So, Maybe Borderline Personality Disorder Makes Me a Complete Dumpster Fire
In 1987, “Fatal Attraction” hit theaters and the world was privy to a unique thriller — one that cast a singular “crazy-shaped” shadow on women with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Other media representations were equally disturbing, personifying those with the disorder as hardcore clingers with stalker-level obsessions. So, naturally, when I looked into it and realized how perfectly I fit the criteria, I was nervous. More than nervous, I was … ashamed. It was a more terrifying label than having depression. Depressives are common, digestible. Relatable, even. Women with BPD were vilified and it isn’t exactly something you want on your resume. “Hi, my name is Amanda! I have a personality disorder that causes me to imagine abandonment regardless of treatment! Nice to meet you!”
Not exactly cute, right? Maybe in the movies, where the BPD girl is named after a fruit and has bright pink hair and says ironic, intelligent things in record stores. Where things are romanticized and kept at a safe distance from our real lives.
I went to my newly assigned psychiatrist and had a session where we looked at my past records, my relationship history, my medical history, my current medications, etc. Then, we had a couple of sessions afterward to get more acquainted and rule out other factors for my symptoms (environment, past traumas, childhood, etc.). After all that, I was formally diagnosed with BPD and put on additional medications to help take the edge off that proverbial swinging ax inching closer to my neck. While the mood stabilizers helped a ton in conjunction with my regular meds, medication is just another tool in the toolbox. The illness itself takes work to combat.
Look, I am not going to pretend I have this figured out and that I don’t have negative coping mechanisms. I do and I am working on it, and I have loved ones who walk me through my worst moments and good doctors. My romantic relationships are all over the place, bouncing between extreme idealization and feelings of abandonment. The occasional Saturday night, I find myself at the bottom of a bottle in the bathtub, crying over God-knows-what. My partner has learned to keep me away from sharp objects and closed bathroom doors, and my friends have learned to probe my dark sense of humor for quiet cries for help. By a lot of people’s standards, I am a complete dumpster fire.
But guess what?
I have a good, salaried job I have held down for several years, where I am respected and have been awarded Employee of the Month as well as other positive accolades. I have relationships I have fostered, and I am a good friend. I have no arrests, no drug addictions, not even a driving ticket. I do my taxes, I don’t drown in credit card debt, and I eat my vegetables. Sometimes.
So, maybe I am a dumpster fire to some who aren’t looking too deeply. But I think I am doing pretty well considering the monsters under my bed that I fight off every day. Maybe I check off a lot of those stereotypical boxes of “the crazy girl” and some people might label me a train wreck.
But, let’s look at this with some compassion and understanding. I have dealt with mental illness since I was a child. My social anxiety was so bad in elementary school, I once peed myself instead of telling the teacher I had to go because I struggle so much. I was in sixth grade — a little old for that. In junior high, my depression kicked into high gear and I started to hurt myself. In high school, I struggled with my self-image and my sexuality so much that I dove headfirst into school and religion, determined to be the perfect little Christian girl. In college, I was stalked and assaulted and eventually had a mental breakdown and was removed from my classes for a period after my professors noticed I was hurting myself.
My mom used to say, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” Well, Life is a bitch, a big one. She has very little mercy for us small, sad people. But, that doesn’t mean we don’t fight for our best selves, love each other without condition or practice self-care with vigilance. We do. And we use our pain to tell our stories, to provide a little comfort to those around us who may suffer in silence.
I have borderline personality disorder, which makes my mind and my heart a little chaotic. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes I hate it, but in the end, I am who I am and my suffering has created me. When Patton Oswalt’s wife died, very suddenly in her sleep, he took a long break from working. When he came back to comedy, he shared something with us all that hasn’t left my mind since:
“I do have a ‘belief system,’ but that belief system comes down to what [my wife] always said, which is, ‘It’s chaos. Be kind.’ If you want to talk to God — or whatever you think God is — go be nice to another person. That is the best way to communicate with the infinite. Be nice to a family member, a loved one, go spread that around. That’s sort of what I was doing, or started to do once I could move. You’re being a superhero when you’re out doing that. You don’t know how it will be spread around, but you know that you’re literally out there doing good.”
This life is hard, man. Some of us get flogged a little harder than others and hit with all the scary labels. I intend to wear mine with pride, armed against ignorance with understanding and a good sense of humor. You got a scary label, too? Then here’s another good quote for you — one for the books (pun intended):
“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you.”
I am a clinically depressed, anxiety-ridden, BPD basket case of a woman. It’s my superpower, and I am proud of how strong I have become in the midst of all that chaos. You should be too.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash