I have borderline personality disorder. That was a pretty hard statement to make in public. It’s been a year since I was first diagnosed, and a decade since I realised that something was very, very wrong with how I experienced the world, and yet I still find it hard to come to terms with the fact that I have one of the most terrifying disorders in the world.
I’ve had to wonder what makes it so hard for me to admit to having my personality disorder. I’ve been able to be open about my depression, my anxiety, my bouts of psychosis (for months I was friends with a girl named Alia until the psychosis wore off and I realised she was just an auditory hallucination… the delusions are even more fun – by which I mean heartbreaking…), but admitting that I’m borderline seemed insurmountable. It took the destruction of one of my romantic relationships before I could publicly acknowledge in any real way the extent to which my personality disorder pervades my everyday existence.
The obvious answer: I’m afraid to admit to myself that I have BPD because I’m afraid I’m going to be just like my abusive mother. But that fear exists anyways; abuse survivors are more likely to grow up to be abusers. The perhaps less obvious answer… There’s a fairly common trope in TV dramas and things like that of a girlfriend/wife (and it’s almost always a woman) being unreasonable. Obsessively clingy, almost psychotically accusatory, mercurial… You know the type. I’ve been in enough social justice circles to have seen that trope torn apart as sexist and unrealistic. And it’s hard to admit to myself, and even harder to admit to anyone else that that’s me. That I have so little sense of self that being alone is intolerable, that I have to have someone around me because my own perception of myself is defined by the perceptions of people around me (I can only love myself if I’m surrounded by people who love me, etc). That I experience sudden, rapid, intense mood swings, deliriously happy one moment, furious the next and then intensely depressed. That the emotions I experience are unbearably intense; I wear myself out letting myself feel anything at all. That the slightest thing (an almost imperceptible yawn, a glance at a clock, the weather…) can send me spiraling into rage/sadness/terror. The slightest hint of abandonment and I’ll crash. The slightest hint of affection, and suddenly I’m ecstatic. That when someone makes an offhand comment, or even chooses a less-than-appropriate word to use in a particular statement, I might be sent into a panic, fearing that the other person secretly hates me, and I’ll end up doing something drastic to stop the abandonment from happening (often, by trying to be the first person to leave: declaring that I hate the other person, insisting that I’m going to run off and kill myself, etc… For some people, this can manifest as accusing the other person of cheating etc, and thankfully I haven’t gotten to that point yet). That I sometimes get into a strange almost surreal state, where I do incredibly self-destructive or dangerous things (taking a late night walk through an unfamiliar place where there have been known bear encounters, walking down the median of the road, stepping into traffic – these are all actual real-life things I’ve done on more than one occasion). That most of the time I’m not actually as in-control of my behaviour as I’d like to be. I’ve thrown the most humiliating public temper-tantrums as a 19 year old… and no matter how awful I feel afterwards, the next time I’m confronted with unbearable frustration, I can’t stop myself from doing it all over again, even when I think of the humiliation of the last temper tantrum I’ve thrown.
When people see the psychotic bitch trope on TV, they laugh at it. When I see it, I internally cringe, because that’s the reality of the life that I’m forced to live. I have to live with the constant terror that something tiny will set me off and I’ll lose control of my behaviour again, and end up feeling like I’m watching myself from outside of my body again as I end up doing something that even in the moment I know I don’t want to do.