10 Surprises About Life with Borderline Personality Disorder

Shannon Ashley

We’re not manipulative, crazy, or psycho.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4FotBe_0Xi29uNt00Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

For at least 20 years — though I suspect much longer — I’ve been battling mental health issues. Initially, I was diagnosed with depression. That never seemed quite right, or all, and my next diagnosis was dysthymia.

Years passed with more problems and zero relief. I was then diagnosed with bipolar type two, and for a little while that seemed alright. Like I had some answers… until I didn’t because treatment wasn’t really doing anything for me.

For a long time, I felt stuck as if I had to resign myself to an unhappy life where adequate treatment wasn’t an option for me because nothing seemed to work. But finally, I got a new diagnosis — borderline personality disorder.

That diagnosis was much scarier than any of the others because I had all of these notions that BPD meant I would never have a shot at a healthy life. In reality, I had been misinformed about the condition. Once I began learning what it really meant to be borderline, everything clicked for me.

Here’s what I didn’t know, and what I wish more people understood today.

1. We can get better.

With proper treatment and personal responsibility, a person may not even continue to have symptoms. That’s right — despite what you have heard, BPD is not a life sentence. My treatment has involved a lot of personal work of reframing my perspective and getting rid of “stinking thinking.”

It’s helped me to know there’s a reason my mind panics and fears the worst if I let it run wild.

Of course, individual results vary, but remission from most symptoms is entirely possible for many people with borderline. But don’t just take it from me.

2. Treatment isn’t always that hard.

For me, the hardest part about being borderline was going through decades of misdiagnosis. Once I finally knew what I was dealing with, changing my ways was much so easier than I ever imagined.

I no longer felt guilty or helpless because meds didn’t work for me, and in fact, I felt empowered about my mental health for the first time in my life.

3. It’s not “worse” than any other mental illness.

There are no drugs approved by the FDA to treat borderline personality disorder. None! Doctors might prescribe meds for comorbid conditions like depression or anxiety, but treatment for BPD itself is individual and mostly about changing your thinking. Shifting your perspective.

Personally, I feel lucky having BPD since so many of my symptoms are now under my control.

4. Being borderline doesn’t make us manipulative, crazy, or psycho.

Lay people and even some health professionals make unhelpful assumptions about people with BPD. Some of the most fraudulent myths about the mental illness come from movies like Fatal Attraction. or Psycho.

The criteria for borderline means you have at least 5 out of 9 possible symptoms, and honestly, I manage all 9 symptoms without living out any of the false stereotypes.

5. Men can be borderline too.

BPD is not an illness that impacts only women. Men have it too, but unfortunately, we don’t know how many due to misdiagnosis. Men with BPD are frequently diagnosed with PTSD or basic depression instead.

I hope that more people can talk about the condition and raise awareness to help end a great deal of needless suffering among men who may not even know why they feel so lost and empty.

6. “Emptiness” may be the most misunderstood symptom of BPD.

Chronic emptiness is different than depression. I read one man describe it as more of a longing and I’m inclined to agree. I also think of it as a sort of ennui or restlessness of the soul.

You want to feel happiness and connection, but no matter how much you try, you feel dissatisfied and empty. Perhaps even bored of yourself, in part because you don’t have a great sense of who you really are.

That’s why effective treatment often hinges upon developing greater self-awareness.

7. It is not always an obvious affliction.

Readers sometimes tell me that I don’t seem or sound borderline, as if it’s something you could easily catch in a person’s writing. I think the assumption stems from the way the media has often portrayed the disease.

I am an introverted person who’s spent her entire life feeling like she must tamp down a cap on her wild and effervescent emotions. Very few people have ever seen me at my worst when I feel unable to contain my feelings. The pressure I feel to properly control the rumbling within me is in essence why I have so often failed to have healthy relationships.

8. Treatment has made me a much more chill and practical person.

The question has come up how I can write so much about relationships when I freely admit to so many failed ones. The thing is, I have had to do so much research and exercise in managing my own emotions and expectations just to treat my BPD symptoms, that I now enjoy an entirely new perspective about love and human connections.

I used to be the least chill person when it came to dating. Yes, I “obsessed” over each crush. I got carried away and tried to fit each guy into my fantasy of ideal love.

Once I got my borderline diagnosis and began working on my unhealthy attitudes, there was an enormous shift in how I look at love. I was finally able to relax and quit thinking that my worth was dependent upon my relationship status.

9. Childhood trauma might have a lot to do with it.

When I first wrote about BPD, a friend brought up some good points about childhood trauma. Experts are still divided about whether or not childhood trauma causes borderline personality disorder, but there seems to be (at least) a strong correlation.

A lot of us who have had traumatic childhoods didn’t know how bad they were until we grew up and learned more about what’s healthy and what’s not. And plenty of borderline folks whom I’ve met over the years have struggled with attachment issues to their parents first.

It makes sense to me that BPD could be related to a dysfunction in a person’s relationship with their caregiver(s). So much of the borderline struggle connects to a lack of security in who we are and how we relate to others.

10. There is more hope than people think.

Right now, there’s still a ton of stigma surrounding borderline. The way the world sees those of us who’ve been diagnosed with the disorder can be shockingly sharp. I occasionally ask questions on Quora about life with BPD, and I’m taken aback by how many people insist that a person with borderline can never get better. They are convinced it’s impossible.

That’s a lie, and I’m so glad I did my research before I listened to the stigma and threw in the towel.

If you or someone you love struggles with the symptoms of borderline personality disorder, there is hope for a better life. You just need the right information to begin making progress.

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Single mama, full-time writer, ex-vangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. I cover real-life issues, like family, parenting, relationships, and spiritual abuse.

Cleveland, TN

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