The other day my favourite human sent me, what was for him, a really simple, throw-away text message. We were texting back and forth for hours, as we do, while simultaneously bingeing on some trashy Bravo T.V. goodness (#lifegoals). I made a comment about the most recent idiotic/impulsive decision I had made and after thorough personal analysis (hours of obsessive torment), I concluded it was probably driven by the total lack of emotional regulation that comes from my, oh! so convincing and always ‘interesting’; borderline personality disorder (BPD). If only blaming all my troubles on mental illness stood up in a court of law… ho hum! It is unfortunate, but the only mental illness I am still worried about being stigmatised for is BPD. So naturally, I must write about it. I have been told that many doctors refuse to treat it as they see it as a hopeless case. I’ve been marked as an ‘un-dateable’, being told “I can deal with the bipolar but NOT BPD!”. And honestly… I get it. The perception of the condition is that of a selfish, manipulative, highly sensitive, suffocatingly needy, soul-sucking-dementor and quite frankly, that image isn’t entirely wrong (except in my case I tend to feed on the human heart, as opposed to souls. Just a personal preference). It doesn’t matter how I dress up or rationalise my volatile outbursts or ‘irrational’ behaviours (but by golly I’ll try!); like how they stem from issues of abandonment rooted in childhood, or how I can justify the fact that my ‘positive’ emotions are just as strong as the ones that make me act out. Meaning my capacity for love is so great that Romeo and Juliette would pale by comparison! It’s irrelevant, because at the end of the day, I am erratic and unpredictable and that makes people uncomfortable. To quote Rhianna, I can go from “zero to sixty in 3.5” and it freaks people the fuck out! I prefer to think of myself as an acquired taste, like foie gras or that fish that will poison you to death if you eat the wrong piece…but mostly it just means I am seen as rather off-putting, dangerous and unnecessarily over-the-top. So, when my bestie casually text me saying “Your BPD is my favourite thing about you.”, the kid got me shook! I don’t think I had ever felt so completely accepted by anyone in my entire life. Okay, I’ll level with you, there’s no denying he is a total fucking weirdo himself, but hey, all the best people are…
I’m an open book. If you’ve read any of my blogs you know that I ain’t holding back, but when it comes to my relationships with people, I won’t lie, it’s difficult. I’m difficult. I have many acquaintances and very few close friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a riot for a night out! Take me to a party and I will own that shit! Jokes are on fire, I’m looking tight, charm-factor is turnt up, I know how to use words like turnt and lit. For a night of debauchery and fun, I’m your girl! But, as the trail of ex-boyfriends I’ve left behind will attest to, I’m hard work long-term. “Exhausting” is a word I’ve heard a lot. In fact, this isn’t easy to write, as the majority of my brain glitches stem from my intense fear of abandonment. There is the rational fear that reading this could potentially push the few people I hold dear away and prevent me from becoming closer to others. But as someone who knows what it feels like to carry the burden of BPD, I think it’s important to be assured that we are not alone and we are loveable. There are other weirdos out there just like you, who will understand you and see your ‘flaws’ as your greatest superpowers! On a completely unrelated note: PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME! I LOVE YOU! I’LL LOVE YOU TO DEATH!
If you’re unfamiliar with BPD, a quick google search is sure to scare your thong right off (if I haven’t done that already). But unless you are a truly extreme case, it tends to blend so fluidly into our personalities that we are often simply seen as sorta kooky, dramatic and highly sensitive. The creative type, if you will. As the child of a very charismatic drama teacher and an aspiring thespian in my own right, this worked in my favour a lot of the time. In primary school my music teacher labelled me “the girl of a thousand faces!”, because I was a different person everyday. Nowadays, I’m pretty sure there is medication for that… However, as much as I could hide my constant need for validation and acceptance as a desire for the performing arts and stage, I couldn’t hide the fact I was still a little odd-ball. Being a sensitive child who showed vulnerability and reacted to said bullying, oh man, I was Christmas, New Years and Hanukah all in one convenient package for a kid with a chip on his or her shoulder! It was like I wore a florescent sign on my head that constantly flashed “if poked, will cry!” and boy did they poke this bear.
As a kid I was told I was “too sensitive”, a “drama queen”, or an “attention-seeker” on a daily basis, both by other children and teachers. I incessantly heard that others felt they were “walking on eggshells around me”. That’s always been a comment that has bothered me. As a kid with limited processing resources (shit, as an adult with limited resources!), all I heard was “your reaction to this event is over-the-top and therefore wrong”. This is a really scary feeling as a child because all we have to process the world is what we are taught and what we feel. But, no one is really taught feelings (or if they are, I missed that class). So there I was, already upset about said ‘event’ (lets say someone threw an orange rind at my head and I felt picked on), but then I start to cry or yell at the perpetrator and I’m told to “get over it” because it’s just an orange rind and I’m “overreacting”. But wait, now I’m confused because to me this reaction feels totally justified!? So now I am doubly upset because not only was I upset about feeling targeted but I’ve just been told that my feelings are wrong. Only now I can’t let it show that I’m upset or stand up for myself, because I’ve just learned that those feelings are invalid. So I end up suppressing my humiliation and confusion until it is no longer possible and it blows up in the next persons face who does or says something slightly off colour to me, causing the cycle to continue. As a child it is frustrating. As an adult it feels like gas-lighting. But as a bonifide mental person it causes either and implosion or explosion of emotions as I attempt to figure out how to react. What is a “normal” response to this? What is justified? Will I end up gas-lighting myself and allow myself to be walked over for fear of a disproportionate reaction? Oops, decisions times up, BLAM!!! This process essentially repeated itself for the next 20 years to varying degrees of intensity, until I became the all-too cliché substance-abusing, in-and-out of psych wards, unemployed, pushing-30 and perpetually-single (but still highly attractive in that Angelina-Jolie-in-Girl-Interrupted-type-way), gal you see before you! C’mon fellas! Put a baby in me!
