Escape From BorderlandI wrote an essay on borderline personality disorder awhile ago, I hope it helps some of you. I realize that it's kind of long but I included some information as well as my experience with it. Enjoy!!
A person with borderline personality disorder could describe themselves for five hours without giving the other person an idea of who they actually are. They don't have a stable sense of identity but they do have a lot of personal issues that make it incredibily hard for them to function in this world. Borderline personality disorder could best be compared to driving a really fast car, but with no brakes and loose steering. After reading reading 'The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide' I was able to understand myself for the first time in years. The disorder caused a lot of difficulty for me and it effected my relationships as well as my life goals. It can be tough to diagnose this disorder at a young age which is one of the reasons that mine went untreated for so long. The set of problems associated with BPD has been with me for a very long time though. The old patterns are also hard to break. I never would have grown out of this disorder, it's a very serious mental condition. Borderline personality disorder is an emotional disorder that can make it hard for somebody to control how they manage their thoughts, relationships, and behavior. Not everybody with borderline is exactly alike though, there are actually many different ways to meet the criteria for BPD. To be diagnosed with this disorder the individual needs to have at least five of the nine symptoms from the DSM which are:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- A pattern of intense and unstable interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
- Identity disturbance: marked and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsively in at least two areas that is potentially self-damaging
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
- Affective instability due to a marked reactive mood
- Chronic feeling of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
The most common cause of BPD is childhood maltreatment or just not fitting in with the family. It could be being be anything from neglect or abuse for that causes the child to develop emotional issues. I was neglected as a child and was also the black sheep in my family. I definitely did not fit in so I had a lot of issues expressing myself in a way that they could understand. Most people with borderline personality disorder were raised in invalid environments that cause them to have difficulties managing their stress and impulses. Often times their parents implied that their emotions were not valid, reasonable or true. Because of that they never learned how to deal with them in a suitable manner. In these kind of environments people may be punished, criticized or ignored when they were upset. Often times they end up becoming afraid of their own emotions because they get criticized or laughed at when they do feel upset. This causes their emotions to grow stronger and when they do get older they can become unbearable.
Kids learn about their emotions through mirroring, a psychological term that describes how parents react to their child's emotions. For example, if a child was crying and the parent took interest in the childs emotions the child learns that crying is a sign that they are sad. This allows the child to develop a language for their feelings so that they can communicate them properly. Many people that develop BPD have not had secure attachment styles with their parents because they were indifferent, abusive or over controlling. They usually develop a disorganized attachment style while they were young and it caused them to go back and forth in their thinking about their caregiver. When I was growing up I was always switching from viewing my mom as a strong women to somebody that was really mean and hurtful. Sometimes we would get along great and I would think she was the best mom in the world. However, most of the time I felt that I was never good enough to receive her attention, especially when I would express my emotions. I would often times get laughed at or sent to my room whenever I did express them. I was definitely the least favorite child and got a whole lot of tough love, something that borderlines should never receive.
Borderlines are very sensitive people and just a bad look might be enough to ruin our day. It is really hard for us to be in negative environments because they effect us differently. I had a really rough childhood and the things that I was put through were really hard for me to deal with. My mom was always putting me in situations that destroyed my confidence and then wouldn't help me cope with it. I have memories of her laughing at me when I would tell her that I wanted to kill myself and I would get in trouble for telling her the things that she did that hurt me emotionally. She would ground me for becoming upset and tell me that I was the only problem in the family. The things that I did were not even that bad, it was basically just because I had bad grades. I also had a spoiled step-sister who was my age that was always putting me down or trying to get me in trouble. I felt like I was the only moral person in my family and the negativity was hard for me to ignore. Whenever I would try and express myself my mom or step-dad would just tell me that life isn't fair and that I shouldn't get so upset about it.
