10 Things People Say to Me as a Man With Borderline Personality Disorder
The last 12 months have been a whirlwind for me. I’ve gone from being diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety to being told I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I have spent four weeks in a mental health institution, I have made multiple attempts on my life in 18 months and I was in therapy until November 2017. Now I’m waiting to start DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) following yet another psychiatric assessment!
I want people to understand a few things about me, my BPD and some of things people say about it. As a 25-year-old male, a lifelong musician, with a full-time job and four children, there are certain things I get “labeled” with that I don’t think are fair. We men often find it hard to speak about things we perceive make us “weak” and mental health has such a stigma that it is “easier” to struggle in silence than ask for any kind of help.
Here are 10 things people say to me as a man with BPD:
1. “You’re so aggressive.”
Without realizing it sometimes, I can become an emotional wreck. When I get irritated or anxious, I come across as aggressive. A previous contributor, Patrick Flynn, summed it up nicely when he said, “For me, there is always a feeling of overwhelming anger, fear or distress.” When I get like this, I panic and I start to lose my grip on what is around me. I have no emotional intelligence and my fight-or-flight response is screaming at me to fight whatever this perceived threat might be. I can curb this, I have started to curb this and I will continue to curb this. I hate myself all over again when I experience this and I don’t need anyone else to tell me that. The one thing I can say those people are right about, is that I do sometimes experience inappropriate reactions to stress.
2. “It’s not a disorder — it’s just your personality.”
Everything connected with mental health is on a spectrum. For me, I have a reckless, self-destructive spending streak that lives on that scale as a strong eight. When I feel depressed, I buy stupid things, from cars to guitars, which negatively impact my finances. I always view myself negatively afterwards. I have hatred for myself that I can’t convey to people effectively. I don’t use it as an excuse. I am trying to put myself in an environment where I feel safe so this doesn’t become my first thought. The last thing I need is to hear someone rejecting my illness with such an emotional put-down. It hits me hard.
3. “It’s all about you.”
This is my biggest — and most hurtful — thing to grapple with. BPD can makes you question everything and how it is going to impact you. When someone doesn’t text me back, I think it means they don’t have time for me. When someone changes their profile picture on social media, it feels like they’re trying to get at me. The list can seem endless. Sometimes I have to look at these things at face value, understanding it could literally be that someone is busy or they like that particular photo. People say “you never ask about anyone else or how they are.” Well, the truth is, when you’re depressed and exhausted, you just don’t want to speak with anyone because you’re concentrating on keeping your head above the water. The reality is you’re so worried about other people that you come across as worrying too much about yourself. I lost too much in my life because of this. I know that!
4. “You’re a coward and you won’t face up to your actions.”
I have tried to end my life on three separate occasions. Each time I was found and taken back to a safe place, but I was faced with two things that made me feel even more horrible than I was already feeling. When people said: “it’s the cowards way out – what about your four children?” and “that’s what you do. You run away when everything goes against you.” When you’re feeling suicidal there is no other way and you aren’t thinking about the consequences. You see self-destruction and the ending of your pain. At those points, I just wanted it to stop and I believed those I loved would better off without me, which is a common thought for those with BPD. The “splitting” thought process I go through means there is no in-between — I’m either here or I’m not.
5. “You’re smothering me.”
As someone with BPD, I have immense fear of abandonment. Everyone I get close to, I am convinced will leave, or that I am not good enough for them. Yes, I will hold on to them tightly because I love hard, yet I will also hit out hard because of the BPD and I understand that is difficult to live with. I beat myself up because I can’t give them what I think they deserve and I don’t match the expectations they may or may not have. You cannot question my love for someone or my loyalty — people describe it as my best and worst quality. But the smothering is not intentional. I promise. I have an irrational fear of losing those closest to me.
6. “You spend too much time trying to please everyone.”
Yes I do. The cold, hard, truth of the matter is I have a pathological need to please everyone and, ultimately, this means I don’t look after myself and I piss off everyone around me because I’m spread too thin. I also enjoy the acceptance this brings at the start — my need for reassurance means if someone is responsive and enjoying what I can offer, then I get a high from that. But what it also does — which is destructive — is I lie to please. If my son does something my dad won’t like, I’ll try and say something to please my dad. If I get advice from a friend but another friend doesn’t like it, I’ll do my best to create a good impression of the former. I hate myself enough, I don’t need other people to do it as well.
7. “Why do you need so much reassurance?”
Because I do not like looking at myself. I need to know that someone loves me. I need to know I’m doing a good job. Why? Because I question everything. When someone doesn’t understand — or want to understand — the battle you’re facing, they can be quite callous with their comments. But if they love you or they want you in their lives, they’ll want to fight with you. When I withdraw because I haven’t been reassured, I won’t want to talk and I may lash out, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want love or care. And please, don’t tell me one thing and say something else to someone else. Because it’ll set me off all over again and I won’t trust for a while.
8. “How many personalities do you have?”
I have one, and this is hurtful to people who have dissociative identity disorder (DID). BPD doesn’t mean I have multiple personalities. It just means I’m a little bit more “exotic” than other people. I read the term “emotionally dyslexic” and I think that sums it up quite nicely, because when I don’t understand something, I get angry or upset and when I am not able to articulate myself properly I do much the same. It sends me into a spiral and my depressive episodes can last anything from three hours to three days. The word “personality” doesn’t insinuate more than one in this instance, so please do not assume that is what it is.
9. “You’re such a sex pest — is that all you think about!?”
You may laugh. But hypersexuality is a real thing for a lot of people with BPD. For me, as a man, it’s about the whole reassurance thing again because if someone I love is being intimate with me, then I’m wanted, I’m loved and I’m needed. But when I feel like I’m letting that person down or I’m not meeting the irrational expectations I think they have, the only way for me to gain that reassurance and express love is to show it in the bedroom. I once registered on two different sex sites because I panicked in my relationship — nothing ever came of these and I never considered being unfaithful, but the panic and need for reassurance was constant. I was alone at night after working all day and the loneliness also contributed.
10. “You’ve made me feel like this. You did this to me.”
I have spent the last 12 months trying to get a diagnosis. When trying to recover you have to face all those demons and all the things that have caused you embarrassment and rage in the past — that is hard. I am sorry for making life difficult for people. I am sorry for pushing people away. I am sorry for how I have carried my life until this point. I have to — and I will — get better. But it’s not a simple as that because I will fall off the wagon, especially when I did not have the right diagnosis or medication! In spite of all of this, I have never stopped loving, caring or learning. I always try to please people because I like making them smile. I never meant to hurt anyone and I never wanted to fight this battle, but I have to. I absolutely have to.
BPD is daunting. People will leave. But people always want to help and they are the people you need. So who are yours? Can you see them through the darkness? Find those faint beacons of hope and use them, use them as part of your healing process.