Margaret Assany

@margaret-assany | contributor
Margaret lives in Texas with a husband, a pug, and several goats. She has borderline personality disorder and bipolar II.
Community Voices

22 Surprises, but My Mental Health Won't Be One of Them

At 26 years old, I felt that life had finally achieved some kind of “normal.” Sure, I had my diagnoses of bipolar II disorder and #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder, but I was in a stable place. I had my meds, I had therapy, I had good friends and an adoring husband. Life was as normal as it could be.

But then I decided to get a DNA test done with 23andme. I had found there was a research study on #Depression and #BipolarDisorder, so I was eligible for a free test. At most, I figured that I could learn more about my health. What I absolutely didn’t expect was to find three half-siblings I’d never heard of. My new, supposed-sister Rachel explained she was conceived through sperm donation… which meant that I was, too.

Fast forward to now. There are now 22 of us half-siblings, and most of us have welcomed the donor, Peter, into our lives, as well. I found my life suddenly entwined with so many strangers. They were family that I never believed to exist in their first place. The more of them I spoke to, the more excited I became. I was ready to befriend any, if not all, of them. It was a new beginning, and I couldn’t wait to connect.

Still… hiding in the dark crevasses of my mind, the BPD was always ready. These new relationships are prey to it. As soon as I realized I was becoming fond of my siblings and my donor, I decided to start the dialogue early. I knew my mental illnesses would come up at some point, what with a history of self-injury that left my arms covered in obvious scars. I pretend not to notice when unfamiliar people glance at my arms, but these people were new family. I wanted to be up-front with them.

I impressed upon some of them that relationships are difficult for me to maintain. People with BPD have a terrible habit of sabotaging their own relationships with friends, love interests, and even family. Years of therapy have worked wonders on me, but this BPD monster always tries to stick its claws where it doesn’t belong. I still felt enormous self-doubt, shame, and fear while talking with this new extended family. Would I do something that would make them hate me? Would I annoy them? Would I cling too hard?

It’s a terrifying tango that only I know I’m dancing. All of my relationships are built on my careful effort to maintain a balance. I’d allow myself to talk, but not too much. If I send a text, I’ve trained myself to just leave it at that until they respond so that I don’t try to smother them with lots of messages. Sometimes, it’s like I try to overcompensate for what I consider to be inherent “unlovability” by being the most agreeable person I can be. Until I mis-step.

After I met my donor and some of my siblings, panic set in. Was I becoming too attached? Are they just going to distance themselves from me, now that the novelty’s over? Or was I just being paranoid? I genuinely couldn’t tell if my fears had any basis in reality, but I’ve learned that constantly asking if someone if mad at you can only lead to disaster.

Against my better judgement, I sent Peter an email that touched on this fear. I had told him before about my BPD, but now those symptoms were live. BPD is exhausting not only for me, but for anyone that has a relationship with me. It’s a lot of tossing and turning, back and forth, love and hate. I half-wanted to break it off with him and the sisters I had met. I could only think I would cause them #Grief and drama. I was going to be the kind of person that they didn’t want in their lives. In my darkest thoughts, every night as I lay in bed, I was full of loathing for the kind of person I was, especially the parts that were amplified by the BPD. Above all, I feared that Peter would be mad at me for things I did and said, or drop out of my life. I adored him already, and the idea that he would come to hate me became my nightmare.

In this email, I told myself, I would offer him an out. It wasn’t fair to foist my disordered brain onto him. I would offer this out to him, and then accept things as they were, for better or worse.

He didn’t take it. He was warm and accepting, despite what I told him and despite the way I sometimes behave. My insecurities didn’t go away, but it did give me peace of mind that I didn’t need to be so paranoid. I tried to relax. I was able to find a comfortable rapport with each of the siblings I spoke with, which led to me policing myself less.

It’s difficult to maintain a constant guard around myself, but I found it was even more frightening to let that guard down. Self-doubt chased me in every interaction. I feared that the things I said or the way I said them would turn any of them away from me. For the most part, however, I left myself vulnerable to them. To my surprise, and excitement, the rejection I thought to be inevitable just never happened.

