Borderline Personality Disorder is a Bitch. Here’s How to Deal with it
The last thing that I would ever purport to have is all the answers. Living isn’t as easy as they make it look on pharmaceuticals commercials, we all know that. And living, when you do not have any support from any other humans, (when there are over 7 billion of us dancing around this floating rock) is incredibly hard. Sometimes, what can be worse, is being in a leadership role, or in the public eye, or responsible for others in some way while you are bitterly and utterly and totally alone, and still trying to manage a career, a family etc.,
In those cases, when your emotions and your mind are constantly fighting against any form of personal, financial or social success, living can become impossible to manage because no one knows what is truly happening within you or can see it outwardly. And even if they could see it many times before they tried to support you, they would first tell you how incompetent and worthless you are by exposing your vulnerabilities or reveling in your pain (humans aren’t always nice). That torment on top of internal chaos is a nightmare in and of itself.
If no one else understands what you are going through, someone like me would like to try to. I’m not special and I exist in a similar space. So, if I can fight to keep going, then I hope that you can as well. Now listen, I’m not going to run you a whole bunch of bullshit. I’m going to tell you a bit about survival. You do what is best for you of course, but I hope you see that you being around for as long as you are supposed to be around, is what is best.
Death for many like us feels like the only sensible alterative to sleepless nights, constant worry, or never-ending therapies and drugs that numb. I can’t tell anyone what to do but I can share with you what I have done and hope that it helps in some way, or even causes you to stay the course for one more afternoon, allowing some seed of survival that you have planted in advance today to fully take root and carry you forward.
The first time that I attempted suicide was in 1990. I was 15. It was a halfhearted attempt and fortunately I have nosy family members or I would have sailed off the side of our apartment complex rooftop into the bustling city street. In super religious minority communities like the one that I grew up in, there is no room with all the disparity and stigmas and judgements that you must fight against every day to deal with or even acknowledge mental disorders or illnesses.
Mine, like many others, was swept under the rug and the remedy was a glass full of ‘Jesus loves you’ and ‘you better continue to fucking overachieve or suffer something worse than death!’ In my family that something worse was going to hell for taking yourself out of the race. Even if you’d been molested and raped and had watched your step father physically assault your mother every day, Jesus loved you quietly from a distance in my home and community and if I succeeded in becoming less of a burden on my family by just ending the ride, then according to them, Jesus would stop loving me and my eternity would be spent lapping up fire and brimstone.
What they didn’t know, or even cared about was at the time, I was in hell anyway, so it didn’t seem like much difference other than I would not be alone, finally. And to top it off at least no one in hell would be calling me fat and ugly and telling me I was the reason they never succeeded in life because my existence ruined their plans. At least I wouldn’t have to go to school hungry anymore in hell or be teased anymore for being poor, and too tall, and wearing glasses. It sounded like a vacation.
The second time that I attempted suicide was in 2005. This unlike the first time was not a halfhearted go at it. As a matter of fact, I did such a good and through job of it (believe it or not) that when I had to do my 72 hour hold at the psych ward afterward, the psychiatrist put in me into a theatre room of interns so that they could study me because my execution was flawless and according to them at the time, I had all of the markers of a diagnosis of depression and PMDD. The saddest thing was as the doctors asked me questions and took notes and I cried my answers, it genuinely felt like the first time that anyone had ever seen me.
Of course, the physicians started feeding me drugs and telling me to lean on a ‘higher power’ and I did everything that they told me to do, with fake smiles on my face for miles, just to get a chance to go home and go to sleep. More than anything I was exhausted with living versus really not wanting to be alive. Pretending all day long, every single day eventually takes its toll on everyone.
