If you decide to skip the majority of this article which is perfectly in your rights to do, I implore you to skip to the bold list at the end. The things you can do to help someone with BPD. If that’s all you take away then so be it.
Is there a point to me writing this, quite frankly, immature sounding blog post about my feelings and my thoughts on the world. Who knows. I don’t. But as with the majority of the human race, I have my own outlet for my thoughts or feelings. Sometimes I can’t say them out loud, or talk to people about them, because when I do, it doesn’t sound real. My words sound false on my own tongue. My voice deceives me, it never quite expresses what I actually feel or think. But when I write like this, in a moment of reflection and pure emotional suffocation, the words sound just right to me. So here it is. In this form and no other. And I agree I ramble on a bit, it sounds more like my mind like that, one ramble after another, blithering on this way and that until it comes to its conclusion.
My primary reason for writing today, is of course, to talk about the mind. It’s capabilities and lack of. What people perceive as true and what one does not. Quite recently, a very close friend died because of her mind. The mind can play some wonderful tricks on you. Some days I am both disastrously happy and wonderfully suicidal in the space of five minutes. So if you meet me, and you don’t really know what to make of me, don’t worry too much, nor do I really. It’s quite acceptable for you to read this and think ‘what the fuck is she talking about’, because the exact same words are going through my own mind as I write, and yet I know somehow that what I’m writing remains to be the truest expression of my own companionship with my mental illness. And because of this, I hope it serves as a guide, a flash of wisdom or perhaps a kick in the face for some. Buckle up bitches, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
As my title expresses, ‘borderline, not emotionally unstable’, my mental illness has two names. Like the illness isn’t confusing enough as it is, theirs: Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder.
So, ‘are you borderline something, or emotionally unstable?’ I hear you say. The Cambridge dictionary definition of ‘Borderline’ is simply “Between two different conditions, with the possibility of belonging to either one of them”. I expect medically speaking they mean we BPD patients are neither Bipolar, Schizophrenic, Depressive, Dissociative, Insomniac, Narcoleptic, Voyeuristic, Multiple Personality, Substance Abusive, Post-Traumatic, Narcissistic, Manic or any of the rather extensive list of mental health titles. As BPD patients, we are a nice large dollop of all, neither one nor the other, we don’t completely fit any of the well listed symptoms of all the other mental health titles (if you have no idea what any of those words I just listed were, I advise you to look at a dictionary).
Heck, not every other mental health patient fits into their diagnosis either, but in my lifetime I’ve noticed that when people don’t understand or like something, they make themselves feel better by giving it a name and putting it into a box.
What about the other title, you might be wondering. Well as the phrase doesn’t actually have a dictionary definition, I’ll have to split it with the two. Emotionally is defined as “Relating to the emotions or having and expressing strong feelings”, and Unstable is defined as “Not solid and firm, and therefore not strong, safe, or likely to last”. Which is quite a confusion, Emotionally appears to define our feelings as strong, and yet Unstable mentions that they are not strong, safe or likely to last. But if you’re like me, you might have read the Unstable definition initially as: we as people are not strong, safe or likely to last. Which in my opinion is both true and false, because I know myself that if I was to continue some days in a certain frame of mind, I am not strong, safe or likely to last. And yet on other days, I couldn’t be stronger, safer or more likely to last if I tried.
I personally prefer the borderline title, because when you say among a group of people that you’re borderline, they give you a look like ‘Okay, that doesn’t sound so bad, I don’t know what that means but okay.’. But if you say your emotionally unstable, they look around for your carer and check you don’t have any weapons on you (my personal experience). Not to mention I understand the definition of borderline better than I do the obvious paradox that is emotionally unstable, even though I recognize they are actually saying the same thing, we are neither one nor the other. Because of this oppositional, paradoxical personality, I say good luck to whoever might meet me, I sincerely hope you meet me on a day that I am a good person, than one when I am not. But in all honesty, my opinion on that might change by tomorrow, my mind is already wondering if I truly think it’s a benefit to others to meet me on a good day or not.