This group of near-strangers accepted me as a sister, just as they’d accepted everyone else has sisters and brothers. I was one of them, after all.

Being open about my struggles doesn’t make it any easier, but it does make me feel like I don’t need to constantly apologize and justify my actions and words. I worry less about my imagined missteps. It’s freeing, to be able to act like a “normal” human. I enjoy their company more, and I don’t feel bad when I act silly around them.

For us, this new family group is unpredictable and large, but full of joy and love. It’s something that not even my mental illnesses can destroy.

Borderline Personality Disorder: Breakdowns and Hope

All it took was one minute. My manager had kindly given me suggestions to improve in the workplace. Until that conversation, I had been peppy and had been doing what I thought was a good job. Apparently, someone else hadn’t thought that and had spoken to my manager about it. She’d sat me down, told me what the problem was, and how to improve. All composure had broken in one minute. Over the course of that shift, I broke down sobbing, rocking myself in the corner of the bathroom, had thoughts of self-injury and lost hope for my future. I emailed my therapist and my depression turned to rage as I vented about how unjust the complaint was, how stupid my coworkers were for not seeing how good I was and how I should just quit. By the end of my shift, the depression had returned. I sat in my car and contemplated driving off the third floor of the parking garage. My life was a failure, I concluded. Everyone hated me. It doesn’t take much for that wave of emotion to knock me to my knees. People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have difficulty with managing emotions. Any bit of criticism or praise can set off a long chain that can bewilder even the most sympathetic person. Keeping any sort of friendship is difficult for me. Finding — and keeping — my husband was no small miracle. Even now, I worry I’m not good enough for him. Relationship instability is another intense issue for anyone with BPD. I constantly have to check myself when I’m around people to make sure that I’m being socially appropriate. When I do make a connection with anyone, I cling hard to that person until it unnerves them. When they start to pull away, I panic, apologize and do whatever I can to keep myself close to them. I remember vividly when I was in high school, a girl telling me that my constant apologizing was a huge turn-off for her. Of course, just saying that is enough to unleash the tsunami of emotions. Needless to say, relationships are a very delicate balancing act. The problems associated with BPD have kept my life turbulent. I’m covered in scars from years of self-injury. I have two separate sojourns at two separate hospitals under my belt. I’ve attempted suicide four times. I can count on one hand the amount of jobs I’ve kept longer than a year. I’ve had times I’ve been so depressed I failed out of class. Impulsiveness has led to reckless and sometimes unsavory behaviors; spending money, sex, lying. Finding that oasis of stability has been so, so hard. The incident I opened this article with happened just last week. I’m fortunate to have a rock in my husband, my therapist and a community I’m still struggling to integrate myself into. I find that opening up to my professors and close friends about my mental illness helps them to understand why I sometimes react the way I do, or why I sometimes disappear from life for a while. Still, I don’t announce my illness to the world. I’m not ashamed I have BPD, and I’ll freely admit it to anyone who asks about my scars. However, my BPD does not define me, nor will I try to use it as an excuse. Someday, through therapy and my own personal strength, I hope to be able to regulate my own emotions. It’s a lofty goal for someone like me. But starting that goal only takes one minute. If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Elizabeth Mintz

