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The 2 Aspects of BPD We Don't Talk About

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When you hear about borderline personality disorder (BPD), you often hear about the tremendous fear of abandonment, the reckless behaviors, the potential addictions, self-harming tendencies and the constant, intense mood fluctuations that come along with the diagnosis. Some things that aren’t talked about as much are the difficulties with object permanence (or emotional constancy) and time perception. Object permanence is understanding that objects continue to exist even when they can’t be observed. Time perception is the subjective experience of time, which is measured by someone’s own perception of the duration of the indefinite and unfolding of events. These things are important when it comes to maintaining friendships and relationships. It can cause a lot of problems if you forget that someone exists as soon as they leave. At times, this is what my life looks like.

I am an introvert and have social anxiety, so I spend a lot of time at home — either alone or with my partner. Logically, I know I have many friends who care about me, but when I’m not around them, it’s very difficult for me to remember that. I have trouble creating an image of them in my mind. Even if it’s only been a few days since I’ve spoken to my friends or seen them, it feels like it’s been weeks, if not months.

I am polyamorous and the same thing happens when I transition from spending time with one partner to another. I live with my first partner and see my second partner twice a week. When I go to visit my second partner, I have a really hard time remembering my partner at home. My mind produces an inaccurate vision of him and it creates a lot of anxiety for me. Even after a few hours without him, I start to feel like it’s been much longer and I can feel myself forgetting our last interactions and what he looks like. Each time I come home from my second partner’s house, I fear I will forget he exists. I take pictures and videos when I’m with him, and bring home small things that belong to him to help me remember my time spent with him was real. The first time I brought something of his home with me and held it while in the same room as my home partner, I experienced intense cognitive dissonance and couldn’t believe that my other partner actually still did exist.

Each time I see one partner after spending time with the other, I go through a transition period when I have to remember I know them. Most of my memories with this person are temporarily lost in my mind and I struggle to feel safe around them for a while. I have a hard time holding onto memories in general. There are huge gaps in my memory of my past and the beginnings of both of my relationships are a blur. I experience these difficulties in friendships as well and at times, I even avoid seeing my friends because I don’t feel like I know them and it creates too much anxiety for me to handle.

I have to be very mindful of the ways these deficits affect my perception. If I’m not, I can neglect friendships, become very distant with the people I love, have trouble staying grounded in the moment, experience a lot of separation anxiety and expect new relationships and friendships to evolve at a faster pace than is considered “healthy.”

There are many things I practice to help me cope with these issues. At random points in the day, I will sit down and try to remember certain times I’ve spent with my friends. I will focus on the last thing I remember happening with them and do my best to flesh out the memory. I have written long lists of the things I love about both of my partners and my relationships with them. On my way to and from my second partner’s house, I pull out whatever list is for the partner I’m about to see and I read it. This helps me to remember this partner and all the good things about them and the memories we share. When my mind tells me it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen someone or feel like I don’t know them anymore, I’ll reach out and reconnect with them through text since it’s less intimidating than seeing them in person. I make my feelings known with both of my partners and ask them for reassurance when I need it. I am slowly learning to accept that for the time being, this is part of my experience and to allow myself to go through it without criticizing or shaming myself. Borderline personality disorder makes my life very difficult, but I am so grateful to have people who love, understand and accept me, and I’m doing my best to do the same for myself.

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Thinkstock photo via Tishchenko.

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How I Learned to Love Failure and Beat BPD at Its Own Game

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“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”Samuel Beckett

I still remember the moment when my psychologist pointed out that my mental response to failure is the same as my mental response to success. I was 18, sitting on a well-worn and comfortable chair, and it was only the beginning of our third session, but honestly, I can’t remember what else he said.

That revelation had me entirely enthralled.

Years later, when I finally got the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) at 26, I thought back to that moment and more things started to make sense.

I’ve never been able to enjoy a success without an immediate and pressing feeling that I should be doing “much much more” overshadowing it. I often thought it was something to do with how I was brought up: in a family of incredibly intelligent people, and expected to follow in similar footsteps and leave similar legacies. Sometimes I thought it had something to do with the fact that if I didn’t show I was willing to put in 120 percent, I wasn’t willing to put any work in at all, according to society.

I suppose, in a way, it is both of those things and much more. But knowing what I know now about BPD, I’m sure more than half of my negative delusions take root there.

Unfortunately, as many of us with BPD know, simply knowing something is hardly enough to beat it. We fight so often, and so hard, against negative and dangerous stereotypes, that even bringing our mental health up in regards to our work ethic is inconceivable. More than that, many of us absolutely hate to have anyone consider us weak for something in our minds we can’t control.