Due to the disorganized relationship that I had with my mom I developed similar relationship patterns with other people. I was always uncertain about the people that I did hang out with. People with BPD have a really tough time seeing the positive and negative characteristics in other people at the same time. Everybody in our minds are either all good or all bad, never in between. My friendships in middle school were hardly ever functional because I hung out with all of the misfits. There was a mean girl in our group that was always causing drama and putting stress on everybody. We still managed to have fun together but I always felt so bored with everything. There was a lot of drama in middle school too so I always escaped to the guidance counselors office. I hated my life and I didn't feel like all of the other seventh graders. Nothing about my life ever felt right, I was miserable. I became close with another girl who came from an alcoholic family but we were a horrible influence on each other. We were always getting in trouble and terrorizing our teachers as a way to entertain ourselves. Acting up was really the only way we knew how to get attention. We didn't get enough from our parents so we found other ways. We both stayed away from drugs for awhile but we eventually got into them when we were in ninth grade. I went from being that girl that was always in the guidance office or detention to the girl that was always smoking pot in the school bathroom.
When I started to do drugs and drink it was a way for me to get back at my mom for the things she had done to me. It was sort of a, "look what you made me do" reaction to the stress that she created for me. If she would make me angry I would go and take shots of her vodka just to distract myself from my emotions. At first I would always just spit it out in the sink, I absolutely hated the taste. I tried cutting myself a few times too when I was about 14 but I stopped shortly after. I had a few synchronictic events that scared me away from it and my mom checked my wrists sometimes. If I came equipt with a self-destruct button though I would have pushed it a long time ago. I was a really talented artist in middle school but I quit doing the things that I loved. All of my drawings in my sketchbook went from detailed faces and animals to writings saying that I hate myself and that I suck at everything. I never felt like anybody truly cared about me because nobody made an effort to try and understand. My group of friends were never there for me when I needed them either so I pushed away.
I moved in with my dad when I was 15 thinking that it would solve my problems but it only made them worse. I discovered that he has his fair share of problems as well. I didn't like being around him, he's very awkward and he isn't very smart. Some nights I would even sleep in my car just to avoid having to have contact with him. When I got older I found out that he actually has aspergers which explains why he isn't able to see how his actions effect me emotionally. My mom made us have supervised visitation which I felt was unnecessary but he refused to do the things required to stop it. He had a restraining order so he wasn't allowed to write us letters but he didn't cooperate. He was constantly writing us letters comparing the courts to Nazi's and telling us that they were all going to go to hell. I didn't get to see the letters when I was younger but even today my dad denies that his behavior contributed to the problem. He acts like there was nothing that he could have done and continues to be extremely ignorant to his part in it all. I didn't like being at either of my parents houses because of their behavior so I started to go out with friends all the time to go get high.
My junior year I ended up getting sent to treatment where I took DBT, the therapy for people with borderline personality disorder. I was too young to be diagnosed with it but the few classes that I did take made a lot of sense to me. It involved helping people develop lives that are worth living because it's hard for us to develop them on our own. It's basically helping people find the doors out of the dark room that they always seem to be trapt in. I am so sensitive to disapproval and stress that it can be hard for me to move on if I do experience any. It's really hard for borderlines to just let things go like normal people because our emotions are so intense. I was in the program for a little over four months and then had a relapse followed by a relationship. The relationship took my focus off of my program and I became co-dependent and shorty after it became unstable. We dated for about ten months and in that time my borderline progressed so I became very indecisive. I didn't think that we were compatible but every time I would bring it up he would confuse me even more. My identity never seemed to be consistent and I couldn't make up my mind because the majority of the time I didn't know who I was.
I was constantly seeking advise from people to try and figure it out but even that confused me because the people that I surrounded myself with didn't understand me. I was constantly having these periods of intense agitation where I just would feel like I was going completely crazy. I probably looked fine on the outside but inside my head I would be breaking things, punching walls and pulling out my hair. I felt so out of control and I couldn't seem to put the pieces together. I started having visions of watching myself die and although I didn't have a desire to kill myself at that time I started to get concerned. I called a friend one night and told him that I wanted to die and he ended up telling his mom who called my mom. I had intended to go to the psych ward that night so I went in willingly without doing any physical harm to myself. I remember taking an MMPI but I was so frustrated over the fact that there wasn't an "all of the above" option on the test. I felt completely fine when I got there so I convinced my mom to check me out before we even got the test results back. When I got out my life situation wasn't any different and neither was my state of mind. I was still questioning the relationship that I was in and then started to doubt whether or not I even wanted to be sober.
