fully understand why they didn’t tell me earlier, but at the time I was furious. But this experience made me realize I was clinging too much to a diagnosis to tell me who I was. I realized regardless of what word(s) were on a piece of paper next to my name, how I felt hadn’t changed. My feelings remained as valid as they always were. They were just called something different now.

My diagnosis changing taught me how to not cling to labels. It taught me to focus more on my feelings and how they were affecting me instead of trying to figure out why I didn’t “feel depressed” properly. I realized it didn’t matter what condition they put beside my name because, whatever it read, I would get help for it. No matter what I had, I could keep trying to get better the way I always did.

My diagnosis changed. But my world didn’t. A new condition’s name did not strip me of how I felt. I was still valid. How I felt was still valid. It was still OK to not be OK.

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.

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Thinkstock photo via LanaBrest.


Let’s just say you are sitting at home. It’s an ordinary Saturday morning. Except this ordinary day has changed. It’s not the normal day you had planned and your anxiety is acting up because you are concerned. You put the phone down and your friend tells you they have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Let’s say they have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Before you think of anything related to BPD, let me give you a few things to think about.

Firstly, our first automatic response in a society driven by technology is to research something on Google we know nothing about. Everyone’s guilty of it. Even I have been in the past. What happens when I tell you there are other reliable sources out there that are more reliable than Google itself? I know, crazy to think. But please listen to some valid points I am about to raise when it comes to the dangers of resorting to Google when it comes to mental illness.

Wikipedia’s facts about diagnoses of different mental illnesses are accurate, but don’t always give you answers you need to help someone. I am presuming most people look up things on Google with the intention of understanding and helping others, rather than to boost and comfort their own egos. You might find the symptoms and such attached to the disorders can be a positive start. But an hour later, you are knee deep, scrolling and you have found the “I hate you, don’t leave me” type articles written in the late 80s. These are outdated representations of borderline, as it’s the year 2017 and a whole lot more research and steps forward have been put into place.

A few minutes later, you are finding articles written by ex lovers of people with BPD and reading comments like: “the best thing to do is to never contact them again!! They are crazy.” You see, it’s these attitudes that contribute to creating stigma and barriers to the understanding of BPD and mental illness in general. When people read things like that on the internet, they can become convinced they can’t offer anything to another’s recovery. So the offer you then give them becomes negative in your eyes. Please know this is not true and you can contribute positively. Mental illness needs a better understanding from the community in whole. The more people start learning, the more a positive ripple effect can be built.

You are probably wondering how to achieve this or how you can possibly help if you can’t rely on these outdated articles and narrow-minded comments. If you are someone who cares about every individual’s feelings and well being, then you will consider these following options:

1. Listen.

By now, I am hoping people who read this can agree not everyone’s mental illness experience is exactly the same. Behaviors can be similar and they can relate, but no one person’s experience is going to be the same as the others. So the key to helping is to listen attentively to the person who may be experiencing an episode or opening up to someone about their struggles and what helps them. Usually someone who is in that state is petrified of the other person seeing them like that, so this is the next step to helping someone.

2. Have no judgment.

You have now seen a side to your friend you didn’t know was there. You can be the human being who throws up their arms and rejects the idea of even considering helping this person because of x, y or z. But you could instead be the strong person who sits with them regardless of the fact they have had a change in behavior. Talk them through it, ask them what they are experiencing to change like this. Some people may be experiencing psychosis. If you feel in danger, then medical professionals can assist. If you can stay with them and calm them, then that will help them. The next day, still treat them the same. You may be scared, but you have to remember in these moments, their behaviors are beyond their control.

3. Don’t let them isolate.

I think this is an important step to make someone keep going, especially after a suicide attempt. I have had people cut me off after my own suicide attempts and it was incredibly hurtful. You may never know the pain you will leave someone in if you leave them behind in this way. The way you leave situations is a show of character. To not acknowledge the devastating impact a suicide attempt can have on an individual is hurtful. Be a genuine and authentic person who checks in on someone after they have tried to take their own life. This creates relief for the individual as well as support. No matter what circumstance, sometimes all it takes is a small gesture to make a huge and effective impact on someone in need.