Hypotonia and Gym Class in School

Gym class is always an… interesting experience for me. (I have some stronger words to describe it but my parents check each post.) When I reveal that I have hypotonia, it generally never ends well. I laugh at the idea of being accepted in gym class or even being put up with. I’ve learned to get used to it; I feel like when you have a disability and everyone starts to accept it, that’s usually when you wake up from the dream. This year, it was even scarier, as I had just moved from middle to high school. But telling the teacher about my disability didn’t go as planned. I tried to put it off for as long as possible, but since we always start the year off with physical fitness tests, I wasn’t able to procrastinate for that long. Eventually, when we went out on the track to practice for the half mile, I had to tell the teacher (let’s call him Mr. A). So as all the other girls took off running, I pulled Mr. A aside. Here’s how our conversation went: Me: “Mr. A, I have something I need to tell you. I have hypotonia, a muscle disorder–” Mr. A: “Yes, I know, I saw your shirt.” (I used my hypotonia awareness shirt as my gym shirt just in case.) “Are there any physical limitations I should know about?” Me: “I am a lot slower at running. It is harder for me to do push ups and sit ups. Instead of walking half the track and jogging half the track, I may have to walk three-quarters of the track, or even the whole track.” Mr. A: “Don’t worry about it. I understand if you need to walk; don’t stress about it.” I walked, or should I say jogged, away completely in shock at how well that went. I figured it was only a matter of time until he got fed up with me and my lack of athletic ability. About a week later, we were going to go run the half mile for real. The day before, I had been running around like crazy, and I had definitely overexerted myself. My legs and ankles were hurting so bad, I knew I would never be able to run that day. This was the real test: would he be accepting of me, or would he threaten to send me to the dean? I had no choice, so I took a deep breath and walked up to him. Mr. A: “Everything all right?” Me: “Mr. A, I’m so sorry but I don’t think I can run–” Mr. A: “Don’t worry about it, just walk. It’s fine, no stress, OK?” I was so amazed. There wasn’t even a hint of sarcasm or frustration in his voice. This has never happened to me in the history of gym class. I actually thought I was dreaming! What really astounded me, though, was after we went back in the gym. While we ran the track, the teachers timed us and told us our times. When we sat down, he called all of our names and we yelled out our time. I, obviously, did not get a time since I was walking, so I was trying to figure out what I would say when he called my name. But he saved me the embarrassment — he skipped over my name and just called the next girl on the list. No one noticed. This proved to me that he actually does care about me, and he’s not going be the kind of teacher who sends me to the dean. He proved to me that I can trust him, that I don’t have to be terrified before each gym class. Mr. A, if you are reading this, I want you to know how much I appreciate the things you’ve done for me. It may not seem like much, but you don’t know how much you helped me out. I am much calmer before gym because I know if something happens, you will have my back. Even just by casually mentioning that you noticed my shirt, I knew in my heart this year was going to be different. So thank you, Mr. A, for making gym class significantly better than the last three years. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by lzf.

'Don't Disagree or They'll Hate You': Making Friends With BPD

If anyone out there doesn’t like me, I’m doing something wrong. Not just a specific person. Anyone. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a massive people pleaser. As a child, I would write down the names of the other girls in my class (not the boys because ew, cooties) and evaluate my friendships with them. I would call them if I hadn’t done so in a while. I painstakingly hand-wrote invitations to birthday parties. I would go out of my way to be nice to absolutely anybody who might like me back. I’d laugh at unfunny jokes, I’d nod in agreement if someone said something that probably wasn’t true. Don’t disagree, or they’ll hate you was my philosophy. Most kids seem to grow out of that phase as they realize not everyone in the world wants to be their friend. Heck, there are people out there who they don’t want to be friends with in the first place. Their own self-worth starts to be defined by more than just the opinions and friendships of others. Yet here I am, desperately baking things for every single coworker’s birthday. Even if I don’t like them in the first place, I need them to like me. If even a single person out there doesn’t like me, how could anyone? Once that thought trickles in, I start hating myself. If I don’t know the particular reason someone might not like me, I’ll just hate every single thing I say or do, as well as how I say or do it. I moan to my therapist, “I have no friends! Why doesn’t anyone like me?” when in reality, I have plenty of friends. Rationally, I can recognize that as a ridiculous idea and one of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder. I evaluate myself based on how I think others do. Not knowing why someone doesn’t like me is agonizing. I try to change the way I act, think, talk… I basically try to change the way I exist. It doesn’t work, because fundamentally, I’m the same person, no matter how I act, think, or talk. It’s difficult to see that sometimes through my borderline brain. I don’t realize I’m doing it. I still laugh at stupid jokes, write thank-you notes, and try to act agreeable. I fantasize about arguing with people, but at this point, it’s almost a physical limitation. I tried arguing with a coworker once, and I thought I was going to throw up. I was convinced she would hate me. In turn, I would hate me. And you know what? I don’t think she hates me. Sure, we were annoyed with each other, but we got over it. I’m going easier on myself now, finally, in my 20s. It takes a lot of energy to be a people pleaser. So I’m learning how to say no. My husband helps me walk through rational reasons to say “no” to people sometimes, and it helps immensely. It doesn’t mean I like someone any less if I say no. Isn’t it funny how that works? Before you know it, I’ll like me for me, not just for others. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Creatas Images