After that, when I could afford it, I would get therapy. I hated the drugs, they didn’t make me feel better at all, they did however make me feel less suicidal. I couldn’t write anymore though or laugh or smile or enjoy anything so I knew that there had to be some other way to handle the pressures and pains that I was struggling with. The new doctors in 2008 told me that it wasn’t just depression or PMDD in my head. They figured that there was also PSTD in there from the childhood abuse and that I needed to talk about it to heal it. Talking about myself (for a person who must constantly act like everything is better than okay for a living) is more than difficult. There were so many secrets that I did not want to share with anyone.
However, these days whenever I get to that point (and it still happens from time to time) that I can no longer see a way out of the inner turmoil, the first thing I reach for is a therapist. Again, this is not something typically recommended in the community I came from. Therapy is vastly unacceptable and believed to be too expensive. Chit chatting with a dude on a cloud was considered a more reasonable alternative (all the while donating 10% of your salary to his treasure trove in the sky) which for me, made it even more difficult to understand why I was the one that was being considered crazy…
I need you, reading friend, wherever you are, to understand that I’m not at a place where not wanting to die has disappeared entirely. I still struggle with it every single day, and some days are a lot harder to handle than others. I’ve since discovered that all those previous diagnoses were partially right but only symptoms of what the experts think now is the real core of my “problems”; a personality disorder known as BPD. There isn’t really a cure for this other than talking and coping mechanisms and meditation. There’s not really a medicine that I can swallow to make it all go away either.
When I found out that something with such a horrible stigma was what I supposedly had now it was a relief. At least I wasn’t “making it up”. At least I knew that I could do something to slowly get better and there wasn’t anyone in the sky that was going to jump in for an assist. Fact of the matter is 50 years from now, the doctors might be saying that I wasn’t the insane one at all. I probably won’t be around then but the reason for that, I hope, is due to old age and not to me giving up the fight.
On those days, quite frankly, like today, when I am struggling, I have planned what I will do when I am in crisis. I encourage you friend that I don’t know, because I do not have all the answers, that you put a plan into place for yourself on a day when you actually do feel sort of good, so that you know what to do on those days that you don’t.
My plan may not work for you exactly but if it puts some ideas in your head that help, that’s the point of this so if you have read this far, read on…
- Communicate. Whether this takes the form of reaching out to a hotline, a friend from college that you trust etc. or even a religious figure who is supportive, no matter what, reach out. On days when I am in a good “mood”, I leave voice recordings on my cell phone for myself. The recordings are messages from me to me, to listen to when everything around me gets to be too much. I tell myself on the messages all the things about myself that I would not have seen or done or loved if I wasn’t around anymore. My son turned 18 and graduated high school this year and I would have missed it. I got to go to Florence in 2015 and see Michelangelo’s David in person and I would have missed it. I list my accomplishments and things and places left in life that I still want to do and see and become. I even tell myself hilarious jokes so I can listen to myself laugh. And I say something to myself that no one else does in real life on these messages, “I love you.” When I’m starting to feel blue, I listen to these messages on my phone repeatedly and remember that the person who recorded these for me was having a good day, and that there is a chance that I can be her again, if I can just see the day that I am dealing with through until tomorrow.
- Keep death in mind. I think about death a lot anyway but I have stopped thinking about it as an alternative to silencing the destructive voices in my head or pretending that it ends any further harm or pain to others. I think of death now as the natural progression of things; as the culmination of a life lived and regardless of what I accomplish during my days on the blue sphere, death is coming in due time. I know that it seems counter intuitive but for me it’s quite helpful. There is no reason for me to rush the process along. No one gets out of this alive and someday, it will be my turn to leave the waking world. It’s not my job to force the hand of nature, or push things to happen before they are supposed to happen. My job, is that while I am still able to, that I do the things that I enjoy doing; that I create the things that I can create and that I help and support the others who matter to me and who I can encourage. Death will be at my doorstep soon enough, so remembering that, I get the relief that I don’t have to trudge on forever, nothing lasts forever and during the time that I have left here, what is better than improving the experience of another in some way?
