By Jade, an individual with Borderline Personality Disorder
This blog has been written as part of the #BPDAndMe campaign for Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month. The campaign was co-created with individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder, the Mental Health Improvement team at NHS GGC, the BPD Pathway Steering Group, and the Mental Health Network.
Having Borderline Personality Disorder is like having a constant battle with yourself, and other people. You never know how you are going to feel in a day and I am never quite sure who I will be! I feel so much that it can physically hurt. The highs and lows happen so fast and switch so fast that it leaves me feeling lost in my own mind. I have a million thoughts and feelings going around in my head and I can’t understand them all or grab onto one thing at a time and it overwhelms me! It is draining being an outsider in your own mind and body.
I have this heightened need to keep going constantly and I am afraid to stop because I can’t interpret what I am feeling underneath. I used to be so scared of feeling anything at all, happy or sad, because it was too much and I didn’t have the ability to only feel a limited amount, my head would feel everything in imposing amounts and I would end up so unsettled and anxious. My reactions to either everyday events or to more important things were over exaggerated and distorted because I didn’t know how to control my emotions or even what emotion was reasonable to feel for the event that was happening. So everything was far fetched because that was the only way my brain knew how to interpret emotions. My brain just hadn’t developed the ability to manage my emotions.
I used to find the fact that my brain just didn’t know how to control my emotional response as an absolute negative! Most people appeared to think I was attention seeking and that I choose to overreact, but that wasn't it at all. I couldn’t trust my head to give the right emotional response and I hated that. Sometimes I still do, because it makes me different from everyone else. I was made out to be the difficult one, but I’m not actually. You just need to give me a bit of time to come to my own, semi - rational, conclusion about how a situation makes me feel. This was so difficult to begin with and I just wanted to have the correct feelings at the right time and not my ‘three days later’ but, I know now that just isn’t how my head works!
Usually I will go through every feeling in they three days and sometimes I go into crisis. I now know that’s ok and just a part of me that I have to deal with. I can understand that my brain just doesn’t have the same capacity as everyone else’s and if I am dealing with a few things at the same time, my brain can’t cope and just wants to go into overdrive or shut down. I try not to get annoyed and frustrated at myself because that just leads to self loathing and negative coping skills. I also try not to let other people influence me. The fact I don’t react ‘normal’ sometimes makes people uncomfortable. Actually I usually now make more rational emotional choices than most ‘normal’ people because I don’t rush my reactions or feelings.
Another way I deal with life is through dissociation. To most this idea is strange but actually I find it very helpful in the right situations. I hated that recognisable feeling of being outside your body and watching yourself from above. Once I got over the fearful and overpowering element of this normal response to what your body feels when it thinks your in danger, I started to understand that maybe I could use this response positively?
My mum takes seizures and in the beginning I was terrified and I was so fear bound I was useless when she had one. Eventually though I changed and trained my brain to effectively go into disassociation when she had a seizure, as I found I could react to the situation more effectively and with more capability. I would dissociate and focus on helping my mum in that moment not on my emotions. This though doesn’t stop the normal emotions of anger and upset that my mum has to live with seizures, but this is how I learned my emotional response time is about three days after the event. I may still go into crisis after these distressing events but for me personally I would rather go into crisis days after the event, than when my mum needs me the most.
Weirdly enough some of my mum’s seizures are known as dissociative seizures, and when she got her EEG you could see her brainwaves flatline during the seizure then start back up once it was over. It was at this point I realised dissociation isn’t something to fear, it is our brains saying this is too much just now so I’m going too shut down and then restart and we will try again. I know my brain uses disassociation to cope with the intensity of my emotional responses.
Another interesting thing about me personally is I am in a stable relationship! And with someone who also has BPD! Logically this shouldn’t work but it does! It wasn’t the BPD that brought us together it was a genuine love for one another. We have been together 8 years now and are engaged, planning a family and life together. We were both Diagnosed with BPD within a few years of one another, I was the first and it was awful when my partner got diagnosed because I knew the stigma, hostility and the challenges she would now face.
The only difference we have faced is the type of therapy we received. The differences we feel are Mentalisation Based Therapy has taught me to deal with my emotions in everyday activities where as psychotherapy focused more on emotions from the past. I think we are lucky that we have the opportunity to teach each other things we have learned from both therapies, but this is very much the unconventional and a rarity that two patients would be able to work together in this way.
I think because of the BPD we are far more emotionally connected than most couples and talk it out if something is upsetting us. We know what it feels like for each other when we are in crisis or when an interaction hasn’t went well. We know the highs are exhausting and lows are dreadful and so we respect each other’s stages and work around them. We both know what it is like to wake up and feel like you don’t know the reflection in the mirror. We are aware each of us will feel insecure at times and we do a lot of positive reinforcement around our relationship such as letters, photos, art and talking about the future so we can look back at these things when we feel low and know we have each other’s backs and our love is real and a constant in our life with no requirements or conditions.
This is what Borderline is really like to live with and this is only a small part of what we go through on a daily basis. Our symptoms may appear to disappear at times but we still have to work on them constantly and we will always have a bit of Borderline in us forever. So be patient and accepting. The battle in our heads is hard enough without judgement.
If you have been impacted by what you have read or if you need to speak to someone, please reach out for relevant support:
Samaritans - 116 123 (freephone)
Breathing Space - 0800 83 85 87 (freephone)