I’ve written a bit in the past about my struggles with BPD, but I wanted to write about it with a bit more depth as so many people don’t seem to know it’s a thing. Plus, I’m having a lot of trouble with it at the moment, so it should be cathartic. Please note, this will be a LONG post and will likely be full of triggering things like suicide and self harm.
BPD is the abbreviation of Borderline Personality Disorder. I was first diagnosed with the disorder back in 2011 after a referral to a psychiatrist by my GP. I was there to discuss my depression and anxiety, but as I displayed the symptoms for BPD, that became my formal diagnosis.
BPD is not something many people know about. It’s a condition that is usually seeded as a child or young adult from traumatic events and it affects the person in many different ways. Below is the bare bones list of symptoms that medical professionals use to diagnose (The ones in bold are the ones I suffer from):
- Impulsive and risky behaviour
- Awareness of destructive behaviour, including self injury
- Wide mood swings
- Short but intense episodes of anxiety or depression
- Inappropriate anger and antagonistic behaviour
- Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses
- Suicidal behaviour
- Feeling misunderstood, neglected, alone, empty or hopeless
- Fear of being alone or abandonment
- Feelings of self hate
[Yes. They’re all bold!]
Each of them can be something that anyone can suffer from in their life, but if you manifest and show at least five of these symptoms at once then there’s a high chance you’ll be diagnosed with BPD. In the US, one in ten mental health sufferers have BPD and if you were hospitalised, a quarter of the inpatients would have BPD.
So, let’s look at each of those things individually.
Impulsive and risky behaviour
This tends to appear as gambling, heavy drinking, drug taking, dangerous sexual practices or affairs or driving recklessly. I’ve had my own issues with gambling in the past and even have to avoid seaside fruit/slot machines nowadays. It’s easy to fall into an addictive cycle because BPD is mostly about avoidance of pressures in life. Like all addictive cycles these things start out as a pleasant distraction but become far worse. Those with BPD are much more likely to become addicted to substances or situations. What makes it worse, is that we can usually see the problems but give ourselves over to the behaviour because we are self destructive.
Awareness of destructive behaviour, including self injury
Which brings me to the second point. The horrid kink of BPD is that we like to be right, even when we have to self destruct in order to be correct. For example, a BPD sufferer may say “Oh, you don’t want to get close to me because I’ll hurt you emotionally” and then they will do what they can to prove their point. They can become nasty, violent or abusive in order to show they were right. They may say that “everything I do will fail” and proceed to sabotage the things they do to prove the point.
This is something I’ve done a lot over the years. When I used to write about videogames I was getting to a point where I was quite good at it. I started to find well paid work, which I then didn’t deliver so that I could show that I was a fuck up. I did the same when writing about books… I got to a point where I was seeing success and creating movements in the industry that were garnering attention and I then backed out of all responsibility in order to show that I wasn’t ever really good enough.
The problem, of course, is that you hurt the people around you. I hurt my friend Naomi by backing out of Diverse December and lumping it all on her. I shouldn’t have done it and I know I shouldn’t but I was being self destructive. I lost friends and contacts that took years to make.
Then comes the self harming or “self injury” as professionals prefer to call it. I’ve cut myself and burned myself many times for the past five years. Most of the time it’s in hard to see places so I could hide it from my loved ones. I’ve always done it in times of self hatred or when I’ve pushed myself to destruction. It becomes a way of feeling ‘alive’ and distracts me from emotional pain with physical pain.
Wide mood swings
I hate the mood swings. I can wake up one morning feeling completely fine and by 1pm I will be cutting myself in the bathroom. It happens in the blink of an eye. I could be walking around the shops feeling confident with my head held high and then I might read a comment online or from a friend that makes me doubt myself or rediscover some form of sadness and I will spiral into a pit of oblivion. It’s a very fragile balance at all times.
Short but intense episodes of anxiety or depression
I think this kind of speaks for itself, but it’s worth highlighting that these periods are incredibly intense. As I said above, I can go from happy to suicidal in a matter of minutes, especially when self confidence or self image comes into play.
Inappropriate anger and antagonistic behaviour
I fucking hate this one. I have the nicest friends in the world. They’re all brilliant in their own ways but that won’t stop be from being a massive cunt to them. And it all comes out of thin air. My best friends know to take it with a pinch of salt or to pull me up on it, but I feel bloody awful knowing that I’m hurting the people I love for little to no reason. I’ll often find myself looking for a fight or an argument, again, because it comes back to being self destructive and being ‘in the right’.
