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Why I Don’t Want to Change My Borderline Personality Disorder

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

I sit across from my psychiatrist and he talks at me.

This is my fifth visit with this psychiatrist, and I still doubt he knows how to pronounce my first name, never mind knowing much about my illness. I nod as he tells me I’m on too many medications, as he tells me I need to be re-hospitalized. I feel a lump in my throat form as I wonder to myself why, after all the hospital visits, counseling sessions, and medication changes, why can’t I just be me? I feel happy, content, yet I still have this diagnosis on my back that people want to stare at, pick apart, analyze.

When I ask my psychiatrist for my diagnosis, he doesn’t look at me. He flips through his pages of notes and reads directly from the page: “generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), with major depressive disorder (MDD) and borderline personality traits.” He asks me if I know what this means: borderline personality traits. I nod; do I ever, I think to myself. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) are words that have been used in ways to directly humiliate me and shame me for years. I have had my own father scream at me to “cut the borderline sh*t,” when I was already in tears. I know what it means. It may be one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses, and one that healthcare professionals seem to almost always demonize.

My psychiatrist proceeds to tell me about what he perceives to be my symptoms; that I “sometimes get an urge to harm myself,” that I have “intense emotions” and a “fear of abandonment.” All of these things are true, but they are not who I am. I feel a lump in my throat form, as all my successes and achievements feel as if they are turned into nothing. I take my prescription slip, leave his office, and cry all the way home, wondering why nothing I do ever seems to be good enough. I wish I could tell him that BPD runs through my veins, sometimes like a poison, sometimes like lightning. It cannot be ignored. It will knock on every door, ring every bell, squeeze through any opening it can until I let it through. My body is covered in scars, yes, but my scars are covered in tattoos. Beautiful illustrations of nature, all done by artists whom I know and trust. Each scar on my body is a mark of when symptoms of BPD became too much for me.

“Intense emotions” is what my psychiatrist calls it. Yes, I suppose that is true. My emotions are intense in the way a house fire is, a plane crash, an earthquake. They are life-changing, earth-shattering, and most of all painful. I cannot experience “kind of happy, kind of sad, kind of bored, kind of angry.” My emotions have one level, and the level is catastrophic. The smallest events can trigger the hugest feelings, and those huge feelings demand huge reactions. So when emotions became too painful, I turned to physical pain (self-harm). I refuse to feel ashamed of that any longer. I instead have decided to be proud of myself for being alive, for living through so much pain, for doing whatever I needed to do to keep going. I am still here, and I have not self-harmed in months, and that alone is an achievement for me. I have learned not to fight these intense emotions; I have decided to spend time with them, to learn from them, to grow from them.

As I continue to learn about myself and my illness, whether those two things are separate or not, I question why there is so much pressure for people to be seen as “normal.” Why is illness something we so badly want to cure? In counseling, I did something called dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and I personally found it absolutely degrading. Despite it being a life-changing treatment for many people, it created more problems for me than it did solutions. The idea of trying to change my thinking patterns was completely absurd to me; I love myself, I love who I am, I just don’t want to be in pain or to be struggling. I have no interest in trying to fix something I don’t believe is broken. My disorder has made me who I am.

I now take a symptom-management approach, rather than a disorder-cure approach. I take one medication to treat my depression, one medication to treat my anxiety, and one medication to treat my mood swings. I use medical marijuana to calm my panic attacks and to sleep, because the idea of putting more medication into my body when there is a natural alternative that works for me is something I am personally not willing to do.

Treatments in the past have tried to change me, and I am done trying to change who I am. “Intense emotions” also means the strongest love you could ever imagine, the most genuine joy you could ever feel. It means electrifying excitement; it means never dying passion. Is that not a superpower? Why must I be ashamed of this illness that is in me, when it so clearly makes me who I am?

A big part of BPD is struggling with your identity, and DBT — as well as the attitudes of society and those in the healthcare world — made that entire process so incredibly hard for me. For the longest time, I believed I needed to change my thinking, to change who I was, and to form an identity. But why can’t I identify with borderline personality disorder? I want to reclaim my identity with borderline personality disorder.

I am quite honestly exhausted of people assuming things about me because of my diagnosis, and also quite honestly exhausted of people assuming they know how my illness feels. This illness affects every part of my life, every single day. I am not something to be scared of, I am not manipulative, I am not out to get you, I am not “crazy.” I am ill, and I deserve to be able to talk openly about my illness without feeling shame for it. I deserve to receive treatment that alleviates my symptoms instead of worsens them. I deserve to take up space and to have problems and to express my emotions how I need to. I am not a criminal, and I am done being treated like one.

BPD is not just an illness but also a super power. It runs through me; some might say it is me. I can be a different person each day, in each situation, depending on which emotion is forcing its way through at that time. But, I am strong, determined, aware and all intensely. I am me, and I am done trying not to be.

BPD on its own has given me an identity. To know there are other people out there who have this illness is to know I belong here. This illness is one of the hardest things I have ever faced, but to know I am not alone makes the world seem so much easier. I hope, if you are reading this and you feel the way I do, you have at the very least realized you are not alone and that I am proud of you for still being here. You deserve to feel proud too.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

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 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Photo by Camila Damásio on Unsplash