- Ease up on the controls. I want to make things happen, it’s just the way I am wired and conditioned. I am the eldest, the only college graduate, a single mother, a professional facilitator and a Virgo. I can’t help that I want things to be a certain way. I tend to try and force these things to be my way because when it is my way I feel safe. I tend to be overly cautious about exposing any frailty to others because of all of the pressures that I carry. I plan (as you can see) sometimes to the point that I am immobilized because every detail has not been lain out in triplicate and there is a gap where I could fall through and be destroyed. Others disappoint, lie, leave- and of course, I blame me for not considering that in my plan. My expectations are unrealistic, I know. And simple things, like losing my car keys or getting a flat tire or not getting the promotion that I deserve, exacerbate the fact that the fantasy I am dreaming about, where everyone is happy, including me, is not reality. That sadness turns into hatred and I try harder to control my world just to prevent myself from falling off of it. When this control freak inside me rears her ugly vicious head, I find a guided meditation, take a day off, sit around in a seaweed face scrub, order Chinese take-out and watch comedies. I make myself feel better in my skin, make myself laugh and stop trying to control others, and circumstances and situations, just for afew hours. I remember when I take my hands off the throttle that it will all pass. (See #2) And if I am able to be friendly, I invite someone that I care about to veg out right alongside me. (See #1).
- Move. I forget when my mind fights against me that I don’t have to be controlled by my negative and sabotaging thoughts because they are so all encompassing and pervasive. My thoughts are not required to turn into my behaviors. To prepare for this, I ease up on the controls first and then I start noticing that I have been sitting in the dark more often, I’ve been laying in the bed longer than usual, I’ve been ignoring phone calls and texts, listening to sad music, ruminating, not eating meals etc. To help myself, I move. I tell myself how many steps I’m going to reach today and listen to my recordings while I walk a few miles. I make myself some crunchy foods just for the texture. I hit the park and watch the clouds roll by and smell the leaves. I like to take my shoes off and get my feet dirty. I open all the windows, turn all the lights on at my place, dance around because I have the legs to do so, even if I am dancing through tears. I listen to my favorite band at full volume and pretend that my air guitar solo is going to rock the imaginary concert I’m attending. I completely distract myself with sights and sounds and movements. And then I do something that I think that I am good at, whether anyone else thinks that I am or not. You should have something that no one does the way you do it and the results that come from it make you happy and proud. If you don’t have anything start figuring out what that is before you get depressed. Worst case, buy a bunch of beads to make necklaces, or coloring books with intricate designs, or yarn and knitting needles, anything that will become something else because you touched it, designed it, created it or made it. I tend to be alone a lot and I don’t love anything more than the English language, so I write as my creative task. I dance like a fool all around my apartment until I am rightfully tuckered out and then I write a short story, a poem, a piece of prose for my blog, I tweet like a lunatic or even write an article about how to stay alive when you frequently feel suicidal for an opinion column. I get up and shake and then I do something that I love, something that I want to be alive to continue to do a lot more of for as long as I can.
Like I said from the start, I have no idea what the fool proof remedy is, or even if there is one. I’m no doctor, so nothing that I am saying trumps getting medical attention and support from a specialist. This is something that I consistently struggle with myself and I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t some days that I am barely squeaking by. Everybody has something that they are working on and the only person that I can worry about, if I have to worry in the first place, is myself first. I can’t help others if I don’t take care of me. And in the throes of a battle that I am losing with myself is not when I want to not be prepared for how far off the deep end I could go.
Honestly, the more things that I do to support myself in advance, the easier it is to win the war. As much as part of my mind wants to bow out of the rat race, the rest of me has a lot more to see and to do here. The rest of me has a lot more to write about. The rest of me, hopes that one day, before death comes and does its job, that I will have done mine and made something on the water ball better than it was when I found it.
I don’t care who you are, if you need to reach out to me so that we can get through one more day together, then do so.
Featured image by Edward Zulawski — Flickr.