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The Borderline Personality Disorder Symptom I Didn't Realize I Struggled With

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One symptom of borderline personality disorder (BPD) I dismissed very quickly as having nothing to do with me was depersonalization. I briefly read about it, decided that had never happened to me and moved on. It was irrelevant, one of those symptoms that meant nothing.

Until a friend told me about her own depersonalization episode and I realized all of a sudden that it was far more familiar than I wanted to admit. I finally had an explanation for something that had been plaguing me since I was a child — I had just never known the word for it before. It’s the most unsettling sensation that has ever happened to me.

I can deal with the depression, I can cope with the anxiety. I can even handle the constant changing never-ending swirl of emotions that are always bubbling underneath the surface. What is unbearable though is when you lose your complete sense of self.

It doesn’t happen to me very often luckily, and funnily enough, it usually seems to happen when I am traveling. It comes on suddenly, and I am lost in this strange sense of calm as I lose touch with myself. All my emotions and feelings go away and I feel like an invisible wall comes down between me and the rest of humanity. I watch people converse, smile, laugh, feel and I don’t know what any of that feels like. I can only watch. I’m an observer. I’m not part of the human race.

I think it comes from the trauma I experienced as a child, it’s easier to completely shut down than it is to deal with scary emotions. It happened a lot more then than it does now and I recognize that it used to happen when dealing with traumatic situations.

Everything around me feels less real and more real at the same time. It’s less real in that I can’t connect with any of it, but I become hyperaware of my surroundings. I am aware of how the material of the chair feels against my skin, slightly scratching, how cold the plastic table feels against my fingertips. I watch the people around me, their behaviors and habits. I study them. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time writing these observations down, it was the only way to process what was happening.

I can’t explain how it felt because it’s difficult to explain how it feels to be completely emotionless,
like someone came and stole them all away from under me but I don’t care about it because they took away my ability to care as well.

When I was a teenager and these sensations overwhelmed me, I remember looking at myself in the mirror and slapping myself to see if it hurt. There was no way for me to talk about what was happening, I didn’t want to be labeled as a “crazy person.” When it happens I can play the part of a human very well, I know what to say, I know when to smile and when to laugh. I know how to weave through a crowd and walk with purpose even though half way to my destination I lost all sense of urgency and started to feel like I was just watching my life playing out like a movie instead of being a real person. I don’t ever say, I just wait for it to be over. I wait for my feelings to ebb back in.

I wonder if it comes from thoughts I have struggled with for a long time. I’m not meant to be here. I was never meant to be born in the first place. Those two sentences have plagued me, they have driven me to attempt suicide multiple times.

Even now, I am doing well, maybe the best I have ever been. I am stable. I am happy. But I still have to remind myself I am meant to be here, people are born accidentally all the time. It doesn’t have to planned. I should be grateful for the opportunity to live. It’s short. I need to enjoy it.

I keep telling myself, like a mantra. I am meant to be here. I was born. I exist.

Pexels photo via Matheus Bertelli

Originally published: August 10, 2018
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