But because of all this hectic, chaotic, confusion, it can make it very difficult to understand a person like me. I really don’t blame anyone for getting confused by such a paradox of a person. But I do blame people who judge me on my paradoxical personality. I might not understand why you have brown eyes and not blue/grey like mine, but I don’t judge you on it, in this day and age we get over such things. Why? Because it’s part of who you are, it’s your genetic makeup. A metaphor for this situation might be: Sure you can get different contact lenses that change your eye color or have an operation, but the fact of the matter remains you were born and were naturally given that color eyes, they are yours. So yes, there are a limited amount of things that can help change my paradoxical personality, I can and do take lots of medication that change the chemicals in my brain to function more like yours. But the fact remains the same, my personality is a complete paradox and it is as much a part of me as your eye color.
The question you should be asking now is ‘What if I don’t want to change my eye color, I want people to accept me as I am’, and if this thought hasn’t occurred to you, then I suggest you have a long shower where you can have a deep and meaningful debate with yourself. Because just like that, I too feel like I shouldn’t have to change my personality. I do it because if I don’t, the world will never accept me, and I will never feel peace knowing this. Humanity cannot get their minds around mental illness, they cannot justify my actions by just thinking ‘it’s just how her mind works’, because that is too hard for them, it is too much of a big idea for them to contemplate. And I don’t blame them, in extreme cases one might think, ‘well it shouldn’t be accepted as that because it’s a danger to everyone else, it can be hurtful’.
This is entirely true, but anyone with knowledge on how much an imbalance of chemicals can control a person and their actions, might instead think, ‘it’s a shame that those chemicals have that kind of influence on her/him’. I say this purely based on the fact that I have never met a person that is fully and completely happy that they hurt people. And if they do actually feel that way, you can guarantee it’s the imbalanced chemicals speaking. Because if they had the same mental chemical balance that ‘normal’ (normal for want of a better word) people have, they’d feel the same way as everyone else, with the normal amount of emotions that wouldn’t necessarily control their actions. A mental state with complete control over the correlation between what the mind feels and what the body does.
Here is some food for thought though: why is it that people don’t really think that much about some peoples’ illnesses, but not others, for example: You see a cancer patient and you think, that individual cannot tell themselves to just not have cancer. But if it is a mental chemical imbalance, many assume they can just chemically reprogram there brain to get rid of it. They are both physical illnesses, the brain is part of ones physical anatomy and it is simply programmed differently for us. (I mean that with absolutely no distaste to the treatment of cancer patients, it is rightly so that we understand you cannot just ‘get over it’, it is an illness. I only mean to compare.)
Which brings me to the point that I would really like to inscribe on a lot of peoples’ foreheads, ‘IF A PERSON HAS AN IMBALANCE OF CHEMICALS IN THEIR BRAIN, THEY CANNOT MENTALLY/MAGICALLY CHANGE THAT IMBALANCE OF CHEMICALS. IT IS THEIR GENETIC MAKEUP AND AS HARD AS IT IS FOR YOU TO BELIEVE, WE WOULD NOT WANT TO UPSET/HURT/OFFEND YOU WITHOUT THE INFLUENCE OF THOSE CHEMICALS. AND THEREFORE ONE CANNOT HELP IT.‘ If you can’t accept that basic fact then you likely lack intelligence, imagination or empathy. All things I’m sure you cannot help either, but we must try to be understanding of each others limitations.
But let’s get back to what having Borderline Personality Disorder really is. I am just one person experiencing my version of it. So everything I write is based purely on my own experiences and the experiences that others have told me. Always bare in mind that everyone is different, and the same goes for mental health manifestations. That means, just because one person (like me) doesn’t experience a symptom, it doesn’t mean that another person with the exact same lifestyle and mental illness (I really hate calling it that because there is such a negative connotation with the words mental illness, but again for lack of a more appropriate title, I use it) doesn’t or can’t experience a symptom. Just like a fingerprint, it manifests differently in everyone, so when you’re not sure if it’s a real symptoms of theirs (I.E you think it’s a lie), you can only ask and take their word for it. If you don’t then that’s your problem not theirs, they can only tell you their version of the truth. But truth is actually an opinion, truth is different to everyone, so you can either accept their truth or not. Simples.
