*DISCLOSURE: This post has nothing to do with lingerie, but rather my life and the mental illness that has affected it. If this doesn’t interest you, don’t read on. This is a one-off post and will not be a recurring theme. Lingerie posting will resume next week.*
This post was intended for the beginning of May. Weeks passed and I still hadn’t written anything, and while I had the full intention of doing so I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it. What I did know was that I wanted to write something about an illness that has ravaged my life and mental health more times than I care to count. Before I go into it, I just want to state that I really don’t care how many email subscribers I lose because of this post because it’s important to me. Depression and anxiety, while just as impairing and terrible, get the most coverage in the media. Seldom few have heard of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), let alone know what it is. I think it’s important for someone living with BPD to speak about what it’s like, and this blog is the only platform have to do so.
Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, is characterized by:
1. Fear of abandonment by other people
2. Unstable relationships
3. Unstable self-image; struggles with identity or sense of self
4. Impulsive or self-damaging behaviors (e.g., excessive spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
5. Suicidal behavior or self-injury
6. Varied or random mood swings
7. Constant feelings of worthlessness or sadness
8. Problems with anger, including frequent loss of temper or physical fights
9. Stress-related paranoia or loss of contact with reality
In other words:
BPD is a “devastating mental illness that centers on the inability to manage emotions effectively,” states NEA-BPD President Perry D. Hoffman, P.h.D. “It is a disorder that occurs in the context of relationships. While the symptoms vary widely, with over 256 different ways the disorder can present itself, symptoms include an intense, unstable and conflicted close relationships, fear or real or imagined abandonment, impulsivity, mood lability, bodily self-harm, and suicide. The last two symptoms are seen as hallmarks of the disorder… it’s a very serious illness– ten percent of adults wth BPD commit suicide and one-third of young people who commit suicide have features of BPD.”
What this means for me, in short, is that I have an extreme difficulty regulating my emotions. I would be what you call a “high-functioning” individual, considering people with more severe forms of the disorder are unable to work, or have close relationships with others.
There are a huge number of mental health professionals unable to accommodate for people with BPD, as it requires a specialized form of treatment called DBT, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. If you’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, then you might be familiar with DBT’s more common big sister, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), which is highly effective in treating those two illnesses. I have yet to receive proper DBT, because I haven’t been able to find a doctor trained in it proficiently enough to teach it to me.
BPD really started for me when I was in my early teens. I would pick fights with friends, feel very sad and then very happy, or vice versa, for no reason or for a very minor situation. I interpreted events that most people shrug off as much more damaging to me than they actually were, and reacted emotionally disproportionately to the situation.
The term “BPD” first came to my attention in a first-year psychology class. I read the symptoms and felt a creeping suspicion that if I kept reading them, they’d fit me perfectly– and I was right.
I’m a small, seemingly mild-mannered white girl who grew up in the suburbs. I got good grades, stayed out of trouble, and actively hid all of the symptoms from friends and family to the best of my ability.
Most doctors hear about this and then compare me to their other patients, most of who have difficulty functioning, act impulsively on a daily basis, and have explosive fits of rage in front of people.
I was told that I “didn’t fit the symptoms” and that I was “probably just depressed”. I was prescribed antidepressants when I was 17 and took them for a year. I tried to tell the doctors that I wasn’t depressed– all of my suicidal thoughts and behaviors came on because I couldn’t bear the overwhelming and incapacitating feelings I was having, not because I believed my situation was helpless and wanted to die. So I would quietly sit in my room, letting the disproportionate emotions ravage my body. The next day I wouldn’t be able to remember what I was upset about.
For example, when my high school relationship ended, I knew something was very, very wrong. I would have extreme fits of sadness and rage, and became very obsessive. My suicidal tendencies hinged on nothing more than what he would say to me on a particular day.
One time I had to go to the hospital because my ex deleted me off of Snapchat.
I knew I needed help, and now that I had the proof to back up what I was saying I had, I went again to the doctors. They saw me several months later, ran a series of diagnostic tests, and concluded that I did, in fact, have “BPD-like traits” and put me on a cocktail of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants.
I learned a bit more about the disorder, including the brain malfunctions behind it. BPD occurs when the part of your brain that’s responsible for producing emotions, particularly negative ones, is overactive, while the part of your brain that curbs that negative emotions when you’ve had enough is inactive.
That all happened my last year of high school and spilled over into my first year on university. I am now three years into school, and am doing considerably better. My medications help manage some symptoms, but a lot of the work needs to be done by yours truly. There is no medication that ‘fixes’ BPD, rather several medications can be prescribed to deal with individual symptoms.
I’ve been called crazy by a number of people (the first and foremost being my ex and all of his shitty little friends), have been turned away by a number of doctors for not having severe enough symptoms, and have been in and out of the emergency room- a LOT. I’m now seeing a therapist for CBT, and while it’s not the DBT that I require, it’s doing some good and I’m slowly improving.
I know that I’ve got ways to go, in both the mental aspect of my illness as well as the stigma surrounding it. The least I can do is speak out about my illness to educate people. My inbox, megan[at]allsfairinloveandlingerie[dot]com, is a safe place and is always open if you need to talk or have questions. Doesn’t have to be about BPD.
Thanks for marathoning through that. I appreciate you reading to the end.
Until next time,
To find out more on BPD, click here.