Basically, this very basic example taught me that I ‘lifed’ wrong. That I was wrong. It meant that for the rest of my life I would never feel like I “fit in” which would flip/flop me between feelings of grandeur, like I was the fucking Queen of England…but like, a young, hot version! Or, I would feel like a worthless, hopeless, useless piece of hideous, gutter trash. I was never just, simply fine. To this day I still struggle with this. It has gotten better, but it will always be work because I will always be work. There will never be a time I am not in some form of therapy and working on myself. If that day comes I better be Ghandi-meditating-in-a-cave-in-the-Himalayas-level tranquil because the only other option would be that I would have given up and the reality of that is far to real for many people living with BPD (and other mental illness).
I recently learned that 70% of people with BPD will attempt suicide at least once in their lifetime and 10% will be successful. What the actual fuck?! I know cancer patients that have better odds than that! The stats for bipolar are similar and if you have more than one mental illness the percentage significantly jumps up again. I believe suicide is such an issue, not only because the condition itself can make average, daily encounters unbearable but also due to misdiagnosis. Most people are diagnosed in their 20’s, meaning they have had at least two decades of deeply rooting in poor coping mechanisms and habits before they can even attempt to heal, which itself is a slow and arduous (some will argue impossible) task. Doctors and Psycho’s alike have usually labelled us with a number of other disorders throughout our youth, like anxiety to explain our intense neediness, depression to understand our insatiable loneliness, and/or bipolar to make sense of our rapidly fluctuating and unregulated mood swings. No wonder all my ex’s individually came up with the descriptor “rollercoaster” for me! And there I thought it was because I was such a fun ride! *wink* Heyyyowwww!
Personally, I have experienced suicidal ideation for months and years at a time. If you haven’t, I am unbelievably relieved for you and if you have, from the bottom of my heart I’m sorry and I am here for you (I mean that, hit me up if you feel alone). It is nothing short of torture. I recently saw one of my doctors and she was so pleased to see how well I was doing because less than 2-months ago I was done. Out! I was about to call the loony bin to check me right back in and give me a vegetive-state-enducing lobotomy! I have worked really hard on myself in that time but even I am surprised by the progress this time around. Today, I can honestly say I feel better than I have in years, both mentally and in regards to the chronic pain and fatigue conditions I live with (which have a cyclic effect on my mental health too). However, I know how quickly things can change. I know how quickly I can be triggered into a reaction that could take me right back to square one.
I’m not going to tackle the debate about whether or not suicide is selfish or justified. Not today anyway. I have very alternative views on suicide (and selfishness too actually) and I think I’ve opened enough room for debate in this blog already! Nevertheless, I will say this. Two years ago my mum came into my room after hearing me whaling in agony. These screams were guttural, coming from the deepest pit of my stomach. I have never felt so much pain in my life. The 9-hour, full spinal resection I endured a few years earlier would have been a relief. No word of a lie. This whaling was not a once off. This was every. single. day. for an entire year and I had well and truly surpassed my breaking point. The thread I had been holding on by was long gone. I had lost (to death or perceived abandonment) so many people in such a short amount of time and I was completely and utterly heartbroken. Maybe it’s because of my wavering mental health that I felt it so intensely, I’ll never know, but I have been through cancer, the spinal surgery, addiction recovery/relapse, anorexia, rape, chronic pain and so much mental health bullshit I should have my very own Dr. Phil on speed dial; but heartbreak is the most excruciatingly painful experience I have ever been through.
Mum sat quietly at the end of my bed as I looked up at her from behind red, puffy eyes, exhausted from tears, and I begged her to let me die. I was calm now. I explained it all; how it would benefit the family and free me, how I was in such excruciating pain. How I could physically feel my heart tearing apart and my stomach sickly squirming and clenching without a second of respite. How deeply angry I was and how I felt it was cruel to keep me alive when I was in such all consuming agony. Honestly, if I had been a cancer patient I would have been on life support. I was terminal. I can’t imagine what it felt like as a mother to watch the child you brought into the world suffer in that way and be ungrateful for ‘the gift of life’.
Let it be known that my mum is one strong-ass Queen to be mother flipping reckoned with!
In her desperation she said the one thing that she knew would work when nothing else would, when not even a mothers’ love was enough, “you will destroy your brother.”. What was left of my heart dropped to the floor because I knew she was right. We’d just lost our dad. My brother and I had been best friends our entire lives.
One would not survive without the other. As much as she wanted to, mum wasn’t able to fix my pain but she provided, what mums do best, a little guilt trip (omg JK! Not the time? ), that lasted just long enough to keep me alive and those few words have helped me many times since. I won’t lie, I still fall into extreme depression at times but the decision is made now and there is no going back. I will never commit suicide. As bad as I may get, I will drag myself kicking and screaming to therapists and psycho’s, psych-wards and hospitals. I will allow myself to stay in bed for days and weeks at a time and exist solely on cereal and peanut butter if that is the only way I can work on my number one priority, survival. I will do whatever it takes to continue to find the tiniest little spark of hope inside that has helped me remember myself in the past and launch it into a blazing fire, because I have no other choice. I only have my mum and my bro left and let’s face it, they would be completely lost without me (or at least really fucking bored!)! I may be a nutcase, but I’m sure as hell fun!
*Loss – Referring to loss through both death and relationship breakdowns. To a person with BPD both are perceived as abandonment.
Suicidality in Borderline Personality Disorder – This is a really simple and clear article I found about suicide ideation in BPD for anyone who wants to learn more.
Suicide Helpline – Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14