What It's Like Living With Borderline Personality Disorder

If I say the words “Borderline Personality Disorder,” chances are not many people would know what I’m talking about. Everyone’s heard of depression, anxiety, and the other “common” mental illnesses, but it’s rare to find an individual who knows about Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD. Even I, a person who tries to educate themselves on different mental illnesses, had little to no knowledge of the disorder until my sister Ally was diagnosed with it about a year ago. I assumed it was a relatively rare disorder and that’s why I didn’t know much about it, when in reality, Ally is just one of the millions of people who have received a BPD diagnosis. After that realization, I talked to Ally and did some research so I could learn about BPD and how it affects those who have it. My increased understanding of the disorder has really helped our sisterhood. Because of this, we wanted to be able to do the same thing for others who have friends, family members, or partners with a BPD diagnosis. Ally and I sat down together and she answered a few questions we think could help educate people on Borderline Personality Disorder.

people riding on bikes during sunset

Kaley: Do you feel there is a lot of sympathy or understanding for those with BPD?

Ally: No, not many people know what I even mean when I say I have BPD. They assume it’s similar to Bipolar, or that they’re the same.

 

Kaley: What are some of the BPD stereotypes?

Ally: Not being able to be in relationships, being addicted to drugs, not being reliable or good friends, and being too sad to be around.

 

Kaley: Would you say that those stereotypes are accurate?

Ally: No, the BPD stereotypes are harmful and not representative of my experience. They make it seem like people with BPD are unable to lead happy lives, and that's not true.

 

Kaley: What are some of the BPD symptoms you experience?

Ally: Fear of abandonment, mood swings, trouble with substance abuse, distorted self image, and general depression. 

 

Kaley: Could you explain those symptoms in more detail?

Ally: Yeah, sure. With fear of abandonment I never want people to leave me, even when I’m mad at them, and the thought of people wanting to leave me makes me extremely anxious. My mood swings have the same intensity as the mania and depression those with Bipolar Disorder experience, but also include anger and anxiety, and don’t last nearly as long. Substance abuse is pretty self-explanatory, and aside from drugs and alcohol it can include food and other vices. My distorted self image takes the form of body issues, as well as going back and forth between narcissism and self-hatred, and then I experience pretty much all the common symptoms of Depression.

 

Kaley: What was your reaction to your BPD diagnosis?

Ally: I felt both relieved and devastated. While I was glad I had an answer for what I’d been feeling, I realized BPD can take at least 6 months to recover from. But, after learning about the tools one needs to use to heal, I became much more enthusiastic, which made using those tools easier.

 

Kaley: What tools did you learn about?

Ally: I learned about how dialectic based therapy, or DBT, works. It’s a set of modules that Marsha Linenhamn created for patients who weren’t responding to cognitive-based therapy that focus on balance and different dialectics. It basically tries to identify negative thoughts and change them so that people can start making positive behavioral changes.

 

Kaley: Do you feel like your treatment for BPD has been beneficial?

Ally: Yes and no — it was rather good for the first 6 months, but lately I’ve struggled a little bit more. Dialectic group therapy I think helped me the most.

 

Kaley: How have you been treated by the people in your life since receiving your diagnosis?

Ally: Some people have treated me well. You were really supportive when I was diagnosed, and my girlfriend has been very supportive too. But some people haven’t been, like my ex who broke up with me because I was doing badly, and Mom when she wanted me to go to partial outpatient therapy. Dad didn’t care at all.

break up

Kaley: Overall, how has having BPD impacted your life?

Ally: It’s made me stronger in the long run, but it’s easy to get hung up on how much I’ve suffered. I often feel like I’ll never live a normal life, and that it’ll inevitably affect all of my relationships. But, it’s made me more emotional, which can be good. I’m often more empathetic and have become way better at understanding my feelings, as well as figuring out what other people are feeling. There’s definitely a balance to all I’ve gone through, and all I’ve been able to get out of those bad experiences.

 

Kaley: Do you have any recommendations or advice for those who either suspect or know for sure they have BPD?

Ally: Go to a therapist or psychiatrist for a diagnosis, then find a Dialectic Therapy Center near you. BPD is a diagnosis that’ll only get worse without treatment, don’t ignore it and hope it’ll get better.

 

    Ally and I are both extremely passionate about spreading information on BPD, as well as mental health in general. We hope that with Ally’s answers, those who have BPD or have a loved one with a diagnosis gain a better understanding of the disorder, and are able to have conversations that benefit their relationships.