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How Music Affects Me as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Music has always been a huge part of my life.

I have found there are people who listen to music… and there are people who listen to music, who feel music, who live music. People who hear something that speaks to them and it becomes them; it becomes the world around them, and everything else disappears. I have struggled in my life to find other people who react to music in this way and after my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD), I feel like I have a better idea why.

Music is an incredible, emotionally strong creation. It is full of the emotion of the creator and is built upon by the emotion of the listener. Sometimes lyrics set the mood, while other times just the music itself can be enough to awaken feelings of all kinds.

As Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind wrote: “And the four right chords could make me cry…”

And it’s true.

When I was 14, there were a lot of things going wrong in my life. My parents were getting divorced, my “first love” had broken up with me, one of my best friends at the time was making life choices I felt I did not want to be around and I personally was dealing with depression and self-harm. I’ve gone back and read journal entries starting at this time and moving forward; it was an ugly time for me.

I think this is when my connection to music started to become more evident to me. I found solace in Third Eye Blind’s self-titled album. I listened to it in unending loops. The pain I was feeling seemed to be pouring through my stereo and it seemed more bearable that way, to hear Stephan sing it rather than feel it.

But this can ruin music because there is a moment when it becomes too painful.

When I finally came down from my Third Eye Blind binge, it was a long time before I listened to that first album again. It’s not that I didn’t like it anymore, but it became too heavy and too real to listen to. To me, the first chords of “Losing A Whole Year” are some of the heaviest and most heart-stabbing sounds I will ever hear. They are part of my story, my soundtrack. And when I put that record on, I’m that 14-year-old girl all over again.

It’s something like nostalgia. On their album “Bleed American,” Jimmy Eat World sing: “Stick around nostalgia won’t let you down.” As someone with BPD, nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. It doesn’t just bring back the memories of a time past, but the emotions along with it. It can be the driving force behind those misguided choices we seem to make.

There have even been times when I have specifically avoided music in an effort to NOT create this emotional connection. I’ve honestly spent three weeks without music of any kind in an effort to not destroy music I love. However, sometimes it’s unavoidable, and when you least expect it a song comes on, and it’s already been transformed.

When I was finally diagnosed with BPD at 29, this connection to music began to make more sense. In my experience with BPD, I have heard a lot of things like: “You shouldn’t feel that way,” “You’re overreacting,” “Why are you acting this way,” “Why aren’t you more like so-and-so.” But music has always let me feel the way I feel; it has let me be who I am without judgment. At times, music has helped me control the emotions other people have trouble understanding, whether that is letting me feel my emotions completely or helping me shut down the things I don’t want to feel.

It’s a sad but invigorating feeling. It reminds me of where I’ve been and where I’m going all at once. It reminds me I’m alive.

Around the time I realized BPD existed and then subsequently getting diagnosed, I also started to hear BPD in so many of the songs I loved.

There it was in:

1. “Breaking the Girl” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Twisting and turning / Your feelings are burning / You’re breaking the girl / (She meant you no harm).”

2. “Wolf” by Highly Suspect

“You think you know me / I wish I did too / ‘Cause everything’s changing / And I am changing too.”

3. “Wounded” by Third Eye Blind

“It’s like walking with the wounded / Carrying that weight way too far / The concrete pulled you down so hard / Out there with the wounded.”

4. And even in Third Eye Blind’s seemingly peppy hit “Semi-Charmed Life

“I want something else / to get me through this semi-charmed kind of life / baby, baby, I want something else / I’m not listening when you say goodbye.”

And this made me feel less alone. I finally knew why I felt the way I felt; why I felt so much. Why, at times in my life, I have completely self-destructed. Why I felt so alone, surrounded by people who loved me in spite of my issues. And how music had become such a solace for me.

So, to anyone out there who sits in their car, their room or their office and listens to the same song over and over just to feel what you need to feel… you’re not alone.

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

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Photo by Alice Moore on Unsplash

Originally published: November 9, 2017
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