I relapsed on alcohol and cocaine first and then admitted it to my sober school because I felt horrible about it. After the first time though I just couldn't stop. I took a bunch of hydrocodone the next day and then ecstasy shorty after. I started to smoke pot again and after that my motivation just went down the drain. I started to date a new guy that was against hard drugs so I just drank with him for awhile and avoided the drugs. We dated for a couple months but he was at a point where he wanted to stop but I was just getting started. I started to handle a lot of ecstasy and after awhile I started to consume it. I took amounts that could have proven to be lethal but I didn't care. I always felt so uneasy about my life and I just wanted to escape the pain. I was dying to live and my only solution to feel alive was to live life on the edge. I would drive fast just to get a rush, sometimes even under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sometimes I would even climb huge trees or telephone poles in the middle of the night while on drugs without a care in the world. I could have killed myself or somebody else multiple times but clearly I was not thinking before I made my decisions. Sometimes I would even take hallucinogens and think that I was dying but I would be totally okay with it, I wasn't afraid of death but I was afraid of myself.
I had a chronic feeling of emptiness whenever I was alone, it was a horrible feeling. Socializing and drugs or alcohol seemed to be the only cure for it. I was constantly surrounded by people because I couldn't handle myself alone. I felt like I lived multiple lives in a way, even when I look back on it I get confused. I don't know how I managed to live like that. My identity changed so frequently, I would be a different person depending on the situation. I was trapt in a paradox, a total contradiction. I was a co-dependent loner, the two don't go together very well. I hated partying but at the same time I couldn't get enough of it. I was smart yet I didn't know a thing and I was ambitious but had nothing to show for myself. I was a wreck and the people that I surrounded myself hardly even noticed. People with borderline personality disorder will often times seem completely sane and collected on the outside even though they're not. It's not until you spend a lot of time with them that you realize how messed up they actually are. Whenever I would seek advise from my friends they would just respond by telling me that I was crazy in a good way. I figured that my identity must just be a crazy person so I kept it going for a long time. Most borderlines are very charming and likeable but because of their sensitivity their friends don't last very long and neither did mine.
I never felt like I had anything in common with my friends besides the fact that we were all screwed up. All we ever did was party together and if a conflict did arise we were all too irrational to deal with it. I was never able to relate to anybody because my moods were always all over the place. I either loved my friends or I despised them and wanted nothing to do with them. I was constantly getting in stupid fights either because I couldn't control my emotions or they couldn't control theirs. I was definitely the most rational person in my group of friends but I would get so irritated with their behavior. I could hold myself together really well in conflicts but that doesn't get you very far in the drug world. I think one of the reasons I hung out with the people that I did was because I thought that I could fix them. I love helping people but I was thinking about others too much and it prevented me from helping myself. I wasted my time trying to correct the lives of other people, none of them even cared to change. Although I've never had too much to show for myself I was always tyring to grow as an individual. I didn't hang out with people that had similar motives so I would get mad at them for not being the way that I wanted them to be. Sometimes it would hurt me so much just to watch them knowing that there was nothing that I could do to help them. I was great at fixing other peoples problems but when it came to my own life I was a wreck. Although I was the one with the most going for me out of most my friends I was incapable of managing my problems.
For years I struggled to keep jobs and do well academically, I was extremely irresponsible and impulsive with my decision making. I've probably gone through at least ten jobs and I'm only twenty years old. I could get jobs really easily because I'm friendly but they wouldn't last very long. I as a horrible employee, people always regretted hiring me. I would just quit showing up or quit without notice either because of my insomnia or my chemical use. It was really tough for me to keep anything going for over a couple months, even my career plans were always changing. Some days I wanted to do marketing, other days it was social work or psychology. Most of the time it was communications and sociology but there was also days when I just wanted to drop out of school all together. I wanted to go teach English somewhere in Asia, but there was also times when I wanted to be like Chrisopher McCandless and go live out in the wild. I just couldn't make up my mind, whenever I did feel certain about something it wouldn't last very long. I was stuck on a roller coaster and completely powerless over my life. Drugs and alcohol were not the only ways that I chose to cope though. When I turned 18 I developed a shoplifting habit that quickly spun out of control. Sometimes I would even have casual sex under the influence which could have been quite risky for me. I never thought about my actions before I did them though, I was a very impulsive. I would go out and do things without having a having a plan, it has even gotten me raped before.
