First published by Dazed and Confused, December 2015
Living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is like going through the looking glass and getting stuck there. As much as I might bang on the glass, it doesn’t shift, and I’m marooned in a world of nonsensical contractions and miscommunication. For me, one of the most difficult parts of having BPD is the impact it has on my interactions with others. It’s difficult to form lasting relationships when I constantly misinterpret social cues, believing that people are attacking me or being snide when in reality, this isn’t the case.
The diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder is very broad, and includes people with symptoms of varying degrees of severity. Most BPD sufferers will experience intense emotions that can change very quickly, moving from feeling euphoric to very low and even suicidal in the space of a day or a few hours. Some people have difficulty maintaining a strong sense of self. Others report feelings of paranoia, numbness and emptiness. Seeing and hearing things that other people don’t, and intense worries of abandonment can all be part of Borderline Personality Disorder.
BPD is also characterised by impulsive and dangerous behaviour, including self-harm, binge drinking, drug use, dangerous driving, shoplifting, unprotected sex, and disordered eating. Others are often quick to judge and see this as evidence of the sufferer being a ‘bad person’ or an ‘attention-seeker’, but in reality those with Borderline Personality Disorder are using such behaviours as coping strategies, to mitigate the overwhelming pain or emptiness or confusion they’re feeling.
I was diagnosed with BPD while under the Coventry and Warwickshire Eating Disorder Service, which is in itself is a damning indictment of the state of mental health services in Britain. I had to get to five and a half stone before anyone would take my need for treatment seriously, and I tried to end my life four times before Borderline Personality Disorder was even mentioned. I struggled with my mental health very seriously during my undergraduate and master’s degrees, and am only now, at 24, beginning to understand why I experience the world as I do. Still, life is anything but ‘normal’. Here are some scenarios where my BPD can really mess things up for me.