Being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder back in 2011 pissed me off, plain and simple. I was never told I had it, but one day in the cafeteria at the psychiatric hospital the weekend psychiatrist was discussing something with me and I got angry and she simply said, “Your borderline is coming out.” Umm ok? I had no idea what she was talking about and I inquired. She acted as if I was then manipulating her. Luckily it was Sunday and the regular psychiatrist would be back the next day. You see, I was a regular at this hospital, I am not ashamed to say that yes, I was noncompliant with me medications and at the time 1) either did not feel I needed medications or 2) when I felt like I needed help did not know how to accept it, so I didn’t. I was in and out of this hospital like a revolving door – they knew me, at least the regular psychiatric doctor and the techs and nurses did.
So upon Dr. B’s return, I asked her. She said I hadn’t officially been diagnosed with BPD but I had traits, but because of the weekend Dr, I was now diagnosed with it. I pressed the issue asking for more information. I was clueless about this disorder other than the negative aspects I had heard about it. I was ANGRY! I was told to read I Hate You Don’t Leave Me, a book that explains BPD, and was given a copy to read while I was there. It helped explain a bit about the disorder such as the criteria:
To be diagnosed a person much have at least 5 of the 9 of the following persistently -
- Extreme reactions—including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions—to abandonment, whether real or perceived
- A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, 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 behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
- Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
- 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 touch with reality
(National Institute of Mental Health)
I found this book somewhat helpful, but reading facts didn’t sit well for me at the same time. I found it just pointing out bad things about me. When I was released from the hospital I still didn’t agree with the diagnosis, so I did more research on my own. I found another book called, Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery From Borderline Personality Disorder. This book was a personal story and I could actually relate to the feelings and emotions in it. It made sense to me. Perhaps I did have BPD? I began to accept the diagnosis more after reading this book and doing more research on it.
I still have a hard time admitting it though, and am a little bit more selective as who I do tell. A lot of people have negative views on it. Even others with mental illness have a stigma towards it. I will hear people with bipolar say, “I was in a relationship with a bpd and it was horrible!” I think, well maybe it wasn’t just her having bpd, but maybe it was the combination that you both had mental illness? I have moved a few times so I have seen a few psychiatrists, and pretty much all have been great about it. I had one though that point blank told me that I was manipulative because I had bpd. Seriously? I have to wait in your waiting room with suicidal thoughts for 6 hours AFTER my scheduled appointment time, EVERY single time I have an appointment with you, and when I complain and say that I am having suicidal thoughts – I am being manipulative to try to get in sooner? How about you just quit scheduling people for 10 minutes and then seeing them for 2 hours, or schedule less people a day if you are going to see them for that long. Or call me and tell me to show up 6 hours later instead of me calling to see how far you are behind and telling me to just come 1-2 hours later. I am NOT manipulative because of my bpd. You cannot use my bpd as an excuse for your actions!
People think that once you have bpd, we are untreatable. At one point, until Marsha Linehan came out with her diagnosis, people just assumed that patients with bpd were the worst of the worst. Thanks to Linehan though, there is a treatment called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – DBT. It has helped so many people with bpd – and is even being used for other mental illness – to help them work through the disorder and work through their recovery. I have not done DBT myself, I went through schema therapy personally while in my 6 month treatment program at the state hospital, and I found this program to be great too. In fact, while DBT is the most widely known and used, there are quite a few treatments for BPD:
- Schema Therapy
- Mentalization Based Therapy
- Transference Focused Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Many times BPD also is caused by trauma/abuse in childhood – although not always. When it is, sometimes it is also helpful to receive treatment for this such as talk therapy, family therapy, group therapy, or trauma therapy to discuss what happened. If PTSD is occurring in addition to the BPD, which many times if BPD is diagnosed there is a co-occurring diagnosis of depression, PTSD, bipolar, etc…then the other diagnosis also need to be treated for a successful outcome.
Living with BPD is not easy. As Linehan has said:
“Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree-burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering.”
We feel things so much more than those around us. I feel anger, sadness, happiness, fear, and all the other emotions 100x more than someone who doesn’t have BPD. And my reactions to those show that. The burn victim has a physical display that extra care is needed around him though. For me, no one can see that.
So I must fight on, and so must every borderline. We must fight this stigma and be strong. Show that we have our bad days but we have our good days, just like every other person in this world. And while we hit emotional lows that might look worse than everyone else’s, we can still pick ourselves up and live our lives – embracing positivity and possibility.