lifestyle photo of a young caucasian man as he waits in a hospital examination room

I remember waking up in the hospital that November morning, my boyfriend sitting on the side of the bed waiting for me. “Good morning,” he said with a smile. I didn’t understand why he was there. I’d put him through what may have been the scariest night of his life and yet he waited for me. He called the ambulance, he brought me in and held my hand, he kissed me goodnight before going home to take care of our dog, and he came back as early as he could so he could say good morning.

“Why are you here?” I asked. No one had ever come back. This would have been the perfect time to leave. He could have told me he couldn’t handle it, that I needed to be alone, that he didn’t trust me or simply that I was “crazy.” “I love you,” he replied and kissed me on the forehead.

There are special people out there, strong people who are willing to learn and fight. I heard countless stories of young adults with borderline personality disorder like me, whose partners left them. Maybe we were “obsessive” or “needy.” But that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to love. There’s no limit to the love we can give, but love isn’t enough on its own. We must care, consider, reflect and appreciate.

That morning, I realized there was nothing to fear. Only someone who truly and completely loved me could be strong enough to be there with me, and yet that fear lingered. I wake up every morning next to him and worry this will be the day it all ends. Every panic attack offers the perfect opportunity for him to bow out. I criticize every little thing, I micromanage and expect him to follow the script I’ve prepared in my head with no room for improvisation.

He is human. He is not a fictional character I’ve created in my mind. He is neither the perfect Hallmark leading man nor is he the evil villain of my nightmares. He is human, and I love him for that. I love his imperfections and mistakes as much as I love his courage and commitment. He takes care of himself, I must take care of myself, and in that balance we take care of each other. Every day I am afraid, but every day I must tell myself I am worth being loved. He loves me, and that’s all I need to know.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo by Photodisc


Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers about “Love,” season two.

As I binge-watched “Love” in a matter of days, I couldn’t help but see myself in Mickey Dobbs. “Love,” a Judd Apatow series available through Netflix, follows Mickey, a neurotic, impulsive woman, and Gus, an awkward, freshly single, stereotypical “nice guy,” as they navigate what can most easily be summed up as love. Both characters are relatable; they’re flawed, they make mistakes and they show that, most of the time, love is messy.

However, as a woman diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I found myself particularly drawn to Mickey. Though the term itself is never used in the series, she shows several signs of BPD, including patterns of intense, unstable relationships, frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, impulsive and risky behavior, emotional instability, intense anger and more. People living with BPD often show patterns of unpredictability and may engage in destructive activities including excessive drug and alcohol use, risky sexual behavior, self-harm and more.

What I find particularly striking about Mickey’s character is that, despite her habits, mistakes and poor decisions, the audience is able to relate to her character as an overall well-intentioned but markedly flawed character. Mickey identifies herself as an alcoholic, a sex addict and a love addict. She has a history of unstable relationships, and has a habit of returning to past relationships out of fear of isolation or abandonment. In season two, I was able to relate to her tendency to turn to other people out of feelings of isolation and the urge to feel fulfilled; people with BPD may act out, even pushing away those they love the most, when faced with potential heartache or abandonment.

As Gus prepares to leave town in season two, for instance, Mickey warns him that she “doesn’t deal well with separation,” a common symptom experienced by people with BPD. Still, despite her attempt to prepare herself to deal with his absence, her sadness evolves into other distractions and the growing emotional distance between Mickey and Gus causes her to make the ultimately
destructive decision to reach out to her ex-boyfriend, with whom she has a particularly unhealthy history. On multiple occasions, her heightened emotions and fear of rejection — common symptoms of BPD — cause her to make decisions at the expense of other people, including Gus, Dr. Greg and others.

In season two, Mickey’s dad visits for a brief period, and viewers get a small glimpse into her childhood. Her father, for example, dismisses the severity of her alcoholism and tells a story that overwrites Mickey’s reality. She later tells Gus her own version of her father’s story, highlighting his anger and refusal to take her feelings into account, invalidating her emotional responses as “overreactions.” The representation of their relationship is familiar; people with BPD have trouble effectively managing their own emotions, largely due to a history of emotional invalidation, gaslighting or abuse.

