Mental illness is something that I’ve struggled with ever since I was a young girl. I received a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder at the age of 12, and I eventually developed Borderline Personality Disorder in my late teens. I was officially diagnosed with this mental illness in March 2016. My hope is to educate and provide insight about Borderline Personality Disorder through this article. This is my truth, and I am not ashamed.
- I am emotionally sensitive. Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectal Behavior Therapy (a treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder), compares us to 3rd degree emotional burn victims. Growing up in an abusive home, I was never taught how to regulate my emotions in a healthy way. As an adult, I feel constantly overwhelmed by my emotions and I have a tendency to care so much that it hurts. When I am emotionally dysregulated, it takes me longer than the average person to get back to a normal baseline level. I am learning to be more in control of my emotions through mindfulness and self-care.
- I’m not sure what a healthy relationship looks like. I did not have a healthy role model to look up to as a child. My mother did drugs, was in and out of jail, and abused me when she decided to come around. I ended up living with my grandparents, and my grandfather sexually abused me while my grandmother remained oblivious to it. When all of this is considered, it really is no wonder why I lack healthy relationship skills. Right now, I know I am not ready to have a loving and stable relationship with another person. However, I will continue to work on myself until I can reach that point.
- I have issues with impulse control. These impulses are very difficult to fight, and from the outside, I may be viewed as reckless and irresponsible. I behave impulsively to try and quickly fix a situation in order to not feel emotion. It is a way for me numb myself, and it provides temporary relief to a situation that at the time may seem too hopeless to fix. Impulsive, self-destructive behaviors are coping mechanisms that I learned through childhood as a way to face my problems. Through Distress Tolerance, a core skill of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, I am learning to improve my mood through soothing my five senses instead of turning to destruction in times of pain.
- There is unspeakable pain inside of me that is often difficult to verbalize. I often feel unworthy of love, care and attention. As a child, I was constantly told what a horrible person I was, and that I did not deserve anything good to happen to me. When something good does happen to me, I often sabotage myself in order to stay in control, so that I do not get hurt in any way. The pain that I feel in the present can trigger memories from childhood, and I consequently act out in subconscious, old patterns of behavior. I am slowly beginning to unlearn patterns of thought that helped me to survive as a child, so that I can thrive as an adult.
- I’m not a bad person. There is very little positive representation regarding Borderline Personality Disorder. Have you seen the movie “Girl, Interrupted?” Yes, that is a brilliant film with an accurate presentation of textbook Borderline Personality Disorder. But the film also plays into the devastating stigma I face surrounding this illness: that I am a horrible person who is ultimately untreatable. I will always be honest about my mental health whether I am having a good or bad day, and I will not pretend to be perfect to keep others comfortable. The truth is, I have a mental illness which distorts the way I think and behave, and I am learning to manage the symptoms of my disorder.
- I’m doing the best I can. It takes all the energy I have to pretend that I’m “normal,” so please try and cut me some slack. Unlearning behaviors that are deeply ingrained in my brain is difficult, but I will never allow that to stop me from trying to change myself. I urge you to have some empathy when you see a loved one that is struggling, and not judge them based on their behavior. Try to understand them, educate yourself on their condition and believe that they can change. A little love and acceptance can go a long way with any mental illness.