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When a Psychologist Said I Was 'Too Normal' to Have Borderline Personality Disorder

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After my first ever romantic relationship crumbled, I slowly became convinced I was struggling with borderline personality disorder. Everything fit into place. I begged my ex to stay because the thought of him leaving me felt so overwhelming. My relationship with my ex afterwards – not to mention my relationship with my parents, even my mother then dying of cancer – was tumultuous and aggressive. I went from missing my ex like crazy and defending him to hating his guts five minutes later, something I’d been through with my dad for about two years since my mother’s diagnosis. My identity and self-esteem relied solely on the opinions of others. Since this break up I have since consistently struggled with impulsive behavior: heavy drinking, abusing prescription pills despite their being prescribed to me legally, spending compulsively — now over half my life savings are gone –and sometimes unsafe and impulsive sex with strangers, all meant to quell a pain or boost self-esteem. Before medication, I had thought about suicide almost daily, standing at the edge of the subway platform. I psychologically self-harm by compulsively and repetitively searching out and reading and re-reading things I know will hurt me. I can go from sobbing violently and feeling low for days and all of a sudden feel nothing at all but tired. Chronic stressful situations make me dissociate. Most of all, my outbursts of frightening rage were driving my loved ones away from me. I checked off all the boxes.

After losing an important friendship to me due to these symptoms, I finally sought help. Symptoms that were milder except with my mother (who displayed many similar symptoms) and my father suddenly exploded, making life a living hell, almost unlivable. I saw a psychologist and spoke to him about my concerns… and he waved me off immediately. I seemed too “normal.” Too “nice.” He knew real borderlines, and I wasn’t like “those” people. If I did have BPD I should keep it to myself. Psychologists use “borderline” just to mean a nasty, uncooperative patient. His advice? Let’s talk about it. Learn to meditate. What he didn’t know was that I couldn’t meditate because my brain was constantly under assault by horrible memories and thoughts of low-self worth and pain. We ended our sessions fighting more often than not.

I don’t hold it against him. Eventually he admitted he had underestimated my issues and apologized, which I accepted. Eventually I found a psychiatrist who, after evaluating me, diagnosed me with BPD among other things. The validation alone felt like such a relief, despite the fear of the stigma associated with the disorder. It gave me an explanation. These symptoms were not just… me being me. After being prescribed antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication and a brief stint on typical antipsychotics, as well as infrequent talk therapy sessions, I started to get more of a handle on my out-of-control emotions. A dialectical behavioral therapy self-help book helped a great deal as well.

I knew I needed help, and I asked for it. Someone acknowledging I was right, that I knew my brain and I did, in fact, need help, was the beginning of recovery for me. I’m grateful every day for his validation and help, for the friendships I have repaired because of my treatment.

Remember, if someone in your life is struggling especially from a mental illness, believe them. Ask how you can help. Sometimes all we need is for you to listen, try and understand, and validate our feelings even if they are not necessarily the same feelings you would have in the same situation.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Natalia-flurno

Originally published: April 19, 2017
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