To explain my BPD, I’ll refer back to my comments on the name Borderline. My personality itself is very much borderline between things, hence why I call it a paradoxical personality. Parts of my personality are in complete opposition of each other (I’m a personified magnet if you will. Giggle.) I don’t mean technically, I mean emotionally. The things that make me who I am. I think I’d prefer list this, I think it would be easier for others to understand that way, (I’ll only do the main ones because otherwise i’d be here all night) so here goes:
-I absolutely hate/fear abandonment and loneliness, yet sometimes I hate being around people with every fiber in my body and love my own company.
-I hate and love alcohol and drugs. Part of me absolutely needs the numbness and nothing that it can bring, but part of me absolutely hates my lack of control under the influence, I already have little control over my mind so I naturally hate having even less.
-I love having friend/sexual/familial relationships because they make me feel loved, but I also hate them because that exact feeling of love makes me feel undeserving, like I am a bad person for appreciating that love. It makes me hate myself and lash out.
-My mind concentrates and works smoothest when I’m thinking about some of the most grim, dark things in the world, it brings me a distorted form of peace. And yet the emotions that can come afterwards, make me feel depressed, because why does my brain have to understand these dark things so easily but cannot comprehend positive thoughts.
-Emotional pain is explosive to me, it’s when I’m at my least ‘stable’ mindset, in that I become suicidal or even dangerous to others like a cornered animal. And yet, I seem to understand, notice the world all the better in these states. It’s normally when I am the most creative, much like now I guess. It’s like having a third eye open that suddenly seems to know and understand everything.
-My anger is not anger as you think. Anger to most is an emotional reaction to something you hate/dislike. If your angry at your spouse, your angry because you don’t like something they’ve done. Anger to me is passion. I get angry for things I love. I could severely hurt someone verbally because I’m trying to show them I love them. My anger is how I show I care, it’s normally a reaction to an intense love or care that I may feel. Weird I know.
-Physical pain is far less to me. If I say I’m in physical pain, it’s a LOT of pain. Pain that a ‘normal’ person would likely buckle under. I broke my elbow and my wrist recently and continued using it perfectly normally, even though I felt the pain, it didn’t stop me and it didn’t seem to connect in my head that the pain was that bad. I also have a joint condition that means my joints dislocate regularly, painful stuff, but for the majority of the time I keep going. At this point i’m not sure if I actually feel the pain and just ignore it or I genuinely just don’t feel the pain so much. I’m more inclined to think it’s the first option.
-I feel physical pain but ignore it anyway because a part of me accepts it, needs it. I want to say I like it, but I don’t, I accept it. Because yes guys, I’m a self-harmer. It’s one of my first instincts. No matter what my emotion, even when i’m happy sometimes, I release it through self-harming. That might not make sense to you but I’ll try to explain it. When i’m ‘happy’, although I want to be happy, I don’t think I truly believe I am happy or that I deserve to be. My natural mental outlook/attitude/instinct is negative, it’s where my mind would go if I could reset it back to natural every time. So when i’m happy, it’s not my instinct, it’s uncomfortable for me, so an uncontrollable part of me wants to hurt. It makes me feel like me again. That’s why I self-harm when i’m happy, be it binge drinking/cutting/hair pulling/scratching/binge eat/starve/sleep deprive etc.
-I self-harm when I’m sad because it reminds me that I am a human, and that I am alive. Seeing my red blood reminds me that life pumps in my veins, regardless of how I feel, I am still alive and that is a good thing apparently. It also reminds me that I am like everyone else in one sense, if you cut a person’s skin, they will always bleed or a mark will be left on the skin. Even if there was nothing else about me that makes me feel normal, that does. I’d tell you more about the more sexual aspects of self-harm, but my aim isn’t to make my audience go insane, only educate. And yes I’m allowed to use the word insane because I am insane. In fact I rather like the word, I guess it’s my title, by badge of honor and my scar.
I’ll leave it at those things. Partly because my bravery is starting to falter and I don’t think I can actually tell anybody any more, there are still many road blocks for me to kick down before I can tell anybody anymore without dangerously worrying what the world will think of me. I’ve not even finished writing this thing and I’m already feeling an onset of a panic attack. I’m even wondering if I actually have the balls to post this, but I’ll post it then go to sleep so that I don’t have to think about it too much. 13 years of therapy and going to sleep is still my best coping method. Proves how much of a pile of shit the majority of those sessions were.
