AS A YOUNG child, I revelled in the limelight. I was confident, happy, and loved to show off. But as a teenager, that all changed. I had little interest in people outside of my social circle, and this disinterest paired with chronic anxiety made for a terrible combination to have throughout my teens. School was particularly difficult. I was almost always the quiet girl at the back with her head down.
I was under the impression that having such paralysing anxiety made me the outcast. I was surrounded by extroverts. But I simply couldn’t speak unless spoken to – and even then, I never said much. I was unsure of myself, and didn’t much like myself either. By 17, I developed anorexia nervosa. Within a four month period, I had gone down three dress sizes.
I seemed to feel everything much more deeply than everyone else
I soon began to react to things more intensely. I seemed to feel everything so much more deeply. I felt like an amp turned up to eleven, while everyone around me was playing at a steady volume of six.
I spent most of my time reinventing myself. I regularly changed my hair style and colour. Every few months, I’d blossom into yet another version of myself. I never knew who I was, and I never got the hang of finding out. I often felt like there was no personality there to find. When I thought about who I really was, all I ever seemed to find was a strong feeling of dysphoria.
Most of this was easy enough to ignore. It wasn’t until I turned 19 that everything seemed to go downhill.
The volatile nature of my then-love life took its toll me in more than one fashion. First came the reckless, impulsive spending. Then came the climax of my eating disorder. This earned me a long list of health problems, ranging from worsening anaemia to the deterioration of my gums due to malnutrition. I was constantly at the mercy of my own emotions. I had no control over anything I felt. I had a temper like a cobra, and it was always ready to strike. I never put much thought into why I couldn’t control myself. At the time, I probably thought I wascontrolling myself.
Finally, I was officially diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
What is borderline personality disorder?
For those of you who don’t know, borderline personality disorder is a mood disorder and serious mental illness.
There are usually nine main characteristics of a borderline personality, and to be diagnosed, a professional psychiatrist must asses you, and determine whether or not you fit at least five of these characteristics. A few examples of such criteria include; an intense fear of abandonment, reckless and impulsive behaviour, intense and unstable relationships, and intense, uncontrollable emotions.
The illness can be triggered by events that may be deemed mundane. Furthermore, up to 80% of BPD sufferers develop suicidal behaviour, making the illness a serious issue. BPD is also strongly stigmatised, making it difficult for those suffering with the disorder to speak out about it and seek help.
There is no ‘cure’, but sufferers can greatly improve over time with the right treatment. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is the most common and successful form of treatment.
I felt unworthy
Not long after my diagnosis, I began experiencing stronger suicidal thoughts than ever before. I had little to no control over my parasuicidal actions. I felt unworthy, and had a chronic fear of abandonment that I would have done anything to ease.
I was hospitalised twice, for two separate suicide attempts, within one week. It was in those hospitals that I realised the severity of my situation.
There I was, in the middle of an overcrowded A&E, curled up in an uncomfortable chair, hurling my guts up into a plastic bag. I was sobbing, I was tired, I was stuck inside my own head with no distractions and no way out.
After my discharge, I was bounced around from psychologist to psychologist, until I eventually landed into a DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy) programme, and finally, I found the solution to my problems.
We are not ‘monsters’. We are not horrible. We’re sick.
Borderline personality disorder is incredibly complex. It’s rarely the same in any two people. It’s saddening when you open up to someone about having BPD, and later they say ‘hey, I looked that up and people are really mean about it online’. And they’re not wrong.
Someone needs to remind those of us suffering with this, that we should not feel ashamed. We should not feel as though our illness is a taboo. We are not ‘monsters’. We are not horrible. We’re sick. That does not mean that others hold the right to call us ‘psycho’. Because we’re not. We’re absolutely not.
Mental illness is no different to physical illness in terms of suffering. Our illnesses do not define us, or dictate who we are. We are a separate person, and we all beautiful. We will recover. We will feel OK again.
Reach out for help
For anyone suffering with this disorder, I highly recommend dialectical behavioural therapy. I no longer suffer with difficulty controlling my emotions, nor do I struggle with suicidal thoughts, inconsistent mood swings or self-image issues. I am now, for the first time in a long time, fully in control of my mind.
Having BPD often means you need a strong set of skills in order to survive, and this is where dialectical behavioural therapy comes in. With the right combination of therapy and medication, your disorder will no longer rule over your life like it did mine. If you are suffering with BPD, please don’t do it in silence. Seek help. Speak out. There’s a light at the end of every tunnel. Sometimes, you just need to search for it.