Living with Borderline Personality Disorder
When Everything Is All or Nothing
I was 18 the first time I saw a psychiatrist. He was a man in a button-up shirt with glasses and frazzled hair. Everyone said he was one of the best in Minnesota and he would be able to help me with anything. He very briefly mentioned something called Borderline Personality Disorder, but didn't seem too worried about it. The next psychiatrist I saw was a tiny Pakistani woman, and that was all she could talk about with me. She seemed convinced that Borderline Personality Disorder was the root of all my problems.
I kept bouncing around to new psychiatrists until I found one I liked. It's quite exhausting to go through the intake appointments. Having to say who you are and rehash every traumatic detail of your story so the doctor can analyze the root of your problems. Prescribing new medications that may or may not work, but "Come back in a few weeks and we'll see how you're doing." And of course, these doctors all charge an arm and a leg because they can. We're desperate for medicine, so we keep going.
It was already expensive when the doctor told me I was bipolar and that I have anxiety. Then they all kept talking about this Borderline Personality Disorder? I'm quite confident in who I am as a person; how can I have a personality disorder?
I went home and consulted the internet. I found a checklist of symptoms relating to Borderline Personality Disorder, and it was scary how accurate the list seemed to be: Mood swings, seeing the world in extremes, impulsive behaviors, unsteady relationships, fear of abandonment, self-harm, inappropriate anger, feelings of emptiness, difficulty trusting others... every single one of those, I have dealt with. Almost on a daily basis. I read article after article about people who have been struggling with this disorder for years and they feel so alone; nobody seems to understand it.
From my experience, it's true. I've got an alphabet soup of mental issues. When I talk to people about being bipolar or bulimic, that doesn't scare them. Mentioning PTSD or anxiety is no big deal. But for some reason, Borderline Personality Disorder is incredibly isolating. Most people don't understand it and don't even try to understand it. They hear that it's a personality disorder, and they get spooked. Does this person hear voices? Do they have MULTIPLE personalities? No. Even if that were the case, I'd expect to be treated like any other human.
On a daily basis, I run across TONS of people who struggle with depression or who are also bipolar. Anxiety is also commonly talked about. I meet people with PTSD more on a weekly basis. People with bulimia pop up quite often. But in the three years since I've been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I've met two people with it. Two people who openly talk about it with me. So either it's incredibly rare, or it's pretty common and people are just afraid to talk about it. People are afraid of being viewed differently once others know about their dirty laundry.
In a single day, my emotions can change 100 times. I can wake up depressed, struggle to get up, suddenly get a burst of energy in the shower, feel euphoric on my way to work, get angry with my boss, be down again for the first hour at work, get peppy out of nowhere, feel sad and start to get weepy at work and have to excuse myself to the bathroom, get ravenously hungry after work and binge eat, feel guilty afterwards and then sleep for 15 hours until I have to get up and do it all over again... that's a pretty typical day. Even on medication, I still struggle with mood swings, feeling empty inside, and building strong relationships. I still think about harming myself on a daily basis. I've been in a solid relationship for a year and I still worry that my partner doesn't love me and wants to leave me.
Nothing impacts me like Borderline Personality Disorder does. I have learned to manage everything else in my mind quite well. It's a balancing act, and some days I have to try extra hard, but I can do it. Borderline Personality Disorder is the one thing that still fucks me in the ass—and I don't even like anal sex.
It scares many people away. When I'm having a breakdown and I'm talking about wanting to die or wanting to hurt myself people get scared, or even tell me to get over it. When I say I feel empty as they tell me they love me, people get upset. When I refuse to trust someone even though they've done nothing wrong, they don't understand. It makes me feel like I shouldn't be around people. Like I need to distance myself from everyone, so nobody misses me when I'm gone. But then, I feel empty when I'm alone and I want to be with people. So it feels like there's no way to win as long as I've got this disorder. Which is why I try my best to make every day okay. Take my meds, surround myself with good people, and remind myself that I'm loved.
This isn't a normal experience. Not many people get what I'm feeling. I struggle to get people to understand me because my emotions are so all over the map. I want nothing more than to feel like my emotional experiences are normal and valid. But I know that oftentimes, they aren't. I have no reason to worry or fret, but it still happens.
Compared to other disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Borderline Personality Disorder is pretty new. Many people don't get it. Doctors are still struggling to treat it. It's a circus, and I'm a monkey. Every single day.