Borderline Personality Disorder: In My Words

The first in a multi-sectioned post about how Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) affects my life.

Please…do not use these admissions against me. Instead, use them to help yourself or someone you know.

“People with BPD often have highly unstable patterns of social relationships. While they can develop intense attachments, their attitudes toward family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike). Even with family members, individuals with BPD are highly sensitive to rejection, reacting with anger and distress to such mild separations as a vacation, a business trip, or a sudden change of plans.

Distortions in thinking and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, gender identity, and values. Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad, or unworthy. They may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, bored, empty, and have little idea who they are. Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone by acting out; i.e. impulsive behavior or suicide attempts.”

Understanding BPD, National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder,

The numbered, italicized headings below are the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), used to diagnosis Borderline Personality Disorder. The unitalicized writing is my elaboration on how each BPD criterion affects me.

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.

It took me a long time to realize that this was applicable in my life because I never worried that my husband was going to physically leave me or that my parents were going to stop visiting me. However, through a lot of self-reflection and a few needed kicks in the head (symbolic kicks, of course), I realized that the concept of abandonment goes much deeper than physical abandonment. A lack of support (real or imagined), not having an opinion agreed with, not being considered by others (real or imagined), etc. can all be interpreted by the Borderline mind as abandonment. This interpretation is, in my opinion, a hallmark of my Borderline black & white thinking…”You are either with me or against me.” And to be against me is to make me feel abandoned.

On a quick side note…you may be asking what “real or imagined” means in the context of BPD. After all, it is reasonable to believe (thanks to media portrayals) that when someone with a mental illness imagines something, they could be experiencing something along the lines of hallucinations. For some with BPD, this may prove to be true, but I am lucky to be able to say that my issues with imagined abandonment are issues of interpreting situations incorrectly. So please…remember that “real” versus “imagined” does not necessarily equate to “real” versus “hallucinations”.

2. Pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.

-I used to drive my parents batty when I made a new friend or found someone new to esteem! I would talk and talk and talk about the person, linking conversation after conversation to the person, their ideas, or their experiences…anything to talk about them. I easily overlooked the person’s negative personality traits, choices, and issues, as the excitement over my new friend allowed me to see such matters through “rose-colored glasses”. Instead of cutting them the normal amount of slack that we should all be cutting one another, I gave them crates of rope for slack! Welcome to the concept of “idealization”, as I experience it.

And, as always, my extremely unbalanced view is going to come crashing down, taking me, my friend, and our relationship with it. While this has not happened in all of my relationships, it has happened to far too many of them. I find myself, out of the blue, being very irritated by something the friend has said or done, that is actually…well, legitimately annoying. The problem is that my response is extreme in relation to the seriousness of their “offense”. All at once, every ignored annoyance, every disregarded frustration hits me with the force of an avalanche, and I am no challenge for an avalanche! And this is your introduction to the concept of “devaluation”, as I experience it.

I can remember experiencing idealization and devaluation as a young child, although I obviously didn’t have a name for it then. Until just last year, I thought I experienced this process because I was a bad person; a mean, hurtful, bad person.

3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.

-I am still grappling with how this criterion fits into my life. I am not sure if I suffer from an “unstable self-image or sense of self” or if I am just still figuring myself out, in the way that everyone has to.

4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging.

-Do I suffer from impulsiveness? You betcha! While I do not have too much difficulty in regards to the stereotypical mental illness portrait of someone who drives too fast and spends too much, I do fall victim to becoming fixated on new interests. Then again, suffering from Bipolar II disorder (that is a blog subject all its own!), it could be argued that my impulsiveness and hypomanic episodes blend in relationship.

5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.

-I am not yet ready to discuss this topic so publically. I can say, however, that I have never attempted suicide nor do I self-mutilate. Beyond that, I do not feel discussing this, in this forum, is appropriate for me, as of yet. But I am comfortable to discuss this matter in private message, if you want to talk about your own experience with these issues.

If you, or someone you know, is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Who should call?

•Anyone who feels sad, hopeless, or suicidal.

•Family and friends who are concerned about a loved one.

•Anyone interested in mental health treatment and service referrals.

Who and where am I calling?

•When you dial 1-800-273-TALK, you are calling the crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location.

•Lifeline’s service is free and confidential.

•The hotline is staffed by trained counselors.

•We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

•We have information about mental health services in your area that can help you.

What will happen when I call?

•You will hear a message saying you have reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

•You will hear hold music while your call is being routed.

•You will be helped by a trained crisis worker.

•You will be given mental health services referrals if needed.

More to come………


6 thoughts on “Borderline Personality Disorder: In My Words

  1. This is an excellent post. You have described yourself (and for that matter many of us with BPD) with so much accuracy. I know it’s hard to put yourself out there like this, but you have done a fantastic job and I look forward to reading the next posts. 🙂

    • Cate, you have been a tremendous support to me and our entire group. Sharon was spot on to say we feel grateful for all you have done to bring us together and to share your own stories about MI and Fibromyalgia to help everyone looking for it. Thank you!

  2. Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Nestor! I appreciate your kind feedback and your passing on the post to your friend. Talking about our personal experiences, whether they be about a certain aspect of life, or life in general, is how we better understand and accept each other, IMO. =)

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