How Childhood Abuse Impacted 8 Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder I Experience Now
If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
My childhood abuse and trauma contributed to my struggle with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Being impulsive. Having mood swings. Depression. Emptiness. Self-hate. Fear of abandonment. Hallucinations. Feeling suicidal and self-harming.
These things are often part of what it means to live with BPD — something I was diagnosed with almost a year ago. I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia and MDD (major depressive disorder) but after my first — and most certainly not my last — hospitalization, I was told that in fact I did not have schizophrenia, but I had BPD. Borderline personality disorder often develops after someone survives a traumatic childhood. So I will touch on the aspects of BPD and how I, and my therapist, think they came from my childhood.
Growing up I had an emotionally abusive father. He has now apologized for the way he acted and the way he treated me and we have a good relationship now, but that does not change the past and how it affected me. My father would yell at me and my sister about most things. Laundry, the dishes, whether the house was clean, schoolwork. If we didn’t give him the answer he wanted to hear, in the time he wanted, no matter if it was not true, we would get yelled and and told how stupid we were or that we were liars. This, of course, trained us to know the kind of answers my father liked as well as to act fast so we would avoid the wrath. This still affects me. I act fast and impulsively to avoid any kind of negativity. I am beginning to realize this is not always best and the impulse could lead to stronger negative consequences.
2. Mood swings
I remember going to Joe’s Crabshack when I was a teen and seeing a shirt that said, “I’m crabby” and my dad pointed at it and said he was going to buy it for me. I was known to be the “moody” and “sensitive” child. The one who would run away and cry on her pillow when anyone said anything about me. I was the “drama queen.” These names stuck and so did the behaviors — they followed me right into adulthood.
Now depression can be biological. My grandmother had depression and my father did as well. I also have had childhood sexual abuse that has contributed to my depression, but we will talk about that shortly. After you have suffered so much, of course you will feel depressed! Depression will also cause you to feel numb to emotions. After all of the abuse, you have to learn to shut your emotions off so that way you just don’t feel any pain anymore.
Here is where things get really bad. I was sexually abused by two cousins when I was 8. I was held down and while the abuse was happening, I was told I was worthless, fat, ugly, unlovable and so many other vile and disgusting things. This abuse causes me to think this way now. When something so traumatic happens paired with hearing those words, they resonate with you. You believe it. Especially after telling yourself that for 15 years, it sticks and makes you feel worthless and empty.
Along with the sexual abuse, I was told by my father that he wished I would get fat. Again, he has apologized for the things he’s said and I am not writing this to call him out. I suffered from an eating disorder when I moved out of my father’s house after him and my mom separated. I would starve myself and when I did eat, I would purge. I gained back a lot of weight when I was put on psychotropic medications and all I can think about now is how fat I am and how my dad got his wish.
6. Fear of abandonment
My mother talks about when I was a child I would always cry when she would show any amount of affection to my sister. That I would cry and scream that she didn’t love me anymore and that she wanted to get rid of me. This now has an effect on my marriage. I fear that my husband will leave me and decide to be with someone else and that I will get left in the dust. I fear that everyone I love will eventually leave me and I will have no one.
After all of the untreated stress I’ve had in my life (because I didn’t start therapy until I was an adult), I developed hallucinations. It started by me seeing blood instead of water when I washed my hands. Shadows, voices, figures of people attacking me. It got really violent really fast. After trying a few different antipsychotics with horrendous side effects, I have gotten to a point where they are no longer malicious. They are still there just a little more under control.
8. Suicidal thoughts and self-harm
While going through all the emotional abuse as a child, suicide crossed my mind more than once a day. I began to self-harm to release the pain I was feeling at the age of 12. These thoughts and actions followed me into adulthood and have caused me to be hospitalized many times. I am in an intensive outpatient program right now but I find the thoughts are there without any trigger I can see. They just linger. This is one of the most difficult things to deal with.
These are the things I have come to see contributed to my current struggle with BPD. I know I have had a difficult life and that these negative events have also caused me to be the emotional, artistic, hardworking, hard-loving, dedicated and loyal person I am today. I wish I had an easier life but if I didn’t have these trials, I wouldn’t be imperfectly me.
Getty Images photo via tulaydemircan