Illustration of a woman looking at the moon

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

RELATED VIDEOS


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.

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

 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.

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

Thinkstock photo via LanaBrest.


As someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD) I know it can be sometimes overwhelming to support me. BPD can impact every aspect of our everyday lives and wreak havoc in our relationships. Considering the stigma, the lack of sufficient research and the lack of public education on mental illness – especially heavily stigmatized disorders like BPD – it can be challenging to know how to support friends and family facing symptoms of BPD or even how to approach the subject of mental illness in a way that’s respectful and effective.

The powerful stigma associated with BPD labels us as inherently violent, abusive and manipulative. This causes many people with BPD to avoid speaking up about their disorder altogether, and the stereotypes demonize and often alienate those with the disorder. In reality, people living with BPD tend to be notably empathetic, passionate, loyal and resilient, and there are many ways to provide support. It’s true the symptoms of BPD tend to infiltrate friendships and relationships, but – like anyone struggling with overwhelming emotions, mood swings, impulsivity and more – a little effort goes a long way. Here are some tips for supporting someone in your life living with traits of borderline personality disorder.

1. Validate, validate, validate.

Even if you don’t understand why someone is feeling a certain way or if their reaction seems overdramatic, it’s important to recognize that whether or not you agree, that doesn’t make the emotion any less real. Whether or not it seems like someone “should” feel a certain way doesn’t change the fact that they are. Often, someone with BPD has a history of emotional invalidation, neglect or abuse. This leaves them afraid to trust their own emotions, so a little validation can go a long way. Sometimes living with BPD can feel isolating, and external validation and acknowledgment of our experience can be an important step to recovery or, at the very least, surviving a moment of distress.

2. Listen, ask questions when appropriate and do your research.

If someone with BPD opens up to you, pay attention. Rejection is difficult for anyone but can be especially debilitating for someone with BPD; if we feel silenced, ignored or sense you’re generally uninterested in what we have to say, that can be painful enough to stop us from opening up at all. Make a point to do your own research rather than expecting us to do it all for you. Scour through other articles on The Mighty, read about BPD from the perspective of people who have it, familiarize yourself with the symptoms and treatment options, read a book about it, etc. Assure the person you care about them by putting forth the effort to learn about what they’re dealing with, ask how you can help and show genuine interest in their well-being.

3. Learn their triggers.

When it comes to BPD, triggers can be difficult to avoid as they’re generally based on relationships and interpersonal interactions. Each person is different, but common triggers for people with BPD include harsh criticism, the perceived threat of rejection or abandonment. Abandonment sensitivity may seem inconsequential to someone without the disorder, but it can be very real for us. Additionally, people with BPD may be triggered by their own thoughts, memories or reminders of past trauma. Despite the stigma associated with triggers, they must be taken seriously. There’s a difference between feeling hurt or offended and being triggered by something; when I encounter a trigger, for example, I face intense emotional reactions in addition to debilitating physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, extreme nausea and vomiting, hot flashes, uncontrollable shaking and sweating, body aches, loss of appetite and total exhaustion.

4. Learn their preferred coping skills.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a common and reliable treatment option for people with BPD. DBT is a year-long program divided into four basic modules — mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. It isn’t for everyone, but much of the content of DBT can be beneficial to anyone with or without BPD, and most of the skills, tips and tricks are available online. Everyone has their own preferred coping skills, so while some people find peace in practicing, for example, the “Nonjudgmental Mindfulness” skill, others may find it challenging and frustrating. I personally find the TIPP skills to be the most effective way to calm down during moments of intense distress, and it can be helpful to have someone remind me of these skills when I’m feeling particularly worked up.

5Be honest, direct and respectful.

One of the most frustrating symptoms of BPD can be our tendency to ruminate over comments, moments and mistakes that affect the way others perceive us. In my experience, the threat of rejection can be enough to send me spiraling into a paralyzing panic attack or worse. I’ve found the best way to avoid this kind of thing is just to address the situation directly but graciously, keeping our triggers in mind. When it comes down to it, compassionate communication – while not always easy – is fundamental.

6. Try to remain patient, gentle and empathetic.

Remember that people with BPD tend to be particularly sensitive when it comes to interpersonal interactions, and triggers can be everywhere. One of the most prominent symptoms of BPD is the debilitating fear of rejection, abandonment and isolation. Keeping up with relationships can be an overwhelming roller coaster in itself when you have BPD, and although we – like anyone else – are bound to make mistakes, try keep in mind the risks we take every time we open up or let someone into our world. This also means we deeply treasure the people who put forth an effort to understand our experience. Often, effectively supporting someone with BPD is as simple as reaching out or actively listening with empathy and compassion.

Everyone is different and heals in different ways, but it’s important we make the effort to support one another – especially when faced with a disorder as frightening and life-threatening as BPD. You don’t have to live with the same symptoms in order to support someone who does. Really, these tips can be useful for any relationship; validation and respect for another’s emotional experience can be a relief to anyone, whether or not they have BPD or exhibit any traits of the disorder.

I don’t want to gloss over reality here: it can be challenging to keep all of these things in mind at times. Still, if you find yourself feeling irritated, try to consider the obstacles they overcome every single day. Personally, BPD causes me to feel conflicted by my desire to maintain close relationships and the urge to isolate myself as a way to avoid feelings of rejection and abandonment. When you’re used to feelings of emptiness and isolation, support from loved ones, friends and acquaintances is often what keeps us afloat. It’s important we have allies by our side as we navigate a disorder as unpredictable and stigmatized as BPD.

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

Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia Ltd


One comment can ruin my day and set off a mental process that’s self-destructive.

I am a reactive person, it doesn’t take much to do.

How can I go from sitting in class or in an office, content, productive, feeling well, to the next moment feeling deeply offended, feeling horribly insecure and feeling compelled to act in an unskilled way?

With borderline personality disorder (BPD), my internal sense of security is easily threatened. This comes from years of self-invalidation, social invalidation and being wired in a way where I don’t feel secure in my relationships with people to begin with. When someone says something offensive, I’m hard wired to react negatively and feel threatened.

When someone does say something negative and I feel threatened, I begin to act unskilled and the process of burning bridges and offending people begins. Why would I offend someone? Because they made me mad, and I feel like I’m evening things out.

This is a quick and easy way to ruin relationships, create a tense group dynamic and makes my life more stressful than it needs to be.

One comment, one slight, can cause my BPD to go into overdrive. It’s exhausting. I wish I wasn’t wired this way, its not a great way to live. No one wants to go through life ruining relationships and feeling insecure.

But this is what BPD does. And living with BPD isn’t easy because this can happen any day, and I know for me it can happen whenever I’m around people I don’t completely trust. I have no idea when this is going to happen but when it does, I have a hard time acting skillfully and not acting in a self-sabotaging way.

BPD is difficult. It’s unpredictable and I never know when I’ll feel like I’m in a crisis.

I just know it’ll happen again and that’s kind of frightening.

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

Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.