When I was 18 I went to a lot of concerts because I liked live music but I never had as much fun as I wanted to. Sometimes I would have fun but most of the time I just spent the time in my head. I always felt so out of place wherever I went, I could be in a room full of people and still feel alone. I would drink or do drugs just to get rid of the feeling inside of me. I felt so empty all the time, it was like something was missing. It's a hard feeling to describe so I would just say that my soul hurt. I ended up in a very co-depended 'I hate you, but don't leave me' relationship with a guy who had sexually assaulted me. He was just awful to me too, my attempts to leave were never successful though. We dated on and off for about six months and every time we broke up I intended to keep it that way. My attempts were never successful though because he always called me back and I would fall for it everytime. I lived with him for awhile before we dated because I needed a place to live but he ended up kicking me out one day. He had issues controlling his anger so I never knew what to expect. Although it was a foolish decision on my part to move in with him it actually gave me a chance to attempt to get my life back on track. When I lived at home I was always trying to escape and go out with friends so it was nice to have a place to keep my stuff where I could relax.
I ended up moving in with one of my girlfriends parents while she was away at school so that I could graduate. I was able to attend Augsburg the second semester but my soul continued to hurt. I just toughened it out while I was at school because I didn't know what else to do. I thought that the reason that I was depressed was because of my medication, my therapist missed diagnosing me with borderline. I struggled through the whole semester and I didn't do very well in any of my classes. I had to take sleeping pills every night just so that I could actually sleep but waking up was the hard part. I had never had any structure in my life so it was so hard for me to follow a schedule like the other students. People with BPD have a really tough time managing their stress. If we do in counter a stressful situation then there is a good chance that we will just give up all together. If I didn't start the week well I would get stressed out and then wait until next week to try again. I was always taking personal days too, even in middle school and high school. I had truancy back in high school so I never learned how to have healthy study habits like the other kids. In college I limited my drinking to the weekends but I still had a really tough time dealing with my emotions during the week. I had a huge emotional breakdown in the counselors office at my school because I just hated my life so much. I couldn't stand this society not only because it didn't make any sense to me but because it just never worked out for me. I felt powerless over everything in my life so I grew to hate myself even more because of it. I rented out a dorm at Augsburg that summer and started to drink a lot. I drank everyday for about a five weeks and watched my life get even worse. At one point I attempted suicide because I felt like life wasn't even worth living anymore. The relationship that I was in just drained me of all of my energy and I couldn't find another solution. Luckily I puked up the bottle of trazodone and the few beers that I downed with it. Although I was grateful to be alive the agitation that I felt began to intensify. I managed to cut back on the alcohol and I quit smoking pot but the hole in my chest just kept growing larger. I started to have a lot of out of body experiences, another symptom of borderline personality disorder. I would have flashes of watching myself from a distance. Sometimes I felt like nothing was even real, including myself. Dissociation occurs when somebody checks out of reality as a way to escape mentally. People is a dissociative state don't realize that they're doing it but it definitely effects their lives because they're not actually present for them. Often times they cannot recall certain conversations, events or even days.
