illustration of burning woman and birds

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, 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.

I know the meaning of emptiness.

I know what it means to feel empty.

I am recovering from borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Though I was not formally diagnosed until age 20, the signs of emotional instability began to unveil themselves in my early childhood, planted like small seeds of dissonance in the form of volatile temper tantrums and the presumably infantile inability to regulate and modify my unusually strong emotions.

I recall unbearable, intolerable sentiments of tension and aggression building under my skin, feeling as though the temperature of my emotions and their magnitude was all but incapable of being understood. Though I was raised by a loving family, I felt extremely different from others early on — alienated, deviant as if I was filled with a tangible void, a concrete chasm where all of those fiery, vitriolic feelings slumbered.

Emptiness is the sinking pit in one’s stomach; that vague, indescribable pull towards impulsivity and recklessness in order to escape its cavernous massiveness, its restless boredom and vacillation between stages of identities. I have always experienced the borderline emptiness as a variation of a sixth sense: a vestigial organ so invisible yet so apparent. It speaks its own languishing language of urges and behaviors, goading those who live with it to act upon self-destructive desires in order to establish a semblance of an identity when all things else are hollow and chronically unfulfilling.

I remedied my lack of a sense of self by immersing myself in musical and creative pursuits, channeling my chaos into cleverly avoidant outlets which allowed me to cope with this fundamental feeling of vacuousness, chasing the elusive teenage dream of acceptance and social integration. In my adolescent mind, my personality would develop later on and all of those imperceptible traces of unrest would vanish along with my childhood insecurities. I decided on a career in music, resulting in my acceptance into a prestigious conservatory for opera, a choice which mollified any feelings of doubt and temporarily bandaged the empty sinkhole deepening within my chest. I would later learn that, in order to heal, a borderline must first sit with the pervasive discomfort and salient suffering of acknowledging this unsettling space within himself.

I wish I had been informed of that in my fledgling years — before I fully came undone.

A highly traumatic incident forced me to drop out of college in my freshman year, thus triggering an almost apocalyptic chain reaction within my borderline self.

Not only was I struggling with the after-effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but my purpose, direction, and aspirations in existence were stolen from me. I retreated home, all but abandoning every hope for a decently sustainable future, resorting to excessive sleep and unstable relationships to mend the pain of trauma and the blossoming head of my BPD emerging. Self-injury became a dangerous, malicious addiction into whose comforts I sought shelter and refuge, deciding to build a life on the foundation of easily accessible self-destruction and turmoil over the elusive successes I forfeited. The emptiness intensified.

At age 20, I sought out the aid of a therapist, realizing my behavior to be maladaptive and ultimately counterproductive to my quality of life. My self-harm worsened alongside the depression. The aloneness ate away at me, the apathy eroded me and I began attaching myself to therapists and treatment professionals, seeing them as messiahs and longing for them to see me as troubled, in hopes to invoke their love and affection. In my head, I did not exist unless I existed in the minds of others.

I viewed myself only through the lenses of their eyes, completely neglecting or unable to acknowledge any self-awareness I might have possessed.

I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation and self-injurious behavior at age 20, where I received my diagnosis. This pattern of behaviorally acting out in hopes of securing an identity and attention persisted, resulting in numerous psychiatric inpatient stays and suicide attempts. Visits to the emergency room for medical treatment due to self-injury. Pink slips and hospital admittances. Temper tantrums and slammed doors. I lost teams of professionals due to my own reprehensible actions, scaring them with my defiant behavior, which only served to reinforce this belief I was unlovable and unworthy of care. I idealized treaters, turning them into demi-gods only to persecute them moments later when they erred — when they fell out of my good graces oh-so-easily.

This pattern of behavior has consumed most of my 20s, left scars on my body and psyche and cost me opportunities and relationships due to my inability to regulate my emotions. BPD is a tiresome disorder, one which is so entirely taxing that the prospect of recovery can seem all but impossible at times. I have often asked myself if I will ever be a person, if I will ever learn to stop idealizing pain and glamorizing sickness because I believe being a patient is the only identity I will ever be capable of achieving. It is sleepless nights and interpersonal conflict; stormy arguments and hairpin triggers. It is leaving before being left. Anything to escape the poisonous expanse of nothingness and decay inside of oneself. To be full of so much, and yet nothing at all.

