young couple with focus on woman looking sad and boyfriend behind her out of focus

Why do I feel like this isn’t real
An unimportant part in a bad deal
A secret you hide from your world
A second choice, never a first

You say you want me but you shy away
From anything real, is that really OK?
I’m patient and waiting, just trying to understand
What goes on in your head, give me a hand.

My mind second-guesses everything between us.
Especially when I feel you’re hidden behind a mask.
It’s hard for me when you don’t let me in.
Instead keeping me away from showing me your within.

You only want to be with me when you want some comfort.
Within my arms, or body, or something.
I want adventures, something more than this.
Sometimes I’m bored, even if it’s bliss.

Have we hit a wall, are we moving forward?
Not stuck in this abandon, going dormant.
Maybe if you just let me know what’s in your mind.
Then maybe I wouldn’t feel like I’m blind.

I don’t know what to do or how to feel.
Because maybe it’s just my mind on a paranoia wheel.
Anxiety is locking me to the ground.
I want to hide and never be found.

Safe in my bubble, unable to be harmed.
The thoughts die down, I start to feel calm.
Maybe I’m just not ready for this.
But I’m not ready to give up because you I would miss.

You make my world, I’d choose you every day.
You make me feel safe, make my pain go away.
It’s my thoughts I promise, I’m not doubting us.
Sometimes it’s just hard, my mind in relationships.

The above is an example of what happens to my mind as a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD) after any small conflict with a partner. My mind immediately goes into a roller coaster of thoughts full of doubt, specifically self-doubt. Am I good enough? Am I too much? What could I do to be better? Why would anyone love me? Do you love me? Are you sure you love me? Most of all, I wish I wasn’t like this and I wish you could understand. It’s not that I doubt the relationship; I just doubt anyone could ever really love me, because most run away.

I want you to know that maybe I’m difficult to love, but my love is worth it. I will love more fiercely than anyone ever will, and although my incessant questions of whether you still love me may drive you “crazy,” please just answer. I understand it might be hard to reassure me of the same thing repeatedly, but it is as simple as reassuring me. It’s as simple as being open and talking to me, rather than getting angry and shutting me out.

I will help you in loving me, if you help by trying to understand me.

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Yes, I get emotional easy. No, I’m not seeking attention on purpose.

Yes, I can be impulsive. No, that doesn’t mean I’ll hurt you. I never will.

Yes, I’m on meds. No, that doesn’t change who I am as a person.

Yes, I’m getting treated. No, that doesn’t mean I will never have an “off day” again.

Yes, it’s true some therapists don’t like us. No, we aren’t “untreatable.”

Yes, it’s a Cluster B personality disorder. No, that doesn’t make me a psychopath.

Yes, I’m mentally exhausted by the end of the day. No, it’s not because I’m not sleeping enough.

chart of yes and no's to borderline personality disorder

Yes, I could fall back into old habits. No, I haven’t given up on fixing them.

Yes, I’m happier than I used to be. No, I did not just wake up one morning and decide to “be happy.”

Yes, you may know someone with BPD. No, that doesn’t mean you know me. We’re not all the same.

Yes, friendships and relationships can be tough. No, that doesn’t mean they’re impossible.

Yes, we’re portrayed as violent in the media. Most of us aren’t.

Yes, some people with BPD are parents. No, they aren’t automatically terrible parents.

Yes, I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). Yes, I’m a decent human being. Yes, people “put up with me.” In fact, people love me. Yes, I love other people. Yes, I can contribute to society. Yes, I’m safe to be around. Yes, I’ll answer your questions and hopefully put your fears to ease.

No, I don’t let it stop me from succeeding.

This post originally appeared on Brianna Fae.

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Thinkstock photo via MistakeAnn.

As part of my borderline personality disorder (BPD), I experience dissociation, depersonalization and derealization a lot. They are my body’s “go to” for dealing with the intense emotions that are part of the day-to-day grind of living with BPD. These sensations can be hard to describe and explain to others, but I’m going to have a go.

Recently, I was stuck in a very dissociated space. The only way I could think of to describe it at the time was as if my body was in one place, my brain another, my thoughts somewhere else and my feelings in yet another place.