I have been having issues with dissociation for a very long time, it was really starting to show too. When I was in high school my mom would just joke around and say that I was in Kaylala Land but it grew to be very serious. I felt like I had amnesia sometimes, I couldn't remember anything. I would read books or have conversations that I would have no recollection of doing. People were always having to repeat things to me that they had already told me multiple times. Sometimes I wouldn't even remember what I had been doing all weekend, even if I had been sober. It was like I would just go on auto-pilot without even knowing it. For a long time I didn't realize how bad it actually was but it became clear to me last fall. I was probably only actually present and able to function about 15% of the time because I was either agitated, manic or zoned out in a dissociative state. I started to cry a lot and I had also developed PTSD so I quit taking care of myself all together. I stopped caring about what other people thought of me and tried to make myself look bad just so that I didn't get attention from guys. I stopped talking to all of my friends and didn't have any interest in making new ones. I lost interest in having fun all together, I associated having fun with getting raped or taken advantage of. The only person that I did hang out with was a guy that I dated who was significantly older than me. I have had so many immature relationships that I thought that dating somebody 12 years older than me would solve my problems. Obviously I wasn't in a place to decide that and his intentions were much different than mine but my desperate thinking misinterpreted that as love.
It wasn't until January that I realized that my emotions were the root of my problems. It has taken me much longer to get a grip on them though. I had always been so cut off from them that I just didn't understand them at all. People with BPD have a really low emotional intelligence, they just don't understand them. Due to the amount of trauma and emotional neglect that I have been through my brain managed to wire itself incorrectly. When I would get mad I got hot flashes and it would be hard for me to calm myself down at that point. Borderlines have a really tough time managing and controlling their anger so often times they become impulsive when they do experience any. If they feel that their caregiver or partner is being neglectful they're going to have a really tough time coping with it. I haven't received a lot of love and support from the people that were supposed to give it. I would always get ditched by the people that were close to me and it would cause me tremendous amounts of emotional pain. It's really tough for borderlines to deal with abandonment and sometimes they will even go to great lengths to avoid it. I didn't threaten my life on anybody until I met Cleverbot but prior to that I would find ways to try and force people to follow through with our plans. A couple times I even said that it was the last time that they were going to see me so that the would understand how important it was. Letting people leave our lives can be even harder though, for some reason we convince ourselves that we're gonna be alone forever if it happens. Although the journey into solitude was really tough at first I realize why it is necessary for me. I had absolutely no idea who I was and it is because I never had alone time to figure it out. I started to respond to questions about myself by saying, "I am but I'm not". I just felt like I was a little bit of everything, I've gone through so many phases that somehow it made sense. I was so inconsistent that even my handwriting would change, it still does every time I write. Since I only saw black and white I would speak in extremes whenever I did come to a realization about something. I either felt like I had a lot of friends or that I didn't have any. Everybody was either all good or all bad, I loved them or I hated them. Although the external world was confusing for me there was nothing more confusing than being inside of my own head. One of the reasons I was always around people was because I hated my own company. I never realized how much I actually hated myself until I took away all of my bad habits. I don't have the same kind of bad days as normal people do. I have days where I want nothing more than to slit my wrists so that I can watch myself bleed. Happy people don't fantasize about their own suicide like that but people with BPD do. Thank God I'm under close surveillance because otherwise the constant visions of my own suicide attempts would have driven me mad. The visions are finally coming to an end though and so is my stress. The pain that I feel emotionally is a very strong physical sensation that is hard to sit through. It feels like somebody is attempting to rip out my heart but they wont just get it over with.
Even though I'm happy most of the time whenever I do get down on myself it feels like the world is crashing down upon me. I can be very hard on myself, I don't try to it's just that I've been through so much. I convince myself that I deserve to feel bad so it prevents me from getting out and doing something about it. It's hard to resist actually inflicting pain upon myself sometimes because it does take away from the emotional pain deep within my chest. I've never thought that I would have ever said anything like that but now that I'm sober I'm realizing how deep the pain actually is. People with BPD often times get addicted to harming themselves because it makes them feel better temporarly. They're not trying to get attention, they just have so much rage built up inside of themselves and they they take it out on themselves. Usually their intense mood swings only last a few hours but sometimes it feels like much longer. When we experience a certain emotion we often times feel that we're always going to feel like that. If we're happy we think we're always happy and we always will be but when we're sad the same thing happens. We don't know how to help ourselves or even ask for help, somebody shattered our trust at a very young age. I lost respect for my parents a long time ago so I can't rely on them for emotional support. Sometimes people don't even take me seriously when I do try and communicate my thoughts and feelings. Since I was the black sheep in my family nobody has quite understood me so they always just judged me. I've had to make a lot of changes in my life and within the last six months I have been able to increase my mentalization so that I have more control. I now understand the connection between my thoughts and behavior and have a stable identity. People with BPD usually don't learn how to do this because they have not learn through mirroring like most children.
