I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is a serious mental disorder which affects my personality functioning and traits through emotional dysregulation. This basically means that I am unable to manage my emotions. I am emotionally unstable, and this instability strongly influences how I think, feel and behave.
The Impairments In My Personality Functioning: Self & Interpersonal Functioning
Every day I struggle with my identity and self-direction. I know I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mother and (in a few months) a wife. But beyond these titles, I have no idea who I am or what I want in life. I look in the mirror and feel no sense of self, no sense of belonging. Sometimes I feel so lost, my reflection is nothing more than a stranger staring back at me. This lack of identity runs deep. My mind often unconsciously adapts my personality to how I (unknowingly) wish to be perceived by others. Sometimes this alteration is a result of mirroring the way someone talks, how they behave, or even their interests and values. Other times it seems like I’ve just discovered a hidden part of my personality.
I’m also excessively self-critical. I focus on my flaws more than anything else. Some days will start off okay. I will feel great, and be full of confidence. But minutes later I will obsess over my imperfections, and feel like my existence is pointless. My “black and white” thinking stops me from merging my positive and negative qualities together. I’m either feeling good, worthy and secure about myself; or the complete opposite. There’s just no inbetween.
However, sometimes I feel nothing. I am emotionally numb. Every day is a battle against my recurrent feelings of emptiness. I will walk around with a smile on my face, and behave like I’m fine. But my emotions have been replaced with this silent pain, and I never know when they will return. It’s a horrible feeling, but I’m use to it. Then there’s the moments, minutes, where my emotions are sucked into a black hole. I become completely detached from my emotional self. Sometimes even my physical self. I dissociate. When I’m in a dissociative state, I am aware of my surroundings, what I see. But I’m watching through the eyes of an observer, with no connection. I’ve read that this happens when you’re under a lot of stress. But for me, it seems to happen randomly. Maybe I am just unaware of the stress, I don’t know.
When I meet new people, my judgement of them is based on first impressions. I am quick to like or dislike a person, and more often than not, my feelings towards them never change. If I like someone, our first encounter is the start of a relationship. It develops into a friendship or (before I met my S.O.) a romantic relationship pretty quickly, in my eyes anyway. But there’s a catch. When I am close to someone, the relationship can become rather intense, unstable and conflicted. I have an intense fear of abandonment and can be very mistrustful. I can be very needy too. These are negative qualities I wish I didn’t have, and I can’t help it when these aspects of my personality arise. They mess me up so much, that sometimes I back away from a relationship and cut ties. Only for me to (sometimes) return when I’m ready, and cling onto the relationship for dear life. Overall, I have issues with being overinvolved or withdrawn in a relationship. My thoughts and feelings always get in the way.
As for the individuals I’m involved with (friends, family etc.), I struggle to perceive their characteristics and behaviour as a whole, the same way I view myself. They are either “all good” or “all bad” in any given moment. I will idolize or devalue them and our relationship, depending on what they do or have done. I’m like a yo-yo, within myself and interpersonal relationships. Always up or down, hot or cold, good or bad; again and again.
There’s also another element of interpersonal relationships that I have problems with; empathy. I find it hard to recognise the feelings and needs of others. I can identify when someone is in emotional pain, and strongly empathise with them. But beyond that, there’s nothing most of the time. I sometimes do correctly identify other emotions, but in the moment I struggle to understand why another person feels them in a certain situation (unless I really think about it). I try to be more empathetic, but it seems like I’m only in tune with emotional suffering. Unfortunately I often get caught up in my own emotions and don’t notice how others feel. I just get so overwhelmed by my own feelings, I fail to be empathetic. Especially when the persons actions have negatively affected me. It is not my intention to be so complicated and problematic, it’s just how my mind functions.
My Pathological Personality Traits: Negative Affectivity, Disinhibition & Antagonism
There are occasions where my emotions are “normal”, in the sense that I feel and express them in the manner that a person who can healthily regulate them would. But in general, I am emotionally unstable. I feel more intensely and usually express my emotions in a chaotic fashion. The ability to regulate emotions doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to work hard to stay self-aware, and even harder to manage how my emotions are released. My reactions to different events and circumstances are often intense and out of proportion, but they are an exact expression of how I feel inside.
Instead of gradually building up, my emotions jump from mild to extreme in a matter of seconds. Sadness transforms into despair, anger becomes rage, joy turns into ecstasy… Every emotion is intensified, and when I release them I either implode or explode. I fear losing control all the time, and try my best to regulate my emotional experiences.
When my anxiety is amplified, I have intense feelings of nervousness or panic. My mind fills with intrusive thoughts of uncertainty, and flashes back to memories of unpleasant experiences, then forward to possible future experiences. Sometimes when my anxiety is triggered by relationship conflicts, I think of all the times I’ve been rejected or abandoned, and relive the emotional experiences all over again. This is when my fear of abandonment usually reveals itself, and I am terrified of being abandoned by the people I feel close to.
Another troubling trait of mine is depressivity. I often feel miserable and hopeless. These emotions are sometimes triggered by something or someone, but sometimes they appear out of the blue. I struggle to break free from my depressive episodes, and get caught up in feelings of unworthiness of existence. I will lay in bed all day or have no motivation to take care of myself and attend to my basic needs. Thoughts of suicide creep into my mind when I feel depressed. There have been a couple of incidents in the past (years ago), where I did attempt to end my life. The first was premeditated, and the second was impulsive. But I will never try again, as now I have someone precious to live for (my daughter).
Impulsivity is also something I struggle with in many ways. A lot of the decisions I make are made in the moment. I don’t consider the possible outcomes, the consequences. I just act. This behaviour is sometimes dangerously self-damaging. See, I impulsively self-harm to cope with my emotions when they overwhelm me. When I am in despair, the physical pain of cutting into my skin distracts me from my emotional pain. And when I am in rage, the cutting seems to calm me down and give me relief. There have been times in the past where my rage was so intense that I unintentionally cut far too deep and needed stitches.
Having reflected on my emotions and behaviour, I think my rage is the worst. I am quick to get angry over minor issues; and lash out at myself, whoever has triggered my rage, or whoever is present. When I lash out at other people, I usually verbally attack them. I know my behaviour is inexcusable, but in that point in time I am blinded by my emotions. It’s like the thinking part of my brain has switched off, and I’m pure emotion.
All in all, these are the challenges I face every day. I am recovering from borderline personality disorder, and will soon find stability. But I still have a long way to go.