While I was feeling that way, I drew the picture below. It was strange drawing from such a disconnected space, it’s not something I usually do. Later I also wrote about the sensations I was experiencing at the time:

Floating in a bubble just above my own head, puppeteering my body, clumsily, on strings.

My physical sensations are dulled, except sounds, which are weirdly amplified and out of sync.

I can think clearly as the me inside the bubble, but not as the me in the body. The me in the body feels distant, far away, like another person.

My voice comes out but is strange and far away sounding.

Everything is going too fast and too slow at the same time, people and cars loom up suddenly out of nowhere. “Real world” things are unpredictable.

My perception is oddly skewed making spatial awareness and proprioception difficult.

I feel like I am piloting my body by remote control.

The world doesn’t seem real or like it’s really there. It’s somehow strange and baffling, like it’s not the world I was in, last time I was in the world.

Sometimes I feel like I might be invisible, literally. And other times, like I could pass through solid objects like a ghost.

When asked “How are you?” I can only reply, “Not really here” in a slow, dreamlike voice.

It’s scary, but also comforting at the same time.

Follow this journey here.

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Thinkstock photo via MistakeAnn.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a Cluster B personality disorder that causes emotion disregulation, making it hard to manage relationships with yourself and others. Like all mental illnesses, BPD is a serious condition. What’s scary about BPD for me is that around nine percent of people with BPD die by suicideWhat’s even scarier is the fact that people with BPD are so misunderstood by both the public and doctors. I hope this list of struggles helps people who don’t have borderline personality disorder understand what many of us go through, and I hope people with BPD can find comfort in knowing they are understood.

Here are the struggles I face as someone with BPD:

1. Having to explain borderline personality disorder to people because some people haven’t heard of it before.

2. Attempting to explain how it differs from bipolar disorder.

3. Hoping people don’t look up BPD on Google because the results will scare them.

4. Having to reassure people you’re not dangerous to be around.

5. Having to “prove” to others that you “aren’t crazy.”

6. Struggling to get help because many therapists won’t work with someone with BPD.

7. Having your mental health team treat you like a child.

8. Traveling and spending more than you’d like to find therapy that will help you.

9. Having to commit months of time and dedication if you choose to enroll in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

10. Feeling patronized in every therapy session, as if you don’t know how to act like a functioning human being.

11. Being given a handbook in DBT that teaches you how to express emotions, step by step, yet still “messing up.”

12. Practicing all of the DBT skills, only to find they don’t all work for every situation, and your environment impacts their effectiveness.

