It’s hard to describe what living with borderline personality disorder is like when the whole nature of the illness is that everything in your mind is constantly changing. I have the emotional memory of a pea. Whatever I am feeling right now, it feels like I have always been feeling this way. The worst bit about this mentality is that I am almost always feeling low. Apart from this brief, tantalizingly beautiful moments when I just feel alive (and trust me, I live for those moments) my life feels like a grey blur. And it feels like it always has been and always will be.
I don’t feel so different now because I am lucky enough to have so many friends who understand me, but I remember feeling different when I was younger. I always struggled to regulate my emotions, even when I was little. I couldn’t rationalise. I was always the kid that cried. I remember when I was about 9 another kid in my class called me a bully because I said that I didn’t want to run away with him, and for almost a year I cried every night and was scared I was going to get kicked out of school and would pray (I have no idea who to) to be forgiven for being such an awful person. That’s just one example.
I was emotional when I was a kid and this became even worse when I became a teenage and had all the usual teenage drama to deal with, and more. I don’t want to go into detail about various things that happened to me between the age of 12 and 15 because it hurts me and it hurts the other people involved and there’s always going to be someone asking me to prove myself, prove that it happened, but the bottom line is that I didn’t have an easy time and I didn’t deal with it very well. And I’m still suffering with that now.
Secondary school was a horrible time and things only got worse. I could be the best friend in the world, I could be one hundred and a million percent there with someone, and then I would just fall flat. I got close to people and then realised that it was too scary being close, so I backed off, and through this I didn’t have many friends but a lot of the time I felt like that was alright because my thoughts, as messed up as they were, were a comfort to me. They were there when nobody else was. I trusted them.
I started self-harming when I was 12 and this continued on and off with various (useless) interventions until I was about 15. I didn’t really know what I was doing or why I was doing it, but I didn’t want to stop. And sometimes, I wanted people to know and I wanted people to care. I wanted someone to check that I was alright and until things got really bad, nobody ever did.
I used to daydream about suicide but it was when I was 15 that things became really serious. I was sat in a Physics lesson and suddenly it just hit me that I had a choice and I didn’t need to endure this bullshit if I didn’t want to. It felt like a revelation. So I sat there for the whole lesson thinking about what I was going to do and the teacher shouted at me for not knowing the answer to some silly question and for once in my life I didn’t get embarrassed and didn’t really care because it felt like these thoughts were setting me free.
But of course, they didn’t. My self-harm got worse and my mood got worse and I would regularly end up in hospital and services didn’t know what the hell to do with me, but I was largely high functioning. I forced myself to go to school. I had panic attacks in school a lot and some people were nice about it and some weren’t. When I was really stressed during exam I used to struggle with delusions. I used to think that someone was constantly following me and for a time I couldn’t leave the house or be on my own in the house for this reason.
Things got worse to the point where the thoughts about suicide became so real that it was all that I could think about. And when I eventually got sectioned, when it was eventually decided that I couldn’t outsmart professionals and get away with causing damage or even worse, it was hell. It was the worst time in my life. 10 and a half months later I came out of hospital with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.
I learn something about myself everyday and I’m trying to process my illness a bit everyday. It’s hard not to get upset about the stereotypes. People who think that because I talk about my illness and because I have dared to reach out for help, that I’m an attention seeker. And it’s hard to remember, as I try to do every single day, that this illness isn’t my fault. I have family members with this illness and I was a sensitive child and some horrible things happened to me and my less severe mental health problems were ignored and invalidated for a long time, and the outcome of all these factors and more means that I have this diagnosis.
People with borderline personality disorder aren’t broken and it’s not their fault. They’re not nasty or manipulative, in fact we are in almost all instances the victim rather than the perpetrator. We live with an illness that professionals don’t fully understand, so they sometimes project that uncertainty back onto us. We live with an illness in which 7 out of 10 have multiple suicide attempts and 1 out of 10 will eventually take that life. I live with an illness in which I’ve been told that my only hope is a therapy that I have to wait several (crucial) years to receive. We are ill people struggling against a failing system.
Over the next month I’ll be talking lots more about borderline personality disorder. I really hope that you have found this first post insightful.