The label Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) does not do justice to the emotions felt by those affected. Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder is likely to be the replacement, which is getting closer to describing what we go through. The problem is the “symptoms” of BPD are in such a broad spectrum, they cross over into many other mental illnesses. As I started to learn more about BPD, I was disgusted to see the number of articles that enforced the theory that because BPD is primarily treated with therapy and behavioral changes, it is not an illness, but rather an excuse for being manipulative and abusive; another reason to not take responsibility for the impulsive behaviors and the suicidal thoughts that are seen merely as cries for attention. The amount of stigma and misinformation out there is baffling.
Let me tell you firsthand that life with BPD can be an emotional hell. I wish there was a pill to help alleviate the symptoms, because it certainly is easier to swallow a pill than it is the truth. I would love to get up in the morning, pop a tablet and have even one day that my mind is not an emotional battleground. It is so effortless compared to the work required digging through your past, and the difficulty in unlearning things you have done your whole life. The behaviors have been repeated so often they have become a part of who you are, or at least who you think you are, and unlearning them is incredibly difficult and painful.
Understand that our mood swings are so intense that they are either at one end of the spectrum or the other. There is little to no middle ground. We are either in a state of hyper or hypo arousal, which basically means we are constantly on guard, whether it be during an up period or a bout of depression. We have little control over the timing of our moods swings happen or for how long they will last. We are on high alert because we are constantly afraid. We lack a solid sense of self which not only enables our fear but causes us to be afraid of our own reactions to things. We are terrified of being abandoned or left in any manner and the smallest inclination of someone doing so can send us into an emotional and verbal frenzy.
We are not trying to manipulate or abuse anyone, and if it comes across as doing so, please know there is absolutely no intent or malice involved. Our lack of impulse control is perhaps the most difficult part of having BPD. We may be ok one minute and the next we are spewing words we will end up wanting to take back. There is no rational mind when we are triggered by something, we are running completely emotively and our reactions are so instantaneous that the situation quickly spirals out of control. We fear being left so much that we say something in one breath and are apologizing in the next. We want you so close we hold on too tight and then fear of abandonment takes over and we push you away and then reach to pull you back as quickly as possible for fear of being alone. All this can occur in a timespan so short we hardly have time to process what has just happened.
As for suicidal thoughts or self-harm, they too are ruled by our lack of self-control. In no way are they cries for attention. At the time they are uncontrollable, instant reactions driven by our emotive brain, and that theory is largely supported by the incredibly high number of suicide attempts involving people with BPD. Cutting is, once again, an impulsive way to try and alleviate the emotional distress we are under at the time, an instant distraction from the pain. When we are of rational mind, we are aware of all of these things we do. We know our behaviors are impulsive and wrong, we just don’t know yet how to stop them. We punish ourselves in any way possible, physically and mentally, questioning every word we have said, every word said by others, and words not yet spoken. We are harsher and more critical of ourselves than we would ever be to someone else. There is nothing anyone can say to me that my inner critic has not already said a lot more harshly and multiple times.
So if you happen to be someone researching BPD, be it for yourself or someone else, please take what you read with the proverbial grain of salt. We are not manipulative, selfish, abusive monsters. We do not do things to hurt other people, we are just quicker to self-protect. We are still the people we were before we were diagnosed, and sadly that is too easily forgotten. We are the same as you except we wear our emotions on the outside, whether we like it or not.