What the hell is Borderline Personality Disorder? I posed this question many times to several therapists, only to leave their offices feeling guilty. Guilty for being “bad”. Guilty for feeling misunderstood.
Like most other mentally ill adults, I had been exhibiting symptoms since early childhood. My mom thought I acted out for attention. Somehow, she nor anyone else never connected the dots between unusually high hyperactive moods and severe anxiety. Even as I aged, I would cry at the drop of a hat and stuttered beyond comprehension. I wet the bed ‘til age 12 and got caught masturbating a few times. I wonder if she ever knew there were a few times on many days.
My absentee father left a hole in my heart when his wife found out about my existence. He stopped coming around after my tenth birthday, but agreed to see my oldest brother anytime he travelled back to New York. Here’s where I never connected the dots. My story is peppered with the usual shameful tales of promiscuity and relationship fails. It combines academic highs with irrational lows. Some days my low moods would cause me to cry all day and sleep. Other days I barreled through doors and cursed some unsuspecting soul out up one way and down another. On many days I questioned whether or not God would sequester me to hell if I attempted suicide. There were times I stole my coworkers’ food after my last job termination left me broke and desperate. I spent many years angry, confused, and depressed. What the hell is Borderline Personality Disorder? And why did it choose to mess with me?
We all know what the DSM says. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment? Check! A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation? Check! Impulsivity? Check! I wish none of these applied to me, but it seems as if I develop a new symptom each year. I was diagnosed at age 34 and have undergone numerous medication trials. I hear that DBT therapy is the only sure fire “cure” for BPD and that supports groups should complement well. There’s just one problem. I have ADHD and can’t sit still long enough to last four minutes, much less an hour in a group setting. I can’t focus long enough to make any real progress. Well, maybe I’ve made some progress.
It’s been five years since my initial diagnosis and I’m happy to report that I’m now on two medications instead of five. I see my outpatient therapist every three weeks instead of twice per week, like before. I’ve actually maintained celibacy, and by the grace of God, I no longer cut or contemplate suicide. So what the hell is Borderline Personality Disorder? It’s a raging war that’s more like my tolerable step-child, and less like my nemesis.