When I was about 12 years old, I started to slip into the void of mental illness. In this article, I will take you with me to the main traits that manifested in me. While we must remember that all Borderlines are unique, they do showcase a lot of the same symptoms in varied degrees. The following things are fairly common in any BPD sufferer, but more so in myself.
Having Borderline Personality Disorder is quite the jackpot of all mental sickness. You can be portraying symptoms from various other ailments (mania and depression, for example), which makes it difficult to treat. While medicines might bring some much-needed relief in the short term, they will not help with the underlying issues. BPD is, at its core, a highly behavioral disorder, after all.
It all began with identity, or the lack thereof
As a child, I didn’t have much claim over who I was or wanted to be as a person. I was to swim, to do well in school, and to go off and get a real job. In a way my parents were preparing me for the inevitable realities of life… though I never quite saw that as my path. I wanted to be something else – an adventurer, a writer, a creator.
When you live in an environment that keeps pushing you into certain socially accepted directions from birth, it then follows that whatever control you think you have in your life doesn’t truly exist. My identity was crafted for me, as they often are, by the expectations and restrictions put on me in my environment. We all do this, just not to the Borderline extreme.
Borderline Personalities are often referred to as chameleons and for a good reason. We are extremely good at adapting to a situation, to be likable. We know what people like and don’t approve of, and if we don’t, well, we quickly find it out. A life of pleasing and not being tossed aside ensures that we are tuned into the identities of others, leaving our own in the closet.
Fear of abandonment
This is the major commonality between all of us forsaken BPD people. We tend to be dead afraid of being left alone and abandoned. Be it the person leaving on their own volition or the ties of life taking them from us, the shadow of loneliness looms over us most of the time.
I don’t know if you know what despair and desperation are like, and I hope you never will. I’ve known some pretty deep pits of both and I’d not wish it for my mortal enemies. When you are desperate to not be alone, you do stupid things. Reckless things. You forsake everything that is decent and holy, and you WILL protect your already broken soul with everything you have. Even if it means degrading yourself, or giving yourself into the hands of the kindly smiling devil. Anything, so you will not be left alone in the terrifying dark.
These days the shadows have gone. Through tons of work, therapy, and the help of my husband, I came out the other side. I’m no longer afraid of… well anything really. I can’t begin to explain the sense of freedom I have the sense of dignity and purpose. It didn’t happen without pain and loss, though. My family has mostly turned their backs on me, and I no longer have the ‘deep and meaningful’ connections I once clung to with teeth and claws. I say it in such a way because, as reality would have it, the people around me were using me rather than being true.
Emotional Instability and impulsiveness
Oh boy. I know a lot of people frown upon such terminology, but I find it very accurate. Once I came across a forum post that called BPDs ‘emotional terrorists’. I didn’t find it funny then, but now it’s quite amusing. Because that’s what we are, truly. We threaten we throw tantrums, we manipulate… It’s not that we want to be doing it, by the way. It’s how we have learned to survive, and now we must unlearn it all.
A telltale sign of BPD is the inability to regulate emotions, especially the destructive ones. When we are angry, we are thrice furious. If sorrow hits, we could cry an ocean and drown in it. And when we are happy, or in love… you better watch out for that love-bombing. Mania and psychosis are real possibilities when your emotions go from -100 to 5k in a matter of minutes.
And it can truly happen in just a moment. Something triggers a person with Borderline Personality, and off you go on an adventure. Alcohol and other substances make it worse, as they are notorious for lowering the mental guard of people. The worst scar on my arm came from one such event. One moment I was laughing, drunk. The next I was furious and betrayed, someone needed to pay for it. So I took a nice slice on my arm. The fear overtook everything else when the blood came out, thank heavens. Recklessness due to the instability isn’t uncommon.
And now we get to one of my favorite traits. The feelings of emptiness. Oh, the joy.
When you’ve felt nothing but emotional pain for a month, trust me, The Great Void of Depression will become a good friend. Everything might be dull and the colors of the world are gone but hey, at least there’s no pain either! I was in the Void a lot. It manifested in me aimlessly playing games 24/7, not tasting anything I ate, and being generally unresponsive.
When it gets to the next level, you start seeing the signs of Dissociation. The person just vanishes, though, of course, normal people won’t notice it. How many times have you stopped to really look at someone when you talk to them? Would you know if your child or spouse was on autopilot? Don’t be so sure, if you said yes. If I had offed myself, it would’ve come as a surprise to my loved ones. I was, after all, a cheery, kindly person.
Splitting is an infamous thing we Borderlines tend to do. It means that our thinking is being done in terms of black and white, either or. Divine or Evil. There’s no middle area whatsoever. If my husband were to tell me he is going away due to the situation getting too much, he obviously hates me. Why else would he leave? People don’t love and leave, do they? Add the twisted perception to the mix and now you have a Borderline who’s effectively been abandoned, and there’s a culprit too. Someone to blame is always nice when you behave atrociously.
This trait combined with the inherent tendency to be emotionally explosive makes us very difficult to deal with. We are paranoid about people leaving us and being bad as well. You can imagine how much fun it is to get into a fight with someone like that. Complete denial of responsibility, a Banshee screaming in your face, cursing you and the hole you crawled out of. Plus the aftermath of crushing self-hatred can lead to all sorts of terribleness.
All of this, of course, makes it very difficult for a Borderline person to hold a healthy relationship. First, we worship our savior, then we curse them as the scum of the earth. And then we love-bomb them as a way to get them to like us again… and so the cycle continues. It’s no doubt exhausting for the ‘normal’ person and can get dangerous too. That being said, please do not feel obligated to stay in a relationship with a person who has BPD. If it is too much, it is too much. And that’s OK.
Talking about notorious things, self-harm has a pretty nicely stamped-out stigma to it. And for a good reason too. A person has to be pretty messed up to ignore their basic survival instincts. But yet, the pain is great, and the promise of relief makes us walk the dark alleys in order to get it. Be it physical harm, drugs, sex… I can tell you anything was better than to remain one more moment in that torment.
My self-harming started young. I had seen my then-best friend’s wounds after she used the bread knife on herself. When I began down the path, I was smarter. Who on earth thinks it’s a good idea to use serrated blades anyway? I learned to hide my tools and wounds and only took part in the rituals when I knew I could hide the marks.
The road had an end. A very dark, deep, and no turning back kind of end. I toyed with it, often thinking it would be better if I wasn’t here. No one would miss me, after all, no one cared anyway. I even tried it a few times, with medications and by standing in high places. Yet, every time something stopped me. I couldn’t quite finish the pills before I fell into the Void, or someone called me as I was swaying on the edge. One might be inclined to think the universe was trying to tell me something.
Eventually, I stopped and listened. And here I am, still. A precious life that survived her own stupidity.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often makes individuals chameleons, expertly adapting to please others, while losing themselves in the process. A common thread among those with BPD is the fear of abandonment, driving desperate and even dangerous actions to avoid loneliness.
Emotional instability, impulsiveness, and extreme reactions are trademarks of BPD, making everyday situations overwhelming and chaotic. The feelings of emptiness and the void of depression often become companions, leading to dissociation and detachment from reality. Splitting – seeing things in black and white, and shifting between idealization and demonization of loved ones – creates tumultuous relationships. Destructive behaviors, like self-harm, often offer temporary relief from raging emotions.
The good news is, that BPD is manageable. All it takes is the courage to take that first step toward understanding yourself.