Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is wildly stigmatized in our world. If you’ve ever read I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me, you were probably left feeling very hopeless for either yourself or your loved one with BPD. It’s funny to me that this book is considered the “go to” for therapists and other mental health professionals. It’s spookily accurate at times, to be sure, but incredibly devoid of any glimmer of hope for recovery. In fact, since BPD is a personality disorder, there is no true recovery – your brain has been marred by abuse during formative years and as such will always bear those scars – but this does not mean there is no overcoming it.
Sometime in 2011, I received my proper diagnosis of BPD and was given The Book. What a whirlwind of emotions I felt! Understood! Terrified! Seen! Hopeless! Validated! Incapable! If you’re to know just one thing about individuals with BPD it should be this – our emotions are INTENSE. It’s pretty interesting stuff; if you care to go on a Google binge, I’d recommend “borderline personality disorder emotion regulation”. They’ve done studies that show items a bit easier to record than subject’s experience, such as a markedly increased heart rate and respiration, when exposed to different emotional triggers. Much higher than someone without BPD. I could go on about this but really, if you’re interested, I’ll leave you to do the fingerwork.
I’ve spent the past seven years getting to know my diagnosis and control its symptoms. I feel like I can almost claim that I’m about as “cured” as anyone can be with a personality disorder. However, I’m not perfect and every once and a while, I have to reel myself back in before I really lose my shit.
Case in point: we’re sitting at the dinner table. I’m really sick, feeling miserable and sorry for myself. I want Nicholas to feel sorry for me to so I pout, demanding he feel my head. It’s not like we don’t know I’m sick. This is a totally pointless ploy for attention (I could write a WHOLE BOOK on attention neediness). He doesn’t give in. He makes a joke about how I used to spend money on drugs beyond our means back in the day – totally untrue in several facets, most irritatingly to me because I was the one making the larger portion of our income until a few months ago. Just about any other day, I’d laugh and jest and it wouldn’t make me fucking crazy that he won’t feel my head. Today, I snap.
“I fucking hate you!” I burst out.
I get up from the table and put away the shredded cheese. My face is hot – not just from the fever. I know I’m being an asshole but I double down, muttering, “So much.”
Embarrassed, I go into my room. I close the door pointedly. I see Nicholas through the crack and I know he’s going to come in after me. He’s had eight years to learn this dance. I crawl under the covers and think, “Why on Earth did I just say that?”
The door opens and he silently stands next to me in bed and places his hand on my face. I want to be mad but I know I’m being ridiculous. I push my emotions down and apologize.
We tell each other we love one another and after a few minutes, I reemerge from my room and say to my roommates, “Sorry if I made you uncomfortable with my outburst.”
I HATE acknowledging it but I know it’s the right thing to do. Witnessing a couple fight – even a super short, obnoxiously superficial one – is awkward. It wasn’t fair of me to put them in that position. They’re totally cool about it, which I’m not surprised by. They’ve known me a long time, they get it.
Now, if this was five years ago, this would not be such a smooth story. I probably would have dug myself a much deeper hole, saying awfully hurtful things, maybe throwing some shit and never apologizing to the witnesses. I’d probably (eventually) apologize to Nicholas because I need his love to draw breath (or so I would say). I would have slammed the door behind me and been entirely unresponsive to his approach until he had spent at least a good five minutes showering me in love, attention and kisses. This is broaching a little bit on the territory of Testing, but that’s for another time.
I used to throw shit ALL. THE. TIME. To be fair, I very recently broke my phone by throwing it against the wall as hard as I could. Like I said, I’ll never be cured of BPD. This is a lifelong struggle. As long as I keep attempting to be mindful of my emotions and have the patience of those around me, however, I’ll be okay. I won’t be one of the 10% or so with BPD who succumbs to suicide. The older I get, the less likely I am to ever revert to cutting (though when I first moved to Canton, I did court it for a short period of time). Hopefully as I continue my meditation practice, flex my Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) muscles and mellow out with age, I’ll stop lashing out. It’s hard sometimes, though. Especially when I feel like shit already.
So, for my readers who have BPD, do you have any tried and true strategies to keep you from snapping on your loved ones? Or any stories of you lashing out you’d like to get off your chest? I know my old house still has a tea stain on the ceiling from me whipping an Arnold Palmer at my mother. Those of you who interact with BPD folks, any suggestions you’d like to give others for how to react when your loved one with BPD lashes out? I’m fortunate to have found a partner whose patience is unparalleled by anyone else I’ve ever met. I know sometimes he just had to be present while I burned myself out.
According to the largest study ever conducted on personality disorders (PD) by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), 5.9% of the U.S. population has BPD (Grant et al. 2008). It’s one of the most common personality disorders so it’s pretty much a given that you’ve met someone with it. However, in the hopes of alleviating the intense stigma that comes with a BPD diagnosis, I’ll be writing about different traits with some of my own personal anecdotes. I’d also be more than happy to answer questions should anyone want to comment below any of their puzzlings about folks with BPD. In the future, once I’ve written more, you’ll be able to find all my posts about BPD in the “BPD” category on my blog.