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What the Diagnostic Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder Really Says About Someone

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

It has taken me 23 years to effectively communicate my emotions. I felt trapped by the stigma and damning diagnostic criteria of borderline personality disorder (BPD). This is my reflection on each “identifying factor” I’ve experienced and what they mean to me. There are aspects not touched upon in the very criteria that is intended to define me and others like me. I took the liberty of elaborating on what I feel are consequential identifying factors I wish someone could have pointed out sooner. I’m a lot more than a list of symptoms and you are too.

Disclaimer: this is long and emotionally intensive as it is a representation of my thought process as someone who has BPD. I promise an encouraging ending.

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Excruciating and desperate attempts to be accepted.

Rejection validates the deafening feelings of contempt that consume my every thought. Who I am is who they need me to be — a charade fueled by the relentless need for reassurance that I contribute to the happiness of others. I need to be needed.

The thought of rejection induces the devastating realization I am replaceable. I cower over the potential loss of my reason for being: a life lived for others.

Rejection confirms what I already recognize in myself: Defection. Unworthiness. Crazy.

2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.

I crave stability, but how can I possibly maintain stable relationships when tumultuousness is the only stability I can depend on? How can I offer consistency and balance when those are luxuries I’ve never had the privilege of experiencing within my own mind?

You’re too good to be true. Let me save you from the devastating storm that is a relationship with me: I’ll test you. Push you. Idolize you. Fear you.

Please, don’t leave.

3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.

I am defined and perceived by others through a feigned performance of normalcy. Any deviation from my methodical role is met with shame, anger, and confusion. The instability of my ego is the result of the consistent invalidation my authentic self faces.

I survive by being the version of me that won’t disappoint. I’ve been taught my sense of self is flawed.

Love me so I can learn to love myself.

4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).

I’m cursed with the capacity to experience my emotions on a level that consumes me, my thoughts, my behavior and physical sensations.

Make it stop. Please make it stop hurting.

Destructive impulsivity is my instinctual and desperate attempt to soothe the excruciating shame and emotional intensity that manifests itself as unbearable agony.

I can punish myself. Act out my self-hatred. Damaging behavior offers me the fleeting illusion of control over my emotions. The feeling of being in control is contradictory to the reality of my behavior.

I guess that’s an accurate reflection of my sense of self: Contradictory.

5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats or self-mutilating behavior.

Put me out of my misery. It hurts. My emotions hurt me. Just saying the words out loud, “I should kill myself,” offers me morbid comfort. Finally, a solution to my pain.

I can’t. I won’t.

I’m defined by how others see me. How would I make them feel? They give me purpose. They give me hope.

The shame and guilt consume me. I won’t ever make someone hurt the way I hurt. That would be cruel. I’m a lot of things, but cruel isn’t one of them.

My legacy will be one of love and selflessness.

6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).

Your words affect me more than you realize. I establish my worth on how others see me. I’m happy if I can make you happy — if I can make you see the goodness in me.

Insults, criticisms, or any recognition of the characteristics I already hate about myself only confirm my belief that I’m a fucking nuisance. If I can’t offer you what you need, why is my life worth living?

I dwell on your words. I reflect on how they define me. I lose control because I’ve lost my sense of self.

My reactions to these feelings only fuel my shame. These reactions validate my ingrained belief that I’m awful. I just want to make you happy, to make you love me because I forget how to love myself.

Fear. Shame. Anger. Shame. Anxiety. Shame. Depression. Shame. Shame has become my constant.

7 and 8. Chronic feelings of emptiness. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger.)

I’m a feeble slave to my self-hate. A slave to my erratic emotions. I feel too much. I just want to make you proud. The pressure to emulate perfection is cancerous. I eventually implode and explode simultaneously. It’s so hard to live a life that doesn’t feel authentic.

I’m scared. I’m lost. I’m waiting for someone to save me.

Maybe I should learn how to save myself.

I’m going to learn how to save myself.

I’m going to learn how to save myself because these eight statements do not capture or define me — they simply represent my challenges.

What they fail to represent is my perseverance. That should be my ninth diagnostic feature.

9. Despite it all, they continue on.

I continue this journey for no one other than myself — a contradiction to the entirety of this reflection, but an accurate representation of those who feel the way I feel. I’m the walking personification of contradiction.

I continue on because I have endured my own version of hell and survived. I’m stronger every day. If borderline personality disorder has helped me in any way, it’s that it allowed me to recognize how temporary even the worst storms are.

Photo by Nikko Macaspac on Unsplash

Originally published: January 7, 2019
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