Borderline personality disorder: unstable sense of self

This is my third post in a nine part blog series on the criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD). In this post I am looking at the third point of criteria:

‘Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self’ 

Firstly, this relates to physical appearance. Although I may be a selfie queen on social media, I have huge difficulty visualising myself inside my actual head. I cannot remember what my face looks like without staring into a mirror (or at a picture), and when I do look in the mirror, it doesn’t quite look or feel like ‘me’. Whilst I’m not unrecognisable myself to the point where it is regularly shocking, it is very strange. Maybe this is why I take so many photos of myself. Because otherwise it just feels like I’m an exploding brain walking around in an empty shell. But even looking at photos, I feel a deep sense of attachment.

This also relates to my body. I find it difficult to visualise my own body, or indeed to view it objectively. This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that in 2015 I gained an enormous amount of weight (almost half of my previous body weight) due to antipsychotics and then lost it relatively quickly between 2016 and 2017. This really messed with my physical self-image and I often feel like I look severely overweight. It’s difficult to get your head around.

The physical side of things is troubling, however the thing that perhaps affects me more with regards to this symptom is more internal, it’s who I am as a person. This feels very unstable and has perhaps contributed to episodes of intense suicidal ideation. If ‘who I am’ keeps changing and ‘who I was’ is lost, does it really matter if I die?

What I try to remind myself when I feel like this, when I feel like I can’t keep a grasp on myself is that some things don’t change. My core values tend to remain the same. No matter how unstable I’m feeling or how deep the void feels between for example seventeen year old me and twenty year old me to the point where all my memories feel ill-fitting and artificial, I have never stopped loving my family. I have never stopped appreciating my friends (even when it has seemed like I haven’t). My political and social views have remained the same. I’ve always found solace in a good book.

It just feels sometimes like my brain is going through a process of regeneration that is too overwhelming for me to deal with. I feel like I am constantly being emotionally renewed but it doesn’t leave me feeling refreshed, it leaves me drained and tired and depressed. Every single day feels raw. I just want to feel like ‘me’ but I’m not sure who I am or what I’m meant to be doing here. On some days I feel like anything is possible and that I can overcome my mental illness and start living the Good Life. On other days life is bleak and miserable and cold and I can’t bear the thought of living x amount of years draining everyone else. There are rarely inbetween days.

The other name for borderline personality disorder is ’emotionally unstable personality disorder’, but I would argue that it’s not just my emotions that are unstable. Living with this illness feels like everything about me is unstable. And I just hope that one day I will know who I am because the one thing I really long to be sure about is myself.

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