I’ve been living with borderline personality disorder for a number of years now, but I was only officially diagnosed in October 2016. Prior to that I was under the 16-19 team (CAMHS) who labelled it as an emerging personality disorder. Before I start talking about my life with BPD I’ll explain what it is, I have explained it in previous blogposts but I want this post to be as informative and focused as possible. In order to be diagnosed you have to have 5 of the following 9 symptoms;
- Extreme emotional mood swings – unstable emotions are very common in BPD and they are felt very intensely, however, unlike bipolar or depression they tend to pass quickly, lasting only few minutes or hours.
- Explosive anger – because you feel more intensely than a ‘normal’ person you can be prone to intense anger, but it might not always be projected externally: you can spend a lot of time being angry at yourself.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness – its common for sufferers to describe feeling “empty” and so they might try to fill this emptiness with drugs, food, or sex; although nothing is truly satisfying.
- Impulsive, self-destructive behaviours – you may engage in sensation-seeking behaviours such as spending money you can’t afford, engaging in risky sex, taking drugs or binge drinking; anything that makes you feel better for a moment.
- Self-harm & suicidal behaviour – self-harm and suicidal behaviour is very common in BPD sufferers. Suicidal behaviour can include thoughts and threats of suicide.
- Unclear or unstable self-image – you can often feel like you don’t know who you are and so you may frequently change jobs, friends, lovers, religions, goals, values or even sexual identity.
- Unstable relationships – relationships can often be short-lived because we can fall in love or take a liking to someone very quickly only to be quickly disappointed. We can then experience splitting: where our relationships are either perfect or horrible and nothing in between. Equally the other person may feel like they have an emotional whiplash from your symptoms.
- Fear of abandonment – we are often terrified of being abandoned or of being alone. This can be triggered by something as small as your partner being late home from work, and we often make a frantic effort to keep that person close.
- Feeling suspicious or out of touch with reality – sufferers can struggle with suspicious thoughts about others’ motives. We may also feel foggy, spaced out, like we’re in a dream; also known as dissociation.
Although there are other traits that are associated with the ‘typical’ borderline these are the diagnostic symptoms and the ones I’m going to focus on. BPD isn’t a chemical imbalance like some mental disorders; its often the result of a traumatic childhood. Children who suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, loss, neglect or bullying are often more likely to develop BPD.
BPD for me hadn’t really been a problem when I first got the diagnosis. I just cried a little bit more than most, I’d cry at a sad story on Britain’s Got Talent, I’d cry when an act was good. I’d be very happy compared to most, but I was highly irritated by minor situations such as spilling a cup of tea. I shielded myself for a very long time, I kept away from my friends, I didn’t try to maintain relations with my family, I just wanted to hide in my bubble because that’s where I was ‘safe’. When I say safe I don’t mean safe from other people, in my bubble I was safe from myself. If I didn’t have to socialise too much then I didn’t run the risk of attaching myself to anybody, and having to go through the abandonment again. I never lost who I was because I never merged into the person I was attached too, and I didn’t have to challenge my anxiety everyday. As I say; I was in my bubble. I liked it that way, it was easy. I enjoyed my own company so much and I lived in a block of flats with some very good friends, so if I decided I wanted to socialise I could do that comfortably.
My bubble burst though because I had a horrific neighbour who lived directly above me. Her flat was exactly the same layout as mine; if she had people round for her parties I could hear them in every part of my flat. From the end of January to the start of September she had parties nearly every night which meant my flat no longer felt like my bubble, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t relax, I was incredibly unhappy. For a while I tackled the issue head on, I’d go round and ask them to tone things down, if that didn’t work then I’d lose my temper (my explosive anger at its best) but it didn’t matter what was said or done, nothing would get through to this brain dead individual. The people who she would have over were not my type of people; they were fighting, taking drugs, and one went around the block wielding a knife which she held to me telling me “You didn’t see anything.”. After that I tended to suffer in silence unless I knew who was there, until it became unbearable and I decided to move. I took the opportunity to have a completely fresh start and go back to my hometown. This is all relevant because this is how we got to the sorry state my mental health is in today.
Around the time I was flat-hunting I reached out to some old friends from my hometown so that I wouldn’t be alone when I finally moved. One of them was an old love interest who I had also been good friends with. Once I moved we became really close after a while, it took a good few months because for ages I was still trying to shut people out and stay within my bubble. As time went by I became attached. Really attached. The stereotypical borderline kind of attached. My bubble was well and truly gone. As I became more attached my symptoms became much more prevalent. Suddenly I’ve found myself really unwell and I’m not entirely sure how it happened, if I had seen it unfolding I would’ve done everything I could to stop it… But I didn’t. Now I find myself suffering with all 9 symptoms of BPD which is a first for me and its very overwhelming. Everyday I find myself increasingly paranoid about him dying whilst riding his motorbike, or him just not coming back. I cling to him in ways even I find repulsive but I don’t know how to stop the compulsive need to attach to him, and because of that our relationship can sometimes struggle. We argue and its really sad for us both because without my complicated disorder, and his PTSD, we’d work perfectly. We keep fighting because we know one day we’ll both improve but in the meantime, I’ve got this unhealthy obsession with him that I can’t kick. As someone who is a smart person I find that its not the arguing that makes me sad or angry, its not even the BPD itself, I get so unbelievably frustrated because I don’t understand why I feel this way. I don’t understand why I’m obsessive. I don’t understand why I’m paranoid about everyday scenarios. I don’t understand how to fix it. This lack of understanding and frustration has caused two overdoses this year; I didn’t want to die, I just wanted this disorder to stop…
That’s the reality of living with BPD; there’s no stopping it unless you isolate yourself (which isn’t an option for everyone) and once it has a hold of you; you’re trapped. I feel broken everyday, and I ask myself ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ because its soul destroying to have suffered through abuse as a child, and then my ‘prize’ for surviving that is an unbearable disorder that’s destroying my adult life. I hate the fact that as an intelligent person I can’t even understand myself, or articulate myself to my loved ones, I don’t know why my brain does this but I wish I did. I’m embarrassed but not because I have BPD; because I don’t know how fight to the symptoms and that makes me feel weak. Every moment of my daily life is affected by the symptoms I experience and that means I never get any time to breath. Its exhausting. The simple solution would be to end my relationship since most of the symptoms are centred around attachment and abandonment, but its not that simple. I love him (I’m very blessed to know what’s my actual emotion and what is my attachment most of the time) and realistically, I can’t expect to spend the rest of my life in my bubble. I want a career, children, marriage, all of which requires me coming out of my bubble. My only hope is therapy however for me that’s not currently an option. I’ve been through CBT and I tried EMDR and neither helped me. There are many other options out there but personally I find I have to be relatively stable before going to therapy, I realise this sounds somewhat backward but when I’m stressed, unstable, or unwell I find starting a new course of therapy is pointless. I’m very oppositional when I’m in that state of mind, and even if I wasn’t going through the rigmarole of having to explain my childhood to a stranger all over again is quite daunting. So I rely on anti-depressants for my anxiety and that’s as far as my treatment goes so far. I was taking mirtazapine (Remeron) however, after my doctors appointment yesterday I’m now taking duloxetine (Cymbalta) which I hope will be more beneficial. Over the coming weeks I’ll be doing a review on mirtazapine and duloxetine for anyone who’s considering trying either of them.
“You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before, and that my love, is bravery.”
Remember if you’re feeling low you can contact your GP, 111 or ring Samaritans on 116123. You’re not alone.