The Symptom of My Borderline Personality Disorder That Makes Me Seem 'Self-Absorbed'
Another new year has passed, and on the mental health sites I follow, most of them suggest resolutions for self-care. One of these is to talk about your mental health and your feelings more. I always feel slightly triggered when I see this, because I know that this resolution would actually be dangerous to my mental health.
A lot of people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) find it hard to talk about their feelings, and a resolution like this would be a positive step for those people. Yet for me, talking too much about my mental health lost me two favorite people in 2017.
One of my biggest BPD symptoms is talking too much about my illness. Because when I’m not talking about it, I feel a lot of negative emotions. I feel alone, unloved, worthless. When I’m talking about my mental health, it’s the only time I feel cared for. I need the attention, the sympathy — I crave it. This leads me to go totally over the top and talk about it constantly. And that drives people away. People feel I am relying on them too much and that I don’t care about them. It makes me appear self-absorbed. The trouble is, when people leave me because of this, it makes me hate myself even more and so I need the attention more than ever and want to talk about my illness more to get that. It’s a vicious cycle.
Since I have BPD, I am prone to black and white thinking. In my head, talking too much about my BPD drives people away, so I often decide I have to keep my feelings to myself, hide everything, pretend to everyone that I am OK. It’s one extreme or the other. All or nothing. Tell people everything, or tell them nothing.
I’ve been trying to do that lately, trying to pretend there is nothing wrong with me. But in my most rational moments, I realize the real New Year’s resolution here should be to talk about my mental health in moderation. To accept that I do have a mental condition that means I need to talk to people about how I’m feeling, but to understand that friends can easily be burnt out if this is all I talk about. To do it for the right reasons — to educate people and to talk when I need help but not to do it to get attention and sympathy. To spread awareness of mental health, and BPD in particular, but not to make that my sole topic of conversation. To be honest about my feelings but realize that friends are not therapists and that people do care about me even when the conversation doesn’t revolve around sympathy for my mental illness. To realize some people are more comfortable talking about mental health than others and to not hate myself when I do talk about it.
BPD is a serious condition, and I’m not going to be able to change my need for attention overnight. As long as I’m gradually working towards getting better, that’s good enough for now. And if there are people who can’t accept me and the fact that my BPD does make me do things they don’t understand, then I’m better off without them.
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Unsplash photo via Yeshi Kangrang