Have you ever felt so angry that you feel electricity in your skin and heat on your face, and you’re on the brink of snapping and swear words all almost all you can think and your vision goes blurry and your chest is tight? That is how I feel, right now. And I want to SCREAM. But I won’t. And I know that this feeling will probably randomly switch to anxiety or despair or emptiness at any moment. Or in an hour or two. I never know.
I am visibly shaking right now. I want to jump out of my skin. I’m so angry I’ve forgotten why and don’t even know what started this feeling. I’m just irritable and I feel like I hate everyone.
I feel like this almost every. Single. Day. At some point. I have Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, and I have rapid mood swings for sometimes seemingly no reason. And I hate it. It is hell.
I’m what some might call a “quiet borderline,” I have the intense experience of anger but I tend to act inwards rather than outwards (I am more likely to harm myself than full-out scream at someone). But I can totally understand why when feeling like this you would want to scream at someone!
There are two typical responses to learning someone has Borderline Personality Disorder.
a) what is that?
b) run away!
Some people automatically assume that everyone with Borderline Personality Disorder is some sort of Machiavellian manipulator. And I get it. Before I was diagnosed, I read many damning stories. I am aware of the stigma. But it’s not always true! We are individuals, just like everyone else, and we are all different.
If you are interested, the DSM 5 diagnostic criteria is:
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.
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.
What it basically means is that a person with Borderline Personality Disorder will generally (and I say generally because you only need five out of the nine symptoms to be diagnosed): fear abandonment from friends and partners, switch from thinking people are “all good” or “all bad,” have a shaky sense of who they are, engage in impulsive behaviours especially when feeling abandoned, self-harm, experience suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide, experience INTENSE mood swings, feel empty a lot of the time, experience intense anger, and sometimes experience dissociative symptoms.
I experience eight out of the nine symptoms. I don’t experience dissociative symptoms, or at least I haven’t yet.
Borderline Personality Disorder affects me in these ways:
I can’t handle people angry with me.
When people are angry with me, I feel such intense shame and self-loathing and I cannot let it go until I am forgiven. It consumes most of my thinking and I end up self-harming or otherwise acting impulsively to escape the pain.
I can’t handle being all alone for long periods of time.
When I am all by myself I feel my mind going off in strange places and I feel a sense of unreality and often fear and I just don’t feel like part of the “real” world anymore, and I start to panic and may act impulsively.
I can’t handle being unable to contact someone when I need them.
When I am very low and am trying to contact a “safe person” and cannot contact them, or if someone is out of reach indefinitely, I start to panic. There are times when the emptiness is so bad that I desperately need human contact. If I can’t get this I break down, and, act impulsively.
I don’t handle failure well.
When I fail at test, in order to cope I walk around in a weird dreamlike state and cannot think about it. As soon as it hits me that I failed, at anything, I break down and feel overwhelming shame that I cannot get rid of.
I can’t handle rejection.
If I detect the slightest hint of disdain or dislike towards me, I feel hurt and shame, and then sometimes, intense anger.
I feel like I am ruled by my emotions.
I have intense mood swings, and I cannot control them. I never know what is going to set me off, I can be triggered by the smallest things sometimes. I’m just beginning to learn what triggers me and I try to avoid these things. When I am caught in an intense mood or emptiness, I cannot focus easily on homework or work which makes it difficult to function sometimes.
I am not really sure who I am at times.
I feel like I act differently with different people, and with moods changing all of the time it is difficult to know who the real “me” is.
I am not an easy person to be friends with.
I get attached to people very quickly and tend to attach myself to one or two people and want to spend all of my time with them. I forget that they have other friends and responsibilities. And when they need space, I feel rejected. I get paranoid that people don’t actually like me. I overanalyze. When I perceive the slightest change in someone’s tone I feel worried and get paranoid that that person no longer likes me. How I feel about a person depends on my last interaction with them or my most recent memory of them. I only completely trust a few people in my life, and otherwise I’m not entirely sure how I feel about everyone else I know, because those feelings change.
Having BPD is exhausting. It’s exhausting being up and down all of the time and never knowing what will set you off. It’s exhausting never knowing if you are actually friends with someone or not. But I am lucky, because I do have people in my life I love and cherish and trust, and these people help me in the darkest of times. I am grateful for these people.