My name is Hannah, and I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). You might have heard some things about people with BPD, particularly in the media. I’ve found putting BPD into the Google search bar is a scary experience. You’re met with a lot of stigmas, page after page tearing down those of us with this diagnosis. It tells you why you shouldn’t be friends with or date someone with BPD, why everyone with BPD is a narcissist, how we’re all violent and dangerous and manipulative, that our disorder is untreatable and so we’ll never be able to change. The saddest part is a lot of this stigma also crosses over into the world of health professionals, including those in the mental health field, who instead of treating us fairly and providing us with the professional support we so desperately need, brand us hopeless cases, attention seekers and time wasters.
The truth is BPD is an incredibly complex and painful disorder to live with and every day is a struggle. To give you an idea, the emotional pain we experience has been compared to the pain caused by third-degree burns, imagine experiencing that pain almost every day. It’s also often developed as a response to childhood trauma and so our brains have adapted to do what it takes to survive. Some things to remember next time you judge someone with this disorder.
To be diagnosed you have to experience at least 5 out of 9 possible criteria, this coupled with the fact that each symptom can affect us to different extents means there are many different ways in which people’s symptoms present and no two people’s experiences with BPD are likely to be the same. However, to give you some insight, I’ll share my experiences as someone who struggles with all 9.
For me, BPD is like my own personal hell and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. There are mood swings with the highest of highs and lowest of lows that can change like the flick of a switch. I’m often angry, anxious, and paranoid, usually without reason. But at the same time, there’s an emptiness inside me that never quite seems to leave. I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts, having attempted to end my life multiple times and I’m still actively battling with self-harm, an addiction that’s taken over my life. I can be impulsive and reckless, with little care for my actions. I struggle with my relationships with people, my friendships are often intense and have at times been unhealthy. I am terrified of being abandoned and will go to extremes to stop people from leaving me, however, at the same time I can switch and suddenly push everyone I care most about away. I see things in a very black-and-white way, all good or all bad, there’s no middle ground for me. I also really struggle with my own identity and sense of self. I often don’t know who I truly am or what I truly want in life, which makes me feel completely lost and leaves me struggling to find my place in this world.
But despite all of this, I truly believe my BPD has given me some strengths. My fear of abandonment means that I’m incredibly loyal and would do anything for my friends. My intensity means that I love deeply. My strong emotions make me very passionate about what I believe in. My experiences of pain and trauma mean that I am resilient and have so much compassion for those who face struggles.
I can admit that at times my disorder has made me a not-very-nice person, that I’ve had some very unhealthy relationships and at times have been toxic but I can take accountability and in no way use my disorder as an excuse. And like so many other BPD sufferers, I’m also out here trying to improve; I fight for the help I desperately need even when the professionals write me off as soon as they see BPD on my record, I have attended therapy, I take my meds, I try to learn from my mistakes, and whilst it’s an incredibly difficult uphill battle, I’m trying to get better. Because despite what you may have heard, we can get better. BPD doesn’t have to be a life sentence, with treatment our symptoms can improve, our episodes can become less intense and less frequent, and we can learn to manage, a hope that I hold onto every day.
What do I hope to achieve from this letter? What do I want from anyone who reads this? Honestly, I hope I’ve given you some insight into this disorder from someone who’s living it every day. I hope that if you have anyone in your life who struggles with BPD you’ll show them compassion and understanding rather than adding to the stigma. You’ll love them through the good and the bad and know that it’s not always their fault when they behave in a way you disagree with. Ultimately, I hope you see that this is a disorder, not a choice and that these people you brand monsters are actually people struggling with a very real disorder that makes their lives hell.”
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