I feel like it is important for me to add a brief disclaimer for this post. That is just to simply state that I am in NO WAY a licensed therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist NOR is this post designed to diagnose ANY mental illness, ESPECIALLY BPD, or to fix an unhealthy relationship. If you feel like you may have a mental illness, or need relationship counseling, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE see a TRAINED health care provider.
Also, if you or someone you loved one is a threat to yourself/themselves or others, I sincerely encourage you to please reach out to a friend, family member, support group, religious organization, or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you live in the U.S. or, if you do not, please visit this site for international Suicide Hotlines. Whatever you feel comfortable with most. If you are in the U.S. and are a domestic violence victim, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Find help. Find shelter.
You matter. You aren’t alone.
This post may contain descriptions or language that may be triggering for some readers.
[Reader discretion is advised]
Dealing with Disorder.
I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). So does my partner, Dallas.
Yes. Both of us.
Between the two of us we also collectively have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Depression, Bipolar Type 2, Schizoaffective Disorder, extreme episodes of paranoia, history of substance abuse, history of self harm/attempts of suicide, history of domestic and sexual assault, and Body Dysmorphia Disorder.
Now… I’m not going to divide those up with which one of us has what because for the purposes of this blog post, it doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that one or both of us fights these mental illnesses on a daily basis. Every day. 24/7/365.
While I can’t speak much on what he experiences every day, primarily, because I don’t know everything that goes on in his head outside of what he tells me, I can say from my experience that none of it is fun. I cannot think of a single time where I’ve thought, “Ya know. This shit is awesome! Let’s get more of these mental illnesses and really go fucking nuts!”
I mean… I’m going fucking nuts… But not in the fun way.
This disease comes with a package: shame. When any other part of your body gets sick, you get sympathy.
No. Instead I get to lose my goddamn mind every other day, or week, or second being concerned with the possibility that no one wants me, friends and family only tolerate me because they have to, and – my personal favorite – the nightmarish idea that my partner, and the man I really – truly – want to spend the rest of my life with, will disappear and leave me while I’m at work or class one day without any warning. I get to cry myself to sleep most nights wondering if the people I love truly love me back.
But why would they?
What is so fucking special about me?
*insert continued spiraling thoughts here*
When I tell my friends and family that I’m tired… That I’m always tired… No one understands that it’s because my brain literally never shuts up. 24/7/365 my brain is always going. It’s exhausting. It’s annoying.
I wish I could make it stop. Make the thoughts stop. I wish I could take away all the hurt and pain that Dallas has been through. Cure both of us. But I can’t. Neither of us can. This burden of shame, self-hatred, and anger. Neither of us would wish this on our worst enemy.
About Borderline Personality Disorder.
I must state again. I am not a psychiatrist. Just so we are clear.
The Mayo Clinic describes BPD as a “mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes a pattern of unstable intense relationships, distorted self-image, extreme emotions and impulsiveness.”(1) Typically – not always – those with BPD have issues with black and white thinking (often called “splitting“), disassociation, impulsive/risky decision making, intense and often irrational fears of abandonment, and inability to filter/control/understand/or show appropriate emotional responses.
You know you’re borderline when you fluctuate between fearing abandonment and encouraging it.
Symptoms of BPD usually show up while the individual is in their late teens or early adulthood. While there are some hereditary factors that could play into having BPD (i.e. twins and siblings are more inclined to have it if their sibling does as well), most information on BPD labels a significant cause as (2):
- being a victim of emotional, physical or sexual abuse
- being exposed to chronic fear or distress as a child
- being neglected by one or both parents
- growing up with another family member who had a serious mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or a drink or drug misuse problem
In sum, if you haven’t put it all together yet, BPD can – seriously – effect a lot of aspects of your life. Including, but not limited to, relationships, jobs, familial ties, and often leads people to self-medicating coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol abuse. While medication can help control the symptoms of BPD (such as the anxiety and depression associated with it), it can’t fix the actual disorder. There is therapy options, which Dallas and myself both frequently do, but there is no definitive method of getting rid of BPD. Only management and self care.
For many with the disorder, especially me, this seems like a death sentence. The world suddenly feels lonely, cold, distant. Everyone you love appears to be behind a thin wall of glass. Just thick enough to make you feel isolated from them. You begin to think that love is a hopeless route to take. That no one would ever want you. You’re always too much, or even not enough.
At least that’s how I felt for quite a while… Most of my life to be exact. I was always too much. I always had to tone myself down. Water myself down. Hold back so much out of fear of scaring people away. Worrying that friends wouldn’t want to spend time with me when I was manic because I would just be a burden on them. My concerns, my issues, were always far too much for them to handle. Or better yet that I was blowing small things way out of proportion and that I needed to learn to let go even when those issues were really big and important to me. Being told that my personality wasn’t “normal” or that I was seriously too fucked up to even consider looking for love.
