What I Wish You Knew About Borderline Personality Disorder

By Tamiera Vandegrift on May 23, 2019

You have Borderline Personality Disorder. The world seemed to freeze as I stared into the tile floor trying to find patterns and shapes in the marble. My doctor’s voice had faded into a gentle murmur and I could no longer understand what he was saying. The words kept echoing in my head over and over: You have Borderline Personality Disorder. 

My thoughts started to race. How could I have a personality disorder? What does that mean? Can I still live a normal life?

depression, borderline personality disorder, mood, sad

Image via: Unsplash

This happened two years ago and honestly, I feel no closer to reaching peace with my condition. As a matter of fact, it took every bone, muscle, and cell of courage to write this article. After all, I am very passionate and serious about mental health and eliminating the stigma associated with it.

I was inspired by a friend of mine who created a social media campaign to educate others about Borderline Personality Disorder and decided that my condition was nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a part of me. It may not be the best part of me, but I’m choosing to turn my struggle into education and support for others forced into silence out of fear of judgment or ostracization. So, buckle your seat belts and get ready to learn more about borderline personality disorder and things that those who have the illness wish you knew. Let’s get started.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder? 

The medical definition of Borderline Personality Disorder is “a personality disorder that typically includes the following symptoms: extreme emotional reactions, impulsive behavior, and history of turbulent or unstable relationships.” To be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, you must demonstrate at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Distorted and unstable self-image
  • Intense and highly changeable moods
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom
  • Inappropriate, intense anger, and/or issues controlling temper
  • Intense and stormy relationships
  • Extreme and/or inappropriate reactions
  • Impulsive and typically dangerous behaviors, such as drug and alcohol addiction
  • Chronic suicidal behaviors or self-harm

Borderline personality disorder got its name in 1938 and the term was used to describe patients who were thought to be between, or on the borderline, so to speak, of psychosis and neurosis. In other words, Borderline Personality Disorder is a very difficult disorder to diagnose and an even harder illness to treat.

mental illness, borderline personality disorder, sadness

Image via: Pexels

The worst part of Borderline Personality Disorder, besides the symptoms and the occasional inability to separate your emotions from symptoms, is the stigma surrounding it. I can count the number of people who know about my condition on one hand, as a matter of fact. I created this article in the hopes of changing how people view Borderline Personality Disorder, otherwise known as BPD. It’s an extremely misunderstood and widely feared condition.

One of the first things people ask when I disclose this information is typically “Didn’t Jodi Arias have that?” or “As long as you don’t brutally murder me, we’re cool.” Comments like this are hurtful and made me afraid to have such a serious condition, even though people made those comments in joking. So, let’s leave stigma, misconceptions, and judgment at the door. Here are things I wish you knew about Borderline Personality Disorder*:

People with Borderline Personality Disorder Aren’t Monsters

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. Borderline Personality Disorder is not an inherently violent condition. In fact, people with BPD are much more likely to be a danger to themselves than anyone else. Yes, intense anger and other emotions are a part of BPD symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that they’re at risk for hurting someone else. The key word of BPD tends to be “self-destruction,” meaning that those with BPD are more of a danger toward themselves than they are to those close to them.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder Feel Things Very Deeply

Imagine for a moment if you were born without skin. Imagine how intense every single sensation would be. Now, imagine being punched in the gut. Sounds pretty agonizing, right? Emotionally, people with Borderline Personality Disorder have no outer shell to protect their emotions from triggering events and upsetting news, whether it’s a breakup or a last minute cancellation. Unfortunately, it’s easy for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder to interpret any change of behavior as abandonment. Imagine being terrified (like, life or death terrified) of your significant other breaking up with you. You now have some insight into what it feels like to have a BPD brain.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder Are Not Manipulative

There’s a really horrible myth that people with BPD manipulate others and seek attention for the fun of it. However, there is nothing fun or enjoyable about this condition. Actions that appear to be attention-seeking or manipulative typically originate from fear of separation or abandonment from those that they care about. This behavior isn’t malicious in the slightest; rather it’s an attempt to seek relief from their anxieties about abandonment.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder Don’t Threaten Suicide/Self-Harm for Attention

This is important, so I’m going to write it twice. Here we go:

Always take suicide threats seriously. Did you hear that? Let me say it again:

ALWAYS TAKE SUICIDE THREATS SERIOUSLY.