Not letting someone isolate means making them feel included when they are ready to be discharged from hospital after an attempt. Organize time with friends to take them out for food or coffee, go for a walk or just visit them at home. Small things like this aren’t hard to organize. No one should be treated differently after an episode has happened when they have a mental illness. Google may tell stories of people who try to die by suicide to “manipulate” others, which most people with mental illness are not capable of.

These are just small steps you can start applying to your life any time. The main point I am trying to make is Google isn’t always right about everything. If you live by the motto “Well, that’s what Google told me to do, so Google must be right,” you won’t have any room in your mind to help reduce stigma and myths surrounding BPD and other mental illnesses.

Here are some links to helpful websites that can assist you in expanding your perspectives when it comes to mental illness. The Mighty is one I write for and I find comfort in a lot, as the writers are speaking about personal experiences. The more you read up on individual experiences with illness, the better understanding you will have.

Australian BPD Foundation Limited

Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders

Sane Australia

Suicide Prevention Australia

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 golubovy.


Official diagnosis by the good doctor: borderline personality disorder (BPD). And yes, I am in fact a good candidate for this special type of therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

The instability of my moods and self-worth are (partly) to blame for my unstable relationships. The abandonment. The people I’ve lost who I agonize about.

To say this diagnosis changed my life would be an understatement. I have others, but this one is different. Bigger.

Sometimes, when I think about what all comes with living with BPD, I get so overwhelmed at how hopeless it all seems, that recovery was never a road meant for me. But more often than not, I know that’s just the disorder talking. And they all do it.

And I couldn’t decide on the drive to the hospital… Is it better or worse not to have it? Because if I don’t then what is wrong with me and if I do, well, the mess that is my life makes much more sense. But I also don’t want this. It’s so much bigger than just depression or anxiety. It’s overwhelming and required a huge change in my life that, yes, has been for the better (for the most part) but certainly hasn’t been easy.

But I understand myself a little bit better, I think, learning that I have BPD. I guess that’s the silver-lining.

Unstable, unsure, abandoned.

It’s the most frustrating, helpless feeling. It’s exhausting – for me, for everyone in my life. But I can’t help it. And I don’t want to apologize for my mental illness, in fact I am done apologizing for it, but getting the people in my life to understand has been the biggest challenge that sometimes seems hopeless.

Before starting DBT, I first had to understand what BPD was.

Here are my symptoms:

  1. Fear of abandonment.
  2. Unstable or changing relationships.
  3. Unstable self-image, struggles with identity.
  4. Suicidal behavior or self-injury.
  5. Varied or random mood swings.
  6. Constant feelings of worthlessness or sadness.
  7. Problems with anger and loss of temper.
  8. Stress related paranoia, loss of contact with reality.

My “co-morbidities:” depression, severe social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, ADHD, self-harm and various sleeping problems.

So that’s more than a lot to deal with. But as I learned about the disorder, recognized my symptoms, identified my co-morbidities – it all made sense to me.

All I knew going in to DBT was that it’d be around five to six months and that it’s a group setting – which immediately caused a reaction in me. I worried about someone I know being in the group, if my anxiety would even cooperate and all sorts of other things… Turns out, it was probably the best thing I could do for myself at the time, and I actually found myself worried about when group would end.

It’s a strange feeling — being in a room of strangers who know you in a way that probably nobody else ever will. We knew nothing about each other’s lives, our personalities — but we knew what we were all going through was very similar. The first 20 minutes it was clear we knew and understood each other like nobody else in our lives.

DBT is made up of four modules, and each has specific sets of skills to go with them.

Mindfulness was first. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware fully and present in the moment. It’s called One Mindfully.

Emotion Regulation was next, which is a guideline of how to change emotions you want to change.

Third was Distress Tolerance — how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it.

Lastly, Interpersonal Effectiveness – how to ask for what you want and/or say no while maintaining respect for self and others.

The Middle Path was the unofficial fifth module, I guess. The gist of it — two things can be true at once.

