At age 19, after a long drawn out process of testing, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder a.k.a. BPD. My healthcare professionals had dragged their feet, unwilling to diagnose me with a disorder many consider untreatable. They feared the stigma that marks borderline patients as “undesirable.” We are often categorized as “difficult” and are rarely professionals’ first choice. Unfortunately I needed that diagnosis to enter the prescribed therapy. The reality is that while BPD is incurable, it is manageable through Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
Like all stigma, the stigma against BPD only focuses on the negatives of the disorder. It’s a mental illness, so of course there are many symptoms that create problems in our lives, but these symptoms don’t make us bad people.
One of the hallmarks of borderline personality disorder is that we experience intense emotions. Many of us seem to feel everything more strongly than those around us. This means we are “sensitive” to rejection and other negative reactions. Sadness often dissolves into depression. But this also means that happiness quickly escalates to joy. We are able to feel intense love. Many of us are capable of extreme empathy, so much so that we actually hurt for others. The trait that causes severe mood swings can actually be a positive. Because of this we can be caretakers, fun friends, and loving partners.
I like to think of it as being superhuman. In this case, super means “of an extreme or excessive degree.” The human part comes from the fact that emotions are often considered to be what makes us human. Hence the phrase ‘superhuman.’ We’re not better than anyone else, we just have an excess of everything that makes humans human.
It was a difficult decision to be open about this diagnosis. I’ve been open about my depression, anxiety, and eating disorder, but those are easier for me (and others) to talk about. Personality disorders are forever and carry a stigma heavier than most. To be honest, I’m nervous about the doors that may close for me because I am open about being borderline. But I have decided to do it because maybe by putting myself out here I can chip away at the stigma. I want people to see that most of us are not the borderlines you see on TV shows. We are regular, caring people, just trying to survive.
If you have questions about BPD or would like to talk with someone who has it, please email me at [email protected]