And while it’s true that a lot of our thoughts and responses are uncontrollable, there is one advantage to having a condition that programs you to respond to failure as you respond to success — that allows you to circumvent the programmed processes and walk proudly through a rather large loophole — and I am living proof of it.

During a typical nighttime trawl through social media one evening, I discovered an amazing article that put me into a similar thrall as my initial revelation in this article had. In brief, the writer of the article spoke about being a writer and facing constant rejection, and how difficult it was turning that rejection into something positive and meaningful for her career. She mentioned how someone she knew had started to aim for a certain number of rejections a year for their stories, thinking that if they submitted enough to get so many rejections, surely between those she would have some acceptances as well.

As a writer myself, this immediately touched something very raw: rejection sucks, and it is constant. I remember turning my phone off and considering the article for a good long while. I got mad at it — which, for me, almost always means that the topic is something applicable to my life and my conditions — and then I became determined to try this approach with my own work.

I started collecting rejections at the start of 2017, aiming for 100 by the end of the year.

In all honesty, I didn’t think this would do anything but aggravate an already oft-poked bruise. Not only do I respond badly to rejection, but having a record of it, something I could always see, would surely send me into anguish and anger.

Surprisingly, I found that my first rejection — and the first mark against my hundred — didn’t come with the desperate need to work harder, and “do more” as previously unrecorded rejections had. Instead, I felt more determined than ever to send the story out again to see if I could get a second mark to my hundred within the week.

And then it hit me: I’d broken the loop. I’d hacked the system.

Suddenly, my “rejections” were no longer failures; at least, not in the logical sense. Because wasn’t my goal to collect rejections? Wasn’t success marked by how many times I could fail?

My mind didn’t know how to respond. On the one hand, it should upset me that something I so loved and worked hard on was given back without more than a generic rejection letter. But on the other hand, I was one step closer to my goal of 100 rejections in 2017. I was making progress and moving forward, not backward, with my work.

The feeling of determination only grew with every rejection after. I started to get excited to see something fail, because it would mean success for me in another plan. I wasn’t wasting energy anymore, I was merely connecting it to another part of myself that would fuel me to be more motivated. 

As of June 2017, I have 28 rejections on my list — 28 moments of failure that I managed to redirect into something far more useful — all thanks to my brain that responded to success and failure the same way. Now, with every rejection, I still feel the urge to do so much more, but it is no longer accompanied by the choking feeling that once followed alongside it. My failures, now, are a goal with a quota to meet. They are just as important, in my mind, as my successes are. 

I hope that this story pulls a similar response from you as the article I read did from me. I hope it makes you a bit mad. I hope that you set it aside and consider it and then — with angry determination — implement it into your own life. Because I can’t think of a more liberating and more exciting thing than knowing you can hack a condition that wants to claim control over you.

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Thinkstock photo via DragonImages

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How I Struggled With My Identity After My Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis

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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.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD), categorized by emotional instability, impulsive behaviour, and cognitive distortions.

The moment I was given that diagnosis my life changed forever, not for the better but for the earth-shattering worse. The stigma towards mental health is spoken about all too much but for all the good work people do, it doesn’t change. Everybody I cared about in my life left. I ended up being left with one question: “Who am I?”

I ask myself this question on a daily basis, often in the dark of my bedroom, fighting against the tide of my emotions.

I have realized over time that this is the most important question in the world for me. Over the years, I’ve been on numerous prescription medications, seen numerous psychologists, taken any drug I could get my hands on and spent hours doing mindfulness. All of these techniques working to varying degrees. They might have stopped the pain for an hour, made me more lucid for a week or regulated my mood during the day. The result was that I became a ghost wearing a person suit, waiting for the slow release of death. I had become depressed, obsessive and suicidal. I needed something to hold onto, some motivation, someone who will be there when the lights turn out. The person was me.

I asked myself the question, “who am I,” for the longest time and I didn’t have the answer. People told me I was a good person but I couldn’t believe them. Work colleagues told me I was successful but again I couldn’t believe it. For months, as much as I asked the question, I didn’t have an answer. I was broken — without purpose, without value and without identity. My formative years had been spent forming myself around the people who were seen as successful and happy, but at this point, it seemed like I was at the end of the tunnel, at the end of my time in this world.

After many days asking this question I finally came to an answer. I knew who I was; I was Jack Scott.

This is my guiding light; this is what I hold onto on my bad days and it’s my purpose on my good days. Experiences mean anything can happen on any given day, but at the end of that day — be it good or bad — when I get into bed I now know who I am. I see that as a victory and evidence to me that the following day will be worth it.

When life gives you the worst, when you’re in pain, when you’re down, ask yourself the question “who am I?” Let that be your victory for the day. It will be a victory every day and can be a platform for something better. Find yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help in finding yourself.

