do I live a borderline life?

Back in October when I was hospitalized, the psychiatrist on staff told me that I had borderline personality disorder. He told me I had other diagnoses as well–complex trauma, anxiety, depression–but the borderline diagnosis really stuck in my head. I mentioned it all to T but he’s not one to really discuss labels and feels that they often just get in the way of treatment. The one thing that did surprise me though? T didn’t negate any of the diagnoses either. I don’t tend to focus on labels either, so that’s one thing T and I definitely have in common. The other thing I don’t tend to do is own a diagnosis. Those of you who’ve been following me for awhile also know that I have lupus. For a really long time–and perhaps still some of the time–I’ve refused to own that label. I don’t know why really. It’s not like I’ve done something terrible in my past that has caused me to ‘catch’ lupus. It’s just something that I have. Something I will have for the rest of my life.

But is that the way borderline personality disorder works too? Is it something that I’ll just have for the rest of my life? Did I do something to cause it? Those questions led me to doing some research (okay, a lot of research, almost obsessive research) as to what it is, possible causes and whether or not it’s something I’m just going to learn to need to live with.

Most mental health professionals believe that BPD is caused by a combination of inherited or external environmental factors such as traumatic childhood experiences. BPD is very rarely diagnosed by itself and some of the common co-concurring disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and anxiety disorders. Many mental health professionals do not like to work with borderline clients due to their frequent instability, self harm and chronic suicidal ideations. For the purpose of diagnosis, mental health professionals group symptoms into nine major categories. To be diagnosed with BPD you must show signs of at least five of those categories.

So here are the categories and how they may/may not fit with me.

Fear of Abandonment– people with BPD are often terrified of being abandoned or left alone. This most definitely fits with me. As a child I had major separation anxiety when it came to my mother (most likely because she would actually leave me for hours and I never knew if/when she would come back for me). Currently, the one person who I am most afraid of leaving me is T. It’s caused quite a bit of anxiety and random text messages just to make sure he’s ‘still there’. Thankfully, he’s really patient and always (almost) replies quite quickly to my pleading that he hasn’t decided to up and disappear/die/change his number on me.

Unstable Relationships– relationships often seem perfect or horrible, without any middle ground. Hmmm, this one is tough for me. I’m not sure if my relationships seem horrible because they actually are horrible or whether it is the BPD that skews my perception of said relationships. I know the relationships with my ex and his wife are definitely horrible but that’s because they are grade A, A-holes. But what about other people? I do have friends I’ve had forever, so it’s not like I cannot maintain friendships. I’m not sure but I don’t really think this one relates to me most of the time.

Unclear or Shifting Self-Image– sometimes you may feel good about yourself, but other times you hate yourself or even view yourself as evil. Isn’t this everyone?? I guess what makes it a BPD trait is that it leads to frequent changes in jobs, friends, religion, values etc. Well, I’ve had the same job for almost 17 years, I don’t really do religion, tend to keep my values the same and don’t change friends often (because I only have a small number of people I would actually consider friends). I don’t think this one relates to me all that well at all

Impulsive, Self-Destructive Behaviours– engaging in harmful, sensation-seeking behaviours when upset. Yes, I do this. I gamble too much, spend money recklessly (I had to declare bankruptcy) and drive recklessly when I am upset by something. If I allowed myself to do it, I would have a serious gambling problem. I love the rush of adrenaline when speeding down the highway passing cars and also used to be a 2-pack a day smoker which I gave up to have children. Now, I refuse to even have just one because I know what will happen with that. I have purchased new vehicles when there was absolutely nothing wrong with the one I had and have created a sizeable loan because of it. Then, just this morning I booked a campsite for July and bought a new tent on a whim–all because I could. So this one definitely relates to me.

Self-Harm– suicidal behaviour and self-harm is common in people with BPD. These both relate to me. It’s the reason I was hospitalized in October (suicidal plan). I have self-harmed since the age of 13 or 14 and have had suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remembers. This one definitely relates to me.

Extreme Emotional Swings– unstable emotions and moods are common in BPD. One moment I can feel happy and the next I feel like the whole world is crashing down upon me. Little things such as a perceived lateness to a text message can send me into a tailspin of emotions. This one definitely is me.

Chronic Feelings of Emptiness– this. I feel this all the time as though there is giant hole inside of me that can’t be filled by anything no matter how hard we try. It is so uncomfortable to feel this way as though something is always missing inside. Nothing every feels truly satisfying and it often feels like the feelings will never go away.

Explosive Anger– those with BPD often struggle with intense anger and a short temper. For me, this anger is never directed outwards. Sometimes referred to as being a ‘silent borderline’ all of the anger is turned against myself and I feel as though I need to be punished for everything that is happening to me and around me. The anger is never directed where it needs to be. This is something T and I are struggling very much with.

Stress-Related Paranoid Ideation or Severe Dissociative Symptoms– I chronically dissociate and have for years. I often find myself feeling foggy, spaced out, or even as if I’m outside my own body. I can sometimes be paranoid when it comes to others motives especially if they are being nice to me. I’m never really sure if they are nice because they actually are that way, or because they want something from me.

So, of the 9, I would definitely fit into 7 of the categories listed by the DSM-5. I guess how I can see that he diagnosed me with that. It’s hard to know how to feel when you are diagnosed with a mental illness. Unlike my lupus (where people kind of look at me with a mixture of sympathy and horror from what they’ve heard about it) when you tell people you have depression or anxiety or BPD you often get the eyeroll or a comment along the lines of ‘oh, well so and so’s sister has depression and she exercises and feels so much better about herself’. People are so quick to judge when you say that you have a mental illness that I think it’s why most don’t really say anything about it. For the most part, unless you’ve been there, you just don’t understand, really.

And what can I do if my brain is different? My pattern of relating to the world is different form the norm and it’s not my fault.

I’m learning, with the help of T, to be okay with what and who I am. I am not a diagnosis and it is not my fault that things which happened to me as a child changed my brain chemistry. The only thing I can control is who I am now, nothing else. So yeah, I guess I do live a borderline life. But that isn’t all that I am if you are able to look past my diagnosis. I’m also a mother and an artist and a writer of blogs. There’s a lot more to me than BPD.

6 thoughts on “do I live a borderline life?

  1. Hmm. Because there are so many symptoms that multiple diagnoses have in common, it’s important to consider what best accounts for the symptoms. If complex PTSD better accounts for the symptoms, there should be no need to slap on another diagnostic label.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was thinking the same about your T preferring not to use labels, mine’s the same. I was also thinking the same that PTSD can be confused for BPD, and that supports our Ts’ preference to avoid labels and just look for what’s hurting and how it can be best heard, comforted and eased, more than ever!

    Liked by 1 person

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