13. Having people ask you if you’re like [insert pop culture character with BPD].

14. Being seen as “attention-seeking” every time you self-harm.

15. Being initially misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.

16. Going on medication for bipolar disorder that do nothing for you… because you don’t actually have bipolar disorder.

17. Wondering if you’ll ever be able to function in society.

18. Appearing to be “two-faced” because your opinions on certain people can drastically flip back and forth.

19. Being exhausted at the end of the day from all of the emotional changes you experience daily.

20. Always feeling like you’re overreacting, even when you aren’t.

21. Having to constantly ask yourself if your reactions are justified.

22. Second-guessing your reactions, even when they are justified.

23. Not standing up for yourself out of fear of sounding “crazy.”

24. Wondering if certain events actually took place, or if you’re just perceiving them that way.

25. Not always knowing why you’re upset.

26. Not knowing who your friends are, what you identify as or what to call yourself.

27. Being criticized for identifying using labels when you rely on them to understand yourself.

28. Feeling confused when you don’t fit within the assumed boundaries of certain labels.

29. Basing your identity on what other people say about you, and how other people treat you.

30. Forcing yourself to think with more logic in situations where following your heart makes more sense.

31. Impulse shopping.

32. Other impulse actions that don’t make sense 15 minutes later.

33. Discovering there are books, forums and websites dedicated to “dealing with” and “recovering from” people with BPD.

34. Feeling like a monster.

35. Worrying that a bad day is the start of a relapse.

36. Having other mental health issues on top of BPD.

37. Struggling to find validation within yourself.

38. Feeling the need to “warn” people about your condition.

39. Feeling the need to apologize for everything.

40. Being told you’re a “drama queen,” when you have no intention of starting drama.

41. Being told to hide your diagnosis because it may scare others away.

42. Having your diagnosis actually scare others away.

43. Feeling like a burden.

Although this list sounds discouraging, I do want to highlight the fact that recovery is always possible. Dialectical Behavior Therapy was actually very effective for me, even though it was frustrating. I eventually got the help I needed. As more people begin to understand borderline personality disorder, I hope the stigma decreases so those who are struggling aren’t afraid to seek help. Above all, remember you are not alone. There are many others who struggle with BPD, and you don’t have to struggle in silence. If there are no resources for those with BPD in your area, utilize online communities and national/global resources that will connect you with people who understand what you are going through. There are BPD-specific communities that can be very validating.

Keep on fighting the good fight. It’s hard, but I know we can get through our struggles together.

This post originally appeared on Brianna Fae.

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Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.

When I was younger and found out what veganism was, my journey of cognitive dissonance began. I thought the idea seemed really cool, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. One morning in second grade, I announced that I wanted to be vegetarian — and by the afternoon, had changed my mind. When my dad came home from the grocery store, I slyly asked him if he’d gotten hot dogs. For the rest of my childhood, I didn’t give eating meat — or eggs and dairy — for that matter, much thought.

Then, my junior year of high school, someone in my English class gave a presentation as part of an assignment about the horrors of animal testing, and I saw an image of a cat who appeared to be in deep pain who looked exactly like my cat, Hazel. I also took marine biology and environmental science instead of chemistry that year. In marine biology, I saw the documentary “Blackfish” about Sea World, and felt awful for the whales. In environmental science, I saw footage of factory farms. But despite the fact that my anxiety leaves me easily triggered and grossed out by images of graphic scenes, I wasn’t swayed. I am also on the autism spectrum and am slightly overweight, so the lack of people like me in the vegan community left me unmotivated to make the change.

That same year, I went on a school trip to Quebec, where I got to know someone else who was vegan. We hung out because we had a friend in common who was on the trip, but our personalities didn’t click. She was very logical and rigid, and let’s just say I say I spend too much time daydreaming. I noticed her French was better than mine. One night in Montreal, when the waiter cleared her vegan meal, she said, “Merci, le repas cetait trés excellent.” Earlier that same in Quebec City, when the waitress cleared my plate, I uttered, “Ce bon.” The girl had to correct me and explain that you say “cetait bon.” I had learned that in class but couldn’t come up with it in the heat of the moment. This girl was also in advanced math, taking more advanced placement courses than me and would go on to win several academic awards. I was still a good student, but compared to her, I felt very inferior. My relationship with veganism was not looking up. Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, I was on a mental and emotional high from traveling — signs of my undiagnosed borderline personality disorder (BPD) and mood disorder. So I unapologetically ate crepes and poutine in front of her, high on the French-Canadian culture. Little did I know how much my mental health would deteriorate very soon.

My lack of identity, anger, loneliness and dissociation took their toll on me senior year. I had assumed it was all normal my entire life, until it led to frightening panic attacks which faded into depression. I went inpatient for a week in February due to suicidal thoughts, and the experience left me feeling safe and coddled. My science teacher, who had showed no signs of caring about me before, sent my parents a note saying I was an amazing woman. My French teacher, who I had a crush on, sent me a note in French. He was the same teacher who had chaperoned the Quebec trip, and had brought his wife and daughter. He told me his daughter said I was the nicest student on the trip. One of the teachers in the hospital school showered me with attention because she thought I was smart, witty and a good writer. I received gifts from my relatives such as pillows, books and makeup. But I was jealous of those in worse condition than me. When it was time for me to discharge, I begged to stay another night, and had a dream I was falling off a cliff into the ocean.