Which brings me to my last point. How the hell do you care for a person with these kinds of thoughts, emotions. How do you do it without getting hurt yourself? Well the truth is, you can’t, you might well get hurt, that’s part of life mate. You could get hurt by anyone, so grow a pair of balls and deal with that. But how do you care for a person with BPD? Well that isn’t so bleak. I’ll write a list:
-Try and be kind, even if it’s against your better judgement, they could be trying really damn hard to be better and you wouldn’t have a clue, so give them the benefit of the doubt to be kind. Plus kindness is free.
-Listen to what they have to say, even if it’s hard for you to hear, or you don’t agree. We’re trying our damn hardest to say it in a way you might understand, but our minds don’t always work like that and we can only use what we’re given.
-For the love of god, don’t just ignore the problem. This is the worst damn thing you can do. You might be telling yourself ‘Well it’s not my problem’ or ‘Someone else can deal with it better’. STOP. We as humans owe it to each other to try. We are all each others problem, who else is going to deal with it? Man up, line your spine with some iron and case your balls in a diamond shield. If it was you, you’d want someone to try to help. Even if you’re a stranger, you have no idea how much a kind word might mean. And if you think someone else can deal with it better, you might be right, but if you don’t try you don’t know. For all you know, you could be the person with the perfect words, the one person that gets through to us when were in a state. So try.
-If we say theirs a problem, and we say we want to do something to make it better like use one of our coping methods, don’t frickin judge us for it. Life’s hard enough already. If we’re medicated, there is a damn reason for it, don’t try to tell us that we don’t need it, you don’t know what’s in a person’s mind and you’re not a fucking doctor. Even if you are a doctor, your not a telepath so don’t judge what you don’t know.
-Ask the person what they think you can do to help. Don’t just assume, ask. If you don’t understand what’s happening, ask. If it’s not the situation to ask (for example if their in a real state), call a damn ambulance. Sometimes the only thing you can do is call an ambulance. Although I myself haven’t had a great experience with most mental health teams, paramedics are freaking life savers and have my full respect.
-Find a thing they love and stock pile. For me I love books, comedies, food and duvets’. Wrap me into a duvet burrito, feed me food, put a comedy on in front of me and hand me books regularly and I’m a rainbow unicorn of peace. Encourage them to do the things they love and the things that help. Sometimes we might not think we want to do it, but when we do it, were happy we did.
-Sometimes there might be things we do that seem odd or weird, but instead of telling us we’re freaks, get the hell over it and find a better thing in life to waste your energy on. We are what we are.
-Sometimes our medication can really affect our mental state, mine make me really tired all the time, my body movements can become sluggish and I slur my words. Which might sound a bit crap, but atleast I’m in a more peaceful frame of mind than without. So don’t tell me I should take less, you wouldn’t like the unmedicated version of me. And be respectful of my limits, I’ll tell you if I can’t don’t something, so you need to respect that.
-Don’t compare us to other people you know with the same illness, nobody is the same. One person might cope really well and another might not.
-Most of all, re assure them. Whether you have to tell them twice a day or two million times a day, telling them they are needed, they are beautiful, they are loved can make so much difference. If your scared of telling someone these things, don’t be. How are we supposed to spread love without telling people we love them. How are they supposed to know you love them if you don’t tell them?
Well I hoped you enjoyed that, this roller coaster of life, emotions, thoughts and opinions. I hope it guides, I hope it clears away some of those foggy parts of your brain. I mainly decided to write this because for a long time, my friend that recently committed suicide badgered me to write something about BPD. So here it is. It’s late, but it happened.
BPD can be painful, confusing, shocking, freeing, creatively empowering, dark, anxiety inducing, addiction creating, relationship destroying etc etc. But it is what it is. And as one of the current survivors of the BPD rollercoaster, I can safely say I am proud, of every single BPD fighter out there. Because you deal with things in one day that many don’t deal with over a lifetime.
Most of all, everyone needs to remember that we are all just human, that it’s okay to make mistakes again and again because that’s what were darn here for. If you don’t make mistakes then you don’t learn, and life is all about learning.
Over and out.