I personally describe BPD as a problem with the way we (I) perceive the world. It is not a mental illness cause by a chemical imbalance or disturbance, as such; it is a mental illness (a serious one ) caused by certain life events that alter the way we perceive and interact with the world around us. It is a state of constant, mental vigilance and alertness by which we subconsciously attempt to detect and deflect threats to ourselves and our already depleted sense of self. We often see threats where there actually aren’t any and we respond in such a way as our primitive coping mechanisms see fit. Because our emotions can be so extreme and intense (and we can rarely rationalise them even to ourselves), we often resort to strategies such as self-harm or substance abuse in frantic attempts to make the feelings more bearable. Official definitions will describe this as an inability to effectively regulate our emotions.
In addition to this, it is not uncommon for someone with BPD to also suffer from anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression and addictions as well as one or more different personality disorders. One of the problems with borderline personality disorder (apart from the glaringly obvious problems) is that it often goes years undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
It is not known for certain what causes BPD, but it is thought to occur as a result (or a response to) harmful or traumatic life events (particularly those which occurred during childhood).
The life of somebody with BPD can often be chaotic and erratic. Sometimes this is confined to one or all of our personal relationships, other times it spills over into all areas and all relationships of our life. Our extreme and sometimes volatile reactions to seemingly minor triggers can be confusing and frightening, both for ourselves and for those around us, and it is common for us to resort to self-destruct behaviours in an attempt to deal with our overwhelming, unrelenting thoughts and feelings.
We also tend to have a very poor sense of ‘who’ we are, and consequently suffer from feelings of emptiness and an overwhelming fear of abandonment. This fear of rejection and abandonment is ever present in BPD, which is both ironic and unfortunate, as all too often our behaviours and insecurities cause people to withdraw from us.
Unsurprisingly, it can be very difficult for people with BPD to maintain healthy and stable relationships.
That’s the bad news. The good news – yes, there is good news! is that it is possible to learn to live with and manage borderline, so much so that we can look forward to living a happy and stable life. It is not easy, it is not a comfortable process, but it is possible.
For me, it helped to learn all I could about BPD and it helped for those closest to me to learn all they could too. There is no way I could have got where I’ve got without the support of my nearest and dearest, so having their understanding as well as my own was crucial. One of the first things that all parties need to understand is that it will likely be a long and rocky road, but it will definitely be worth it.
Learning to manage BPD does not necessarily mean we will not think the thoughts that are potentially dangerous. It does not mean we don’t feel things that we don’t understand, or struggle to deal with. Managing borderline means we do everything in the power we have not to act on our impulses, despite how compelled and convinced we are that these impulses can be trusted. With the right help and support it is possible to learn how manage the unmanageable. Resisting the impulsivity and self-destructive urges has got easier for me over time, and learning to rationalise with my internal dialogue has helped me to do this. I am not a therapist, nor can I offer professional help, but I can (and will!) tell you what has worked for me, and hopefully inspire, inform and encourage anyone who needs any of that.
The main thing to remember is this: With the right diagnosis, the right help, a lot of support and an awful lot of hard work there is, always, hope.