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When I Realized My Borderline Personality Disorder Wasn't a 'Life Sentence'

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My life has changed drastically. Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) since I was 17 was like constantly having drenched rags for clothes. They were tattered, weighed me down and had holes from the wear and tear that life threw at me. I never imagined I would be here today, living healthy and as freely. When the psychologist in the ward gave me the diagnosis at that young age, I felt like I was trapped for life. Imprisoned with this gut-wrenching, soul-shattering pain. However, I am not here to go into detail about my past pain. I am here to share my story of hope to someone who may be reading this who has newly been diagnosed, to show you that holding onto that hope can literally save your life.

When I was first diagnosed, I had no idea what to do with these symptoms. Naively, I would swallow the prescription antipsychotics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications my doctors at the time gave me. Swallowing these tablets I was told would “make me feel better.” I believe due to lack of education and stigmatized views at the time, the medications actually had the opposite effect on me. I am in no way invalidating the importance of medications, if it works for your experience, then I completely support that. For me, however, it heightened my chronic suicide ideation. Which didn’t make sense to me as that was the symptom that was impacting my life the most.

What stunned me the most was that it took 11 years for someone to suggest Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to me, which saved my life this year. I was in and out of hospitals, in and out of wards, sent to numerous psychologists and in desperation, even sent to a neurologist. Some things were temporary solutions, other therapies and help were hindering my growth and the ability to move forward. I started to bathe in my illness and it started to consume every aspect of my life. I logically knew what to do, however, due to not being able to regulate my emotions, pinpoint my triggers of trauma and being unable to understand my unhealthy attachments to people who were treating me poorly, I was stuck in a washing machine cycle that would spit me out and leave me saturated. It was only when I wanted to really dry myself off that I was able to get the help I deserved and I needed.

I liken living with a diagnosis of BPD to a walking apology. Having to constantly justify your behaviors to people who constantly misunderstand you is exhausting in itself. It’s like sewing someone’s lips together and you pry about what is going on inside, however, the internal scream is shoveled so far down that you won’t hear it straight away. However, when it gets let out it can become so overbearing and confrontational that the people on the receiving end are shocked when they see the pain pour out. When someone is left untreated, they don’t have the capacity or capability to cope with all the overwhelming thoughts, feelings and emotions. I use to believe I would never be able to live with this feeling. I proved myself wrong. Having borderline personality disorder isn’t a life sentence. And I will tell you why.

I was at one of my biggest all-time lows July last year. I was incredibly isolated, suffering in treatment and living through the break down of a relationship. My self-harm had hit an all new high and stemmed from my severe dissociation phases. Something in me told me to keep going through. Because I thought of the people who were around me, caring for me, loving me and trying to keep me safe when I couldn’t be that person for myself. I could not cope and I didn’t want to be defined by my illness. I didn’t want to die at the hands of my illness.

The darkest time of my life also leads me to the beginning of my recovery journey with BPD. I am now at the six-month mark of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and to say my life is at ease is an understatement. My life is full of joyous occasions. My life is now enriched with love, laughter and future visions. My relationships with people have become a lot more secure, caring and safe. I am able to help people a lot more than I was capable of before. The biggest change I have had is learning the true value of self-love and self-respect. I have the ability to be kind to myself when I am feeling the negative aspects and emotions of everyday life. I am able to bathe in them safely, sitting with them and not running from them. I am able to cope in ways that do not jeopardize my safety. I am able to start having a life worth living. Eleven years ago I did not foresee a future here at all.

So to anyone who has been newly diagnosed, I want to comfort you by saying the vicious cycle can slow down. The vicious cycle can be replaced with “life challenges.” There are people out there who do love you for you, flaws and all. You are not your diagnosis, and if you have anyone around you making you think otherwise, I encourage you to not focus all your energy on those people. Surround yourself with people who do make you feel safe, loved for and cared for when you are in the midst of it all. Take small steps into recovery as recovery does not happen overnight. It takes great amounts of patience, determination and resiliency to overcome this diagnosis. Which I know every human being who experiences this illness will have deep inside of them. Demand mental health professionals meet your needs and challenge them when you feel your safety is threatened. Hold on to the mental health professionals who will help change your life, as they will be people you will never forget. And most importantly, be gentle with yourself. I know how it feels to think you are worthless, hopeless and not worthy of love. Replace the negatives with I am strong, I am hopeful and I am worthy. Take three deep breaths and repeat the last line three times in your head again — and that is just a small start to being able to wake up and not feel weathered or torn down from the illness. My clothes are now dry and my footsteps are now light. The pain is still there, but it’s not weighing me down. And its the best feeling I have ever felt.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Getty Images photo via Transfuchsian

Originally published: January 5, 2018
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