Series

My Borderline | Part 1

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Posted by Maria

I would like to take a few moments in these three installments regarding the topic and talk a little bit about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and what it means (for me anyway) to have it. There are many great videos (such as this one) and other sources (such as this site that outlines the diagnostic criteria for BPD) that have ample information about the disorder, and I urge you to check out at least the video I linked if you have any interest in the topic. That being said, I’d prefer a more sort of hands-on approach and talk about BPD from a not-so-clinical point, and more from the view of one having this ailment. To answer the question: What does it feel like to be Borderline?

DISCLAIMER: Contains talk of self-harm and suicide. This is entirely my experience of BPD. We don’t all manifest symptoms in the same way, instead, we all have our individual experience of the disorder, even with the objective criteria that need to be met to be diagnosed with it. Our ticks, their intensity, the type of Borderline we can have (check out this article from Healthline), and other things are most likely going to vary based on the individual you are around. 

The Ocean

I’ll start this off by letting you in on my own personal way of depicting this disorder. Many of us connect with the explanation of BPD feeling like we have no skin, that when you poke us it hurts on that level of vulnerability. I feel slightly differently, or maybe not, you can decide that for yourself. So here goes, my Ocean story.

I am in an Ocean. The water is crystal clear, yet it seems as black as space when I look around. In the distance, I see lights from faraway boats, these boats are not meant for me, nor are they looking for me. The people in them are laughing, paying no mind to the Ocean, the dark waters don’t scare them one bit, even if they do get concerned about it every now and again.

Sometimes a boat passes by close enough so they can see me. I struggle to kick harder, to scream louder. Sometimes the people toss a lifering my way, but I can’t reach it before the boat sails away. The ropes are too short to try again, and the people soon forget they saw anything out of the ordinary. Or at least they go back to behaving that way.

I stop screaming when I no longer see the lights of the boats. At some point, I get tired. I stop kicking and let the abyss claim me. I open my eyes while I sink, the darkness is overwhelming. I try to gasp for air but none gets into my lungs, yet I’m not losing consciousness. I am awake, and I am perpetually drowning.

I see a figure in the distance, someone else is sinking. I suddenly understand that I am not alone in this forgotten Ocean. I kick, make an attempt. The demons of the deep don’t want me to go anywhere. They grab my ankles and keep pulling me deeper. Somewhere above I see a few flickering lights. 

I kick and I scream, as hard as I can. I have to keep kicking. Whatever I do, I can not stop kicking. The figure to my side has vanished. After a fierce battle against the demons, I finally break the surface of the Ocean again. I can see the lights of faraway boats.

These days, thankfully, I can cling onto the piece of driftwood I found floating about – the realization that I don’t actually want to die. I just want the pain to go away.

The Chaos

One of the hallmarks of BPD is the extremely intense emotions and their instability. One moment I might be laughing, the next I might have fallen into a depressive state. Or better yet, I’ve dissociated or entered a rage. My emotions are over the top in a way that you’d maybe see a child experience them – when I’m happy, I throw my hands to the air and may even do a dance, yipping away. When I’m in emotional turmoil, I howl in such agony that you’d think I’ve got my heart broken and that all hope is lost. 

With this emotional chaos comes extreme empathy. The ability to put myself in other shoes, in my case, relate to any emotion put in front of me. One might call me an emotion-sponge. I leech the feels out of everything around me: people’s moods, music, books I read, and to my husband’s endless stress, movies/shows. I watched Downton Abbey (the series) for a few days in a row and ended up talking like some sort of an aristocrat. Another time I was watching some horror series and was in a constant state of anxiety and insomnia. And lately, I’ve been reading and listening to stories about wars and the Holocaust, and just can’t stop crying during and afterward, having empathized with the people who had to go through the hells described. It is tough to be a sponge.

Fear and Rage

In that chaos of emotion, I have two feelings that I have to be wary of more than the rest: fear and anger. The triggers for them are overlapping quite a lot and often stem from the same crack in my heart – my fear of abandonment/failure. 

Be it my twisted perception or actual reality, when I start feeling like there is a threat of me being left, abandoned, I take on one of two approaches: anger or despair (which in turn often leads to anger in the end). While fear is mostly something that will end up hurting only me, the anger can burst out into flames that can burn anyone in sight. When the side of me that is coddling the feelings of being a failure and a waste of space gets triggered to come to the front, mayhem ensues.

In my desperate state, I go so deep into the pain that I may end up a blubbering mess, crying out in agony as my chest feels like it’s being literally cracked open and shredded, the tears and drool staining whatever happens to be under my head at the time. When my husband tries to comfort me in those moments, I shiver and flinch at his touch. I am scared shitless that when I open my eyes he is gone, and I am alone. This state typically follows some form of a scare, such as me hearing the ambulance sounds outside and him not picking up his phone when I try to call in my panic.

In my anger or rage, the Banshee comes out. Either I direct the anger towards the perceived attacker, or myself. I scream and I wish nothing but bad things to happen, I dig out the worst of humanity and start spreading the poison and contaminating everything at arm’s length. I give threats and spout out things like “I should’ve been dead, then you’d be happy!” and “You’d be better off without me anyway…”. My hatred knows no bounds and I will do the worst things, such as walking out, threatening to never come back. In those moments, I am breaking inside but truly believe that the love of my life is better off without me. It is terrifying.

After I have had sufficient time outside in the Finnish winter without proper clothes, phone, money, or sometimes even without my wedding band, I fall into despair. I am ashamed and begin hating myself. The realization of everything I have done and said comes crashing back, I am no longer in that rush that I was when I did it all. Now I’m alone, in the cold, with nowhere to go and no way to get anywhere. With my head low, and my tail between my legs, I have to return home to face the one person I never wanted to hurt. And I know my place is outside after the shit I’ve pulled. Yet, my husband welcomes me home and tells me he loves me truly. 

And then there was nothing

What happens after the turbulence of the chaotic emotions then? Well, typically, I fall into a state of emptiness. Into a place of nothing. Into the deep dark Ocean, where I am numb. Where the world turns dim and the hue and saturation are distorted into more pale and dull colors. Sometimes the nothingness turns into Dissociation. 

Waking up from that state is difficult, it can take anywhere from hours to days. Sometimes in the past, I was gaming for weeks and never knew what day it was or how long I’d been without eating or drinking. In the nothingness, nothing matters. Sometimes in the past, I thought I’d rather die than not feel, as feelings were a sign I was alive. These days I try to cope with it when it happens. It has turned into an almost comforting thing, at least when I’m able to enjoy the silence and not be freaked out about the whole not feeling anything about anything part.

Do you ever experience this uncontrollable, tsunami of emotion? Let us know in the comments!

This has been the first part of the three in the mini-series of explaining how my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) manifests itself in my life. The next article will talk a little bit more about dissociation and the identity crisis I have as someone with the ailment. I hope to see you there!

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