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Why BPD Makes Me Struggle to Recognize My Own Reflection

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Can I ask you a personal question?

When you look in the mirror, do you love yourself? Do you get up in the morning, walk into the bathroom, and just feel OK with your reflection? Good even? Can you even get right up close and look at yourself — like, really look at yourself — deep down into the eyes staring back at you from the bathroom mirror? I try not to.

Let me explain. I try not to look right at my own eyes because when I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize myself. The eyes are definitely familiar — that sad, warm brown — but the girl in the mirror that they belong to seems to be a separate entity. An alien out of this world, sent to observe mankind. She might pass as somewhat “normal” on the outside, but inside she’s just a poor imitation of a real human being. I can get a bit delusional so I try not to dwell in this mindset. It’s an awful feeling to look in the mirror and see eyes that don’t feel like my own.

Do you ever get that feeling? I hope you don’t.

Maybe it’s because, with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I have no idea who I am or what I want to be, and a huge part of it manifests in what I look like. Growing up, getting dressed filled me with anxiety. It was like I couldn’t answer the question of what people wore day-to-day. In my head, it was like: “well, this outfit is for this kind of school day where this good thing might happen, and this outfit is for that kind of school day where that bad thing might happen,” and how could I possibly know what was going to happen that day? So, how could I possibly know what to wear? For someone who spends most of their life in sweatpants now, I used to focus a lot of my anxieties on my clothing. I think that is why, to this day, I have this weird quirk of remembering what I wore on any given day in my life.

I change my hair constantly too. Like everything else, once I get a taste of something, I’ll jump in full-force and never look back. I started dying and cutting my hair as soon as my mom deemed me old enough. As a child, my hair was always limp and blonde and I hated it. I wanted bright bouncy fire-engine-red hair, like Ariel, and so the color changes came first. Not quite brave enough for the red I craved, I tried different shades of brown, then a “wash-out” purple that was supposed to only last a week, but it didn’t wash out and just faded to the worst gray/brown combination you could imagine — the worst color for a girl of 12 years old. I got picked on in school by the other girls as I washed it constantly and frantically at home at night, and eventually I got it back to a semi-blond. And then I dyed it again.

I don’t learn lessons easily.

I cut it short. Then I cut it shorter. Then I dyed it dark. Then I dyed it darker. I wanted to look like a different person, and maybe that way I could be another person. I went through a 14-year period of constantly cutting, growing, dying, bleaching, spiking and faux-hawking my hair; you name it, I’ve tried it.

I guess I thought what I looked like was who I was and I really don’t know why. I’m big on not judging others by their appearances. I still judge them, I won’t lie to you, but I judge them on their eyes. It’s a fun talent, actually; I can tell within a few seconds what type of person someone is by looking in their eyes. It’s a real mindfuck. I once read an entire table of strangers at once and had them concede to me I was right. People will tell you anything you want to know through their eyes, if you know where to look. I can’t read myself though. When I looked into the mirror at my own eyes, I had no idea who the fuck I was seeing.

For the vast majority of my life, from early adolescence to about 25, when I saw my reflection it was like I wasn’t able to cognitively recognize myself. Over the years, I’ve had all different types of hair color and length, and I’ve gained and lost so much weight. If you look at pictures of me at any point in my life, I always look like a different person. I mean, I changed myself every month for years. It was fun, but it was a lot of upkeep. Not to mention expensive as hell.

So when I look at myself, it was like that wasn’t really my hair; that wasn’t really my body; that just wasn’t really me. It was always just that same broken girl with eyes with such a look of sadness to them, and more than that… there was disappointment and confusion and abandonment. What I saw out of was different than what I saw reflected back and it was almost disturbing if I looked too long, so I just did my hair and makeup without looking myself directly in the eyes too much.

That’s not how it is anymore. Those aren’t the eyes I still see. They’ve changed. I can look in the mirror and smile at what I see, and I mean genuinely smile. Maybe it’s because I stopped dying my hair. I’ve let it grow out long and now it tumbles down my back in a messy cape of almost-waves. I feel taller for some reason, maybe because my posture is better. For so many years I felt like this short, pale, “crazy” mess of a person and I had no idea where I belonged in this world. I don’t feel like that anymore, or at least not all the time. Sometimes, I can feel like this tall exotic extraterrestrial women, who can be beautiful even, though still pale and crazy.

I may not know who I am but I have an idea of who I want to be and from time to time, I can actually catch glimpses of her. I look in the mirror and the girl who looks back is me. My reflection looks like the person I imagine myself to be in my head. It’s actually me.

And it feels fucking awesome.

Image via contributor.

Originally published: April 18, 2019
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