Terry Cutting

Anxiety When Someone Asks to Talk to You at Work

“Could I just have a quick word with you in my office?” An innocent, harmless little sentence but one which strikes fear in to my heart. With my anxiety I tend to live my life one hour in to the future. If I have a situation coming up which I know will do a “spinal tap” on my anxiety dials, I need to know at least an hour beforehand. That’s how long it usually takes for the meds to kick in. Hearing this sort of instant request disrupts my plan for the day, and it brings instant terror. As I walk towards the office the anxiety starts to build like the painful wail of an air-raid siren. Gradually getting quicker, stronger, more unsettling. My mouth dries, the fidgeting starts before I’ve even reached the room. My mind is already assessing temperature (both of myself and the destination); if I have anything on me that can be used as a distraction tool e.g. notepad/pen, glasses, keys; the possible duration of the “quick word;” if I’ll be able to stand or be forced to sit face-to-face and how loud that air raid siren is screaming. We’re told that manufacturers of computer processors design lumps of silicone that can handle millions and millions of bits of information each second – that ability has nothing on the anxious mind! That’s how the inside of my head feels at times like these. To the other person I may appear to be listening, giving information and asking questions. From the inside it is a completely different story. When I speak I often feel as if it isn’t me somehow. Sure, I’m operating the jaw and muscles and words are coming out, but a part of my odd brain is asking, “Who is speaking? Is this my voice?” There is also the continual swirl of questioning what the other person is thinking about me. Do they think I’m waffling and talking rubbish? Do they think I look anxious? Are my clothes hanging OK? Do I look fat? Can they see my discomfort? Judgment is a big part of my world and has been since I was a boy. When sitting in an airless room with the door shut and no distractions, all the questions and judgment assessments go in to hyper-drive. Like I said, a supercomputer is but slate and chalk next to anxious grey matter. Less painful but still uncomfortable for me is meeting people in the street whom I may not have seen for a while. It’s as if my whole nervous system gets a strange kind of shock. The sort of shock you get when you have a sleep twitch. My brain seems to instantly split in to three concurrent trains of thought. I haven’t seen this person in ages and I’m interested to hear what they’ve been up to. Oh no – I don’t want to be trapped here on the street, I don’t want the anxiety, and I don’t want to hear all about your interesting life because mine pales in comparison and it makes me feel boring, inadequate and worthless. I want this encounter over ASAP – I want them gone! Guilt, self-loathing because of thinking the above point! They seem to last hours, and I then spend ages afterwards analyzing them in nauseating detail. Even a supercomputer must plug in to the power supply somewhere, and there must be an Off switch. How I wish I had one of those. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock illustration by Digital Vision.

A Borderline Identity: Finding My Mental Illness Label

In high school, I desperately wanted to be known as a rebel. I clung to every label I could and wore it with pride. Why, yes, I stood up for animal rights with my vegetarianism! I wore long, flowy pants in lieu of jeans and called myself a hippie. I hung up the signs I got from a peace protest and a bisexual pride flag. It was nothing more than a quest for an identity. I needed to prove to everyone I belonged. With borderline personality disorder, the abstract idea of identity is something we have difficulty comprehending. To me, it was all about finding a label and sticking it to myself, crying out, “This is who I am!” However, who I was (and am) continuously changed. I find myself, even now, grasping for anything that would hint at who I am. I wanted to fit in a box, snug and safe. According to the DSM-5, one of the criteria for BPD is “identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self.” I didn’t know it at the time, but this was one box that fit like a glove. BPD has many other criteria, but what people don’t see is how it can trap mental health professionals and patients alike. To doctors, we’re puzzles consistent enough to be solved with a diagnosis. Across the years, I’ve been diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), depression, bipolar disorder II, and BPD. The amount of medication I’ve been on over the past eight years is pretty impressive. With each new diagnosis, I kept thinking, “Aha! This is who I am. This is what’s wrong with me.” But you know what? In the end, it doesn’t matter what my label or diagnosis is. I am mentally ill; this much I know as a fact. I recognize the different parts of each disorder in me, from the desperation of BPD to the unbearable depression to the wild hypomania. I may not fit each diagnosis to a T. I may never have a label that fits me perfectly. Because ultimately, my only identity is Margaret. Image via Thinkstock.

