Reposted from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness
What Is BPD?
What is borderline personality disorder? If you’ve been friends with me on facebook for a while chances are you’ve seen me post about it more than once. See depression and anxiety are well known and fairly common. If I say I have depression you will most likely know what I am talking about and you can grasp how I feel. But when I say I have borderline personality disorder I get weird looks and confused faces. “What is that?” “Does that mean you have different personalities?” “That sounds scary…” Those are some of the reactions I have gotten over the past few months since being diagnosed, which is one of the many reasons why I post about it on facebook and why I am talking about it today. There are a lot of unknowns surrounding BPD and a lot of stigma attached to the diagnosis. I am going to go over the symptoms of BPD and how each manifests in me in my daily life.
Fear of abandonment
This is not just being scared your significant other will leave you someday. For those with BPD, we fear every person in our lives will someday abandon us. Whether real or imagined, this fear has a death grip on us. We will suffer extreme reactions when we believe someone will abandon us including panic, rage, depression, etc. As an example, in my previous relationship, if my ex-girlfriend was going to hang out with friends (especially if it was not planned in advance) I would get very panicked. I would have full blown panic attacks before she left and I would beg her to stay, sometimes even threatening to commit suicide or harm myself if she didn’t. I would stay up until she got back, worrying the entire time that she wouldn’t return and that I would be left alone.
Intense and unstable relationships with family and friends
For people with BPD, we usually have histories of rocky relationships with those close to us. We can go from loving and adoring you one minute (idealization) to being furious and hating you the next (devaluation). This is where the term “favorite person” comes from in the borderline community. There is usually one of two people that we absolutely idolize and want to spend all our time with, and if they are busy and can’t spend time with us we tend to get angry and feel abandoned. For me, idealization and devaluation are very common. I can be in a great mood and having an awesome time with a family member or friend and then just like that I will be irritated and angry with whomever I’m with. The most prominent example I can think of is in high school. I would hang out with a friend and be talking away, happy as could be, and then want absolutely nothing to do with them. Because of that, I ended up losing most of my friends from high school.
Unstable sense of self or identity issues
This causes changes in values, opinions, identity, plans for the future, etc. This is why many with BPD have a difficult time answering the question, “Who are you?” or “Tell me about yourself!” We don’t know. It changes from day to day. For me, I tend to pick up on other peoples’ personalities and mold them to fit my own. I will pick up on mannerisms and things people say and adapt them to myself. I’m never sure if what I’m doing or thinking is me or something I picked up along the way. I also have a hard time explaining my values and opinions because they change from day to day.
Impulsive or damaging behaviors
Impulsive or damaging behaviors such as excessive spending, binge eating, reckless driving, unsafe sex, and/or substance abuse. People with BPD tend to feel emotions much more intensely than everyone else. Because of that, we like to look for things to “numb” the feelings, if only temporarily. I can say from my own personal experience I have done all of these behaviors except one to either quiet my emotions or fill the void when I feel numb.
Recurring suicidal behavior/threats and/or self-injury
Feeling emotions so intensely, or feeling nothing at all, is exhausting and very frustrating. When I’m mad, I’m furious. When I’m sad, I’m depressed. When I’m happy, I’m ecstatic. As far as the suicidal behaviors and threats, those are very common in my life as well. I have been in a psychiatric ward six times over the past year and a half due to threats of suicide/suicidal ideation. Personally, when I threaten suicide I am 100% serious. If I do not get help in that moment it can be dangerous. What I am feeling in that moment is just too much to bear any longer and I am desperately searching for a way out.
Chronic feelings of worthlessness or emptiness
Although those with BPD feel everything very intensely, we are also empty at the same time. For me, I tend to feel that the world is better off without me and that I am worthless as a person. I do not have anything to contribute to the world. This contributes to the suicidal thoughts and the self-harming behaviors.
Inappropriate and intense anger
For me, this one goes back to the fear of abandonment. When I feel I am being abandoned, I can get extremely angry as a result of the panic I feel. I have a hard time rationalizing why I am angry and I have a hard time controlling it as well. Sometimes I get angry for no reason and even thought I know there is no reason for my anger, I cannot talk myself down. No one else can either usually, so I just have to wait it out until I am calmed down.
Stress related paranoia and dissociative symptoms
Hallucinations are terrifying and very hard to deal with. Although my hallucinations tend to be few and far between, the dissociative symptoms are common. If my emotions are too intense I will dissociate, or “zone out.” I will feel like I am not real, like I am watching myself from above and out of my body. I can’t hear anyone or feel anything. My body and mind has essentially shut down. Sometimes it lasts a few seconds, sometimes in lasts an hour. It depends on if I am alone or with someone who knows how to ground me back to reality and it also depends on how intense my emotions had been before I began to dissociate.
I hope this helped shed some light on what borderline personality disorder is and what I deal with on a day to day basis. People with BPD aren’t bad or scary or manipulative. We just have a little bit more to deal with every day.