After I got out of the hospital, I had to attend an intensive outpatient program, where the subject of not wanting to get better came up in one of the check in groups. I identified with this to a debilitating degree without understanding why. I had become proud of being mentally ill in an unhealthy way, going as far as to spend all my time researching abnormal psychology and diagnosing myself with other illnesses. I thought it was my unhealthy mental state that made me worthy of love of and attention — I didn’t care what kind. Despite picking up on my behaviors, history and recent self-harm, no one suggested I could have borderline personality disorder because I am a “quiet borderline.” But trust me, I’d researched that too but am officially diagnosed now. In the group, I piped up about how I was feeling and the therapist said he wished us adolescents could see the adult psych ward and learn there’s nothing glamorous about it, it’s not a good peer group and that it smells bad. But it took being a patient there for my attitude to start changing.

By then, I was working with a good therapist, but had a psychiatrist who didn’t listen. I was on a gap year to focus on my mental health, but nothing was working. My moods left me agitated and miserable. My therapist agreed we weren’t making much progress, so she set up a neuropsych evaluation. But it was getting too late. I was engaging in more and more impulsive borderline behaviors, which got me back to the emergence room. The psychiatrist on duty agreed I was a danger to myself, but the adult unit was a lot less warm and fuzzy than the last one I had been to. We weren’t allowed to have our own blankets and pillows, and the rooms weren’t carpeted. There were no gifts or nice messages, and instead of being validated, I was told I had to gain better coping skills, which at the time felt like blame. I was one of the youngest people there, making it difficult to relate to a lot of the patients. But I did a different IOP program afterwards which gave me the opportunity to process my feelings that had bubbled up over the past couple of years. But my identity wasn’t integrated. The day of the neuropsych evaluation, I had to fill out a questionnaire in which some of the question related to self-harm and suicide. The doctor treated me like a young child.

I wanted to self-harm so badly when I got home. But I didn’t. Instead, I watched YouTube videos about veganism. Mental illness had snatched away so much of my wellbeing and dignity, so I had nothing to use with this lifestyle. It occurred to me just then that I have a future, and that there are other ways to connect with people and be a part of something that isn’t related to mental illness. I waited to fully transition until after the IOP, and weaned myself off Nutella. Instead of ruminating and obsessing over my mental health, I was researching and cooking new recipes. I’ve even tried to be more socially conscious with my purchases, making sure not to wear leather or makeup tested on animals. I had something to do when I was feeling agitated and restless. I’ve discovered kale isn’t bad at all and really balances out my system, while peanut butter gives me the energy I need to get through the day with mental health challenges. Of course, I’ve had my challenges and disappointments. I haven’t found a good vegan macaroni recipe, and miss eating bagels and lox with the Jewish side of my family. But there is a cupcake place near my house with vegan options, and I love guacamole and vegetable ramen noodles.

I do try to avoid the thinking trap that everyone should go vegan. For some, it is financially and medically impossible. I have a friend who can’t do it because she had an eating disorder and sensory issues around tofu and fake meat. I commend her for putting herself first. There is a lot of negativity in the mainstream vegan community such as fat shaming, ableism and misogyny. My parents initially hesitated to support me in this endeavor due to my black and white thinking, and didn’t want me to feel like I’d failed if it didn’t work out. But it’s actually been a good way to practice the DBT skills I’ve been learning. Earlier this year, I went to my friend’s birthday party, and her mom made me a salad with croutons. I ate them before seeing on the packaging that they were coated in butter, but I had to be polite anyways and not beat myself up for my mistake. I’ve used interpersonal effectiveness to ask for food modifications while ordering in restaurants. I’m learning to ask for help at home if I’m having trouble cooking my own food due to weak executive functioning. I’ve used radical acceptance when it comes to missing certain foods. Veganism isn’t for everyone though. There are a lot of situations where it can exasperate symptoms of mental illness. I encourage people to make sure they are being self-aware when embarking on this lifestyle change and doing it gradually. But for now, veganism has made me feel like part of something positive.