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. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Goodshoot

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What I Learned From My Best Friend Who Has Borderline Personality Disorder

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My bestie and I have been in each other’s lives for 14 years now. I adore her and love her no matter what. I always have and always will. We have definitely been through some turbulent times. For starters, I have several mental illnesses of my own, including major depressive disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. My best friend deals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and other co-morbid disorders. We relate deeply to one another through our experiences with mental illness. We also share the same type of humor. She has been there through the toughest parts of my life, and the happiest. Our connection runs deep. At times though, that connection was not enough to stop our challenges from driving us apart.

Part of the issue was my own misunderstanding. I did not fully understand BPD, I wasn’t even aware it existed. Ignorance may be bliss in some situations, but in this one, it was detrimental to our relationship. I took behaviors that were a result of her illness personally. I often felt attacked and even fearful at times, like I had to walk on eggshells with what I said. To make matters worse, I had an outrageously low self-esteem and was not addressing my own issues. I didn’t think my feelings were valid, and I cared much more about her feelings than my own. Little did I know, this made our relationship more challenging.

What my best friend needed from me was understanding. She needed me to see past the behaviors and acknowledge that the real version of her was always there. BPD, from what I have observed, is like a mask a person wears to prevent themselves from feeling vulnerable. My best friend often hid from me, for fear of being wounded. She also pushed me away, having deemed herself unworthy of love. Once again, I took this to heart. More than once, my lack of knowledge about her struggles made us distant when I had to remove myself entirely for a period of time to recover from the hurt I felt.

We had several fallouts, some worse than others. However, after a year of not speaking to one another, she sent me a letter apologizing. She didn’t expect me to rekindle the friendship. She didn’t make excuses. She just sent a genuine apology and well wishes. I cried tears of happiness and relief. I was determined to ensure our friendship would survive this time around.

Instead of accepting certain behaviors she exhibited, I kindly expressed how they made me feel. I asked her what I could do to be helpful while respecting myself, too. I admitted I couldn’t fathom what she was enduring, but I’d try my hardest to learn as much as I could. I became proactive in educating myself about her disorder. I believe she behaves a certain way because it’s how she copes. It’s how she learned to get through the hardships that come with life, and much of it was a result of past traumas.

A valuable lesson I learned is that respecting myself enough to say when I feel hurt is truly helpful to both of us. She respects me for being honest, and even finds that it helps her adjust her reactions. It helps me too, because I feel more comfortable in the relationship with boundaries. Like any relationship, there needs to be balance.

Loving someone with any kind of mental illness can be emotionally taxing, whether it be knowing they’re in pain and struggling, or because you feel personally hurt by behaviors. Remember that open communication keeps both people in the relationship happy and healthy; and remember that you must put your needs first. A house will crumble on an unsound foundation, so you’re more equipped to bear weight if you protect your house before others. People with BPD absolutely deserve love, despite what their brain may tell them, and I will continue to let my friend know she is, indeed, incredibly loved.

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Thinkstock photo via william87

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Why BPD Can Feel Like My Super Power

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In my experience as a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD), my condition can sometimes feel like a special power. Like when I engage with someone I can immediately sense how they’re feeling. iI is much more noticeable when they’re upset or trying to hide their feelings. This generally means that people trust and like to talk to me, because I have the ability to ask them what’s wrong and know when they mean “everything,” even if they say “nothing.” Though, like most special powers, this one can cause a bit of chaos.

Say I walk in to a room and say “Hi” to my significant other (or a friend) and the tone in their “Hey” sounds a bit different than usual. Instead of rationalizing and thinking, Oh, they’re probably having an off day. Maybe it’s something to do with work or school. If it was about you they would tell you. My brain completely bypasses that cognitive process and suddenly, my nerves are on fire. They obviously hate you and are going to leave you! It’s all your fault. You’re a terrible person! This quick shift can feel like I’m already experiencing an abandonment that hasn’t even occurred yet. Which can understandably get frustrating for the person I’m interacting with, because remember, to them this all started with a simple, “Hey.” For me though, that interaction means so much more, because my brain has already decided that they hate me. This means changing my mind about it can create a vicious cycle.

When they promise they’re not leaving me, I ask for extra validation to make sure they’re not lying. Then I feel bad for being so much of a “burden,” which in turn makes me feel like they’re going to leave me. Rinse and repeat.

