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Mental Health

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder: A Recollection of My Past

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE, DOMESTIC ABUSE, SELF-HARM

Ever since I can remember, I knew there was something different about me. As a kid, I had many behavioral issues. These mainly included not getting along with classmates, excessive crying, anxiety, etc. None of these issues affected my learning, so they were always pushed under the rug as being an overly sensitive kid. The way they handled it was by making me scared of authority, so whenever I was in class, I would monitor myself heavily in order to not get in trouble. In the end, this eventually made issues worse for me.

When I was in the 5th grade, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. As a child who just turned 11, my entire childhood changed for me. For the entire school year, I had a mentor guide me around and spent a lot of my time in the guidance office. I remember when I was made fun of for my hair, because at the time I was too depressed to brush it. The girls always pointed out how my hair was matted, and how I was constantly crying in class. It was something I couldn’t handle–feeling like I couldn’t breathe and die at such a young age? It was so hard to function. During this time, I didn’t have much access to the internet, so I really didn’t know much of what was happening to me besides what my parents told me. It got to the point where you could tell my parents were getting tired. I couldn’t function and the only option we really had was to put me on medication. I had a little bit of therapy, and that therapist helped gave me techniques I can use today, but it wasn’t enough. I was put on this medication that is usually given to kids before surgery, and it wasn’t long before I was able to function without it. This was the beginning of what I called the “three-year period.”

It wasn’t much longer until I hit a brick wall again. At the end of 7th grade, I fell into what I believe was the deepest depression I’d had ever been in. This was brought on by the constant bullying I endured during that school year, and I basically disappeared for the entire summer. Everyday became a constant cycle, I would wake up, eat something, watch YouTube videos (I had all-access to the internet at this time), and wait until it was time to go to sleep again. I did this every day for an entire summer. Anytime I would leave my house to do anything, I would get major panic attacks and not be able to function. Unfortunately, I fell into the habit of self-harming. First it started with trying to cut my hair, then proceeded to my wrists, stomach, legs, and even ankles. There was no other way to let out the buildup of emotion that I had, except for feeling pain. I went to multiple doctors and even went to see a therapist, but I was always met with the same response: that all I have is anxiety and depression. Part of me knew there was something deeper to my issues. I was not able to speak for myself because I was too scared to, so there was no progress to my issues. This period ended in the same way as the last–I was put on medication and eventually learned to cope, and started regularly taking medication at 13, before I had even gotten my first period.

Again, after 3 years, when I was in 11th grade, the cycle came back. This time it was triggered by an abusive boyfriend. I had dated an 18-year-old when I was only 15 and endured the most traumatic experiences that I do not wish upon anyone. This individual did things to me such as sexually assault me on many occasions, tried to get me pregnant at 16 and threatened to kill me if I aborted it, cheated on me with a 14-year-old, etc. It wasn’t until I transferred to a new school that I was able to get away from this individual. I was able to make new friends and not stay in the toxic area that he occupied. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before he came back and made my life a living hell. He got a new partner and they both collectively harassed me over the internet. Posting things on Facebook that my whole family could see. I began to feel hated by everyone around me and felt like there was nobody I could run to. This was the first time in my life I had felt like leaving the world. I had to leave school for a while due to my risks and started the cycle all over again. This time, the doctors started telling my parents that there was nothing they could do. All that was recommended was to get me into the local mental hospital. I was put on the waiting list for a bed there but was never contacted back. Again, I was told the same thing, just depression and anxiety. There was no further action done besides upping the dosage on the medication I was put on and going back to therapy. I continued with my self-harm habits and eventually developed an eating disorder from the stress that was put upon me. Eventually I did get better, I went out and got a job and went back to school and distanced myself away from the internet for a while. Everything was fine for the remainder of high school and my first couple years of college.

Again, three years came around again and things took another turn. I was doing fine until the pandemic came down and crashed on me. I was already spiraling before this point dealing with relationships, and the lockdown made me crash hard. Also, I had stopped the medication that I had been taking for 7+ years at this point because I felt like I didn’t need it anymore (not the brightest idea). I then fell into a depression, but this time it was mixed with drastic mood swings. I could not hold a singular emotion to save my life. Every small thing and anything were setting me off into an anger or crying rage. I slowly started moving down the path into wanting to commit and continued to self-harm. At this point I was 20 years old and just not wanting to continue any further. I felt like if this was the way I was going to be for the rest of my life, then I didn’t want to live any longer. I felt like a burden to my friends and family and destroyed many relationships along the way.

This was the first time in my life where I was given the choice of my treatment. My parents were aware of me stopping my medication and urged me to see a doctor. I went to my primary doctor because they also offered a therapy service there. Among being admitted, my therapist could sense that there was a lot off about me. We got into details about my moods and thoughts. I was immediately put on a different medication that I was on before. I started to notice changes but continued with the therapy because I knew that there was something off about me. Throughout the course of about four to five months, I was evaluated every week. I filled out so many mood charts that I could publish a novel with the pages. It was finally determined that I had borderline personality disorder (BPD) and I was moved to see a psychiatrist.

I was relieved to finally be diagnosed with an illness that made sense, but I was also terrified. I didn’t have much knowledge of what BPD entailed. All I knew is that I would have mood swings and issues with relationships. That’s the point where everything started making sense. All the times in the past where I had gone manic and gotten obsessed over people for no reason. For the number of times I would get angry with a friend and destroy the entire relationship over that. For the number of times I was struggling to keep a romantic relationship with someone, because I was too much for them. I was even told by an ex-boyfriend that I was “hard to love.” I could never find any positive depiction of the illness on the media; it was so demonized for the behavior it brings out. I felt so stuck, and no one really could understand how complex my mind was running. I tried to reach out for treatment, but as of now, there is no treatment that is approved by the FDA to treat BPD. I was put on medication to help certain symptoms, such as the mood swings, insomnia, and anxiety. Everything else that I was experiencing I had to learn how to deal with on my own.

This October will be two years since I was diagnosed. To this day I still constantly struggle. There are weeks where I will just be unattached from reality. Most days I wake up by having an anxiety attack and get anxious throughout the day for how it’s going to go. I have an issue with getting close to people due to the fear of hurting them or them hurting me. I usually end up as the person that gets hurt because I never learn from my past mistakes. I have not been able to have a romantic relationship since my diagnosis. My fears and constant worrying drive many people away. Every day I am looking for ways to cope, but my better judgement is to stay inside. I still struggle with issues such as addiction and self-harming. But at the end of the day, I know this is not the person I am. My mental illness is not who I am meant to be. I will get better. I will be able to live normally. It just takes a long time.

Even with my struggles, I try to live my life to the fullest. I was able to go back to college and start studying what I have always loved. I have been able to be best friends with someone for almost 6 years! I am constantly connecting with others and educating them on my issues, but I know that my illness is not anyone else’s problem but mine. Your life cannot be determined by a diagnosis. Even without treatment, I am still pushing every day to get to my dreams and surrounding myself with positive influences. I know there is a day out there where I will not even think about what is going on in my head. I worry for when the cycle continues, if it does continue. As of now, it's set for sometime during 2023, and I try to put it in the back of my head. All I have to do is continue to remind myself constantly that I am not my mental illness. All I must do is keep pushing. My past is not my present. My thoughts are not my own. I am human.

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

NAMI Helpline: 1-800-950-6264

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741

If you or someone you know is struggling, do not hesitate to reach out. Save a life, save your life. You mean something.

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Savanna Fiegl

Winthrop '23

she/they i am a digital information design major with a concentration in digital mass media
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