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My Borderline Personality Disorder Isn't Something to Be 'Fixed'

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All the things I will never be, all the things I am

How hard it is to get myself and others to see all the things I am, all the things I will never be.

People say, “never say never” and, ” have hope to be better.”

What they fail to see is me.

Who I am, beauty, what I bring and  the need to let it be.

Knowing this truth, both the never and what I am, frees.

So, please, see me.

I am not “over” borderline personality disorder (BPD) and this is OK. I was a willing and engaged therapy patient for years. I am no longer in long-term therapy. I experienced immense growth in therapy, and I believe in the necessity and helpfulness of therapy wholeheartedly. And, I am still not the person many people may define or see as “better.”

There are certain places I have learned therapy can never take me, or make me. I still am a person who is very sensitive to the world around me. I feel, smell, taste, hear, sense everything at an intensity that is both overwhelming and sometimes beautiful. I cry easily, I am deeply moved by both painful experiences and joyful ones. I feel pain when someone rejects me, even though I believe myself to be a person of intrinsic value and worth. I still feel sad. I feel emotions strongly and all the work I have put in has not changed this about me.

I worked really hard. I learned dialectical behavior therapy skills, (DBT) I worked through trauma, I did groups and workbooks and programs. I learned both what is protective for me and my vulnerability factors. My life is not at risk anymore. I no longer drink alcohol, self-harm or engage in risky behaviors. But, I still have borderline traits and it is my belief I always will have these traits as part of my experience living, as part of myself, whether in therapy or not.

I experience several intense emotions daily. Some days, my emotions feel so strong, my body feels disconnected from itself. I require tools for grounding, informal support and communities such as this, The Mighty, to remind myself I am not alone and strength can come from one another. It is communal, not an individual task. I don’t have to carry things alone. I can look both within and outside of myself, and both places are equally valuable.

Rabbi Elliot Kukla writes about his experience of trauma and chronic illness. Although he does not identify with having BPD, I think there is much he says many of us can relate to:

 “I sometimes feel shame about still not being ‘over it.’ But trauma is woven into my bones and sinews, as well as my neshamah (“soul”) and my relationship with God. There is no ‘cure’ for the fabric of who I am. I choose to embrace the idea of healing, as opposed to cure. Healing integrates and embraces all the ways we are broken, whereas cure aims to ‘fix.'” 

I have often experienced this sense of shame for not being “over it.” Even well-meaning friends have said I just need to keep trying to get better, to be someone else, to try another program or treatment. What I feel is underneath that, there is a lack of acceptance, and perhaps even a discomfort, with the idea sadness and painful emotions are part of being human. And for some of us, intense emotions are something we manage, channel and accept, rather than erase.

I also appreciate the way Elliot Kukla differentiates healing as opposed to cure. I experience healing as authentic, gentle and something we all can experience, whether we have mental illness or not. I see my BPD traits as a part of the fabric of myself as well. And while I may not have chosen this, just as I may not have chosen brown eyes if I could pick my eye color, this is a part of me, and I believe I need to embrace, value and care for these traits with the kind of nurturing they require. To me, this is healing, not a cure.

I will never be “tough” in the way society often defines toughness, or in the ways many have expected me to be “tough.” I will not be someone who can hold in genuine tears, able to un-feel or unsee things. Knowing what I will never be, opens my heart to see who I am. Psychotherapist and writer Imi Lo, specializes in emotional intensity and sensitivity and has written about BPD, BPD traits and trauma, and the link between BPD and empathy:

“It is increasingly being recognized that many individuals who receive the diagnosis of BPD are naturally highly intuitive and perceptive. What was previously thought of as a genetic vulnerability may actually reflect an innate talent … Whilst these conditions are real and extremely painful, we should not immediately assume that they are signs of a defect.”

I see myself as someone with a sensitivity and unusual ability to experience not only painful emotions, but also joy, spiritual moments, compassion and creativity. I firmly believe my ability to write this article now comes from this mixture of both my pain and my empathy, care and compassion for self and others. While I believe in the need for treatment for those of us with BPD,  I also believe that for myself, after engaging in treatments for years and no longer harming myself, there is a need to “let go” of this image of myself as a person without BPD traits being the end goal. 

I think engaging in that quest to “get rid of all borderline traits” can actually cause me more harm and even lead me to consider poor coping again. Relief and peace comes from celebrating what I have overcome, while also cultivating an acceptance for the parts of me I believe to be somewhat fixed, stable, and still, not needing those things to “be fixed.”   

My psychotherapy experiences, DBT, my Christian faith and my own personal reflection has helped me to come to terms with both who I am, and also perhaps, the things I will never be. It is not a tragedy for me to have borderline traits. I can live with these traits, even when it feels hard some days, even when others tell me I must “keep searching for a cure.”  

The way forward for me is to see the person I will never be, and to love the person I am. 

There is no curing power to make me “supreme.”

My healing happened slowly and imperfectly.

I am not called to do “great things or great deeds,” but “little things with great love,” in the words of Mother Teresa.

And this is fine for me.

I will never be a “perfect” model of “emotional stability.” I may always feel a bit weak. A little empty.

My heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee,” said Saint Augustine.

I am restless, wondering and seeking peace. And yet, full of love for you, love for me.

Compassion, creativity.

See me.

All the things I will never be remind me of all the things true, lovely and beautiful,

Let it be.

Not a mistake, not to be erased.

Living today as a person with borderline traits.

This is whom I am, some things I will never be.

This is OK.

Getty image by Dreya Novak

Originally published: March 7, 2021
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