I struggled, and continue to struggle with Mindfulness. But I committed myself to at least try. It’s surprising how difficult being one-mindful can be; putting everything else in your mind aside for just this moment and focus on this one thing. This is where my ADHD puts me at a disadvantage in a big way. Judgments were another big part of mindfulness — on others and yourself. For me, it wasn’t so much about other people, it was how often and badly I was judging myself. I will always struggle with this, I think. An important quote I learned from this: “Don’t judge your judging.”

Emotion Regulation might be the most important one for me, personally. The most challenging. A particularly difficult part is having — trying, to incorporate Mindfulness into it. Being mindful of your emotions by identifying them, know what they do for you. And most importantly, for me, letting go of painful emotions using mindfulness, remembering that emotions are not facts.

Parts of distress tolerance and emotion regulation are interchangeable, I think. Part of one of the skills for emotion is called Coping Ahead, which is to have a plan; rehearse it ahead of time so that you’re prepared for whatever outcome. It’s very relevant in Distress tolerance. Experience your emotion; do not try to get rid of it or push it away, but also not to hold onto it. Remember you are not your emotion, remember when you felt differently. And do not judge your emotion. This, I feel, is important. Every day it’s a struggle for me but I really do believe it – it’s OK to feel however you’re feeling. Invalidating your own emotions only does more harm to you.

Interpersonal Effectiveness, though challenging, is so, so useful and important. I said it before, but trying to get others to understand is the most difficult and frustrating thing. This at least gives us a script, so to speak, to start from.

DBT is something you have to continue practicing daily. You cannot just finish the group program and forget about it, about what you learned and assume you’re all better now. It’s an on going thing. And hopefully it will become easier to manage later on, but that will only happen if you take the responsibility of using your DBT skills every single day.

Like I said in the beginning – this disorder is so much bigger than you probably realize at first. It’s going to take work and you’re going to want to give up — I know I have, but I really think it’s worth it. You’re worth it.

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Whenever people mention borderline personality disorder (BPD) — or emotionally unstable personality disorder as it’s also known as — everyone automatically thinks of the negatives.

“Emotional instability,” “mood swings,” “impulsive,” “reckless,” “suicidal,” and even “criminal.” I believe this is all because of the way BPD has been portrayed in the media.

But what people don’t tell you is the positives that come with BPD. Even though sometimes I can be highly sensitive, I can sometimes read other people’s emotions really well – for example, I may know when someone is faking when they say “I’m fine.” Because of what I have been through in my past, and the way BPD is, I sometimes see the world in a way no one else does. I can be creative and imaginative. When it comes to hobbies, I can be passionate about them. Relationships and friendships mean the absolute world to me and I value them a lot.

Not everything about BPD is bad; there are a lot of positives that need more recognition.

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Dear darling,

I know deep inside

you may think of yourself

in black and white

and you may judge yourself

unfavorably.

You call yourself

hostile names,

and you may believe

too much bad

of your mind and heart.

Sometimes you may think

you’re undeserving of love,

because you feel awful

and difficult and strange.

You may give yourself

a million excuses

to explain why

the world, your friends,

and family

are too gentle with you.

But darling,

let me tell you

how I see you.

I understand the need

to berate yourself,

but let me share a secret:

nobody is perfect.

And I’ve learned to see

that living between

my black and white,

my good and bad,

are so many shades of gray,

and a myriad of colors.

Every time you smile,

and every time you give

of yourself,

it makes you

who you are,

which is perfectly imperfect

and strikingly attractive

in its very own way.

Please,

Dear darling,

Don’t call yourself

those nasty names.

I don’t believe

you’re terrible,

and I am sorry

you feel that way,

about yourself.

We are all comprised

of black and white

and good and bad.

Instead of placing

your primary focus

on blaming yourself

and roller-coaster guilt-trips,

look me in the eye,

and I will tell you

again and again,

how beautiful,

inspiring and strong

your heart is.

Yes, including those

ups and downs.

And maybe,

just maybe,

because of it.

Dear darling,

You’re perfectly imperfect.

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

Thinkstock photo by gpointstudio

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