Although Borderline Personality Disorder is becoming one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses; it continues to be one of the least understood. Perhaps its diagnostic frequency is due to the wide range of symptoms it presents. Some people exhibit a trait or two off the list of BPD criteria, however, I have all but one. The symptoms and behaviors are not once and a while, but every minute of my day that I am awake. So, in an effort to enlighten as many people as possible, I am sharing some of my experiences related to the recognized symptoms of BPD.
1. Impulsive and Risky Behavior
Borderline Personality Disorder is a life of extremes. We bounce from happiness to sadness, each emotion felt at a level far more intense than the average person. Impulsivity is the tendency to act with little regard for restraint and without considering the consequences. For many people affected by BPD, these bouts of impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors go along with the periods when we are at the top end of the scale. The BPD symptoms of impulsivity can present in many ways but some of the most common are:
- Substance abuse
- Self- Harm/Suicide
- Binge eating
- Reckless driving
I have an addictive personality by nature and genetics. I have been through a gamut of both recreational and prescription drugs, becoming addicted to a few different things along the way. My drug addictions were all short-term. I was able to get control of them by replacing the heavier substances with lighter ones while I weaned off. The supposed premise being that I replace the more damaging substance with something a little less harmful. In most cases, however, until the source of the addictive behavior itself is identified and dealt with, the addiction will always linger.
I also struggle with self-harm and suicidal thoughts and have done so for the majority of my life. Obviously, my suicide attempts were unsuccessful but my body tells a story with its scars; each one tells a tale, and I wish I could tell you I remember what they all represent, and why they are there, but those memories are limited to only a few. The common denominator however is the instigation factor, rejection. Whether it is evident or perceived it is completely real to me.
The suicidal thoughts become so heavy I feel like I am anchored to the bottom of the ocean floor, and drowning. I have learned to allow myself to have those thoughts, and feel the corresponding emotions, as fighting them only seems to increase the urge. I may not have control over these thoughts, but I have learned to make sure they remain thoughts and do not turn into actions.
2. Unstable and poorly regulated emotions
BPD feels like having your emotions on constant sensory overload or like being in the eye of an emotional hurricane. Regardless of which emotion, the intensity presents at a level that is indescribable. The best comparison I can think of is for you to imagine your most devastating moment of grief, pain or anger, double it and live with it daily. My feelings can get so intense I feel like the only way to deal with them without physically hurting myself or verbally abusing others is to shut down emotionally or dissociate. It has been a safety method I have resorted to since before I can remember, and a skill I have yet to let go of.
Adding to the intensity and instability of my emotions is the frequency they occur. On a good day, I am lucky to have only three or four mood swings. They range from anger to terror to tears and last maybe 15 minutes to a few hours hour each time. It is living in a state of hypo or hyper arousal every single day, which on paper looks like the ups and downs on a heart monitor.
I am rampant with intense emotions; bouncing from feeling ok to being severely depressed. They are emotions I can barely understand and yet I am expected to have complete control over them. I am in therapy to try and get a grasp on them and learn better coping skills.
3. A pattern of unstable relationships
Borderlines have a greater difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships of any kind. My relationships may be very intense, unstable, and alternate between the extremes of idealizing and undervaluing people who are important to me. It stems from fear of rejection and abandonment and encompasses a whole lot of pushing away and pulling back in. It’s a form of testing people. It’s almost like a child would test a parent, to see if you are just another person who will leave.
I have lost a lot of friends, as the average person cannot understand why one day I am their best friend, and the next I’m pushing them away, simply to see if they will come back. When I repeat the behavior over and over, most people don’t come back. They simply can’t handle the emotional whirlwind. In my mind, it makes perfect sense. I have to test people and whoever comes back, I am able to start to build trust. For me, trust is earned, not given.
This pattern of unstable relationships is not only confined to friends but affects family, co-workers, and just about anyone I come into contact with for a period of time. I am always afraid that people will leave, and in order to maintain some control, I push them away so they don’t leave on their own accord. It makes socializing with friends and family terribly difficult.
Being social and wanting to have people to love, and who love you, is a part of human nature. It’s something I desperately crave but it leaves me vulnerable which usually ends in me getting hurt. It feels like the proverbial being stuck “between a rock and a hard place” and simply not having the skills or tools to dig myself out.
I continue to try a bit more each day. I attempt to be conscious of my pushing and pulling and attempt to lessen the number of times it occurs. I try different techniques so that my anger does not unleash its instant fury. I attempt to limit the amount of time I allow myself to feel suicidal, not that it always works, but the effort is there. BPD is a constant learning experience, and it’s a good thing I am up to the challenge.