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Why I Actually Relate to 'Fatal Attraction' as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

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I’ve seen a lot of articles floating around in the media lately about film representation in regards to specific mental illnesses. One I have seen pop up a lot in the past, but not much recently, is “Fatal Attraction.” I believe this is something we need to discuss.

This movie has been a nightmare topic for anyone with BPD since the 80s, but in my opinion, it almost perfectly depicts some of the hardest details and symptoms of being a borderline.

I have read so many reviews on this film, and if there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s their opinion on Alex Forrest.

This film’s genre classification is thriller — based upon the opinion of every person who ever saw that film in the cinemas and was scared of a woman like her.

The only opinions I’ve heard on the topic of Forrest is that she is a terrifying woman. A woman so frightening that every man who went to see that film in the cinemas feared, and a woman no one wanted to meet on a night out.

Alex Forrest displays many clear-cut symptoms of borderline personality disorder. To me she isn’t scary, because the first time I watched that film I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t alarmed and I wasn’t warned off all interaction with people. I sat there, and I cried.

I too, am a woman who suffers from a very real, and very debilitating mental illness.

Although the diagnosis of BPD wasn’t common in the 80s, as it was just coming to fruition in the psychological profession as a real disorder, the symptoms she displays describe some of the pain I go through on a regular, everyday basis.

There is no way to normalize the symptoms she displays. There’s no way to sit here and explain the emotional manipulation she uses is because of the interaction between environmental factors and her brain. Her stalking Dan Gallagher was something that should not in any way be normalized — but the fact is, she was ill. She was a woman displaying symptoms of a mental illness, and the film was “frightening” and “thrilling” to watch because you didn’t know what she was going to do next.

I, as a borderline, don’t know what I’m going to do next when I’m irrational. I fight, cry and do things that beg the person I love not to leave me because that’s what makes sense in my mind, but to him, it just looks like me pushing him out the door.

I pack my bags and tell him I’m never coming back, so he’ll hold me and tell me he loves me. I do impulsive things that put myself at risk, all because the thrill of it is the only thing that makes me feel alive. I experience paranoia and unnecessary jealousy when I don’t have full control of a situation, and when my boyfriend leaves the house after a fight. These things are what scare people away from me, to someone who doesn’t know better, I am manipulative, impulsive, have anger issues and I’m attention-seeking.

I am Alex Forrest, like a lot of us are. But before you judge, think about this. Inside all the awful symptoms and splitting emotions, inside the anger and the distrust — there’s someone in there who just wants to be loved and validated.

Alex Forrest thought Dan Gallagher would provide validation. She was clambering to the hope that one person wasn’t going to abandon her, use her and leave her alone to cope with the debilitating realization that no one was sticking around for her. No one ever mentions that Gallagher cheated on his wife multiple times, and that he treated Alex like she was special and meant something to him before walking out on her.

I’m here for the representation of not just mental illness, but of borderline personality disorder in films and books. Instead of these constant media portrayals of mental illness being inherently a bad, and terrifying thing, where’s the positive representation? There’s a difference between glorifying something, and honoring the people who live with it day in, day out. You can’t “catch” a mental illness, so why does everybody tip toe around it like they’re afraid it’ll rub off on them?

You know the negative side of my illness, but not everyone does, and not everyone knows the pain and suffering that comes along with it. If one book, or movie depicted someone struggling without criminalizing them, or making people like me look unstable or scary, the world would be a far more unified place.

The best part is, if you represent people like me more often, you also get to show off the positive sides of this. I refuse to live my life for years knowing that I’m carrying around something that physically scares people, without trying to look for some of the positives.

I am passionate, I love so deeply that sometimes it hurts my heart. I am loyal, and dedicated. I will never back down from something I believe in, and I will never be intimidated by someone who puts me down for the pain I carry. I embody passion.

I just beg of you not to take every representation of BPD (or any other mental health issue), displayed in the media, as gospel, but instead do your own research. I refuse to be pushed into a box and labelled as one thing when in reality I’m something completely different. BPD is often portrayed in the worst possible way, and often it is an entirely exaggerated and inaccurate representation.

I do not condone or justify my negative actions just as no one else should. I just ask that you understand and know that it doesn’t define me, just like your mistakes don’t define you.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo via “Fatal Attraction” Facebook page

Originally published: November 3, 2017
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