While there have been representations of borderline personality disorder in the popular media (think “Fatal Attraction” and “Girl, Interrupted”) most of them are either inaccurate, overwhelmingly negative or harmful to people with BPD. Contrary to popular belief, people with mental disorders are not inherently dangerous or abusive. In fact, people living with mental illness are actually more likely to be victims of violence.

“Love” gives the audience a glimpse into the daily turmoil of life with symptoms of borderline personality disorder. Mickey is not necessarily a lovable character, and she is exceptionally stubborn and selfish at times. Still, the audience is able to see her perspective in a way that doesn’t necessarily justify or excuse her behavior, but does allow for empathy for her experience. Though Mickey and I actually don’t have much in common, I think she is a fairly accurate representation of some of the many ways borderline personality disorder can manifest in a person’s relationships. She never identifies herself with BPD, but her character fits much of the criteria and, as a person with the disorder, I find her oddly relatable. I don’t know if “Love” will continue or if her character will ever use that title, but I hope to see the popular media continue to focus on more accurate representation of characters with mental illness.

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Lead image via “Love” Facebook page

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 will start by saying I am a proud intersectional feminist. I advocate for disability rights from the perspective of a disabled woman. Many people in my position are accused of being attention seeking. I’ve had my share of accusations that I am playing the victim when asserting my needs as an autistic person and sharing my story, when they do not know what the victim complex is. Little do people know I also have schizoaffective disorder (SCAD) bipolar type and borderline personality disorder (BPD), and that the “victim complex” can be a symptom of both. It is defined as an acquired mentality that one is the victim of the negative actions of others when there is no such evidence.

Both BPD and SCAD include paranoia. I have delusions that people can look me in the eye, read my thoughts and pass them on. They talk about me and laugh with each other. I have delusions of reference, thinking I can get messages and signs from the way objects are arranged and what people are wearing. I see random people and try to communicate with them telepathically. In mania, I can feel very special and get messages from my past self telling me I am beautiful and am destined for greatness. My neurotic paranoia from BPD makes me think that people hate me, and are plotting to make my life miserable. They won’t take my achievements as seriously.

Because of BPD, I tend to jump around between different identities. I like to think I’m a coconut floating from island to island. This most likely stems from always being on one group or another’s edge due to social difficulties. I never learned how to integrate myself into a community, so I searched for one of my own. I never felt smart of pretty, but I knew that I could write. I also knew that I was mentally ill with anxiety and depression. I learned to associate suffering with being creative due to the stereotypes that “all mentally ill people are talented.” Thank you Sylvia Plath.

As my health worsened over a period of a couple of years I felt unsafe discussing my diagnoses. So I turned to the internet looking for answers. In some ways, it was helpful, as it allowed me to learn about my BPD and discover my depression is actually bipolar. But self-diagnosis, while useful in certain situations, can be iffy when one has other options. Out of desperation for something to anchor myself to, I began identifying with every mental disorder I came across when there was no evidence they described my experiences. I learned how to exaggerate my pain to the point where I couldn’t tell which of my experiences were really and which weren’t due to SCAD. I’m still sorting through that. Now that my diagnoses are confirmed, I feel like I have to live up to them. It hurts.

I had another incident of identifying with the victim complex in a different way with my bipolar. When I became more clearly manic, I experienced mood congruent psychotic features. I thought that I was the next Joan of Arc and I thought I had to hurt, or sacrifice myself to save the world and get to a higher realm. When that didn’t work, I swallowed some pills to see what would happen. Upon realizing what I’d done, I felt guilty for scaring my family and having to be admitted to a hospital.

Now that my bipolar and SCAD symptoms are under control, we have been doing family therapy to learn dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills. We had a particularly difficult session in which my brother told me it was difficult for him to see me embody my diagnoses, and that trying to succeed at being mentally ill is an oxymoron. All I was really doing was tearing myself apart. My dad pointed out that I got into a competition with a couple of my friends for who could be the sickest. By then, I had started crying, but I tried to explain I have felt so empty inside I am desperate to feel something.

I am trying really hard to unpack everything I have done the myself and those around me. My pain is real, and I felt entitled to hurt others because of it. I do not have the right to hurt myself or others, and must take responsibility for it. I have also suffered intensely from my victim complex. Equating standing up for yourself with having a mental illness delegitimizes the symptoms. When we make people feel guilty for fighting oppression, we make people with true victim complexes feel guilty. Making fun of the victim complex perpetuates the idea that there are right and wrong ways to be mentally ill. It creates a binary between more common mental illness and more severe, or less common mental illnesses. Anxiety and depression are seen as “cute” and not taken seriously, while BPD and SCAD are demonized. This cannot go on.