Often, people assume that suicide threats and self-mutilation are attempts to get attention or manipulate others into doing what they want. However, this is not the case. Statistics reveal that 10% of people with Borderline Personality Disorder will commit suicide and many more engage in self-mutilating behavior, like cutting, burning, and more. Even if you feel like someone is holding themselves hostage for you to come to the rescue, you must take any and all suicide threats seriously.

Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder Are Not the Same Conditions 

A common misunderstanding people fall into is thinking that Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, when this is the furthest thing from the truth. First off, one is a personality disorder and the other is a mood disorder. Both are very different types of mental illnesses. 

Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating episodes of depression and mania that can last for days, weeks, or even months. Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by mood swings caused by interpersonal conflicts and can last for minutes, hours, days, and weeks.

Remember that the abbreviation for Bipolar Disorder is BD, while the abbreviation for Borderline Personality Disorder is BPD.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder Are Not All the Same

I found a very sweet post on Reddit that someone’s boyfriend wrote about their girlfriend who was diagnosed with BPD. After scrolling a little further, I found a post that broke my heart. A young man made a post about a new girl he met with BPD and if she would be “worth dating.” Of course, being the Internet, people had nothing nice to say. Some of the comments that stood out to me were:

They don’t have personalities. They’ll steal yours and make you fall in love with them. 

Run for your life.

She’ll ruin your life. 

Of course, I found these comments to be incredibly painful to read. So, I feel the need to put it out there that not everyone with BPD is the same. Sure, there are genuinely cruel people out there, but just because someone has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder doesn’t inherently make them evil or out to ruin your life. As a matter of fact, people with BPD are typically considerate, caring, loving, and loyal people. This brings me to my next point…

People with Borderline Personality Disorder Are Not Unlovable or Unbearable 

Okay, let’s be real. It’s a challenge to live with or be in a relationship with anyone who has any kind of disorder or illness, whether it’s mental or physical. While it’s a challenge, it’s not impossible to learn how to live and function in a healthy, happy way. So, to call people with Borderline Personality Disorder unbearable, unlovable, or unworthy of love is a strong, not to mention cruel, generalization. Every person is different and has their own set of issues to deal with. People who have Borderline Personality Disorder tend to find success and inner peace with the help of medications, therapy, and DBT therapy.

sunshine, hope, mental illness, treatment

Image via: Unsplash

People with Borderline Personality Disorder Can Never Be Cured 

This statement is both true and false. With that being said, unfortunately, there isn’t a “cure” for Borderline Personality Disorder, but with the right treatment plan, those with BPD can find peace and happiness. A cure for Borderline Personality Disorder means the ability to tolerate distress and regulate emotions. Someone who has been “cured” of Borderline Personality Disorder is serious about treatment and improving their situation. There isn’t a “cure” that will make BPD completely vanish, but there are ways to make life enjoyable and worth living nonetheless.

I hope that I achieved my goal of educating you about Borderline Personality Disorder and getting rid of some of the myths about the condition. I received my diagnosis of BPD two years ago and I’m nowhere close to finding my own “cure,” but I know with hard work, persistence, and treatment, I will find peace. If you have Borderline Personality Disorder, no matter where you are in your treatment plan, you are strong and you will make it.

*These are things that I, personally, wish other people knew about Borderline Personality. Every person with this condition is different in their own way and struggles with different issues. To learn more about Borderline Personality Disorder, check out the following resources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml

https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Borderline-Personality-Disorder

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/borderline-personality-disorder-bipolar-disorder#1

Tamiera is an alumna of Florida State University, having earned a BA in Editing, Writing & Media and a BA in Digital Media Production. Tamiera is an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, inspired by the works of Lars von Trier, David Fincher, and Darren Aronofsky. Tamiera has previously written for the FSView and Florida Flambeau, College Magazine, and more. She has recently published a creative thesis containing short stories based on mental illnesses in the media. In the future, Tamiera aspires to win "Best Original Screenplay" or "Best Picture" at the Academy Awards with one of her film projects. Besides writing and storytelling, Tamiera enjoys cooking, traveling, spending time with friends, and geeking out over movie trivia.

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