Here are the nine symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), along with how I personally relate to them, to give them a bit more clarification.
1. “Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.”
I am very sensitive to what I perceive as rejection. I’m convinced my loved ones don’t really like me and will inevitably leave me or break my heart. I will do whatever it takes to prevent them from doing this, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy because it may actually drive some people away. I will sometimes even manipulate the person without being aware I’m doing it because it’s honestly just a desperate attempt to keep them in my life; there’s no malicious intent.
2. “A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.”
I take everything personally, so my relationships with others are usually strained. I alternate between seeing someone through rose-tinted lenses, then viewing them as bad just as fast because of a real or perceived slight. I can go back and forth with this many times. I also have a lack of understanding in the concept of object permanence, i.e. it’s hard for me to remember my boyfriend still loves me even when he’s not around.
3. “Identity disturbance; markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.”
I feel unsure about my views, opinions and beliefs and change them regularly. My self-esteem can fluctuate and I can quickly go from being confident to feeling worthless and inferior. I’m a social chameleon around other people and usually mirror their mannerisms and personality. I frequently seek external validation and reassurance from others because I am insecure and can’t see my own worth, due to not receiving adequate attention or approval growing up.
4. “Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging.”
I am an extremely impulsive person; I am also diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which commonly occurs in people with BPD. I usually don’t think before I speak or act, and in the past, I have engaged in very dangerous coping mechanisms like driving recklessly, binge eating, spending more than I can afford, abusing alcohol, unsafe sex and sabotaging success, especially when I’m upset. This kind of behavior has gotten me arrested three times, so I clearly struggle a lot with this area. I have made the decision to seriously cut back on alcohol and work towards sobriety because I realized I was on the verge of alcoholism.
5. “Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-mutilating behavior.”
I have tried to end my life before, and I often have suicidal ideation without having any actual intention of doing it (as in, passive suicidal thoughts). I have also expressed these suicidal urges to other people sometimes, not in an attempt to guilt-trip them, but because I am truly in so much emotional anguish that I sincerely believe ending my life is the only thing that would bring relief to me and the people I “burden.”
6. “Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood — intense feelings that can last from a few hours to a few days.”
My moods are mostly triggered by something in my environment; a fight with a loved one or making a mistake at work is sure to make me feel intensely depressed, but if something good happens five minutes later, I’ll immediately feel euphoric. Every emotion I feel, whether positive or negative, is amplified, and they can change at the drop of a hat. My emotional state is at the mercy of whatever external factors are influencing it at the time. I would say it’s like a roller coaster, but roller coasters are fun.
7. “Chronic feelings of emptiness.”
I often also feel internally restless, like I’m forgetting something or should be doing more. I can be happy with every aspect of my life and still feel empty and bored with myself, like my existence is pointless. I long to have a purpose and make something of my life, but I don’t feel motivated enough or have the energy to do it. I just always feel like something is missing, but I can never pinpoint what that something is.
8. “Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.”
When I was younger, my defense mechanism when feeling attacked or betrayed was to be sarcastic and bitter, and arguments have escalated into physical confrontations before. I had a short temper and trouble mitigating my extreme anger once the fuse was lit. It was during these episodes of rage that I was more likely to self-harm because I blamed myself for screwing up or not being good enough, even if it wasn’t my fault at all. This symptom has improved with medication and general self-awareness.
9. “Transient, stress-related paranoid ideas or severe dissociative symptoms.”
When I am under severe emotional distress, I will sometimes dissociate to deal with the intense emotions. It will feel as if the situation isn’t actually real and that I’m watching myself from outside of my body. I can also get paranoid and suspicious, especially regarding close relationships with people, and think they are betraying me somehow even though the rational side of me knows this is not true.
Everyone with BPD will experience these symptoms in a different way, but we are constantly aware of them and it’s exhausting trying to manage them on a day-to-day basis. They affect every area of our lives and the severity of each can vary depending on what’s going on at the time, but for me, at least one symptom is always present at any given moment.