By Natalie Greener
Note from author:
Writing this, part of me feels uncomfortable. I am yet to be diagnosed and I am not one hundred percent sure the disorder I have is BPD. I know deep down my all consuming emotions are problematic and it is certainly scary not having an answer as to what makes me feel like this. I am making the difficult decision to be open about not being diagnosed as I don’t want this piece to be misleading or me appearing as though I am something I am not. Part of this in itself however, is uncomfortable as I know some individuals may attack me for sharing something on BPD when I am not diagnosed. It’s sad because only I know my mental health the best and have spent a long time in the dark about why I act a certain way. Despite no diagnosis (which became near to impossible to get – even just an appointment, when I started university), please understand that I am not going into this piece of writing with a shallow approach. I can only explain my feelings as to why I believe I have BPD and the way in which I see the disorder influence many of my friends. In addition, I can also comment on the importance of understanding BPD and the impact this month can have on others. Currently fighting for a diagnosis (of some sort even if it is not BPD), I want to be honest with you as readers. With or without a medical professional telling me what it is, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I believe BPD needs to be more understood and people need to be made aware of how others may be wired differently to them. I haven’t gone into all of my experiences as some of them may be triggering to others but please remember my entire journey is not all documented in this post.
Thank you for reading and I guess in some ways this piece can apply to more than BPD with simply the impact that the concept of acceptance and understanding from others has on those dealing with a disorder.
May is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) awareness month.
5.9% of the adult population has BPD, they commit suicide at an alarming rate, and women are especially vulnerable to the disorder. That’s why we have Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month. To raise awareness and end the stigma around the condition – and encourage people to get the help they need.
Honestly, I didn’t know this month of awareness existed at first – or even why? I’ve thought for a very long time that the way I am is my burden to carry. In some ways it is. Only you are responsible for your healing and growth. But taking this to such an extreme extent, the toxic way of thinking made me bully myself into the idea that having crippling anxiety over specific scenarios that seem petty to others, means I shouldn’t share how I am feeling – because it isn’t ‘normal’ for something so quiet to be such a loud bee in my bonnet.
When I was younger, I managed to suppress my BPD like behaviours in harmful actions towards myself behind closed doors. When I had overwhelming emotions like fear of abandonment, the idea that I am not good enough and that there was something wrong with me, eating disorders developed as a way for me to control how I was feeling. It took me a long time and a lot of therapy to understand that I didn’t have an eating disorder at the core of my unhappiness, but rather it was a consequence of something a lot bigger. Essentially, it was a way of me being in control of something I felt was controlling me. Other diagnoses can often come for someone with BPD as symptoms can manifest themselves differently. This is where a sense of self is denied to sufferers because despite getting a diagnosis, it doesn’t fully give the individual the answer they may have been looking for. It made me feel lost.
The stigma so present in mental health meant I didn’t want to seek help for my struggles until I was 17 – mainly out of fear of being ‘crazy’. Leaving the doctors with a diagnosis of anxiety, part of me felt extremely deflated. As I had recently come out of my first proper relationship, there was an underlying sense of knowing anxiety wasn’t the thing that made me act in a certain way – romantic relationships especially. A lot of people have severe anxiety and their love life doesn’t dominate their life like mine do. It was intense. I felt like I couldn’t live without my ex after simply a few dates but this affection only started rearing its ugly head when I felt my love interest drifting and I knew a break up was on the horizon. Contrary to my bizarre infatuation in the time of the relationship breaking down, a nasty streak would come out. It’s as though the hurt would be lessened if I was the one who pushed them away. As though knowing the end was near, my brain would switch to auto pilot and I would do everything in my power to end it sooner but whenever they simply went along with me, I was hurt even more. Distraught at the time, a few weeks later I would be happy and unbothered by my exes. If anything I hated them. There was no in-between with my feelings and I knew this wasn’t just anxiety but something that made me anxious about the idea of being single – being alone. This has been the case for every relationship in this five year period.
“You know you’re borderline when you fluctuate between fearing abandonment and encouraging it.”
