Living With Borderline Personality Disorder: My Story
How BPD affects my mood, the way I interact with people, and I how I successfully manage it
My story is quite a difficult one, but I hope that it inspires others to talk about mental health conditions and how they have coped or managed. I have a condition known as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which affects my mood and the way I interact with people sometimes.
My BPD Diagnosis
I received the diagnosis of BPD in my mid-20s, but I had known for a long time that something was affecting the way I coped with certain aspects of life. After a bad event occurred in my personal life, I went to my coping mechanism at the time of substance abuse. My parents noticed something was drastically wrong and realized I was having a psychotic episode. I can look back and laugh now, but at the time I felt extremely hurt and upset. My substance abuse combined with the condition I didn't know I had yet caused me to slip into psychosis, and I ended up being hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for a short, but frightening, time. At that point, a psychologist diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and the more they told me about the symptoms, the more I knew it was the answer to what caused me to feel the way I had since I was a teenager.
My Treatments and What Helped
Even though my life got a lot brighter and options opened up after receiving my diagnosis, it took a while for me to come to terms with it. I was offered two different types of therapy, along with some medications that would help with symptoms like depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Usually, people with BPD are offered Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), but in the area where I lived, this was not available. Instead, I was offered an alternative of Mentalization Therapy. After my first session, my therapist learned that due to my family working in mental health, I had just forgotten a lot of the coping skills I was taught when younger, so once I was reminded of those techniques I discontinued that particular therapy.
After this, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and talking group therapy were offered, and that's how I learned to cope. Don't get me wrong, there are still some tough days where the emotions get so extreme that it becomes difficult to focus. Through CBT, I received a toolkit of coping mechanisms. Mindfulness techniques like muscle tension exercises, how to keep track of my moods, and being able to label the style of thinking I experienced was really helpful. I also managed to stop the substance abuse which had been a negative coping mechanism for me, and I replaced it with self-care activities such as music and spending time with others who had known for a long time I was unwell and stood by me.
It's well known that those who live with BPD find it difficult to maintain relationships and friendships. I was lucky in that I had been the one supporting many of my friends who suffered from similar challenges, so they reciprocated when I needed support. Still, it felt strange having them care for me in the same way. My relationship with my family has gotten a lot better since being diagnosed and putting positive coping mechanisms in place. It helps that they had a great understanding of my condition, much more than I had at the time. With the right treatment and support in place, I've been able to go back to school as a mature student in my mid-30s and am working towards a BSc. I've had some rough patches but overall have managed my coursework and am really enjoying changing my career path into one that will help others who struggle with mental health conditions.
If You Think You Might Have BPD
If I could offer any suggestions to others thinking they may have BPD, I would strongly encourage them to speak to health professionals and have an understanding of how BPD affects them, as it affects everyone differently and can possibly co-occur with other conditions. BPD is a collection of nine symptoms (fear of abandonment, loss of reality, severe anger, mood swings, feelings of emptiness, self-harm, impulsive behaviors, shifting sense of self, unstable relationships), and you only have to have five of those to be diagnosed, which means there can be over 256 combinations.
Once some coping mechanisms and support are developed, a lot of symptoms can go into remission and eventually a person may not even make the diagnostic criteria anymore.
I want you to know you are not alone, there are those, like me, who understand how much of a struggle it can be, even though at times it doesn't feel that way.
You are a person, not your illness.