Because who would love me? Who could love someone this fucked up?
The Sudden Surprise of a Familiar Face.
I’m not someone who believes in God or fate. The whole notion that everything-happens -for-a-reason is not really something that I buy into. But that evening in September makes me question a lot of things that I believe in these days.
For some backstory: Dallas and I have actually known each other for about… 8 or 9-ish years now. We hung around similar social groups when we were in high school. But due to personal reasons (some of which we don’t really remember) we stopped talking in 2012. I, personally, thought that he didn’t really care for me. That I was this annoying little teenage girl who just always followed him around with a camera because he was cute and in a band.
See the BPD now? Solid. Let’s keep going.
According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs, and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them up into two separate beings, condemning them to spend their lives searching for their other halves.
In September of 2018 he randomly added me on Facebook. I accepted – obviously – and we started talking – again, obviously – about everything from life to heartaches to what we were doing for dinner. When everything began I thought he would be just another guy, and that in the end I would get “ghosted” and be hurt.
Little did I know that he thought the same about me I must add.
Then we began to open up. At the time I was dealing with issues related to a previous abuser who was at the time serving a jail sentence. Meanwhile, Dallas was getting out of a short but bad relationship and living on a friend’s couch. We started talking about mental illness, opening up about how we both had BPD and have far too many issues than any 24/25 year old should ever have to deal with (I will spare you details because that would be a whole blog post in itself). We hung out a few times. Talked. Really got to know each other.
And then Dallas disappeared.
I won’t go into detail why. Primarily because it’s not important to the story. Needless to say I felt hurt and betrayed. But mostly, I felt like it confirmed what I knew all along… I wasn’t worthy of love.
I went through a really low low. Worst than I think I had ever been through. And there was a legitimate feeling that maybe my life wasn’t worth living. Maybe I don’t really deserve to have people around me. To love me. Granted, I think a lot of those thoughts were bad side effects of a new medication I was put on… But they scared me.
Please don’t worry about me. I sought counseling. Got off that medication. I’m fine. I’m safe.
Then he showed up at my apartment one day. After weeks of me trying to contact him. Find out what happened. Why he would just vanish on me. What I did wrong. Why he didn’t want me. But most importantly… I just wanted to know that he was alive and safe.
And then there he was at my front door. Partially starving. Hadn’t showered in God knows when. Deafeated.
I didn’t ask what had happened. I didn’t ask why he was in the state he was. That’s not what was important. He was there. He was alive.
We talked everything out. I got his perspective, compared it to everything I had gathered from other people. And suddenly, after hearing everything he was saying, I began to realize that I wasn’t alone in all these crazy thoughts I was having.
A month later, on December 7th he moved into my apartment. And we started officially dating that night. And I know you may be thinking “Oh. Woah. That’s like… Really fast.” And yeah, it was. But it felt natural. We felt natural. We never rushed anything. We never pushed or tried to make it seem like something it wasn’t. Everything just kind of fell into place on it’s own.
We work well together. Complement each other.
The Balancing Act of Yin and Yang.
So two people with mental illnesses fell in love. And you may question how that is. How we make it work. And while I am not, by – any – means, certified to give relationship advice, I just want this story to be a symbol that it is possible.
Primarily, Dallas and I work because we understand. During his bad days, I understand that he just needs space, or time, or to even be told “hey, you need to shower.” I give him love and reassurance because even on his bad days he is still him. On my bad days, he knows he has to speak calmly and clearly. A man of very few words suddenly will become someone who will give extra details to things because he knows that’s what I need. He will hold me and reassure me how ever much I need it.
Communication is key in our relationship. We made that clear very early on. That we had to talk to each other. Express how we feel when we feel it. But more importantly, during the bad days, we both make it a priority to ask the other what they need in that moment. Not what we feel should happen, but what the other needs. And when we are asked, we try our best to be specific with what we need.
Find a heart that will love you at your worst, and hold you at your weakest.
But most importantly we have learned, or are trying to, the art of separation. Not physically, but understanding that how the other person is acting during the bad days is not who they are. We have learned how to separate our own feelings from what the person needs from us.
No. That doesn’t mean we sacrifice our needs for the other person.
It means that the conversation of how we feel about a certain thing or action that the other is doing can wait until the they have settled down and are capable of having a calm and level-headed conversation. Not exploding on them the very second they say something that mildly upsets us because we know that they aren’t in the mindset to handle a problem rationally. It means learning how to prioritize and compromise what you need with what the other person needs. And being mature enough to understand that you have to allow them time to feel what they feel just like they will give you that time.
I’m in a good place right now. I’m happy. Truly happy. Genuinely and authentically happy. And though I’m still borderline, and there are plenty of days where I struggle more than others, it seems manageable with Dallas beside me. We are a pretty good team.
And I think that’s where I will end this really long blog post.