BPD And Me
BPD is the initials for borderline personality disorder, for those who are new to this blog or to the world of mental illness. Borderline personality disorder is a disorder that is marked by unstable moods, behaviors, and relationships. It is diagnosed by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals by using 9 characteristics, and a subject must meet at least 5 of those 9 to receive a diagnosis of BPD.
According to the DSM IV, (there is a new revision out, the DSM V), to be diagnosed with BPD, a person must show a pattern of behavior that includes at least 5 of the following:
- Extreme reactions – including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions – to abandonment, whether it is real or perceived.
- A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with friends, family, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
- Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
- Impulsive and often dangerous behavior, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating.
- Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior.
- Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom.
- Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger.
- Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing tough with reality.
Now, being me, I have the pleasure of experiencing all nine.
When I was first diagnosed back in February of 2014, I remember being shocked. I cried. Because I remember talking about personality disorders in my psych class in college. There are no cures for personality disorders…But I’m finding out there there really isn’t a “cure” for any mental illness, you just treat the symptoms and manage the best that you can with therapy and medications. Anyhow, so I remember crying. I can remember it was my first meeting with the new doctor in Fort Worth and he asked me to tell him a little about myself. I went into the whole story of how crappy my relationships were, how fucked up parts of my childhood was because of sexual and emotional abuse, how I used to cut, how I had recently had a trip to the hospital… Maybe a couple of minutes into it, he stopped me, and he’s like “let me stop you right there, I can already tell you now, you have borderline personality disorder.” I really liked that doctor. He was kind, and he listened, and he was nice enough to explain things to me when I didn’t understand.
Now that I’ve lived with it for a couple of years, I can see how the diagnosis fits me.
Extreme reactions to abandonment
I know that I’ve talked about this before in another post to try to explain what BPD is. I have the fear that the people I love are going to leave me. It’s huge. It’s like a phobia of mine. Whether it’s real or not, someone is going to leave me. Take for instance, my husband. We’ve been together for two years now. Married for almost one – our anniversary is coming up in September.
I have this…theory – based on prior history – that people get tired of me after two years. It’s a window. In this window of time, people realize that I’m not good enough or smart enough or pretty enough. And they want to leave me. And I will fight to keep them with me. I panic and fight and, in the past I have threatened to kill myself to keep people by my side, even though people say they aren’t going anywhere. It isn’t just with significant others, it’s with family too.
My husband is great. When I start having these thoughts, he reassures me and we talk about everything. We rationalize the fact that my disorder makes me think irrationally. Just talking about it helps. It calms me down. He understands that I have a mental illness, it’s a part of me, and my brain works differently than most.
Pattern of intense and stormy relationships
I like that they put family and friends in this category, because I think a lot of people just think that it’s with significant others. When my doctor talked to me about BPD, he was focused with the relationships with past boyfriends, as they are a key part. But I think that the relationships with family are important too. I can remember times where there were rocky, “stormy” relationships that I had with family members too. Of course, I had help with burning those bridges. Donna had a huge influence at that time. And she made me cut off relations with my aunts. I can see now how I can go from Idealizing someone, they are my whole world one minute, to hating them the next. Part of this, though I wonder, if it’s a natural thing? I mean, if something in your relationship goes bad, you don’t keep that person on their pedestal right?
I haven’t always had great relationships with people. I have had boyfriends that used me. I’ve used people too. My relationships were intense and fast. They moved fast. I fall hard and fast. And that’s what my doctor focused on. But almost all of those relationships ended poorly, like in flames.
Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self
This is something that I have struggled with my entire life. I definitely do not know who I am. Borderlines are often referred to as chameleons. We change our personalities to fit into whatever group or relationship we are in at the time because our sense of self is so damaged. For me, personally, I have changed so many times, I don’t know who I am.
I know that I love music, I love to color, I love to play the guitar and piano. I love tattoos, I love reading, I love animals, I love riding back roads, I love food. But those things don’t really tell me who I am. I don’t know where I stand on politics, or religion. I have opinions. But I have so often been told that my personal opinions are wrong, that I don’t voice them.