But now, I know there is a way. There is hope.

It was not until this past year, in which my behavior led me to eating disorder treatment, that I realized there is so much more to life than pain than self-imposed suffering, no matter how much of the void it seemingly fills. Maladaptive behaviors, while gratifying in the moment, lead a person down a repetitively comfortable yet ultimately damning path to an unfulfilling and even more cavernously sparse existence. Hospitals are safe havens but they are not living. You do not need to attempt to die by suicide in order to have a name and a voice in this world. Other people do not define you. Your worth is not defined by the number of scars on your body or the times in which your body has lain in hospital rooms, listening to the voices of nurses as you drift into medicated comas.

The first step to tolerating emptiness is to acknowledge it — to sit with it — to white-knuckle that black supernova spiraling out of control. It will hurt, and you should expect it to, but it will not hurt more than the late in life realization you spent more time chasing dragons of drugs and destruction than you spent living.

You must sit with the absence of behaviors, even when the urge to attempt suicide is screaming louder than the wisdom of your inner reason, even when the desire to self-harm shrieks through the fog of delirious dissonance of struggling and sickness. Sit with it. You must sit with it.

Realize you have more to offer than the hunting of a transient, fleeting identity which will no longer suit you tomorrow. We are all endowed with unique gifts and blessings, and you are no exception. Building structure and pursuing external interests can greatly contribute to feelings of self-worth and esteem. Find what you possess within yourself, and with time, the urge to destroy will be replaced by the urge to create. The hands which have crumbled structures can learn to rebuild piece by piece.

I am recovering from borderline personality disorder, and you can too.

I know the meaning of emptiness.

I know what it means to be empty.

And I am learning what it means to be filled.

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.

Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure


9 a.m.

Did I even get any sleep last night?

Am I even awake yet?

Oh no, didn’t want to read that on Facebook. Ouch.

Why is everyone flaunting their happy lives in front of me?

Oh God, it hurts to move.

Come on, you need to move.

No wait, remember that dream you had last night? What does that mean? Did that really happen?

Oh God, what will today bring?

10 a.m.

Give yourself some credit, you’re out of bed, time for breakfast.

10:30 a.m.

I should get dressed.

Maybe I’ll have a cigarette first. Somehow it doesn’t make me feel better, though.

Brush your teeth. I know its hard, but you need to brush your teeth. You’ll feel better.

10:45 a.m.

OK, you’re dressed… makeup?

No, makeup is too much work.

10:50 a.m.

Actually, maybe if I put some makeup on I’ll want to go out. Yeah, I feel good going to go to the shops. I’ll treat myself to something nice.

11 a.m. — I’m staring in the mirror, makeup surrounding me.

11:10 a.m.

No, I can’t go out.

11:15 a.m.

Yes you can, you’re feeling good.

Aw, that’s a cute video.

Haha, funny memes.

Wait, no, why did I watch that? Why is that not my life?

Why am I alone?

12 p.m. — I’ve not moved for 45 minutes now.

Everything hurts.

I’m sleepy, might nap.

No, it’s too early to nap. I’ll do some chores.


1 p.m.

OK cool, got some shit done.

Not much, but it’s something.

I feel a little better now.

1:15 p.m.

Actually I feel great.

I’m going to turn my life around!

I am a queen.

You are a strong, independent woman, and you don’t need no man.

1:16 p.m.

I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life.

1:20 p.m.

I am so sad.

I might self-harm.

No, I shouldn’t self-harm.

But it will make me feel better.

But it will make me feel worse.

1:30 p.m. — I’ve paced the house for 10 minutes talking myself out of this.

Should I message someone?

Nah, they won’t be able to help me.

Where’s a cat?

2 p.m.

It’s cool, I’m safe.




I. Can. Do. This.

2:10 pm.

Ah, mums home. Company.

Lunch time. Why do I live for food?

Should I have some pudding?

No, I’m watching my weight.

Where’s the cake?

3 p.m.

So sleepy.

