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6 Things I Want You to Know About BPD (but Find It Hard to Explain)

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Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is complicated.  Living with undiagnosed BPD can be downright overwhelming.

I was (properly) diagnosed this past summer and my first thought was: “I hope nobody finds out.” I was embarrassed and thought this was somehow my fault and that I was “defective.” However, that is my BPD talking to me. My counselor said something to me that made accepting this diagnosis a bit easier. He said: “this is not your fault. You did not cause this; someone gave this to you.”

Obviously, this is not a contagious disorder but what he said was true. This was a result of childhood neglect, abuse and trauma. So, I had nothing to be embarrassed about. Still, I was. I have a memory of talking to someone and they said, “if you meet someone with borderline personality disorder, run the other way, fast.”  That was the first thing that came to mind when I heard the words come out of my counselor’s mouth. However, what I remember now is what he said to me. It is a constant reminder that this disorder was and is not my fault. I am eternally grateful for him. Maybe one day, he will read this and know the profound impact he had on my life and my acceptance of this disorder in the short time I was at the center.

I have a hard time expressing my emotions in a clear and rational way when I begin to “spin out.” That is what I have coined my emotional landslides. Even when I am not spinning out, I have a tough time verbalizing my needs and how to best help me. Writing is my way of doing that. Considering I love to write, this has been a way I can communicate with others and the world at large. There are things that I would like my loved ones to know but cannot make the words come out of my mouth in a way that makes sense. Here are a few things that can help if you are living with/loving someone with BPD.

1. The energy it takes to not react in an unhealthy manner is draining.

Self-awareness is amazing, but applying it in the middle of a situation in which I am triggered, it takes so much out of me. I am often drained for the rest of the day after something like an argument. Please understand it takes a lot out of me to interact with others because I am constantly second-guessing my words and responses.

2. Do not be afraid to be in a friendship or relationship with me.

I am a loving and kind person. Many people misunderstand BPD and are therefore afraid of it. The people in my life who really know me know that, sometimes, my symptoms get the best of me and that is not truly who I am. I am so much more than this diagnosis and my symptoms. I have much love to give and although I may struggle to get close to people, I desire friendships and love just like anyone else does.

3. I need boundaries.

Every healthy person should have boundaries in their lives. That is extra important for those living with BPD. If I have a boundary that keeps me safe and healthy, please respect it. It is for my emotional wellbeing. Also, it is wise to consider what boundaries you have and if I step over one, gently explain to me how that made you feel and what you need to do to feel safe.

4. Safety is number one.

Safety does not always mean physically safe. Usually, when I talk about being safe, it is an emotional or mental necessity. Many of us living with BPD also have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and if we feel unsafe in a situation, then our emotions can spin out of control. This goes back to why we need boundaries.

5. Not all borderline patients are the same.

My symptoms may not look like another borderline’s symptoms or behaviors. There are nine criteria on the DSM-5 for BPD and to be diagnosed someone needs to only have five. That leaves many combinations of symptoms. We are all very different in the way we exhibit the disorder.

6. It is possible to get better.

Although it may take a long time and lots of specialized therapy, the prognosis is good if the BPD patient is willing to do the work. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and mindfulness has been amazing for me. However, it is not an overnight fix. There is no magic pill. It takes much hard work and a desire to get better. So, if you love someone with BPD and feel hopeless about their recovery, know it is possible.

I am just starting on this journey but I feel like I have been working up to this my entire life. I never understood why I thought the way I did or reacted the way I did. Finding out about BPD was actually a blessing. I am very task driven; once I become aware of a problem, I look for the solution. It was like all the puzzle pieces finally fit and I could begin assembling it. Although it may be one of those thousand-piece puzzles, I imagine it as a beautiful landscape of life.

Special thanks to Mount Regis Center and the counselors there who truly saved my life.

Photo by Kamil Szumotalski on Unsplash

Originally published: March 26, 2019
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