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To someone who was just diagnosed with borderline personality disorder,

I’ve been there. Hell, I am there, and I know there are about seven billion different emotions happening that may seem impossible to sort out. These three letters just hit you like a brick wall. I’m here to tell you this feeling you have right now — the feeling you can’t quite put your finger on because it’s composed of so many different emotions — won’t last forever. It will come in waves for a little while as different trains of thought, each conducted by a different emotion. Try to take the lead.

You might feel relieved at first. I did. Having a partial answer to the question that is you. Knowing so many of your behaviors and issues were simply symptoms of a real, concrete, documented illness that was out of your control. The relief of  those three letters and being able to stop wondering (and Googling) what was wrong with you. Because you knew all along it wasn’t just “a phase” or “hormones” or “asking for attention.” You weren’t asking for attention. You were asking for help. This isn’t your fault. Let that sink in for a minute. This isn’t your fault. 

Relief is beautiful, but often brief. After the initial shock wears off, your brain might start running down endless rabbit trails once again. Each with a different treasure chest of emotions at the end. It’s possible you’ll experience phases similar to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

It’s OK to be scared. Illness can be scary. Especially this illness, with its negative-sounding diagnosis. You may fear the unknown future that lies ahead. Your mind might wander, as it usually does. It will probably convince you that, somehow, this is your fault, and you may as well send back the college acceptance letters or turn down the new job offer because you’re headed for nowhere anyway. You have to make the conscious effort to shut this down ASAP. Listen to music, go for a walk and memorize a poem, read a book, do a puzzle. Do something that keeps your brain working hard so it doesn’t have the opportunity to stray. This is a tough phase, but you’ll get through it.

A piece of advice: don’t do too much research. I’m all for being informed, but in reality you’ll probably just end up scarred and scared at the statistics that truly don’t apply to you. Those numbers aren’t you. You are OK. You are here, now, reading this. You are breathing. You are OK. Numbers don’t mean anything. You are not a number. You are not a statistic.

The details of BPD may knock the wind out of you for a minute. You feel like you must be a lot worse off than you thought because all of these descriptions are, with overwhelming accuracy, describing you. I’ll tell you a secret: they were describing me, too. Along with millions of other individuals living with BPD. In a way, you just gained a family of semi-stable people who understand you in ways you don’t understand yourself yet. You are not alone. (Let that sink in.) You are a beautiful and unique puzzle. Each piece fits differently and connects in ways that are totally individual to you. This diagnosis is not the whole puzzle. Just a piece. But it’s a piece that gives you the opportunity to connect with other people’s unique puzzles. That’s such a gift.

All these words are nice, but the choice lies on your shoulders. It’s a choice that needs to be consciously made. You have been given three letters. Three little letters. You choose what you’re going to do with them. You can let them grow far bigger than they deserve to be. You can let them weigh you down and overwhelm your puzzle. Or, you can let them light a fire under you to send yourself running in the direction of perseverance, support and success. Borderline personality does not define you, change your intelligence or smother your ability to kick ass in this life.

Listen, I know that today isn’t your day. I might not even be your year.  But I also know you will get there. I know you are so much bigger than three little letters and a prescription. You have BPD, yes. But BPD doesn’t have to have you.


A Fellow Puzzle

The Mighty is asking the following: Give advice to someone who has just been diagnosed with your mental illness. What do you wish someone had told you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: March 8, 2016
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