I am a 33 year old woman. I received a diagnosis about a year and a half ago of Borderline Personality Disorder. At first I didn’t really understand what it was. I thought, Isn’t what I have more serious than that? I was pretty sure I had something else, something more recognizable. Something I’d actually heard of, for instance. Turns out it’s serious enough. On top of the shitstorm of feelings and thoughts I have on a daily basis, professionals are reluctant to treat people with BPD. We’re notorious for being ‘hard to deal with’.
When I first started coming out with my diagnosis, I continuously got the same feedback: “You’re not Borderline. Borderline people are way worse than you.” I had a friend of mine, who works in social services, tell me that she regularly works with people who are Borderline and that I’m way too ‘stable’. As if there’s ever a cut-and-dry case of anything. As if a person can’t be themselves in addition to whatever it is that they happen to be diagnosed with. As if a person can be stereotyped by three little words.
Here’s what it comes down to. On a daily basis I feel like I’m a slave to my feelings. I feel like they are somehow compromised and I can’t trust them. And anything can trigger me, and when it does, I have no idea how long it will last. I can go from okay or happy to depressed and suicidal in the blink of an eye. Other people’s good news tends to send me into a game of comparison where I come out short-handed, and instead of being able to be truly happy for them, I am plagued by thoughts and feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, envy, jealousy, abandonment, self-hatred, and the overall feeling that my life is going nowhere and I’ll be a loser forever. This is especially true for me since I left my job last year to go on disability to attempt to recover from some of my symptoms and sort out all the frayed ends of my life. Fast forward a year and I feel like I’m worse than ever, will never get better, and am basically a waste of space. I have lovely people in my life who try to convince me otherwise. Sometimes I am open enough to let it in. Other times I am not, and their reassurances fall on closed ears.
I am a Borderline who tends to internalize more than externalize. So when I have an episode – meaning, when I feel triggered and everything feels like it’s going downhill fast and I feel scared and abandoned – instead of taking it out on the person nearest to me, instead of yelling and screaming and letting all the rage and fear come out in a more physical way, I tend to withdraw, go inside, and process internally. This is scary for me, but I grew up in an environment where it was not in a person’s best interest to show any feelings. My partner probably sees the worst of it since we live together. So many times I wish I could respond instead of react, wish I could be happy for her good news instead of feeling threatened, insecure and vulnerable, instead of crying and hyperventilating. I wish that the core of everything for me was something other than ‘I’m going to be left all alone’. I feel like I can’t trust my own judgment; I am unable to tell if what I am perceiving is actually happening or not on a near-constant basis.
I’m in DBT right now, three modules (of four) into the program. Yes, it’s helping, slowly. But it’s frustrating. I want progress now. I want to see myself through different eyes. I want to be able to trust – myself as well as others. I want, I want, I want. I am still coming to terms with what my diagnosis means for me. I know that I identify with it. I know that it severely impacts my relationships with people. I’m fine with friendships until people get too close. Until there’s conflict. Until I have to step outside of my comfort zone and trust that I am not going to be abandoned at the first sign of ‘weakness’ (read: any display of my true thoughts or feelings). In the past I have ended friendships and relationships because people got too close and I didn’t like what they had to say to me and wasn’t willing to look at the way I impact others. Now I am working on being open to the idea that relationships can grow and expand just like people, and trying to trust the people in my life, to trust that they won’t hurt me or leave me and that if they have something to say that I don’t like, it’s coming from a place of love and respect.
One of the most frustrating aspects of what I go through is that I want people in my life, but I don’t. I need people to be there, but I’m so scared they’re going to hurt me that I want to be the one to push them away first. I want to save myself the pain and misery of being left alone. This has played itself out bigtime in past romantic relationships (and some friendships as well). The last relationship I was in lasted six years. At least half of that was me trying to break up with the other person, then finding I can’t live without them so going back, then breaking up with them again, etc., etc. I get scared that I’ll start acting that way in my current relationship, because sometimes my fight-or-flight instinct kicks in and I want to run like hell. I forget about all the good things we have together and I just want to get away to a safe place because it feels too risky to stick around and deal with life on a daily basis. I just want to say ‘Fuck it’ and run. I’ve had plenty of those moments in this relationship. But I also have plenty of awareness now. Perhaps that’s part of what enables me to stay. I hope it continues to work. I would hate to throw something good away in the heat of the moment.
As I write this I am in the middle of an emotional hangover. I was up late into the night after a particularly trying day in an attempt to decompress in order to get to sleep. I have leftover feelings today from something that happened yesterday. I was seriously triggered and I’m not sure when I will feel like ‘myself’ again. Thankfully I have DBT today, and a meeting with my DBT coach tomorrow. I need these things to stay sane, these little things that break up the days and give meaning to my life. Right now I feel like it’s all I’ve got, even though I’m sure that’s probably not the case. I look forward to the day when I can handle my emotions, whatever they are, without judging them, and judging myself for having them. I look forward to the day when all of this DBT stuff is just stuff that’s ingrained in me, stuff I reach to automatically instead of having to do the whole downward spiral thing first. Mostly I look forward to the day when I don’t feel like I have to harm myself in order to feel better about something that’s triggered me.