Self-Harm and Cutting: Dealing With Stigma of Scars

Editor’s note: This post contains language that may be triggering if you have dealt with or are dealing with self-harm. If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline . I like to think of it as a “mark of Cain.” I’m covered in scars. When my self-injury was at its worst, I wore makeshift arm warmers. I made them out of socks with holes cut out for my fingers. Even though the material was thin, it made work difficult. I worked as a lifeguard at an indoor pool, and the humidity was hell. But I was too self-conscious, too ashamed, to go without. The hardest time was when I cut myself so deep that I had to have my skin glued back together in the ER. The doctor instructed me to keep the bandage on for about a week. There was no covering up. My cuts were still fresh and red. As the years passed, my cuts turned into massive keloids. I’ve given up on hiding them. People stare. Some comment. Some directly ask what happened. Depending on my mood, I’ll either lie or tell the truth. Usually, I tell them, “It’s a long story.” They tend to get the hint. It is a long story, after all. It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with my scars. They’re a physical embodiment of the stigma I fight every day. My mother has commented more than once that I should research a way to make them less obvious. Believe me, I’ve looked into it. At this stage, though, it’s hopeless. I’ll have these scars until the day I die. Though I’m comfortable enough with them, I would give anything for smooth skin and erasing the memories that goes with each scar. When I started cutting in middle school, everyone thought it was a phase. The cuts were extremely superficial and hardly drew blood. Amid the throes of puberty, I struggled with perfectionism in school, fought often with my mother, juggled too many extracurriculars and listened to the arguments that preceded my parents’ divorce. In high school, the cutting was more irregular, but it was still enough to alarm the people who knew me. I was fortunate enough to go to a boarding school, where I could escape the rages of my mother’s then-boyfriend. I was never physically abused, but I did have to cope with emotional and verbal abuse. I dreaded going home. This was the year I was diagnosed with depression and started antidepressants. When I went to college, it felt like the floor had dropped out from underneath me. I was being torn apart by my mental illnesses, and it reflected on me physically. At 20, I found myself in tears on the floor of a public restroom, scrubbing desperately at the stains that wouldn’t come off. I thought to myself, I shouldn’t be spending my college years wiping blood off the bathroom floor. Nobody should have memories like that, and nobody should have scars like mine. All I can do now, though, is damage control. At job interviews, I wear long sleeves to avoid not the questions, but the stigma. I know if my potential bosses see my scars, I’ll have to face a gauntlet of questions. No, I’m not suicidal. No, it won’t affect my job. And no, I will not face the indignity of adhering to the dress code of shame: long sleeves. Just because others are uncomfortable with my scars doesn’t mean I’m going to submit to it. I’m not ashamed. And, reader, if you have these same scars, neither should you. I understand it takes courage to wear short sleeves and bear your mark of Cain to the world. I’m certainly not asking you to pretend you’re proud of them. God knows I’m not. If you’re not ready to wear short sleeves, by all means, don’t. Everyone is in different stages of healing (both physically and mentally). I’m not ashamed to say I’m at a point where short sleeves are, for the most part, comfortable to wear. For scars, unlike fresh cuts, mean you’re on the path to recovery. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Self-Harm and Cutting: Dealing With Stigma of Scars