Meanwhile, I am finding ways to move forward. I tried to be something no one is supposed to be. But I don’t have to be anything for anyone. I need to focus on just being Olivia, and find the part deep within myself that is still her. The compassionate and curious person I am at the core is enough. The prospect of going away to college in the fall is motivating me to get healthy and take treatment seriously. I want to study anthropology to gain a better understanding of myself in the context of American culture. My academic motivations are finally taking precedent. But I still need to be careful that my plans do not overtake me. I need to work at having a more flexible mind, but DBT is helping me now that I’m invested. It’s a relief to be confronting the truth.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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

Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

I was only diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) a year and a half ago, but the affects of the disorder had affected me long before that.

The impulsivity I experience means I find it hard to say no to ideas or plans. I overbook myself with everyone and when I only go out for one quiet drink with a friend, invariably I end up exiting a club at 4 a.m. with strangers who have become newfound friends for the night. I always keep pushing for just another hour, just a bit more fun. Sometimes a person can have too much fun.

My mood swings mean one moment I might be as high as a kite, bubbling through life and people, laughing as loudly as I can, and then the next it can all come crashing down on me. I’m sitting in the middle of a cafe at 5 a.m. watching a sea of drunken revelers chatting, arguing, at a table full of people and suddenly I’m completely alone. A wall forms between me and everyone else and I no longer feel like a part of life, I’m merely an observer. I don’t belong anymore. “I have to go.” I say hastily and get up from my seat, practically running out the door and down the street to go home where I lie awake and try to talk myself out of self-harming. The suicidal thoughts creep in.

The next day my friends are on the phone, texting me, worried, “What happened to you last night?” they’ll ask. “You left really abruptly.”

I shrug. “Not really sure, just had to go home.” How do you explain it? How can you explain the unanticipated crushing anxiety, the self-hatred that appears in an instant, consuming me and running through every part of my body.

People ask me how I’m doing and I always say, “Fine, we have good days and bad days, just taking it a day at a time.” Sometimes I mean it. Sometimes I really am just fine. Sometimes I’m way better than fine. I’m absolutely euphoric, I’m searching for the next high, the next fix that’s going to keep me on this manic path as I dance up and down the street like a whirlwind.

Other times I’m closed off, hands in pockets, eyes cast downward as I trudge along, trying not to make eye contact with anyone lest they see the sadness revealed there.

Next I’m having a conversation with one of my close friends, maybe a family member and they say something I perceive as mean, or spiteful and that person is instantly my worst nemesis. Everything they’ve ever done is to get at me, they hate me, they’re trying to hurt me and every memory we have is tainted a cruel black. How could I have never seen it before? I’m never speaking to them again, they’re a foul human being…

…Wait. I didn’t mean that. I love you. Why don’t you want to talk to me anymore? Think of all the good times we had. Can we really just let that go to waste? I’m texting. I’m calling. I’m obsessive and I’m sobbing. Why are you abandoning me?

It must be because I’m a bad person. Yes, of course I am, it’s all me it’s always been me… And so the vicious cycle goes on and on I spin round and round on a merry-go-round I can’t get off.

It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.

I watch people come and go from my life. I consider myself to be “high-functioning,” and yet at the best of times my BPD takes hold of me and I can’t control it. I’m told the people who leave were never really friends in the first place. But I push a lot of people away. I watch people walk out of my life seemingly without a care in the world and question whether or not they ever cared in the first place. It doesn’t seem that way. They never tried. They never pushed back and fought to try and stay in my life. Even the people who know about the BPD, the ones who supposedly understand, just walk away.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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

Thinkstock photo via Digital Vision

“You’re crazy.”

“What drugs are you on?”

“Stop overreacting.”

“Calm down, it’s not a big deal.”

I’m sure many of us have heard at least one, but most likely all of these before. Those who say them may fail to realize the immense impact they have on a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD). But why do these words hurt so bad?