This cycle has potential to cause the “abandoner” to feel as if the “abandonee” doesn’t trust them. I can promise you that for me, this is not the case. I do trust you! If anything, because so much of my disorder is often rooted in past trauma and fear of being left, such extreme feelings such as these are a compliment. It means I care about you so much that not having you around feels like the worst thing that could possibly happen. Remember, no one with BPD wants to experience such volatility in their sense of self and in quality of interpersonal relationships. Many of us wish we could just take words at face value instead of creating a whole narrative behind them.

Maybe if I wasn’t as hyper-aware of others’ emotions as I am, seemingly little things like this wouldn’t be such a trigger for me. Then again, I probably wouldn’t be able to offer the top tier love and support I give to the people who need it. This is my super power after all, and with great power comes great responsibility.

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Thinkstock photo via Malchev.

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How It Feels to Be Turned Away and Disbelieved by Therapists

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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.

Palms sweating, I found myself nervously fidgeting my legs and glancing at the clock. I had been here before, many times over the past decade, and increasingly losing faith. At the beginning the sessions seemed to help — you could talk about how you were feeling, what you were experiencing, and you knew the person sat opposite you would believe you. An encouraging nod here and there, a patient pause while you gather your jumbled thoughts together and attempt to make sense aloud. You were safe here; it was going to be OK. It was all going to be OK now.

But as the years crawled by and the symptoms worsened, the sessions changed. The nods became frowns, and I could swear suspicion flashed in the eyes of the therapist facing me. My words faltered and become stuck in my throat, tears pricking my eyes and shame burning my cheeks. It takes every ounce of courage to admit your deepest insecurities and perceived weaknesses to a stranger — especially one whose profession is to assess the severity of your health.

As the years dragged on it became clear my condition had changed. I had been diagnosed with major depression 10 years prior, but the past year things had begun to change. I felt so out of control. It seemed like the tiniest thing could send me to my knees — an abrupt tone of voice, a petty argument, an ignored message — and I would be curled against the wall, the tears streaming, head cradled in my arms. Everyone hated me, I was certain of it. They were just pretending to care. They didn’t love me, nobody did. I was incapable of being loved — too difficult, too needy. And yet never enough — nothing I did was worth staying for.

The people in my life who cared about me were confused and concerned about my behavior. I was a ticking time bomb and a walking contradiction — upbeat and carefree one moment, full of joy and hope for the future — only to be distraught the next, engulfed by a black cloud, forced to hurt myself just so I could regain control of my intense emotional surge and be brought back down to earth. This wasn’t like me — I was always a confident person, but when left alone I was afraid of my own mind.

Time and time again I traipsed back to the therapist, and time and time again my fears were shrugged off. They said I was simply lacking in self-esteem — an echo of what they told me when I first made an attempt on my life. There were no existing mental conditions for my symptoms, where mood can change in a matter of hours. I was told to keep a food diary and take up jogging. I was even told to buy a certain fitness item, a flippant suggestion that stung my heart like a hot brand considering my suicidal thoughts and how it could be used in an attempt. I was told to come back again in six weeks, and that was that.

Every time I left, my heart would break a little more. By now I had done enough research of my own to conclude I was showing signs of undiagnosed borderline personality disorder (BPD). Of the nine criteria commonly listed as trademark symptoms, I regularly experienced eight of them. It was at this time I also learned that mood swings could alter rapidly, in as little as a few hours. I didn’t know whether to feel relief that I may finally have some leads concerning my condition, or be devastated that my therapist seemed not to fully understand the signs of BPD in order to recognize them — something I chose to believe, because the thought of perhaps being too insignificant to be worth investing more resources in was too much to bear, and a cruel product of my black and white thinking pattern: “They can’t help me, therefore I must be worthless.”

Being constantly made to feel like an attention seeker, like I wasn’t really worthy of compassion or support because there wasn’t anything truly wrong, seemed to worsen my symptoms. I felt like a fraud. I often failed to really know “who” I was, and now my thoughts were racing — was I making all this up? Was I a fake? These feelings that frequently stopped me in my tracks and had me inconsolable for hours — had I made them up? Was I so wrong? After all, the experts weren’t alarmed, so maybe this was “normal.” I shrank away in fear, and found myself numb and unreachable for days at a time. Was this my life? Never getting better because there was nothing to help me?

To this day I still haven’t got the help I need. My breakdowns become more frequent for a while and I struggle to find the light. But it trickles in eventually, and I can pick myself up from the floor and pretend to be “normal.” Typically each cycle lasts a few days at most before it flips to the polar opposite, draining my energy, will and hope all at once. It is exhausting and my resolve to continue is faltering. I hope I can find someone willing to listen to me soon, to believe me when I say I need help.

I hope that if you have struggled to access the support you need, that you, too, may receive it soon. I hope one day, we never have to fight so hard to be taken seriously, to access treatment, and to recover.

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. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. 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 fizkes

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