Finding the Positive Things My Borderline Personality Disorder Has Given Me
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is not a diagnosis anyone wants to receive. In a world where being different makes you an easy target for ridicule and judgment, it would be nice to be able to feel as normal as possible. But I would truly like to think, like most things in life, there can be a silver lining even with BPD. Keeping in mind that people with BPD fall on a spectrum of the disorder, these are some of the symptoms of my disorder that I’m learning to shift into more positive, unique aspects of myself.
1. People with BPD have low self-worth and perpetually feel the need to apologize.
For me, this is something I’ve experienced my whole life. I can’t even recount the number of times throughout my life I needlessly feel like I should apologize for anything and everything. My sophomore year of high school, I accidentally bumped into a girl at lunch and made her spill her coffee. I felt horrible about it and I apologized to her a dozen times. She smiled and insisted it was OK. For weeks, every time I saw her, I’d apologize. It wasn’t an empty apology… it was the fact I genuinely felt awful about what I had done. I would think to myself that I’m already a worthless person, so any form of messing up would just make me less worthy of simply existing.
While having low self-worth isn’t a positive or unique aspect of one’s self, it has definitely allowed me to empathize and be able to be someone who can connect with others who feel or have felt that same way. I understand the loneliness of feeling like you’re not good enough for simply existing. It’s a horrible feeling. But I also know that your feelings are indicators, not dictators. You can’t always control what you feel, but you can control if you let them control you. You don’t have to feel that way, but having felt the self-hatred for so long allows me to connect with people and empathize with those who need that connection the most. It’s something that makes me unique and valuable to society. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work on gaining self-worth or work on realizing you shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for simply existing… but you can use the exposure you’ve had to those feelings and thoughts to relate to others who probably feel very alone.
2. People with BPD feel things more deeply.
Yes. We. Do.
I don’t genuinely love many people. It’s nothing BPD related; it’s more that I don’t feel comfortable around most people, so getting close enough to feel like you can say you really love someone doesn’t happen often. I can count on one hand the people I’ve said “I love you” to: my brother, my two best friends, my dad when I was a child, and my cat (yup, I love that little fur ball). That’s it. Love is the emotion I feel the most deeply. It may be because it’s not a common feeling I have, but BPD intensifies that love I have for those people. It’s not a gentle love; it’s loving them with the fire from a thousand suns and being willing to do anything for them. I’m not saying that loving people is inherently bad, but there is such a thing as smothering people with love. Feeling like you need to constantly tell your friends or family how much you love them, with such intensity, can be too much.
However, there is good that can come with this symptom of my disorder. Loving people, truly loving them, isn’t something everyone can do. There are people who are too afraid to love wholeheartedly and have their hearts exposed and vulnerable. A broken heart is one of the most painful things to endure, and I have had my heart broken a few times by people who should have never hurt me, but I’ve never stopped loving. With BPD, I love people deeply, regardless of the possibility of heartbreak, and I think that’s one of the bravest things people can do — stay so soft in a harsh world.
3. People with BPD lack a sense of self.
I once heard that people with BPD are like a sponge; they soak up what they’re exposed to.
When you don’t know who you are and you see good in other people, you want that too. Not having a good sense of self can cause a lot of identity problems. Growing up and not knowing who you are or where you fit in, or if you’re even worth the space you’re taking up, is heartbreaking and frustrating and isolating. It can also be a dangerous game of being easily influenced by bad people. If you think you’re worthless then you don’t expect to be treated well, so you’ll befriend anyone no matter how they treat you. I had a knack for making bad friends growing up. I would want to stay friends with girls who were nothing but mean to me because I assumed that if they didn’t really like me, then who would? And bad friends beat no friends, right? But as an adult, after working on interpersonal skills with both a therapist and good friends, I have a higher level of self-worth.
Having had those bad friends throughout my life — assuming that’s how all friendships were — I now know good people almost immediately when I see them. It opened my eyes to the genuine hearts of people. I’m surrounded by people who set the bar high for the type of person I should strive to be. In some ways, I feel like I get to create myself from scratch. Feeling like I was a nobody for so long, now I can be whatever and whoever I want. I don’t have to go back and take the time to undo the person I was; I can just start becoming who I want to be now.
BPD can be a lonely, scary, hopeless-feeling disorder, but it’s important to remember that it’s simply a diagnosis. It doesn’t define who you are. Sure, it can be a part of what shapes you into who you are, just like any other trait. But like anything in life, there are ways to find the positives in any situation. It’s not always easy, and having a good, loving support system makes a world of difference, whether that’s friends, family, a therapist, this community at The Mighty, Tumblr… there are so many ways to get support from others who can help you. It’s truly possible to find silver linings in most situations. You have low self-worth and feel like you should apologize 24/7? Then you know the feeling of self-hate and inner turmoil that comes with it. Use that exposure you endured to reach out to other people who may feel like they’re the only one who feels that way. You feel things too deeply? Feel things, it’s important, especially positive feelings like love and care. Love with your whole heart, despite the possible heartbreak. It shows bravery and a genuine heart. You feel like you’re no one or don’t know who you are? Create yourself to be whoever you want to be. Surround yourself with good people.
I know it’s all much easier said than done, and there will be days where BPD is just harsh and the silver linings or positives feel 100 miles away… but it’s always there. Fight for the good in any and every situation you find yourself in, no matter the circumstances.
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