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How All 9 Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder Affect Me

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

I’m stable but I’m struggling, if that makes any sense. My bipolar disorder is stable, but now my borderline personality disorder (BPD) is raging. I’m battling with myself constantly, trying to stay level, but it’s getting harder to do so. At the moment, I am level. I feel logical and rational, but that won’t last for long. One part of my BPD will rear its ugly little head and say: “Oh hey, I heard you thought you were fine. Let me reassure you that you aren’t, because I’m here.”

There are nine symptoms of BPD, and lately, I’ve been experiencing all of the symptoms. I’m going to try to explain these nine symptoms, and how they manifest within me.

1. Fear of abandonment.

Real or imagined, people with BPD have a fear of abandonment and will make frantic efforts to avoid it. I have this intense fear my husband will leave me, even though he reassures me on a daily basis that he isn’t going anywhere. Why can’t I accept what he says? I don’t have an answer for that. I believe him, so why does my brain keep insisting that one day he will get fed up with me and decide to leave? It’s an irrational thought and I know that, but I can’t stop being afraid of him leaving. I’ve been with my husband for over 10 years now, and they’ve been the best 10 years of my life. You’d think I would feel secure in my relationship by now. I’m not, though and it sucks because my insecurities cause a ripple effect in my relationship, which makes it unstable at times. And that brings me to the next symptom…

2. Unstable Relationships.

My relationship with my husband is relatively stable. Our relationship seems perfect and we rarely ever fight. My friendships are pretty stable as well. I have a history of rocky relationships, both platonic and romantic. Lately, my BPD has been acting up, and it is causing arguments between me and my husband. I’ll split (switching between idealization and devaluation) on myself or him, my moods will flip and I’ll start fights. For no good reason. I can only imagine what he’s thinking and feeling when this happens; it must be like emotional whiplash. Not just for him, but also for me. I usually end up splitting on myself, because I feel I am a bad person for starting an argument and taking it out on my husband. Splitting is a common occurrence with me, and I’m not alone as it’s fairly common in people with BPD. I’ll explain more about splitting later.

3. Unclear or shifting self-image.

I’ve struggled with knowing who I am for most of my life. My sense of self has typically been unstable. For the most part, I think of myself as a loving, supportive, good person. However, I tend to experience splitting on myself and all it takes is making a simple mistake for me to split and all of a sudden I hate myself. I will think I’m a horrible person who doesn’t deserve love. I don’t have a clear picture of my career goals; some days I don’t know who I am or what I want to do with my life. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and I struggle with it sometimes. I feel like I should have an education and career by my age and I don’t, and it gets to me. I’ll mentally beat myself up over being a housewife and stay-at-home mom, and it just makes the splitting worse. How do I deal with splitting? I do something impulsive.

4. Impulsive, self-destructive behaviors.

Oh boy, where do I begin? I tend to engage in behaviors that are both sensation-seeking and harmful, especially when I’m upset or feeling any emotion strongly. I spend money we can’t afford to spend, I have binge eating problems, I text people impulsively. I don’t drink or do drugs, I don’t gamble, I don’t engage in promiscuous sex and I don’t drive recklessly, though many people with BPD tend to struggle with these things on a regular basis. Sometimes I impulsively harm myself, which I’ll get to in just a moment. My impulsiveness has gotten me into trouble more than a few times. There are consequences to my impulsive, self-destructive ways. Maxed out credit cards, overdraft and fees, weight gain, self-esteem issues — the list goes on. I don’t have many self-destructive behaviors but the ones I do have wreak havoc on my life.

5. Self-harm or suicidal behavior.

Deliberate self-harm and suicidal behaviors are common in people with BPD, and I am certainly no exception. I am a survivor of two suicide attempts. Self-harm is an addiction of mine. I’ve relapsed numerous times over the years, though I managed to go six years without self-harming once. Currently, I’m working towards 10 months clean from self-harm. I still get urges, especially when I’m feeling numb, empty or stressed. I have been plagued by intrusive suicidal thoughts in the past, and I go through periods of having a preoccupation with suicide and death. I’ve planned my suicide more than once, and as a teenager, I honestly believed I wouldn’t live past the age of 23. I have a tattoo on my forearm, a semicolon with “This Too Shall Pass” written underneath. It gives me inner strength, and reminds me that no matter how bad life gets, the bad times don’t last forever. Good times will come. They often come sooner than later, as the good and bad times are dictated by my moods.

6. Extreme emotional swings.

Volatile mood swings are common with BPD. I can be elated one minute and raging the next. It doesn’t take much to trigger mood swings. It could be a joke or an innocent remark that triggers my moods to flip and send me into a tailspin. Trying to manage my mood swings is like trying to drive down a twisting and winding road while blindfolded. Though these mood swings are quite intense, they tend to pass fairly quickly, lasting maybe a few minutes or hours. I experience these rapid shifts in mood multiple times in a day, so it’s exhausting sometimes. One of the emotions I struggle to manage is my anger.