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After my previous favorite person (FP) left me, I was determined I would never have another one again. How could I? I got too obsessed, things got too intense and it hurt like hell when she left. I was sure I could never have another friend I was that close to. I have other friends, many of them close, but things were healthier. I didn’t rely on them the way I did with my FP, and that was a good thing. I was happy not to have that intense bond with anyone else. I thought I had learned something and that I could never get that close to anyone again. Yet here I am telling you I’ve found a new FP…

When I met Rachel (not her real name), I was her mentor at work. She had started working with me in January. At first, I noticed nothing remarkable about her. We didn’t have much to say to each other. There was nothing to suggest to me that she might become a new FP. I had seen on her Facebook profile that she was interested in men and women (I’m gay) but we didn’t really have occasion to talk about that and I kind of forgot about it. But then another friend set up a writing group at work. We’re both writers and so we started to go to that together every week. After a couple of weeks, I wrote a story about a girl who fancied another girl and Rachel and I ended up in a discussion about women we were attracted to. It was then I realized that 1) we had the same taste in women and 2) she was a good listener and easy to talk to.

Soon after, I realized I was having the same feelings about her that I had about my last FP. I’d been close to other people in the meantime, but I never felt any of them could become my FP. I honestly thought it wouldn’t happen again. And that it couldn’t happen again.

It scared me when I realized it was happening again. I started to think I should stop being friends with her entirely. Because what if the same thing happened and she left me too? What if I got too obsessed and drove her away? What if I destroyed her like I feel I did with my last one?

In hindsight, it was optimistic to think I would never get this with anyone else. I am in therapy, but I still have borderline personality disorder (BPD). People with BPD can be prone to these sort of friendships. It’s part of my BPD. We have relationship difficulties. That’s what BPD is about. Often we either avoid relationships entirely or we get too needy. We often don’t have enough self-worth and so we measure our worth with our relationships. If people like us, we are worth something. If relationships break down, it proves what we have known all along — that we are worthless and that no one likes us and everyone will abandon us. So we cling to people, terrified of them leaving. We get dependent on them. We expect too much.

But there are positives to this kind of friendship. I didn’t want to have to back away just because of my borderline personality disorder. I just have to try and learn lessons from how the last one played out. Make this one a positive thing rather than a negative thing. I don’t think I can help the fact I am prone to having FPs. But what I can help is the way I act with this FP.

It’s already been hard. I spent several days thinking she was getting sick of me as she didn’t reply to me as quickly as usual. She was busy at work, but I interpreted it as my fault. She was drifting away. I had lost her already. I got angry at myself and very negative. I did bad things. I scared myself with the fact that it was obvious I was getting dependent. She could tell there was something up, and she asked if I was OK. As soon as we talked about it and she reassured me she wasn’t mad at me and didn’t want to stop being my friend, I felt on top of the world. And that scared me too. The fact that as soon as she was particularly nice to me, I was suddenly fine. It was a bad sign.

But I have to learn from my mistakes. The alternative would be to say, “Sorry, I can’t do this.” And then I would be losing the positive things about the friendship. It’s nice to have a close friend who I can talk to about almost anything and who I can share good things with.

Rachel read my article about what happened with my last FP and is as determined as I am to make sure that doesn’t happen with us. She told me I could never drive her away, but I know no one can promise that. We just both have to do our best to prevent it.

So, what have I learned? Firstly, there has to be more to our friendship than my illnesses. I’m trying hard to make sure she knows more about me than just that, as there is a lot more to me. Secondly, we need to have an equal friendship. I want to know things about her, it can’t all be about me as it was last time. Thirdly, it’s OK to have time apart. I’ve just been on holiday for five days and didn’t text her once. Because I needed to prove to myself I could do that. It’s also OK for her to have days when she doesn’t text me. It doesn’t mean she’s sick of me. It’s hard to remember that in the heat of the moment when my emotions are going haywire, but I need to try. And the most important one — only I can fix myself. No one else can do that for me. I always used to think my FP was going to magically rescue me and solve all my problems.

Rachel will be reading this, so maybe she would like to know how she can help me with this. I would say, let me know if I seem to be getting too obsessive or dependent or am talking about nothing but my illnesses. Make sure we have days when we don’t text or email each other. Talk about yourself and don’t let me always dominate conversations. Understand that I will panic at times and think you’re going to leave me. I am trying to be better, but my BPD symptoms are not going to disappear overnight. Paranoia is part of my BPD.

It means a lot to me that Rachel wants to be friends with me and is willing to work with me to make sure the friendship works. I think it’s OK to have a favorite person as long as it doesn’t become unhealthy, like it did with my last one.

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