They hurt because we spend every single day trying to convince ourselves we aren’t “crazy,” and we aren’t overreacting. Years of therapy has taught me whatever I am feeling is valid. I am not “crazy.” I am not overreacting. I am feeling how I am feeling, and I am allowed to feel that way. Yes, to our friends and family we may be overreacting. But those of us with BPD understand that any small thing can set us off, any small change in facial expression can send our minds running with horrible thoughts.

I find it so hard to not feel “crazy,” to not feel out of control. When someone tells me I’m crazy, or asks me if I’m on drugs, it makes me feel worse. It makes me feel horrible. It makes me hate myself even more because I realize others don’t view me the way I want to be viewed.

The worst part is, it makes me feel so alone. Alone because it feels like no one understands me. No one is willing to listen to understand why I’m upset and understand what caused that.

Unfortunately, many people don’t make that effort, and that’s something I have had a hard time coming to terms with.

Just please, if you have a friend or a loved one with borderline personality disorder, don’t invalidate their feelings. Make them feel heard, make them feel loved and make them feel understood. They don’t need you to say they’re crazy; they need you to tell them it’s OK to feel the way they do and to know they’re aren’t alone.

Never, ever tell anyone they’re “crazy.” You may have no idea the kind of impact those words can have on a person who lives with borderline personality disorder, or any mental disorder.

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 Thinkstock photo via Archv

Today is a “down day.” Today is a bad mental health day. Today is a day I feel as if my heart is filled with nothing but hot air. There is no life in me, I just feel flat. I tell my loved ones today is not a good day for me and they, of course, ask me why. Why? I have no idea why. The thing about having borderline personality disorder (BPD) is that this insidious disorder can just creep up on me for no good reason, making the sunniest days feel pitch black.

Now that I’m being treated for my BPD, I’m supposed to try and examine my recent life events and consider what may be the cause of this depressive feeling. I’m supposed to take care of myself, do something nice that won’t necessarily fix everything but might make me feel somewhat better in the meantime. I’m supposed to work on sitting with this feeling, acknowledging the presence of my low mood without employing any of the harmful coping mechanisms I once used as crutches. I know exactly what I am supposed to do on days like today, but I don’t.

Some days I do. Some days I am mindful and I recount all the tools my therapist has given me, using every one as a weapon against my mental illness. But, not today. Today I just feel defeated and ashamed. I feel great shame for the fact I feel this way, even though life is rather good right now, and for the fact that I am not trying to tackle it. I’m just exhausted, tired of the constant battle with my own mind and today, I can’t be bothered going to war again. So, I sit in my pajamas, unable to focus on the film I have put on in the background, lacking the motivation to move and feed myself.

The shame I feel only worsens as the day grows longer. A small voice in my head urges me to get up and do the practical things I need to do to look after myself, but I ignore it. I feel guilty. I am supposed to be better than this by now. I should be past this, past the bad days, past the mental illness. I am now officially two years into my recovery process, so why am I still having days like today? The judgments I am passing on myself and my feelings are, at best, unhealthy, and, at worst, holding me back from making this at all better. These judgments are based in shame, but this shame is unfair.

I have decided a bad mental health day is something I should feel ashamed of. I have decided all the negative emotions I feel – anger, hurt, emptiness – should be pushed down because I am supposed to be in recovery now, supposed to be better than this. Why have I decided to pass these judgments upon myself? If I were not looking at myself, if I were thinking of a friend walking in my shoes, I certainly would not be so quick to write off their struggle. I would tell them bad days are normal and even those without mental illness have down days. I would tell them I am here for them, on hand to provide whatever support they need until they feel better. Importantly, I would not pass judgments. I would simply be what they needed me to be in that moment to help them. But, because this is not a friend I am discussing but myself, it is easier to listen to the voice of my BPD that tells me my bad day is worth these feelings of guilt. I listen to its suggestion I am weak and, in turn, I feel shame for this apparent weakness. I spiral, caught in a cycle that many who have BPD are familiar with.

Today was a down day. Today I listened to the little voice from my BPD and I did not use the tools given to me to combat it. But, I am not some kind of a failure for this. I am not deserving of shame and guilt because I have a disorder that makes some days more unbearable than others. I am not weak because I had a bad day. In fact, I am strong. I am a strong person because I made it through that bad day. I am a strong person because I am still here. Today, I survived. Sometimes, that is enough.

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Thinkstock photo via LanaBrest.

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