At times I’ve found myself actually looking for reasons to be nasty or antagonistic. When this happens I’ve got better at stopping myself… sadly that’s usually by cutting my arms because my brain has no other options. People with BPD often never learned how to cope with situations or lost the ability after trauma.
Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses
Fuck this one right in the ear. Wanna step out in front of a bus? Want to book a last minute holiday that you can’t afford? Want to spend money on those games you’ll never play? Want to cry yourself to sleep because your friend didn’t reply to a text? Do you want to burn your flesh because you weren’t included in a Twitter conversation? How about getting a tattoo that you never thought about before that minute? Or maybe try hating those around you who are just trying to help?
I’ve done all of those. Pathetic, really. But, it’s something that happens and can’t always be helped. It’s hard to actually say why we do these things. It’s a very intense moment that combines both clarity and a complete lack of awareness. I as the BPD sufferer will know that the people on Twitter didn’t mean to leave me out… but what if they did? Then they don’t like me? Well, that compounds the fact that I don’t like myself, which means I have to feel connected to life or punish myself = self injury.
This comes in a few flavours. Actual attempts (once for me), planning your suicide (a few times) and suicide ideation (every day). The first is pretty obvious. Sadly yes, I have tried to kill myself once. Nobody knows that. Well, you all do now. It was a long time ago and I was “talked down”.
Planning means what it says; that you know how you’ll do it and likely when you’ll do it. My plans changed over the years. At first my method was jumping from a bridge into motorway traffic. Then I flirted with the idea of taking an overdose or cutting my wrists. Recently I’m all about hanging myself from a particular tree. Something that needs to be mentioned comes next…
Suicidal ideation. The constant want to die. But, it’s not always a want to die. For me, it’s a want to step out of the world and remove the constant pain of life. I don’t want to die – I want to see my kids grow up and I want to see if Trump really does destroy civilisation. But, I do want to press pause on things. Sadly that often ends up at suicidal thoughts because it’s the complete removal of all problems.
Feeling misunderstood, neglected, alone, empty or hopeless
I’ve kind of touched on this in a few of the above points. Let’s just say that for many BPD sufferers life is all about being abandoned by those you love. Annoyingly BPD makes you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb and that nobody really knows how we feel. Most of the time that’s the mental health issue lying to us, but we still feel hopeless.
Fear of being alone or abandonment
I don’t usually talk about the outcomes of my therapy sessions, but let’s do it anyway. This was my trigger… twice. I was abandoned by my father before I was even born and then abandoned by my daughter when she died. The former is a worthless cunt, but it doesn’t stop fucking hurting. He didn’t want me. It happens to too many of us. He literally had no interest in me. The latter, couldn’t be helped, but it happened anyway. It’s not so much abandonment when it comes to Amelia, it’s the isolation that came with it; the fact that only I lived certain aspects of her death and saw every fraction of it happen.
Feelings of self hate
Pretty self explanatory, this one. We all do it, but some more than others. Someone who doesn’t have BPD will say “oh I hate myself sometimes” and they’ll feel bad but get on with things. A BPD sufferer may say the same thing, but they will follow it up with days of going over and over the issue, they’ll self injure and begin to act recklessly out of the hate for themselves.
My BPD is causing no end of issues at the moment. It’s fracturing relationships with people I care for – making me act like a lunatic (I’m so, so sorry if you’re reading this). It’s stopping me from diving into life and enjoying things – I’ve stopped spending as much time with my kids because “why would they want a loser as a dad?”.
All of the bad decisions I’ve made in life have stemmed from my personality disorder. All of the broken friendships, stupid actions and failed attempts have come from this want to self destruct. I try to pride myself on my writing, but no matter how much I think about it, I can’t quite put this all into words. I want to be able to bottle how I feel and give it to others so they can see what I’m doing to myself every day. I want to be able to depict just how each of these things makes me feel and how much they hurt, but I can’t.
I want other BPD sufferers to know they aren’t alone. I’m trying to learn to live with mine. I’m currently taking steps in many ways to do this; counselling, self help CBT, medication and mindfulness. It’s tough going, but I want to get there.
I want to take a moment here… I want to apologise to several people (who I won’t name) because I let them down. I offended them when I shouldn’t have. I didn’t deliver on promises. I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. I pushed you away when all you wanted to do was help. I’m sorry for going overboard or being over the top. I’m sorry for making things awkward.