Just going to close… my eyes…

5:30 p.m.

Nap hangovers are the worst.

But awesome nap.

You deserved that.

6 p.m. — “Big Bang Theory” re-runs…

6:40 p.m.

I feel so low.

6:50 p.m.

Why is the TV volume so loud?

Turn the fucking volume down.

6:52 p.m.

No, cat, leave me alone.

I am not in the mood.

I feel like punching someone right now.

7 p.m.

Am I hungry?


7:30 p.m. — Bath time.

Ah, finally time to relax.


Who am I? Where am I? Why am I?


9 p.m.

This is nice.

Good. TV is good.

Aw, look at the cute animal!

I feel good, I am loved, I am safe, I am warm.

I love you, kitty.

Give me a cuddle, kitty.

11:30 p.m.

I’ve had approximately six mood swings in the past two hours.

I’m exhausted.

Night meds.

11:35 p.m.

Come on, wash your face.

Brush your teeth.

Look after yourself.

It’s easy.

No it’s not.

11:50 p.m.

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling

“Family Guy.”

Bed is comfy.

Bed is safe.


Cute doggy.

My eyes are burning.

Thank goodness for my medication.

Editor’s note: This post is based on one individual’s experience with BPD. Please see a doctor before starting or stopping medication.

Follow this journey on It’s Time to Talk.

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Thinkstock photo by Marjan_Apostolovic

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.

“Hi, R.” My therapist’s voice sounded cheery and awake.

“It’s 1 a.m. Why’d you answer the phone?” My voice sounded tired and like I’d been crying for hours.

“Because you called and it doesn’t matter what time it is now. You called, and that means you need help, so I answered the phone.”

I started dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in 2011. DBT is a proven treatment for people with borderline personality disorder. There are three components to a comprehensive DBT program: individual therapy — where you face target behaviors head on, group therapy — where you learn different skills to help you navigate life and coach calling — when you call your individual therapist if you need help using skills in a crisis. It does not matter what time of day (or night) it is.

My individual therapist also ran the group with the head of the practice, Jill. Jill actually wrote books with Marsha Linehan, who created DBT, so she was a big deal. Dialectical behavior therapy truly saved my life. In group, we learned so many skills, skills I still use today. I remember there were so many acronyms you had to memorize, and the funny part is the one I remember most is actually the longest one: DEAR MAN. This is a skill used when you want something from someone and you need to be assertive. It stands for Describe, Express, Assert, Reinforce, (stay) Mindful, Appear confident and Negotiate.

My individual therapist liked to challenge me. She took no bullshit. If I was feeling an emotion, she had me sit with it and describe it, not push it away and ignore it. One time I found myself in CVS one Friday and I bought razor blades. The double edged ones that are really sharp. I called her immediately, crying, admitting I couldn’t control myself and just bought them. She had me commit to bringing them to group that Monday night — in a closed package so I could give them to her. At first I told her I couldn’t do it. I had the blades in my possession, how could I not even open them? But I said I would try. That Monday, during our 20 minute break of the 2 hour group session, we went into the hall and I handed her the package, almost in tears. I was handing over my only way to get relief. Jill was standing nearby, getting the snacks they always put out during the break. She saw what was happening and gave me look of “Damn, I’m proud of you.”

My current therapist is a DBT therapist. My therapist utilizes the same techniques and therapy styles.

If you ask me what is one thing that has really helped in my recovery process, I would say dialectical behavior therapy. I eat, sleep and breathe DBT. I can give you a damn good crash course in mindfulness, which is a core concept in DBT. I can teach you about self-validation. I can spoon-feed you lessons and lessons on interpersonal effectiveness. DBT has truly been a gift to me.

While I do consider myself well-versed in the world of DBT, I am not an expert in the sense that I don’t always use my skills when I should. But I guess it’s a learning process, as all things are in life. I used to think Sure, it’s a learning process, but how long is said process? Why is it taking me so long to get better? But now my view is this: you can’t put a timeline on recovery. There is no prescribed finish line. Take your time, because good things are coming. You just need the skills and support to get you there.

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.

Thinkstock photo via Pimonova.

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.

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

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

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