As far as a self image, I hate who I am. I hate that I have my diagnosis. Some times, it’s great, because I have a deeper understanding of people and what they are going through. I can appreciate peoples’ struggles. But most of the time, I just want to feel normal. But I know that normal is an illusion. Because of the medication, and poor eating habits and the fact that I don’t really like to work out, I have ballooned to over 200 lbs. I hate that I’m so big. I hate the way my hair looks. I hate they way I look. I could pick myself apart all day. I grew up with Donna saying that I looked like a hobo or a homeless child, she called me fat at one point. Not to mention what kids say at school. It’s hard enough that you pick yourself apart, then you have someone who is supposed to be lifting you up break you down.
Borderlines look for themselves in others. I look for myself in my relationships. I have morphed myself to fit who I’m with. I think, now that I’ve been living with this diagnosis for a while and I’m becoming more mindful of what it means to be a borderline, I’m watching what I’m doing. I’m trying to become my own person. I don’t blinding agree with everything that everyone does. I am forming my own opinions. I still have my own crazy taste in music. I’m learning. I just hope, that one day, I will learn to love myself.
Impulsive and often dangerous behavior
Having a dual diagnosis of Bipolar I disorder, this symptom goes hand in hand with borderline. I haven’t exactly engaged in “dangerous” behavior in a while. But the impulsiveness is what kicks me in the ass. I do engage in impulsive things…Like bringing home a puppy that I have no business having, spending money that I don’t have, things like that. I used to engage in the more “dangerous” behavior after my diagnosis, but I have calmed down a lot since then.
Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior
Again, with the Bipolar disorder, this goes together. I used to self harm every day. The thoughts are still there, every day. Especially when I get mad. But I don’t do it. I distract myself, or I sit on my hands. I talk to someone, I do anything I can to keep myself from self harming. The thoughts of suicide come up too, but I talk to someone before it gets too bad.
Intense and highly changeable moods
So, there are at least three major symptoms that overlap with Bipolar, which makes me question again, how do you know what I have, but they diagnosed me with both so what do I know? With the moods, some days I call it rapid cycling, and it’s exhausting. Because it’s like one minute you’re at the top of the rollercoaster and then you’re going down, then you’re back up, then you go through the loops, then back up a hill, then back down, then up, then upside down. It’s crazy and there’s nothing you can do about it but take your meds. And they help, but some days, you cycle even with the medications.
Chronic feeling of emptiness and/or boredom
I struggle with this. The emptiness, I chalk that up to depression. I mean, I get depressed, I feel empty. But boredom. I get bored easily. I thought it’s just…Well, actually I don’t know what I thought. See, when I was working, I got bored. That’s my problem with having a job. I get too bored too quickly and I’m done. I don’t want to be there and then I start having panic attacks and then I lose my job. I guess that’s why the new doctor was asking if I was bored… I didn’t really realize this was a symptom. Interesting.
Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
This. Anger has become a huge problem. Like epic problem. Like I don’t know how to control it, problem. This is what the new doctor focuses on. He’s like “you’re angry”, well I am now because that’s all you keep saying! But then I get home and the smallest thing makes me mad, so maybe I am an angry person. It doesn’t take much to make me mad anymore. A small thing can set me off, and that bothers me. I wasn’t like that before. This is a recent change. I wasn’t always an angry person. And it’s only come up in the last year or so.
Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms
I can remember a time when I went to the ER because I was sick, or I was having a panic attack – I can’t remember which one – and I was in the exam room waiting on the doctor to come in, suddenly a thought came to my mind. “The doctor is going to kill you.” What? Yea, that was a fun day. Needless to say, I left without being seen. I have had some dissociation. It’s weird. It feels weird.
I know this is a particularly long post, but I’m here to tell you that even with all these symptoms, life gets better. And while I’m living with all of these, they don’t all happen at the same time, or every day. BPD isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s just another thing that we get to live with. And when I say that I mean, it’s not all bad.
Living with it, can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It allows you to be more empathetic to others. You know what it’s like to live in pain, you know what it’s like to want to die. You can be supportive to others. You know what it’s like to hate yourself, you can build others up. I also think that it gives you more patience and understanding.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I encourage you to talk to your doctor. While BPD has no cure, the symptoms CAN be treated. If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out or call the suicide hotline 800-273-8255.