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What a 'High-Functioning Borderline' Actually 'Looks' Like

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Appearances can be deceiving; a big smile and makeup can hide days of non-stop crying, a toned body from hours of hard training for boxing can cancel out the effects of massive sugar binges, laser treatments kill the ongoing acne caused by overwhelming emotional stress. In this day and age, our choices of disguises are abundant. I am fortunate enough to have a well-paying job that affords me all these luxuries.

From the outside looking in, I appear well-adjusted, someone well into her recovery from borderline personality disorder (BPD). I have completed a nine-month course in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and nowadays, I can deal with professionals such as my daughters’ school teachers and practice assertive skills, remain calm and look for solutions not problems. Gone are the days where I kick teachers’ doors and slam out of their room while yelling obscenities. I am aware enough now to practice my DBT skills such as radical acceptance, improving the moment and looking at my long-term goals versus my short-term ones. Through this, I have managed to reduce a lot of the interpersonal conflicts so typical of someone diagnosed with BPD.

I usually take great care of my body (apart from the aforesaid binge eating). I make lots of vegetable smoothies, eat a healthy balanced diet and refuse all meat, dairy and alcohol. I do not smoke. I train hard and keep myself in tip-top condition. Despite the fact I was a prolific drug user for many years, I am now totally clean and have been for more than two years. I am a successfully published author (“Borderline – a Memoir”) and I have an interactive successful Facebook page with lots of followers. I receive many messages saying I have inspired my readers and I reply to every single one personally.

I am also a good mum to my two daughters and our relationships are flourishing.

I have these amazing productive days where I work and earn lots, write all my gratitude, think positively, clean the house, cook wholesome meals, work out, contribute to my page and encourage people as much as I can. I feel joyful, inspired, happy and healthy. On days like this, it is like I no longer have BPD.

And then it all crashes.

Romantic relationships are always my trigger. One little argument, one tiny let down, a loved one being annoyed with me means I can go from happy to raging within seconds. I push the person so far away and then suffer massive fears of being abandoned. They leave, I beg them to come back. I cry myself sick. I cry like a child. I just keep crying. At times like this it is impossible to think about anything else. I lose sight of all the positives in my life and rumination takes over. This can last for hours or days. I take to my bed. I cancel appointments. I cancel friend dates and tell them I have a virus, a cold, a migraine, anything but the truth, that I am struggling once again with my own inner demons. I suffer from suicide ideation and have to remind myself my girls need me.

My whole world goes from rosy to shadowed — it is like a technicolor film reverts to black and white. I can’t leave the house. It costs me to shower. I swing between childlike sobbing and raging anger. Any little thing can set me off and I mean any little thing such as the WiFi breaking down, my phone losing battery, the cat scratching at the couch. I never hurt anyone else physically (outside of the boxing ring) — I finally have that part of me under control — neither would I class myself as a self-harmer, but last week my eldest daughter had to stop me from hurting myself. I was hitting myself over and over again repeatedly, crying that I couldn’t do this anymore.

I had what some people would call a breakdown, but the next day it all swung back right again and I got up and got better and became a “high-functioning borderline” once again.

Some people say it is just as painful to be “high-functioning” as it is to be “low-functioning.” I can’t say I agree because at least I have those good days. At least I can work and earn good money and go to the gym and take my place in society. I am blessed in these respects. What is difficult though is that I have to hide who I am, lie about the dark times and feel like a fraud for all those people I have helped and inspired.

At the time of crisis, I can’t tell people the truth. My boxing suffers. I lose sight of my goals. I get so far towards them then fall back and the goal post moves yet again.

I used to think BPD was curable. Now I see that while it is manageable, I’m always going to live with being emotionally sensitive and extreme. Thankfully, I have an understanding network of friends and loving daughters. Without them, I doubt I would be so highly functioning. I have written this because I know there are others like me and I reach out as much to them for support as to offer it.

BPD is a painful condition. It is hard to understand but I will never give up this fight. My boxing is like the physical representation of my fight for life. I can never stop fighting. If I do, I will go down and who will pick me up?

No one. I have to keep functioning. I have to keep fighting. I have to beat this demon but on days like today, I am not sure I ever can or will.

Getty Image via Strekalova

Originally published: August 11, 2018
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