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The Bright Side of Borderline Personality Disorder

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD). What words come to mind after hearing such a diagnosis? Manipulative. Attention-seeking. That “crazy ex” of so-and-so who threatened to burn his house down. If you have it or love someone who does, you’re familiar with the fragile self-esteem, self-destructive tendencies and rollercoaster of emotions that can make daily life struggling with BPD a tough ride.

I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder when I was 18. I’ve had 10 years to get to know my demons. Though I have a lot of fighting left to do, this mental health battle has shown me that even during an emotional storm that some people might run from, I can always find a little bit of sunshine.

Where there is a fear of abandonment, there is fierce loyalty.

This one hits home. I’m terrified of being left. Letting down my emotional walls leaves me open to agonizing pain. When I love someone, I love them intensely and it’s a driving motivation in life to make my loved ones happy. I’m the person who likes to surprise her housemates with their favorite snacks and I put a lot of thought into holiday presents. Because it’s rare to find someone who can cope with my unsteady emotions, when someone sticks around, I’ll stick around as well. I’m a stubbornly loyal friend.

Where there are intense relationships, there are interesting lessons.

It’s common for borderline patients to have a “favorite person,” or FP, who takes up a lot of their time and attention. In my case, it’s not usually a romantic thing. I’ll meet a person and become fascinated with them for seemingly no reason. The FP will wield a lot of influence over my life and usually, they’ll never know it. This can leave me vulnerable to being taken advantage of, but my favorites can also encourage me to be better. Because of the drive to impress my FP’s, I have pursued my creative hobbies more intensely (which once led to a very successful art show), I have developed healthier eating habits and I’ve dabbled in a handful of languages. (So I may never use Italian, Dutch, or Afrikaans in my daily life, but learning “unnecessary” things is still learning, am I right?)

Where there is paranoia, there is preparedness.

I worry about everything. For example, a FP mentioned having to have surgery on his wisdom teeth. Five minutes later, I was buried in stories about people who have died of heart attacks during the procedure. It’s tiring being scared all the time, but even that has taught me something. At my first job interview, the manager asked me how I can turn one of my weaknesses into a strength. I told her I was a worrier, but it has taught me to be observant. My coworkers are impressed by my ability to remember inventory in our store. Because I worry about getting lost, I memorize directions quite well. I research, research, research: how to blend in while visiting a sketchy neighborhood, where to find help if you suddenly become homeless, how to adjust travel plans if the bus is late. What information doesn’t help me, can help others.

Where there is impulsiveness, there is the ability to adapt.

Sometimes I think my money has wings. I’ve lost track of the number of addresses I’ve had. When a person lives out of a suitcase, they learn to get by with little. I have no desire for an ostentatious mansion or a fancy sports car. Give me my favorite foods and a cat to snuggle and I’ll be content sleeping in a trailer on a futon mattress. Since spending money is a weakness of mine, I’ve learned to be frugal in order to counteract my impulses. Need to know the cheapest grocery store to buy fruit, which bus will get you to the next suburb the fastest, or which thrift shop has the best selection of designer jeans? I’m your girl.

Where there is unstable self-identity, there is experimentation and adventure.

I don’t know who I am yet. I don’t know what I want to be when I “grow up.” I’ve wanted to be a lot of things and be in a lot of places. Though staying at home isn’t bad, I believe the four universities I’ve attended and the five states I’ve lived in have taught me a lot about life. I’ve taken classes in social work, news broadcasting, world religions and criminology. I’ve met tongue-speaking Pentecostals, determined atheists, traditionally-minded southerners, lifelong welfare recipients and wealthy suburbanites in the search for “home.” And I’ve learned I look pretty cool with blue hair.

It’s been an intense life full of curiosity, uncertainty, fear, excitement, surprise, love, hope and heartbreak. Sometimes it’s hard to wake up in the morning and just exist, but I want so badly to know what’s next.

I don’t know what your borderline journey will look like.

But I know that your life, no matter how dark, still has beauty in it. You have a purpose. Your existence has meaning. And you can bring brightness into the world, even when there’s a hurricane in your head.

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 Getty image via Kosamtu

Originally published: November 28, 2017
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