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My Journey With ADHD and Borderline Personality Disorder

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If I’m being completely honest — and honest is what I’ve chosen to be after my borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnosis — if someone told me a couple of months ago that I would be sharing my story online, I would have laughed in their face. There was no chance I would have ever shared my experiences, feelings, or thoughts with an audience. There was no chance I would even admit there could be something wrong. That is, until all my symptoms got worse, and I had to come to terms with my diagnosis in the worst possible way, which I will get to later in this story.

Looking back on my childhood, I can’t help but reflect on the immense challenges I faced. I always felt that I was misunderstood. I had an early diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but was never medicated. The classic picture painted at the time was of a troublemaking little boy who can’t sit still, does poorly in school, and explodes in fits of rage. Girls were not yet in this category. This created behavioral problems both at school and at home. I was often labeled “disruptive” or all over the place by teachers at school. I never understood why I was always in “trouble” because, in my mind, I didn’t see that my behavior was wrong.

But my struggles didn’t end with ADHD alone; my weight became another source of torment. I was often bullied or made fun of for my weight, especially in elementary school. It was profoundly disheartening to be judged solely based on my outer shell when I had so much more to offer the world, and I knew that even as a kid. Because of my “behavioral issues,” when I was made fun of, teachers never cared. By the age of 1o, I began dieting.

Going into high school, I was terrified the bullying would continue, and it did. Although I had friends, the name-calling would always be there. I never felt pretty or fit in with my friends. Boys never liked me. I never wanted to eat in public for fear that someone would say, “Look, there she goes eating again.” I felt the lack of validation and inclusion affected my self-esteem. I often thought I wasn’t “good enough” for anything or anyone because of my appearance. My feelings of not being good enough later came out in all the interpersonal relationships I tried to have.

Overall, I don’t think I had the best childhood or high school years. I always felt that I didn’t belong or was worthless. Although I didn’t believe it then, I was a good kid despite what was seen. My appearance was always my biggest priority after graduating high school and attending university. I wanted to be thin and to be like everyone else. I wanted to feel pretty, too. I genuinely think my borderline personality began appearing during this time. I started having challenges with friends, binge eating, and then dieting, and I found myself with intense emotions that were out of control. I would go through ups and downs and see different therapists, but only when I was having an “episode” and needed relief. I never stuck with wanting help because I didn’t think I needed it. When I lost a ton of weight, I thought I would be happy because being thin was the key to happiness. But the feelings of being worthless and not good enough continued.

Once I began a relationship, my partner was brought into my emotional journey. Things the outside world never saw — only family or close friends — were brought into my world. My partner didn’t know what was happening or how to help but always remained patient as I was having an “episode” and pushed him away. Eventually, I started behaving in ways I didn’t understand. I wasn’t myself and began reacting to people and situations I never thought I would. I started seeking out attention, being malicious and spiteful, angry often, and crying immensely for hours. I cared less and less for people and continued pushing everyone around me away.

My world came crashing down when my illness took me hostage. I behaved more selfishly and was more self-destructive in many ways. I tried escaping the pain by projecting my pain onto the people I cared most about. I wanted everyone to feel the same pain I was feeling. My partner, throughout our almost six-year relationship, got the brunt of my pain. I began seeing the world only in black and white, and when something happened, he was immediately the villain and needed to suffer because I was suffering. I began being impulsive, lying, and doing things because I wanted attention. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t stop. I started believing that everyone hated me and that I did not deserve friends, so instead, I was mean and pushed people away. He spent much of our relationship on this emotional roller coaster, wanting to help and trying to get me to see that I was self-destructing. I didn’t want to believe or accept it because functioning people don’t have anything wrong with them. But I was crumbling.

I didn’t realize how much of my childhood affected me. After 10 years (and probably much more) of fighting with this “monster” inside of me, I faced my fears and was diagnosed with BPD. It was as if I got immediate relief because I had answers I was once too scared to face for my suffering. According to the DSM, an individual needs to meet five of the nine symptoms of BPD. At the time of my diagnosis, I had eight of the nine symptoms.

After therapy, reading, and support groups, I learned that I was a “high-functioning borderline.” Basically, I can function “normally” in society, and most people in my life wouldn’t know I had any mental health conditions. I could always attend school and work and maintain a good work ethic. Although I acted out, many people wouldn’t think there was a problem aside from my immediate family, close friends, and my partner.

Once I began and committed to recovery, I started viewing the world from a new perspective. With a lot of help from my therapist and support groups, I feel as if I am closer to who I truly am. Sometimes in life, you need to lose someone significant to grow. If my partner had not ended our relationship and the cycle of the episodes I was continuously putting him through, I would not have stopped to see the destruction I had around me. His walking out of my life saved my life because I would never have recognized or stopped my behavior. I would never have seen the pain I was placing on anyone else, as I was focused on myself and what I was feeling.

My recovery started because I desperately wanted my relationship back, but once I began learning about myself, it was for me. I deserved to heal. Although I desperately wanted to fix all my broken relationships, I tried to apologize. I desperately wanted to be forgiven, but I needed to come to terms with the fact that not all wounds can heal. I also needed to remind myself that borderline personality disorder was not my choice. I couldn’t turn it off and be “normal.” It was not my fault.

But to heal, I needed to forgive myself as well.

Originally published: April 17, 2024
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