7. Explosive anger.

Most people with BPD struggle with having a short temper and inappropriate, intense anger. While my temper is pretty mild, my anger is intense and it isn’t pretty. It takes a lot for my fuse to get lit but once it is, I have trouble controlling myself. I don’t think before talking; I shoot from the hip, so to speak. I have a sharp tongue, and I’m also hurtfully blunt. I become severely sarcastic and snappy. Some people yell, others throw things. Anger isn’t always directed outwards, though. My anger tends to be directed inwards, at myself. I’ll have intrusive thoughts and get extremely angry with myself for having those thoughts. I’ll get upset with myself for procrastinating, or for having fibromyalgia pain which I can’t control. I do have the occasional angry outburst, and it scares me when it does happen. I feel cornered and out of control; it’s a horrible thing to experience. Oftentimes when I experience explosive anger, a switch inside of me flips and all of a sudden I feel nothing, just like an empty shell.

8. Chronic feelings of emptiness.

Many people with BPD report feeling empty inside, like there is a void or hole inside them. Some people report feeling frequently bored or numb. I go through periods where I feel empty, like I’m nothing. When I experience drastic mood swings, the aftermath is usually feeling numb. Some people try to fill the void with drugs, alcohol, food or sex. For me, it’s food. I love food. I binge eat. When I feel empty, I eat as if filling my stomach will make me feel whole again. I’ve really struggled with feeling numb and empty inside since my mother passed away last October. I tend to dissociate when I feel empty or numb. I think it’s my brain’s way of protecting me.

9. Paranoia and dissociation.

I’ve read that paranoia is quite common in people with BPD, though I don’t have much experience with it myself. I have lots of experience with dissociation, on the other hand. I space out often, to be honest. I feel out of touch with reality, like I’m not real and what is happening isn’t really happening. It happened when my mother died; I was dissociating throughout my time in the hospital. I dissociate whenever rape is brought up in conversation, or domestic violence. Sometimes I feel as though I’m outside of my body; it’s really hard to describe the feeling. Whenever I get a piercing or attend a doctor’s appointment where a physical exam will be happening, I hyperfocus on something in the room and it helps me cope with whatever is happening. I didn’t know this until recently but this is also dissociating, and a self-defense mechanism.

Whenever I fight with my husband, I try to remind myself it isn’t me versus him; it’s me and him versus the problem. But then I start to think I’m the problem, which leads to splitting. Splitting means having difficulty holding opposing thoughts. I’m unable to weigh out the positive and negative attributes of a person or event; I don’t recognize that both good and bad traits can exist at the same time. It’s black-and-white thinking, all-or-nothing. Kinda like the Sith in Star Wars. You’re either with me or against me. You put a person, even yourself, on such a high pedestal (idealization). They can do no wrong; everything they say and do is admirable. Then, the legs get kicked out and they fall into devaluation, where they’re wrong and bad, and looked at with disdain. Splitting sounds horrible, but it’s actually a way of coping, like a self-defense mechanism that people with BPD use as a means to prevent being hurt or avoiding rejection. I’ll push you away before you can do it to me, sort of thing.

My borderline has been quite active lately, and it is exhausting to manage. I’m a very sensitive person, and normally I can take a joke or teasing. Lately, I’ve been taking everything as a personal attack, which isn’t like me at all. I feel like I’m losing control of myself and I don’t like it. Typically, I relate to only two or three BPD characteristics at a time but this past year, I’ve experienced all 9 symptoms, sometimes in the same day or week.

Living with borderline can be nightmarish because it’s like a never-ending cycle of self-destruction. All of my symptoms have an overlap; they all work together, against me. My moods will flip, I’ll get intense anger that spirals out of control, I’ll feel ashamed and guilt-ridden from losing control, I’ll dissociate and reach for something to harm myself, then struggle with myself because I want to self-harm but don’t want to relapse, and then the emptiness takes over. One symptom triggers another, and so on. When I do relapse, I become terrified my husband will leave me because I’m “crazy” and too much for him to handle. I’ll feel ashamed and guilty for giving in, for being “weak” when I should have been strong. I regret harming myself every time. I can’t relapse again. I won’t. I refuse to give in to my addictions.

I need to be strong and fight my BPD, not only for my own sake but for my family’s sake as well. I can’t let my disorder control me. I have three kids, and they’re watching me. They will think what they’re growing up with is “normal,” and I have to be mindful of that. I don’t want my kids growing up and having to recover from their childhood. They deserve a mother who is stable, and my husband deserves a stable wife. I’m trying my best to give them that. I’m trying my best for me too because I deserve stability. I don’t like feeling this way when my BPD gets the best of me.

Around 80% of people with BPD report a history of suicide attempts. Around 3% to 10% of people with BPD die by suicide. I refuse to become part of the latter statistic. I am literally fighting for my life. I want to live. I need to protect myself, from myself. I need to fight on in the never-ending borderline battle.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash

Originally published: October 23, 2019
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