Maybe you've heard of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or maybe you haven't. BPD is categorized as a mental disorder characterized by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships. BPD is becoming one of the most researched personality disorders and it's estimated that three million people a year are diagnosed with it. A year ago, hell, six months ago I had never even heard of it. However, in May, I was diagnosed with a "textbook" case of BPD. I had previously been diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder (twice) so hearing a completely new diagnosis shocked me. "How?" I thought to myself. After learning about the signs and symptoms (or, the "Big Nine" as my hospital psychologist called it) my "How?" was extended to "How did nobody see this sooner?". I fit all nine criteria perfectly. I began to think about my life and how my life was affected by BPD.
Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
For as long as I could remember, I could never be single. I always had to be dating someone, even if it was online dating. Through most of high school, I was always telling my friends about my newest partner, only to dump them a day later because they didn't reply to my text fast enough. However, before I would dump them there was my famous saying: "If you leave me, I'm going to kill myself". I have said this at least once to all my exes, hoping that it made them stay. Some worried and stayed, others didn't care. I said it as a way of manipulating them to stay, and looking back, that was an emotionally abusive thing to do. I didn't know why, I just couldn't be alone, and I just felt everyone was abandoning me at all times.
A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
I feel like this one goes hand in hand with the last one. It was as simple as "Agree with me, care for me, don't leave me, I like you" and if you didn't, I automatically hated you. I either love you, or I despise you. I've ended friendships and relationships with people out of nowhere just because they did something minor and I decided I didn't like them anymore.
Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
Arguably the biggest symptom I deal with. For the longest time, I was a different thing each week; a different subculture (my scene phase, anyone?), a different religion, a different sexual orientation, hell, at one point I convinced myself I was a transgender male just because I felt masculine (I might talk about that some other time- that's a tough subject for me). Heck, I waited almost three months after my diagnosis to come out as gay because I was scared people wouldn't take me seriously with how often I changed my mind on who I was. While some things I finally realized, I'm still working out some identity issues.
Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g. spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
I'm going to be brief with this one because it involves things I'm not exactly ready to talk about in detail. But for now I'll say this -- I'm guilty of four out of five of the examples given.
Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
Remember in the beginning of this article where I mentioned I told my past partners that if they left me I'd kill myself? this is part of that. Looking back, I'm not really sure why I was suicidal, I just impulsively felt the need to end my life. I've had multiple suicide attempts in the past, my last one ended with me getting hospitalized and finally getting the help I needed. In my junior year of high school, I became an avid cutter -- I used to bring a thumbtack to school so I could cut in between classes, and the only reason I could think of was "well, it makes me feel better". I haven't cut since I left the hospital, but as Ellie Nash from Degrassi said, "No matter if I don't do it for years, I'll still be a cutter".
Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood -- intense feelings that can last from a few hours to a few days.
AKA the reason I was probably diagnosed as Bipolar. Not a lot to say, All these things combined made me an extremely moody and unpredictable person.
Chronic feelings of emptiness.
I mostly experienced these feelings when thinking about my future -- what did I want to do for a career? Do I want kids? Will I ever be able to hold down a job? My future became a scary thing for me, and things involving my future left me feeling empty. I don't consider empty and depressed the same things, though, because (at least to me) they feel different. I don't now, it's hard to explain.
Inappropriate intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
Oh man, The Incredible Hulk has nothing on me. The tiniest thing sets me off. Just last week I almost broke a chair because my family wanted to go to Olive Garden and I wanted to go to a diner. I'm not sure why I get so angry (my therapist seems to think it's because my dad has an explosive temper and that I learned it from him) but Alas, my temper has gotten me fired from three jobs and it's still something I'm working on.
Transient, stress-related paranoid ideas or severe dissociative symptoms.
This one is interesting for me, because apparently, in severe cases, stress-related psychotic episodes can also happen. Starting from grade school, whenever I got severely stressed out, I would hear voices in my head. Good times. I never really talked about it because I knew it wasn't normal (hell, I didn't tell my mom it was happening until November of last year) and how does that come up in conversation? Luckily, my therapist and I have been working hard to make sure I'm stress-free and voice free! I'm not really sure what to say in terms of the paranoia and dissociative symptoms, as, besides some minor "everyone hates me!!" stuff, I haven't had much experience with it.
Living with BPD is definitely a challenge, but it's not impossible. I'm still getting the help I need, and every day is one step closer to a better life. If you have BPD, you're not alone, and I hope you're getting or will get the help you need.