Editor’s note: This post contains language that may be triggering if you have dealt with or are dealing with self-harm. If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline . I like to think of it as a “mark of Cain.” I’m covered in scars. When my self-injury was at its worst, I wore makeshift arm warmers. I made them out of socks with holes cut out for my fingers. Even though the material was thin, it made work difficult. I worked as a lifeguard at an indoor pool, and the humidity was hell. But I was too self-conscious, too ashamed, to go without. The hardest time was when I cut myself so deep that I had to have my skin glued back together in the ER. The doctor instructed me to keep the bandage on for about a week. There was no covering up. My cuts were still fresh and red. As the years passed, my cuts turned into massive keloids. I’ve given up on hiding them. People stare. Some comment. Some directly ask what happened. Depending on my mood, I’ll either lie or tell the truth. Usually, I tell them, “It’s a long story.” They tend to get the hint. It is a long story, after all. It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with my scars. They’re a physical embodiment of the stigma I fight every day. My mother has commented more than once that I should research a way to make them less obvious. Believe me, I’ve looked into it. At this stage, though, it’s hopeless. I’ll have these scars until the day I die. Though I’m comfortable enough with them, I would give anything for smooth skin and erasing the memories that goes with each scar. When I started cutting in middle school, everyone thought it was a phase. The cuts were extremely superficial and hardly drew blood. Amid the throes of puberty, I struggled with perfectionism in school, fought often with my mother, juggled too many extracurriculars and listened to the arguments that preceded my parents’ divorce. In high school, the cutting was more irregular, but it was still enough to alarm the people who knew me. I was fortunate enough to go to a boarding school, where I could escape the rages of my mother’s then-boyfriend. I was never physically abused, but I did have to cope with emotional and verbal abuse. I dreaded going home. This was the year I was diagnosed with depression and started antidepressants. When I went to college, it felt like the floor had dropped out from underneath me. I was being torn apart by my mental illnesses, and it reflected on me physically. At 20, I found myself in tears on the floor of a public restroom, scrubbing desperately at the stains that wouldn’t come off. I thought to myself, I shouldn’t be spending my college years wiping blood off the bathroom floor. Nobody should have memories like that, and nobody should have scars like mine. All I can do now, though, is damage control. At job interviews, I wear long sleeves to avoid not the questions, but the stigma. I know if my potential bosses see my scars, I’ll have to face a gauntlet of questions. No, I’m not suicidal. No, it won’t affect my job. And no, I will not face the indignity of adhering to the dress code of shame: long sleeves. Just because others are uncomfortable with my scars doesn’t mean I’m going to submit to it. I’m not ashamed. And, reader, if you have these same scars, neither should you. I understand it takes courage to wear short sleeves and bear your mark of Cain to the world. I’m certainly not asking you to pretend you’re proud of them. God knows I’m not. If you’re not ready to wear short sleeves, by all means, don’t. Everyone is in different stages of healing (both physically and mentally). I’m not ashamed to say I’m at a point where short sleeves are, for the most part, comfortable to wear. For scars, unlike fresh cuts, mean you’re on the path to recovery. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Self-Harm and Cutting: Dealing With Stigma of Scars

Editor’s note: This post contains language that may be triggering if you have dealt with or are dealing with self-harm. If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline . I like to think of it as a “mark of Cain.” I’m covered in scars. When my self-injury was at its worst, I wore makeshift arm warmers. I made them out of socks with holes cut out for my fingers. Even though the material was thin, it made work difficult. I worked as a lifeguard at an indoor pool, and the humidity was hell. But I was too self-conscious, too ashamed, to go without. The hardest time was when I cut myself so deep that I had to have my skin glued back together in the ER. The doctor instructed me to keep the bandage on for about a week. There was no covering up. My cuts were still fresh and red. As the years passed, my cuts turned into massive keloids. I’ve given up on hiding them. People stare. Some comment. Some directly ask what happened. Depending on my mood, I’ll either lie or tell the truth. Usually, I tell them, “It’s a long story.” They tend to get the hint. It is a long story, after all. It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with my scars. They’re a physical embodiment of the stigma I fight every day. My mother has commented more than once that I should research a way to make them less obvious. Believe me, I’ve looked into it. At this stage, though, it’s hopeless. I’ll have these scars until the day I die. Though I’m comfortable enough with them, I would give anything for smooth skin and erasing the memories that goes with each scar. When I started cutting in middle school, everyone thought it was a phase. The cuts were extremely superficial and hardly drew blood. Amid the throes of puberty, I struggled with perfectionism in school, fought often with my mother, juggled too many extracurriculars and listened to the arguments that preceded my parents’ divorce. In high school, the cutting was more irregular, but it was still enough to alarm the people who knew me. I was fortunate enough to go to a boarding school, where I could escape the rages of my mother’s then-boyfriend. I was never physically abused, but I did have to cope with emotional and verbal abuse. I dreaded going home. This was the year I was diagnosed with depression and started antidepressants. When I went to college, it felt like the floor had dropped out from underneath me. I was being torn apart by my mental illnesses, and it reflected on me physically. At 20, I found myself in tears on the floor of a public restroom, scrubbing desperately at the stains that wouldn’t come off. I thought to myself, I shouldn’t be spending my college years wiping blood off the bathroom floor. Nobody should have memories like that, and nobody should have scars like mine. All I can do now, though, is damage control. At job interviews, I wear long sleeves to avoid not the questions, but the stigma. I know if my potential bosses see my scars, I’ll have to face a gauntlet of questions. No, I’m not suicidal. No, it won’t affect my job. And no, I will not face the indignity of adhering to the dress code of shame: long sleeves. Just because others are uncomfortable with my scars doesn’t mean I’m going to submit to it. I’m not ashamed. And, reader, if you have these same scars, neither should you. I understand it takes courage to wear short sleeves and bear your mark of Cain to the world. I’m certainly not asking you to pretend you’re proud of them. God knows I’m not. If you’re not ready to wear short sleeves, by all means, don’t. Everyone is in different stages of healing (both physically and mentally). I’m not ashamed to say I’m at a point where short sleeves are, for the most part, comfortable to wear. For scars, unlike fresh cuts, mean you’re on the path to recovery. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Borderline Personality Disorder: Breakdowns and Hope

