According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image and behavior.” As a result, those with BPD often act impulsively, have turbulent relationships and experience episodes of anger, depression and anxiety.
But to those who haven’t experienced the weight of BPD either within themselves or a loved one, this description may not mean much to you. Here are some things we want you to know about BPD:
We Feel Too Much
According to Marsha Linehan, creator of dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), individuals with BPD are emotionally sensitive from birth. This incredible sensitivity renders people with BPD to feel emotions on a greater and more intense level than the norm. This is especially difficult in stressful situations when our inherent emotional dysregulation issues become increasingly hard to manage. We really don’t mean to act out on our feelings so often.
Because Of This, Our Love For You May Reach Heights You’ve Never Experienced
When we fall for someone or something, we fall hard. The emotional side of our brains—the side that often overtakes us without our permission—becomes the center of our focus. Relationships with us can be intense beyond belief, with the notion of love encapsulating you with every compliment and encouragement we provide. We want you to succeed and grow into the amazing human being we think and feel you are, and we have no trouble at all doing whatever it takes to show you that.
Yet, We Can Sometimes Be Cold And Distant
However, anything in excess can be bad for you—even love. Sometimes our brains trick us into questioning our relationships. Do they love us enough? Do they know how much we feel for them? What if they don’t, are we going to look stupid and end up getting hurt again? This is when the unhealthy coping mechanisms step in. Even people who feel too much can train themselves to feel nothing at all. Individuals with BPD are extremely sensitive and will do whatever it takes to prevent this intense feeling of real or perceived abandonment.
We Don’t Mean To Send Mixed Signals
I’ve been in situations with my friends and family members where I’ve idealized and devalued them so many times in my mind I’ve lost count. And that’s often only in the span of a few hours! We want so badly to show others how much we love and appreciate them, but our fear of abandonment makes it impossible to do so without changing our minds 24/7. Even a perceived slight can sometimes make us question whether we should stick the relationship out in the long run. If we can’t even understand our own emotions, I imagine it’s not any easier for someone else.
The Emptiness Can Often Be Too Overwhelming
People with BPD are known to be very impulsive. However, the root cause of this is important, too. One of the many symptoms of BPD is chronic feelings of emptiness. This isn’t your average 10 minutes of boredom because you’re feeling lazy or tired. No, this is a persistent feeling of pure vacancy within that leaves you hungry for any sense of meaning, any sense of direction through the seemingly worthless interiors of our minds. We want to do something, anything for it to go away. Unfortunately, this often includes impulsive, reckless and self-destructive behaviors.
Sometimes We Scare Ourselves (A Lot)
Originally, this severe form of mental illness was considered on the borderline between psychosis and neurosis, which is why it is now coined “borderline personality disorder.” While BPD has an emphasis on emotional dysregulation, many of us also experience debilitating forms of psychosis, including delusions, hallucinations and heavy disassociation. In fact, disassociation is one of the hallmarks of BPD. Imagine feeling so overwhelmed with emotions and external stimuli that you no longer feel grounded in your own world—as if you have been shielded from reality and are now examining yourself from an external point of view in order to escape stressful situations.
Our Past Traumas Play More Of A Role Than We Realize
Studies on BPD have shown environmental influences play a role in the development of BPD. Such influences include childhood neglect, abuse, distress and growing up with a family member with a serious mental illness. When traumatic events are present during early childhood, healthy development can become stunted and cause issues in later life. This may also result in retaining child-like behaviors such as black and white thinking, lack of object permanence and emotional dysregulation. We may not understand (or want to understand) the impact our childhoods may have in our adult lives, but it is worth trying to heal those open wounds and recognize the roles they play in our BPD.
Comorbidities Are Our Best Friends
A study cited on the National Institutes of Health says that “people with a BPD diagnosis are likely to have numerous co-occurring psychiatric disorders and physical comorbidities.” The most common comorbidities including: depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, sleep disorder and substance use disorder.
We Are Trying Our Best
We want to get better, trust me. We don’t want to let our emotions, self-esteem and past traumas dictate the people we are and will become. We want to love you for who you are, not disassociate every time we feel someone slowly slipping away. Whether through DBT, medication, self-awareness or all the above, we are trying our best.
The Love And Patience You Give Us Mean More To Us Than We Can Ever Express
While we realize we are struggling with a severe mental illness, we oftencontemplate how much we appreciate those who stick around and love us despite our struggles. The love and patience you give us means the world to us, especially in times where we doubt whether we truly deserve it. Thank you so much.
Bisma Suleman is a sophomore at Duke University majoring in psychology. She writes about mental health issues.