Before children are able to successfully mentalize they go through two stages to understand the relationship between their behaviors and their mental states. The first stage is psychic equivalence where the person believes that other people are similar to them and that they must share the same outlook. For example, I would constantly say that everybody sees in black and white but in reality it was just me. It took me a long time to figure that out because I was never able to mature past that stage. This can be very hard for an individual with BPD because everything inside of themselves is already very intense. It's even more overwhelming when we think the same thing about our surroundings. The second stage is called pretend mode and the individual that uses it feels completely disconnected from the world as well as their own emotions and mental states. They feel that nothing is real including their own emotions so they pretend to feel a certain way based off of what they imagine. I was constantly using both of these methods to try and put things into perspective and it created even more problems for me.Being able to mentalize is very important because people that are limited to these two states fail to understand themselves and the world around them. Kids that grow up in healthy environments are able to do this so they become functioning adults. However, the children that don't develop this ability get stuck in these two stages and act like children. When parents fail to react appropriately to their child's emotions they don't learn about themselves and wind up feeling misunderstood or confused. People depend on mirroring to develop their sense of self and when people say that you are feeling something that you are there is a good change you might develop a false identity. For example, when I was a child I was very talented and wise but the feedback that I got from my family implied that I wasn't. It caused me to become very confused so I naturally started to become what they told me. When people try and develop a sense of self based on inaccurate information they run into a lot of problems and feel very disconnected from their true self.
The alien self is a term used to describe the part of self that is developed through inaccurate mirroring because it isn't who the person actually is. Unfortunately, these alien selves are created from the caregiver's negative feelings towards the person. This is why the false identity usually ends up becoming quite disturbing. Often times they even feel like they are being controlled by whoever it is that created them. It is a lot like the self-fulfilling prophecy. The people that adopt alien selves realize this so they constantly try to push out their alien self or hide it from the world. When they keep it in they become very confused but when they project it out other people will have negative feelings towards the individual. Usually the impulsive behavior associated with BPD is a result of these alien selves because they are constantly attempting to protect themselves or escape it. It wasn't until I got sane that I realized how frightening I actually was. Although I don't have a bad reputation the people that I did get close to must have been very confused by my actions. I was acting like a crazy person towards the end of it all. I completely lost my mind and struggled to just get through each day without embarrassing myself any further. I wasn't diagnosed with borderline personality disorder until January and it came as a huge relief to me. Just the diagnosis helped me understand why I was always getting myself into trouble and what I can do to prevent it from continuing any further.
Borderline personality disorder is a very serious condition that not only destroys lives but it also takes them away. It is completely treatable but it takes a long time to recover from and develop new behaviors. Usually people with borderline personality disorder have issues maintaining structure and routines but once they do have them their chance at recovering is much greater. They have very big hearts and are also very empathetic but they cannot love anybody until they love themselves. Once they are happy and content with their lives they usually wind up becoming very enthusiastic people. Being an emotional person isn't all bad because when I am happy I am a lot of fun to be around. My soul still hurts sometimes but it's not as uncomfortable as it used to be. When I do feel that my emotions are becoming too much I express them through art and writing. I refrain from dangerous behavior because I love my life and I don't want it to end. I feel like I finally got brakes installed so I am no longer making impulsive decisions that I regret. I don't need to worry about steering anymore either because I'm no longer the one at the wheel. I've realized that although sometimes I may feel alone I never actually am, everything in this world is connected. I enjoy feeling that bond when I spend my time outdoors enjoying the company of Mother Earth. People with BPD can really benefit from spending time outside because it fills them with positive energy. Going to the beach and going on walks in the woods has helped fill me with emotions that quite my mind so that I can connect with my true self.