All it took was one minute. My manager had kindly given me suggestions to improve in the workplace. Until that conversation, I had been peppy and had been doing what I thought was a good job. Apparently, someone else hadn’t thought that and had spoken to my manager about it. She’d sat me down, told me what the problem was, and how to improve. All composure had broken in one minute. Over the course of that shift, I broke down sobbing, rocking myself in the corner of the bathroom, had thoughts of self-injury and lost hope for my future. I emailed my therapist and my depression turned to rage as I vented about how unjust the complaint was, how stupid my coworkers were for not seeing how good I was and how I should just quit. By the end of my shift, the depression had returned. I sat in my car and contemplated driving off the third floor of the parking garage. My life was a failure, I concluded. Everyone hated me. It doesn’t take much for that wave of emotion to knock me to my knees. People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have difficulty with managing emotions. Any bit of criticism or praise can set off a long chain that can bewilder even the most sympathetic person. Keeping any sort of friendship is difficult for me. Finding — and keeping — my husband was no small miracle. Even now, I worry I’m not good enough for him. Relationship instability is another intense issue for anyone with BPD. I constantly have to check myself when I’m around people to make sure that I’m being socially appropriate. When I do make a connection with anyone, I cling hard to that person until it unnerves them. When they start to pull away, I panic, apologize and do whatever I can to keep myself close to them. I remember vividly when I was in high school, a girl telling me that my constant apologizing was a huge turn-off for her. Of course, just saying that is enough to unleash the tsunami of emotions. Needless to say, relationships are a very delicate balancing act. The problems associated with BPD have kept my life turbulent. I’m covered in scars from years of self-injury. I have two separate sojourns at two separate hospitals under my belt. I’ve attempted suicide four times. I can count on one hand the amount of jobs I’ve kept longer than a year. I’ve had times I’ve been so depressed I failed out of class. Impulsiveness has led to reckless and sometimes unsavory behaviors; spending money, sex, lying. Finding that oasis of stability has been so, so hard. The incident I opened this article with happened just last week. I’m fortunate to have a rock in my husband, my therapist and a community I’m still struggling to integrate myself into. I find that opening up to my professors and close friends about my mental illness helps them to understand why I sometimes react the way I do, or why I sometimes disappear from life for a while. Still, I don’t announce my illness to the world. I’m not ashamed I have BPD, and I’ll freely admit it to anyone who asks about my scars. However, my BPD does not define me, nor will I try to use it as an excuse. Someday, through therapy and my own personal strength, I hope to be able to regulate my own emotions. It’s a lofty goal for someone like me. But starting that goal only takes one minute. If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.