My name is Brooke Marie Bridges and I’m struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder. First things first, DON’T look it up on the internet. You will certainly find hateful comments about how a “Borderline Ruined My Life” or how evil, manipulative and conniving those who struggle are.
The illness I struggle with is so much more nuanced than that. It’s bigger than just saying that we’re all one way or the other and the majority of us are not narcissistic assholes, we are struggling so deeply with emotions that we were never taught how to deal with. There are 256 different combinations of symptoms that’d label someone Borderline, and I want to share my story and how I fit into this seeming “death sentence” diagnosis.
I feel the need to share for many reasons. For one, the purging that comes with it is invaluable. Being able to get everything out into the open is something that I feel is necessary, at least for me. Some people would say it’s oversharing, and in some cases, I’d be inclined to agree – but I’m sharing MY story, no one else’s. I’m speaking through my own experiences, my own process, my own pain…in hopes that maybe people out there struggling with the same issues will be able to find solace, find understanding and compassion, and feel somewhat less alone. It has helped me, so I can imagine it’d help others.
A lot of people think there’s some blanketed way that Borderline Personality Disorder looks, or presents itself. I will tell you BPD looks like me, it looks like the mailman, it looks like your 3rd-grade teacher, it looks like your mother, your lover…there is no one face of BPD. So many people have looked at me after I had expressed my hopelessness, or my emotional pain, or how my life just never felt complete and would exclaim: “Well, you shouldn’t feel that way. You’ve got a lot going for you!” And although I do agree, I also know that I’ve always felt like there was something missing and no matter how many things I succeeded in, how many men told me I was the most beautiful person they’d ever met and gave me all of their love and attention, no matter the family members who had told me I had inspired them…after all of that – still, I felt empty and hopeless and lost without any reason to live. Now that I know what’s up with me and I’m aware of and engaging in the treatments that work I’m realizing for the first time that I have the power to change this. I have the power to break this painful cycle, or at the very least make it manageable. And I also know that I am the only one who can accomplish this lifelong task.
I don’t really know how to word this post, or how to format it, and I don’t think I need to. If you don’t know what BPD is – here is the clinical explanation, diagnostic preview, and the symptoms that go along with it:
- Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behaviour. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships. People with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days.
A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
(1) frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behaviour covered in Criterion 5.
(2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
(3) identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
(4) impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behaviour covered in Criterion.
(5) recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour
(6) affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
(7) chronic feelings of emptiness
(8) inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
(9) transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
In order to meet the clinical diagnosis for BPD, you must meet at least 5 of the 9 symptoms. To my surprise, I meet all 9 criteria currently, with two of them being edged out thanks to my current treatment.
Having BPD is like having an open wound on your entire body. The slightest emotional threat and I fall into a spiral. Everything hurts, everything is raw and can easily become inflamed, irritated, and infected and once it is, it takes significantly longer to calm me down and to tend to my massive wounds.
According to recent studies, “…research has suggested that people with BPD have a higher emotional baseline. If most people’s emotional baseline is 20 on a 0 to 100 scale, then people with BPD are continuously at 80.” So you can imagine that having such a high emotional BASELINE – meaning our emotional arousal is consistently at this level even without anything precipitating it, this certainly means “overreacting” is a common occurrence. I have been accused of being overdramatic, manipulative, and demanding. From someone else’s perspective, those observations are accurate and valid. From mine, I experience a “threat”, internalize it, and then feel as though I’m not allowed to express my emotions in relation to it. As irrational as it may be, the emotions are valid, and I still feel them to their full intensity. And in that intensity, I am incapable of self-soothing because I don’t have the skills to do so. (I do now)
As far as coming out of the spiral, “In a person with average emotional intensity, an emotion fires in the brain for around 12 seconds. There is evidence that in people with BPD emotions fire for 20 per cent longer.” The intensity, the duration, the extent to which I feel…these are all things that make it difficult to live day to day, to have meaningful and lasting relationships, to successfully run a business, make it to work, finish school – and although I have done many of these things I fall off drastically at certain points in time because I cannot overcome my symptoms. There are a lot of consequences that many of you have not seen, and I will share them as I continue to share my story.
Receiving the diagnosis was so many things – for one it was terrifying because it brought up a lot of shame, and a lot of feeling like I’m this “crazy person with no hope” and at the same time it explained so many of my behaviors and my symptoms it gave me something to identify with, something to work with. It gave me an explanation and with that explanation comes ways to work through it all. Don’t be afraid of your emotions, don’t be afraid to seek help. Help is not only out there but it can quite literally change your life.
This journey is going to be long, and it’s far from over, and it will shift and twist and be gut-wrenching and exciting and beautiful and terrifying and so many amazing, full, terrible, real things. I’m excited that I didn’t give in to the temptation to just let it all go and sink into darkness. To some extent, I had wised up, and I could no longer engage in the behaviours that allowed me to hide and avoid. I’m now feeling floods of emotional pain that I’ve hidden since I was a child and I’m facing it head on with very little experience but a mind and a heart focused on self-improvement. A soul that is willing to take it day by day, and sometimes minute by minute, to deal with my emotions and work through them to the best of my ability.
To celebrate this huge shift in my recovery I have decided to create an online forum to chat with all of you about anything and everything you’re going through and willing to share. About anything, you want to talk about. You can be anonymous, you can tell us everything about you, you can share nothing and just listen to other peoples stories. You do not need to have a diagnosis, you don’t have to share it if you do – all you need is to be willing to be human. If you’d like to open up more and never had the space to do so – here it is; a place for all of us to enjoy the community and to celebrate the fact that our emotions, however irrational, do not make us crazy: they make us human.
Join my forum here: Emotionally Sensitive: An Online Forum by The Babbling Brooke
I’ll talk to you all soon.
Want to keep up with Brooke? You can find her on the following: