The Mighty Logo

What Being Recovered From Borderline Personality Disorder Means and Doesn’t Mean

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

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 wanted to clear up what being recovered from borderline personality disorder (BPD) is… and what it is not.

The word “recovered” is deceiving, like you are “cured” of an illness. Recovered in this sense does not mean you have no more symptoms, or that your struggles are now a thing of the past. Rather, it means you have progressed to the point where you can handle them.

Having my psychiatrist say to me, “I think you no longer qualify for the disorder,” was surreal. What she meant by it was that my personality was not considered “disordered” to the degree it once was; it did not mean BPD was completely gone from my life. My doctor then added: “There will be things in your personality structure that will come up, and we can work through them as they arise.”

What types of things, you might ask? All the common traits of someone with borderline will still come up, but with my new self-awareness and healthier coping skills, I am now better equipped to tolerate and manage them. However, my battles are far from over:

I can get so anxious I grind my teeth until they break; I have had two root canals for severely broken teeth.

I can get so anxious I pick at my skin, creating bleeding sores.

I can get so anxious I obsessively clean, run errands, change my home furniture around, reorganize, purge belongings, exercise and stay in a constant state of busyness. Doing, instead of being.

I can’t always distinguish the reality of a situation — whether I’m having a healthy thought or a “borderline thought.”

I can have recurring nightmares of me or my child drowning, and other abandonment-themed dreams.

I can get so stressed I experience disassociation from time to time, such as depersonalization.

I can crave abusing drugs and/or alcohol.

I can impulsively spend money.

I can have suicidal thoughts and ideations.

I can feel emotions more intensely than the average person, sometimes causing me urges to self-harm.

I can experience extreme mood swings between euphoria and dysphoria.

I can think dark thoughts as soon as I’m alone.

I am afraid of rejection and abandonment.

I can have a hard time making friends as getting close to someone requires trust and vulnerability.

I can experience intense rage and lash out, breaking things or breaking my bones from hitting objects.

I am afraid of engulfment in my relationships, therefore I hesitate to get close or truly connecting with people out of the fear I will smother them, and in turn, they will leave.

I can get so tense that my muscles spasm, creating chronic back pain.

I can battle with the desire to reach an unattainable goal of perfection.

I can struggle with black and white thinking with my view of myself and others.

I have to fight discouragement to continue tasks or projects.

I have to constantly challenge my belief systems of not being good enough and/or not being lovable.

I can feel completely terrified of the judgment and stigma surrounding my illness.

But I can and do seek out self-help material, therapy programs, journal every day and practice self-care and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills.

My recovery is not static; it is continuous. A daily, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute reality. For me, being recovered means I have fewer crisis events in my life, fewer hospital stays, fewer medication trials, fewer self-harm/suicide attempts, fewer weekend benders and fewer dissociative states. These crises were at one time my norm – just what I called life. Now, thankfully, I am no longer condemned to live from crisis to crisis, but I still struggle with the illness. It is a fight against myself and emotional pain, and darkness lurks within. It is a fight against every ounce of me that would rather find an easier — toxic — way to cope, rather than doing the work that is required to change unhealthy patterns.

This honest list is a small glimpse into the harsh realities of living with borderline traits. Though life has significantly improved in ways I couldn’t have imagined, life still has a way of slapping me in the face – of reminding me where I came from.

What helps me on my journey now is knowing myself well and challenging myself regularly — pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. Every time I push through a frightening situation and survive it, I build both my resilience and my self-efficacy — my belief in myself.

My path to recovery led me to discover my broken belief system – i.e., I am not good enough, not lovable. I came to understand these inner whisperings were lies; then, I discovered truth. I have to remind myself of the truth every day — that I am worthy, good enough and lovable. This new self-perception was and still is life-changing. Truth set me free from the false beliefs that had held me prisoner. Make no mistake — recovery is a journey. Although deemed recovered, the fight continues, but it is so very worth it.

Recovery from borderline personality disorder is possible; my story is just one example, but there are many others. In fact, there is an entire book dedicated to just recovery stories — 24 stories, including my own, is featured in this publication: Beyond Borderline: True Stories of Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder.

Warmest regards,


Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Image via soysuperfer on Pixabay

Originally published: December 7, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home