When You Doubt Your Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis
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.
10 years after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I’m still not sure if the diagnosis is right, or if I’m simply another one of those lost and troublesome cases that are classified as “borderline” simply because they do not fit into any other category. That is why I deem myself a “borderline challenger.”
“Borderline personality disorder” — I’ve driven myself crazy trying to comprehend what went wrong with the wiring in my brain that forced professionals to slap such a label upon me. In fact, I have become so obsessed with the belief that I have this disorder, so much so, that I’ve read for days and months about its etiology, pathology, molecular basis, genetic analysis and psychopharmacology.
I often sit down at the end of a day, only to wonder how it is possible that someone of my mental capacity and caliber could collapse from a slight stressor and find it nearly impossible to rise to the challenge of simple day-to-day activities.
Manipulative, unstable, impulsive, a burden on the medical and psychiatric personnel — these are just some of the terms I’ve heard used to describe a typical borderline. I’ve known people around me who have asked me if I enjoy gaining attention. To be frank, all I can say is that, in that very moment, I never once thought that I was seeking attention. To me, it all seemed like the world was crumbling before my eyes and I was desperately clinging onto any piece of rubble I could find. I’ve been tremendously lucky to have some solid pieces of rubble – in the form of dedicated doctors and caring friends – who have helped me hold on.
In those moments, my sense of rational thinking disappears. In those moments, the only way that seems plausible is my way. In those moments, life seems too much of a task for me to handle, and the simplest way out is the permanent exit. Fleeting thoughts of jumping off from a height onto “greener pastures” below offered me a sense of freedom that nothing else could or still can. All these may cause me to appear to the casual reader as simply a child waiting for opportunities to throw tantrums. Strangely enough, sometimes that’s what I feel I am – a child’s mind stuck in an adult’s body.
And I don’t think people have any idea of the extent of torture I feel when the only emotions I can embrace are helplessness, fear, dejection and suppression. Stuck in an imaginary realm where whatever I desire is either wrong or not possible to attain, and where I am nothing, if not picture-perfect in every aspect, trained me to believe that life was not meant for the likes of me.
One moment I would be dancing in a field of sunflowers, and the next I had plunged deep into the most abysmal abyss conceivable. One moment I could think and act logically and cleverly, and the next moment I’d be swimming in a sea of despair with my heart pounding, my head throbbing and the world racing before my eyes — that emotional turmoil cannot be described in words.
Yet now, as I sit and ponder these last 10 years, I am beginning to understand myself. But one may ask: if I am truly as I have described myself above, then why does the doubt remain as to whether I am a borderline or not? I must go back to the same question I asked before: am I simply another one of those lost cases that have been classified as borderline simply because they do not fit into any other category? Am I a diagnosed borderline simply because certain actions or thoughts I once yielded pointed to that conclusion? If that is the case, then why do I often feel the way I do?
Thinking about it, there are days when I feel absolutely capable of handling any challenge thrust upon me. And there are days when I find it hard to get up from my bed and do anything except cry or worry. There are days when I can confidently throw away my knives and scalpels, knowing that all I need is a level-headed me. And there are days when I crawl toward those same knives and scalpels, simply because the relief it could endow surpasses all else. The only thing that differs between the two sets of days is my varying belief in myself. On the days when I let my imagination get the better of me, I am instantaneously taken to a different world, where my level-headedness and logical thinking are replaced by sinister creativity and destructive thoughts.
My ever-patient doctor once told me: “All you’re doing is fitting yourself into a diagnosis that you believe is true, but is not.” She was referring to my numerous earlier attempts at self-harm, irrational thinking and all the other symptoms I had read to her that were characteristic of BPD. And she was absolutely right! I was so relieved when I first heard, a mere 10 years ago, that there was something wrong with me that explained my erratic and abnormal behavior, that I conceded to a level of complacency I otherwise might not have succumbed to. I chose not to try to decrease the few symptoms I did have, and instead, did extensive reading on BPD to flood my mind with thoughts about BPD. Symptoms I never had began to appear – anxiety, insomnia, etc. All I had managed to do was push myself deeper and deeper into a state of helplessness; looking to doctors, medication, friends and hospitalization for the security and mental complacency I believed I needed in order to thrive.
To date, whenever anyone asks me what will help me recover faster, all I ever reply is, “a little tough love.” There are times when showering me with love, care and attention may seem to heal me; but there are far more times when enforcing authority and imposing limits will heal me better and faster. While I still feel a terrible sense of rejection if people oppose or refute my thoughts and desires, I am slowly growing to understand that, in the end, the world is for everyone and I’ll cope best once I learn to accept the bad with the good.
So were all those times when I cried, felt anxious, acted impulsively, showed anger and resentment, broke down or inflicted self-harm all done because of “selfishness” or “manipulative” behavior? I don’t think they were. They were done at a time when my mental state was akin to that of a child — hurt and terrified.
Even though I’ve apparently fully convinced myself that I am not a victim of borderline personality disorder, rather, a borderline challenger, there are still moments when I doubt myself. While those moments are temporary, my lack of confidence in being able to return to a more stable life is permanent. I now choose to believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the wiring in my brain. All it needs is a little fine tuning. And if there is hope for me to fully recover, I’m sure there is abundant hope for all borderlines (whether convinced of their diagnosis or not) to improve their lives. I think they just need to rise from their little secure worlds and try.
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.
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Thinkstock photo via AlbinaBougartchev