I wish now that I understood what it might have been that made me ‘too much’ for some people to handle. I carried that phrase around with me for a very long time. It weighed me down – still does if I am completely honest. Going through that at 16 made me feel incredibly isolated from my peers who could date freely without such intensity and emotional attachment. On top of that, being called sensitive over the smallest and most specific things made my mental health question itself daily. There is a lot more complexity with BPD than you initially think. With behaviours being varied in how obvious they are to something even yourself doesn’t notice to begin with, I learnt very quickly that the consequences of BPD and the lack of understanding of it can be dire. Depression and destructive behaviours – such as substance abuse and using sex as a way of seeking approval from others, is only a glimpse into the result of such a disorder. The issue with BPD is that it can manifest itself differently depending on the individual.
My personal struggle came when I was emotionally abused and gas lit to the point where I thought I was actually going insane. Potential BPD sufferers or anyone with severe mental health issues may find this ordeal slightly more long lasting compared to others. For example, BPD makes you doubt yourself religiously. On top of that, you can be manipulative as a way of asking for love. However, in this circumstance, it is hard to separate what is your BPD and what is emotional abuse. I will hold my hands up after the event and say what I did wrong. But honestly, I am still having arguments with myself now, second guessing every thought I have – because I still have moments trying to work out if I’m crazy or just a victim of emotional abuse who might have BPD. May awareness month is so important in cementing the idea into people’s mind that having BPD doesn’t mean you’re crazy! What a lot of supportive friends and others coping with disorders have helped me realise is the fact that I even doubt myself and question my thoughts and actions towards other people in the first place shows a lot about how I have chosen to cope. I have chosen to learn more about BPD and embrace it in those around me. In light of feeling like I have found an answer to why I am the way that I am, part of my growth is accepting that being sensitive and potentially having BPD is how I was made. I can sob with tears when I am sad to the point where I can’t even breathe but I also don’t just get happy – I glow and beam when I have my best moments. I am who I am and that journey of discovery into my twenties has made me incredibly self aware.
My emotional abuser called me a psycho once. Since I’ve started trying to understand BPD more, the fact I have been accused of being a psychopath, someone who doesn’t feel anything at all, makes me HOWL with laughter. My issue is that I feel too much. I feel so deeply and intensely that my emotions can run away with themselves and take me on a whacky and mind boggling journey. In some ways I am glad I am like this rather than being empty. My empathy for others can stretch to a pain not many people can comprehend and I think that is a perk to how I am made. Understanding pain is something that comes easy to me as I never know where my next trigger or blip will come from. I am happy in myself now and am so immensely proud of me and the other awesome individuals who have to deal with any form of mental disorder that makes them feel alienated. I wish I didn’t cry when I realised just two years ago that it could possibly be Borderline Personality Disorder that made me feel so shit and out of control for most of my life. At the time, through stigma and lack of understanding, I thought I could never be comfortable or happy in myself because this disorder seems as though your brain is continuously working against you.
I am trying to get my diagnosis now so I can hold my head up high and say – This is BPD. It doesn’t have to be scary. I can have very low and intense moments but my happy moments are certainly something you’re going to want to hang around for! My fear of abandonment means if you are in my life, even in the smallest way, with me you will know that I cherish every bit of space you fill and would definitely miss you if you weren’t there.
I have accepted, through the help of some amazing friends, that I will never have the kind of relationship you see on TV daily – yes, even the bad ones. Because of how I am, there’s just some people out there who see me as ‘too much’. These people may have their own baggage to carry which I totally get, or they might just be wankers who can’t comprehend that not everyone has the same brain wiring as them. And that’s fine. If anything, I have learnt that as long as I try my hardest to grow and better myself as a person, any form of mental health disorders can actually be an amazing way of finding supportive and understanding people to surround yourself with. It doesn’t have to be all consuming but rather a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes you, well you.
BPD awareness month is so important. Not just to those diagnosed but to people who might be able to learn something from those coping with it every single day. I guess it is a gentle reminder that you don’t know what someone may be fully feeling behind the facade they project to others. BPD also proves to us that we need to remember to take in any slight moments of happiness when they come about because our moods can change so instantly. Every time we laugh or smile, appreciate it.
I hope this piece of writing has contributed to the understanding of BPD and making you aware of the symptoms. I think it is important to try and understand the mental health of every person you care about and it may seem impossible at times but in some ways, it is in fact an act of self love as it might help you better understand your headspace.
For some light hearted materials check out: