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Meet My Anti-Superpower: ‘Quiet’ Borderline Personality Disorder

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I am a “quiet” borderline. I know, I know, person-before-diagnosis language is ideal, but honestly, I’m not a person with quiet borderline personality disorder (BPD). At least, not when it really ramps up. No, on the days when I can’t remember what facial expressions are appropriate or trust any of my own thoughts, I am a quiet borderline. Maybe it’s because I spent so many years waiting to hear a diagnosis that actually fit me, or maybe because there’s magic in finding words to describe what was until that point only a lump in my chest, but I’m grateful for a label because this is what I am. That’s not to say it doesn’t feel like the opposite of a superpower, whatever that is. Super emotional I-hate-you-don’t-leave-me girl.

Most people think of someone with BPD as a time bomb — at any moment, they could rage loudly, destroy relationships with anger, destroy themselves with impulsive and dangerous decisions. But that’s never been me. I would never lose my cool in public. Never hurt someone I loved in an outburst. Never subject myself to harm carelessly.

No. I take those emotions and war with them internally. Constantly. One odd sigh and I’m certain my co-worker is ready to request a cubicle change. One text left unanswered and I’m panicking my sister thinks I’ve been too needy. List my name last and I assume it’s a way of saying I contributed the least. My irrational thoughts lead the way, my big feelings follow and before you know it, I’ve imagined my way into my own worst fears and can’t pull myself out.

See, I’m not convinced anyone actually likes me. Or at least, they definitely like someone else more. So, I’m on high alert for signs to make that fear come true. That sigh was the third sign today. And I try not to be needy, but can’t ever seem to find the balance between aloof or altogether too much. Couple that with my absolute terror at the thought of someone I love leaving me and I overthink my overthinking. Crap, now I don’t know if she’s not answering because I texted too much or because I don’t text enough!

To top it off, I have an incredibly unstable view of myself so I’m consistently relying on others to define me. One minute I’m convinced I’m the smartest person in the room and my daily work is making the future brighter. The next, I feel like aliens could suck me up and there’s a chance no one would notice. Listing my name last may have just been alphabetical order, but it feels like a sign that nobody would flinch if I wasn’t around. Super invisible second-guessing girl.

To make it all just a little more swampy, I know myself well enough to know that my viewpoint is often very black and white and my feelings are often intense, so I don’t trust my feelings or reactions. When I’m disappointed or frustrated or hurt, I hold it in. I instinctively feel like big emotions are bad (because for me, they often go awry) so I have difficulty determining if my negative feelings are warranted. Of course, this leads to an immense feeling of loneliness; not talking about what you’re feeling leaves you pretty isolated. Super lonely feels-too-much girl.

I respond to this internal chaos in different ways. I don’t hurt myself anymore (self-harm free for seven years) or punish myself (now you can’t eat/sleep/do anything you enjoy). But the voice in my head is cruel, and she doesn’t let up. She’s quick to take a couple leaps from a minor inconvenience to “you should probably just die now.”

Sometimes, I outrun that voice with a busy schedule and a lengthy to-do list. Sometimes, it’s a pedicure and peanut butter brownies. On a day where I make my therapist proud, I journal about my thoughts and feelings to check in on myself and call a friend to help clarify how what actually happened compares to how I perceived it. Maybe then I can practice deep breaths. Go for a walk. Read a favorite book. Calligraphy beautiful cuss words.

However, all these things usually feel like trying to escape the inevitable. At some point, I give in. I find myself on the dirty floor (and further beat myself up by the lack of housework getting done) sobbing uncontrollably. Living inside my head is exhausting, and sometimes acknowledging that is the greatest olive branch I can offer myself. Because pretending to be OK, or lying to myself saying it’s getting easier and tomorrow will be better? That takes away from the immensity of the fight I’m in every day. The emotional pain, the depth of the sadness, the strength of my darkest thoughts are all so bold in their fight. But so am I. Tomorrow might be just as challenging as today, but with education, a wonderful therapist and transparency about my struggles with my most trusted friends, I keep surviving. Super crying sometimes-isn’t-miserable girl.

However, while BPD has at times left me feeling disconnected and unworthy of love, it’s also done the opposite. You know who makes sure no one is ever left out? The quiet borderline girl. You know who would never silence your phone call? The quiet borderline girl. You know who won’t hesitate to tell you why you’re special, tell you she’s proud of your growth, remind you of your shine? The quiet borderline girl. Super compassionate always-thinking-about-you girl.

Quiet borderline personality disorder has made every day a chance to leave the world a little brighter, and has also made every day an undeserved struggle. But I’ve made it though this far. I’m a quiet borderline. What’s your anti-superpower?

Getty image by Choreograph

Originally published: September 15, 2021
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