How I'm Learning to Navigate My BPD Diagnosis as a Male
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 was a psychology major as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California (USC). I had the chance to learn about the various types of mental health struggles and challenges so many people face, and how far we have come to better understand and treat the mind. Additionally, I got to learn about the DSM, t-tables, statistical significance, cluster disorders and common treatments and an array of other psychological related topics. So to some degree, I am familiar with the field (emphasizing “to some degree”). As interesting as psychology was to me, I never thought I would have any personal ties to the field, let alone disorders. As a result, this story is one of the biggest ironies for me to write.
I’m Jaime. I’m 23 years old, a Hispanic male and I have borderline personality disorder (BPD) along with major depression superimposed on a dysthymic disorder. You don’t really hear much about men dealing with BPD, since it is commonly associated with women (or at least that’s what the research says). Nonetheless, I fit the bill neatly. Throughout my social life, I have always felt too attached to friends and those I had romantic interests in. It was often an obsession, wanting to feel accepted and welcomed by friends and experience reciprocal romantic interests from those I was romantically interested in. I would always try to be genuine and nice, often willing to “go beyond” for people in a heartbeat, to feel some validation and acceptance and belonging. I wanted my level of caring and niceness to another to be reciprocated. I would easily get distraught if this wasn’t met, even in the slightest.
Often, I would lash out or get really dramatic when I felt the slightest marginal separation from people. Why haven’t they responded to my messages yet? Did I say something? How come they aren’t hanging out with me? What do those other people have that I don’t? They obviously had free time to hang out, why didn’t they want to hang out with me? I should be more valued to them, considering all I do for them. Are they not genuine with me? Do they just feel sorry for me? Maybe. Why would they do that to me? Screw them. I hate them. I want them to die. Maybe if I died, I wouldn’t have to go through this pain. I don’t deserve this. I deserve what I put into my relationships. It’s not fair. That was the type of dialogue I would often have with myself. One moment I could feel super close to my friends, and in the next, I could suspect them for days or weeks at a time and convince myself they were not who I thought they were. The paranoia of these thoughts would drive me to seek out confirmation of my deluded thoughts. It was even worse with girls who I had interest in. Objectively, I know this may sound “overdramatic” and “attention seeking.” But to me, it was a storm of feelings and thoughts I often couldn’t handle.
It was even worse with girls I was romantically interested in. Often, I convinced myself I was truly in love with a girl. I idealized them. I idealized the prospect of a relationship, seeing that as the way to feel “whole.” When this didn’t happen (as it usually hasn’t), I would often get panicky and obsess over how to make it work, and when that didn’t happen, I would soon devalue them. One moment, I could have someone on a pedestal, and in the next, I would think they were the scum of the earth. It’s no surprise that I haven’t established anything with anyone up to date. I have managed to drive away many people with my efforts to create or salvage connections, ironically. The most recent happened in law school, roughly three months ago. On that occasion, I threatened suicide and blamed her for making me call the suicide hotline to calm myself. I had convinced myself she was near perfect, and when things didn’t work, the BPD in me quickly took over. Once word got out, many of my friends and peers ostracized, judged and rejected me. This only made the wounds I felt feel worse. Not only had I lost someone I thought was important to me, but like a disease, it was spreading to others I once felt close to. This all felt too much to handle. I stopped attending classes, stopped keeping up with my work and started down a path of deluded, paranoid thoughts about the relations that were threatened or gone. I started to deteriorate fast, and I medically withdrew from school once I came to the realization that I needed to confront myself and my own issues.
Throughout my life, I have had an unsatisfied need to feel close to people. I have always wanted to feel accepted and wanted, no matter what stage of my life it was. I wanted relationships and closeness and a sense of belonging. To me, people were either close to me or not, there was no in between. When those goals were threatened, or destroyed, I would feel uncontrollable surges of anger, pain, hate and sometimes darker thoughts towards myself or others. For me, it is not a satisfying way to live, and I have only recently begun to take steps to correct my emotions and thoughts.
I have not been OK for a long time. I know many of my unfortunate relationships with people, be it attempted romance or close friends, have ended because of my actions. In the past, I would blame relational issues on the other person for being imperfect, for not being what I idealized them to be in my head, for not being the people I wanted them to be. I know better now. The sense of desiring reciprocity was sometimes all-consuming. It has been a constant war, with myself, trying to not feel controlled by an overwhelming need. On one hand, I want that satisfaction and dopamine-inducing feeling of being close to people, and on the other hand, I do not want to be controlled by such obsessions. I thought at one point that this was the way things would always be, and suicide suddenly seemed like a viable option. I have never attempted, but for a long time I remember thinking how great it might be to die, to escape the suffering. Obviously, I never reached that point, or I wouldn’t be writing this right now. I can’t undo my past, what I’ve done to other people, and I don’t expect any of those people to understand or forgive me. It is not their problem to deal with. I’ve been working on coming to terms with myself, where I am, what I’ve done and what I’m going to do to get on a better path.
I’ve started practices on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), as well as taking medication and participating in intense therapy to start my path to healing. I know I have a long road ahead of me, and it won’t always be a straight path to healing. Coming out about mental health struggles is never an easy thing to do, but I am doing so now because I don’t want to feel like I must hide this in the dark about myself. I may be the sarcastic, funny, compassionate person on the outside, and that is who I am, but often there’s more than meets the eye. Psychology is something that not everyone knows about on a more intimate level. I’m still learning about myself, what I can do for myself and what to expect of myself in the coming year. I’ve always been a transparent person with myself and with others, so I don’t want to feel ashamed for what is on my plate. Sure, I took a pretty hard fall in the last few months, and it has been a multitude of emotions since. But I have hope. I’ve always been optimistic, and I know things are going to get better. I took a hard fall, but I’m getting back up, and with enough time, I will stand again.
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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Unsplash photo via Warren Wong.