REFRESH
05/11/2019 8:10 AM AEDT

What I Want You To Know About Borderline Personality Disorder

There’s a lot of loneliness in having someone discount who you are for something you can’t control.

Courtesy of Erika Lee
The author.

I didn’t always know I had an illness. It was only after my first boyfriend broke up with me in my first year of college, five years ago, that I began to realize something might be wrong with me.

We would talk on the phone for up to five hours a night, and I would still have intense feelings that he didn’t spend enough time with me. That he didn’t love me. That he would leave me. That I wasn’t enough. My relationships constantly fluctuated — getting people to want to date me or be my friend was easy, but people never seemed to want to stick around.

There was always a falling out with a co-worker, a childhood friend or a potential boyfriend. I blamed it on everything and everyone except myself. No matter how great my life was, or how many people cared about me, I always felt empty and unloved. When my friends weren’t with me, I was always paranoid they would be saying things behind my back. I had no logical reason for these feelings, but I always felt like everyone was against me. 

Even then, I just thought maybe I was going through a phase. What I didn’t know at the time was that people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder always have someone they deem their “FP” or “favorite person,” or the person they unconsciously choose in their minds to love-bomb, to constantly think about and to have unrealistically high expectations for. Whenever I had a falling out with my FP ― sometimes it was a friend and sometimes it was a romantic interest ― I would want to die. I didn’t know why at the time, but I constantly felt so worthless and abandoned. 

No matter how great my life was, or how many people cared about me, I always felt empty and unloved.

And the patterns kept returning. Whenever a friend or lover didn’t text me back for over a few hours, I began to panic. They hate me. I did something wrong. Why would they ignore me like this? Who else are they hanging out with? Why am I not enough? These were some of the thoughts that plagued my mind ― thoughts that I tortured myself with. The worst part is, even if it wasn’t true, I still projected that as my truth onto others.

I got into so many arguments and falling-outs that I wonder how my life would have been different if none of this were my reality. I never actually considered this was a mental illness. I just thought I was a little more sensitive than other people.

One day during my junior year in college three years ago, after a screaming fight with my parents about skipping a few classes in college, my mom sat me down and told me gently that perhaps I should seek help. She had noticed that I had been crying almost every morning for almost no reason and had no motivation to get out of bed. She was worried that I would fail all my classes. At first, it felt like she only cared about how I was doing in school and not actually how my health was. But after saying I was fine for a few months and not actually being fine, I realized it didn’t matter because I couldn’t go on like this.  

So when I was 20 years old, I began to see a psychiatrist on and off. I knew I already had anxiety, so it made me feel even more hopeless to have more things wrong with me stacked on top of each other. But my therapist reassured me that BPD often goes hand in hand with other disorders such as anxiety and depression. Some symptoms of BPD include intense fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, shifting self-image, impulsive behaviors, feelings of emptiness, extreme mood swings and anger issues. At its worst, it could also lead to self-harm and suicidal behavior.

After seeing a psychiatrist, I didn’t get better right away. But taking medication and having someone to talk about it with made things a lot less worse.

I didn’t get better right away, but taking medication and having someone to talk about it with made things a lot less worse. The changes were small and gradual. Days would go by and I would realize one day that I didn’t wake up crying. Or that one of my days was not that bad. Or that I didn’t get in any arguments for one or two weeks. Nothing made me extremely happy, but not everything felt so terrible anymore and that was the most amazing thing.

When I first told my friends after my first few months of therapy, it was hard for many of them to understand. It seemed like I just wanted to justify all my behavior by blaming it on something. Some stayed supportive of me during this period of self-discovery, but many were still hurt from past fights we’d had. The best I can describe it is that I was supported at an arm’s length. The period of isolation when I first began to seek therapy made me appreciate the relationships I did have. 

Borderline personality disorder is misunderstood. There is a lot of stigma surrounding the disease, deeming it “untreatable.” Not everyone knows what exactly it is, but once people hear the words, they tend to stay away. BPD is scary — people closest to me have told me that the scariest part about me is the unpredictability, not knowing when my moods will change — but it’s also extremely complex. It’s so much more than just being a difficult person to be around. People with BPD have the capacity to feel so deeply and intensely for others. They have some of the biggest hearts.

Borderline personality disorder is so much more than just being a difficult person to be around. People with BPD have the capacity to feel so deeply and intensely for others. They have some of the biggest hearts.

I don’t want to be the way that I am. I am categorized as unstable and unfixable and nothing more than a problem. But the truth is that I, along with others who struggle with BPD, just want to feel seen and heard and be believed in. There’s a lot of loneliness in having someone discount who you are for something you can’t control.

I’m doing my best to make sure that I am becoming a better version of myself every single day. My greatest wish is to attain stability — emotionally, physically and mentally. BPD isn’t untreatable; it just takes time.

Now, two years after starting treatment, old friends have commented that they have seen significant improvement in my emotional stability. I’ve been able to have healthy relationships. Instead of lashing out at others, I’ve been able to reflect and discuss problems in a calm manner. While I am not perfect and still have days of instability, I am infinitely better than before. 

I’m thankful to my family for supporting me for who I am and continuing to believe in me. I celebrate small victories like being able to do personal errands, maintain relationships and friendships, have a stable mood for a long period of time, regularly seek help and have healthy coping mechanisms. 

I don’t tell people right away that I have BPD, but when the topic of mental health is brought up in conversation, I do not shy away from sharing my experience. It has been helpful to join a few online support groups to track my progress with others. We share memes and discuss the real issues that surround those who suffer from BPD. We are in different parts of our mental health journey, but we all have something in common — we just want to be better people, not just for the ones we love but for ourselves. 

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