Twenty years ago while I was in the throes of depression, I received a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I was an educational psychologist with a masters in psychology, and yet, I had never heard of BPD. Not until recently, when I started doing a series of blogs on BPD, have I really come to understand it. I now pat myself on the back for not only surviving, but actually thriving, with this disorder.
I will always live with some of the symptoms that I have described in my book In Search of the Lost Self – Surviving and Thriving with Borderline Personality Disorder. However, I have not only learned to manage them but I now realize that I have actually grown into a better person because of them. I am now living the life I truly love living. In this book, I want to let you know what living with BPD is like and perhaps give you a few hints on how to manage it, to thrive in spite of it, and perhaps even find meaning and purpose because of it.
First, let’s be clear about a few things. “borderline” does not mean borderline. This is a severe mental condition affecting the lives of millions of people, often leading to suicidal behaviour. Secondly, BPD is one of several personality disorders recognized by the DSM5. Thirdly, BPD was first noted in the 1940’s as a condition between neurotic (the brain) and psychotic (the mind) that could not be treated by medication or traditional therapy.
Now let’s take a look at what BPD is. According to the DSM5, BPD is defined as impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) and the presence of pathological personality traits. As people with BPD, we may have various combinations of the thirteen pathological impairments and twenty-four pathological traits mentioned in the DSM5. It is tempting to form a check list and set a number to establish a criteria for when these traits, or combinations of traits, become impairments and when these impairments become a disorder. However, I think one has to work the other way, from the top down, rather than from the bottom up.
Most of us borderliners reach a point in our lives where we lose control of the traits and they become impairments. This usually results in generalized anxiety, clinical depression, addictions, and suicidal behaviour. We crash. Our impairments have now become a disorder. When this happens, we may need to get help. This usually includes some form of medication for our anxieties. Once we have reached a manageable level of daily living, we can look back at these impairments and begin the path to building a life that we would truly love to live.
The second approach is for those of us who have learned to manage our traits but they are still a drag on our abilities to thrive and enjoy life to the fullest. We can take this opportunity to look at the traits that are evident in our lives and take steps to counter them before they lead to impairments and a crash.
Here are the thirteen impairments from the DSM 5: if you recognize yourself in any of these you may want to seek help or you can read the book and check out the suggestions that I have given that helped me beat this thing. If you want to contact me and start a discussion, not a therapy, just a discussion, one beggar telling another where to find bread, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Impairments in personality functioning
• Markedly impoverished, poorly developed, or unstable self-image;
• Excessive self-criticism;
• Chronic feelings of emptiness;
• Dissociative states under stress.
• Instability in goals, aspirations, values, or career plans.
Significant impairments in interpersonal functioning
• Compromised ability to recognize the feelings and needs of others;
• interpersonal hypersensitivity (i.e., prone to feel slighted or insulted);
• Perceptions of others selectively biased toward negative attributes or vulnerabilities.
• Intense, unstable, and conflicted close relationships;
• Marked by mistrust, neediness;
• Anxious preoccupation with real or imagined abandonment;
• Close relationships often viewed in extremes of idealization and devaluation;
Alternating between over involvement and withdrawal
Lies so sweet settle like snowflakes,
Covering passion with a blanket of white,
And the cold season begins again,
Without warmth, without vitality.
It is a time to seek a warm fire,
And snuggle into the folds of a hot body,
And enter into the world of sweet dreams.
But sometimes they are just dreams;
Sometimes there is no warm fire;
Sometimes there is no hot body;
And you find you are alone,
Buried under the cold blanket of white,
And you feel the loneliness,
And you face the cold reality,
That in this life you are always truly alone,
Alone with your own thoughts,
Alone with your own feelings,
Feelings that can never be shared
With someone who says they love you,
Because they are beyond the grasp of words.
And then, inevitably, you have to learn
To wrap yourself up with yourself,
And dance to the beat of your own heart,
And seek the goodness of your own soul.
Then at night you can collapse
Into your own snug bed,
And say it is okay to be alone,
Because you can sleep with yourself,
And know there is a spirit of love
That is always there in the bed beside you.