The more research and reading I did on my mental health condition, the better I understood how it all works. Awareness is key! I have a better control over my emotions than ever before thanks to DBT, research and recovery. I’ll admit, once I was diagnosed four years ago and started reading, it was scary to see how complex the disorder was but I was determined to not let fear get in the way of my recovery. I can’t tell you how many times I put this book down in tears wanting to give up. It wasn’t easy but four years later, I can confidently say I no longer meet the criteria in the DSM for Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD is recoverable. Recovery is possible and help is out there. Stay strong and keep pushing forward!
During the initial years after my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, I thought that all other Borderlines were like me: introverted, shy, low self-esteem, hot tempered, angry, hollow, etc. For the most part, I assumed that the “constellation” of Borderline Personality, as described by the DSM-IV and my first clinician, was the same for all afflicted with this condition. In reality, it is just the opposite. Though you may fall into the BPD diagnosis constellation, there are many different ways in which your BPD affects you, your life, and those around you.
Before I go any further, let me preface the following list of BPD variations by stating that I am not a mental health professional, nor qualified in any way to offer a BPD diagnosis. My thoughts are my own opinion gleaned from casual research on the internet and any commentary and feedback I get from blog readers.
That said, here are 5 different types of Borderline Personality manifestations:
- Low Functioning Borderline – The “Low Functioning” borderline is what most people think of when they are first introduced to the condition. Low functioning BPDs are a living train wreck. They have intense difficulties taking care of their basic needs, are constantly experiencing mood swings. They also have an extremely hard time managing any sort of relationship with another human being. Low Functioning BPDs are often hospitalized more than other BPD types, for the very reason that they can’t live productively without constant coaching and supervision. These patients are challenging for all but the most experienced psychiatrists. Unless otherwise treated, low functioning borderlines lead self destructive lives and attempt to manipulate those around them with desperate acts, including self harm (cutting, etc.).
- High Functioning Borderline – The High Functioning Borderline Personality shares many core aspects of the low functioning borderline personality, except for the fact that they can manage their lives, appear to be productive, and generally keep their relationships civil (even diplomatic in nature). High Functioning borderlines can appear to be normal, driven people one moment; then moody, inconsolable, and manipulative the next. Somehow, there is a mechanism within the minds of High Functioning Borderlines that allows them to lead somewhat “competent” lives, despite the fact that they are in a constant battle with BPD. High functioning BPDs are no better than low functioning: it’s basically the same face wearing a different mask.
- Extroverted Borderline – Anyone familiar with the Meyer-Briggs personality tests will understand the psychological differences between extroversion and introversion. When these characteristics are mixed with BPD, there are two different results. The Extroverted Borderline typically pushes all their feelings, fears, manipulation, rage, and moodiness outward to the people around them. In essence, if you are around an extroverted BPD, you feel like you’re living through their emotions while coping with your own at the same time. Further, extroverted BPDs will attempt self abusive acts in plain view of others in order to avoid abandonment or to express their rage. For example, an Extroverted BPD might cut themselves and then immediately share it with family and friends around them, hoping to gain sympathy or attention. In most cases, these types of behaviors frighten non-Borderlines, and they wonder whether or not the Extroverted BPD should be committed to a psych ward.
- Introverted Borderline – Contrary to popular belief, “introverted” doesn’t necessarily describe someone who is a recluse (agoraphobic). Instead, introversion is characterized by experiencing life in a self-reflective, private, and at times distant manner. To others, introverts may appear shy or lacking in people skills. This might be true, however, introverts make up for their lack of social skills with rich inner lives, thoughts, and deep thinking. As a result, the introverted Borderline primarily focuses all their BPD emotions and reactions inward. Instead of having a rage episode in public, they might retreat to their rooms and cry for hours on end, perhaps even cutting themselves for their own amusement or as stress relief. Introverted Borderlines live in an odd world: on one hand, they spend most of their time in personal thought and reflection, looking to fill themselves with a viable sense of self; but on the other, they are conflicted by emptiness and the bottomless emotional pit that BPD produces. Introverted BPDs might be harder to “spot” unless you happen to know one personally, in which case you might notice occasional depressive symptoms and evidence of self harm.
- Transparent Borderline – The Transparent Borderline is a bit of a mix between a high functioning borderline and either extroverted or introverted tendencies. In plain terms, Transparent Borderlines live double lives: on the surface, “in public”, they appear one way, but in private, amongst immediate family and friends, they appear completely different. As a result, they may or may not be high functioning due to this conflicted state of mind. Transparent Borderlines spend most of their emotional energy trying to balance the personality demands of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the both of which experience strong BPD emotions like anyone else with the disorder. Like Introverted Borderlines, Transparent Borderlines are harder to spot, and often only confess their true disposition after a harrowing rage, major break up, or other severely traumatic event that brings all their BPD feelings to the fore.
If I were to characterize myself, I would have fallen in the “Transparent” category, with “High Functioning and Introverted” tendencies. To qualify that statement further, I would have describe myself as self reliant and capable of meeting all my basic necessities, but deeply conflicted with misguided BPD emotional energy. Friends might have describe me as “hard working but sometimes shy”, when in reality the hard work was just a cover for my inner persona that is constantly at war with itself. Co-workers had no idea I struggled with this disorder.
All things considered, I really don’t think any one type of BPD is better than another. The bottom line is that each type of person is troubled by BPD, and this wreaks havoc on their lives based on the “rest” of the personality traits that comprise them. No matter what category you fall into, I would suggest educating yourself, getting treatment, and taking medication if necessary. Life is hard enough without having the BPD demon inside you.
The 9 Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder explained as experienced by me in an “internal” sense. A lot of these do not apply to me anymore due to my hard work with recovery but I sometimes struggle with a couple of them.
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. (Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5)
Sometimes I would have frantic thoughts about how I’m going to handle, manipulate and control certain situations that have not happened yet. During an episode, I can but not very often get myself very worked up with facts and detailed research about situations in reaction to something that has not happened, causing myself to get extremely upset.
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
The love-hate relationships, oh yes! I can feel the intensity inside me just thinking about it; feeling so loved, extremely happy and cared about to suddenly feeling forgotten, neglected, or disappointed. I’m feeling that way right now and I’m not even in a relationship. This can happen for me with coworkers or friends, even family members. Usually I don’t say anything because I’m aware that it’s not necessarily something that others are doing, it’s just how I’m feeling or it’s just a part of the disorder. In my past relationships before I was diagnosed, the intensity was bad. The break downs over nothing, really. Just because they wouldn’t return a text message or they were dealing with something and I felt neglected, it all turned into… “I hate you” I never want to see you again to – Wait, don’t leave me, I need you, desperately. That happened far more than I care to admit.
- Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
I was always chameleon like. I adapted and identified myself with whoever I was around or associating with. I never had a personality or a sense of who KAYLA was. If I was asked what I liked, I would tell them something they would want to hear or something someone else I was hanging out with, liked. If I liked what my friends liked then I wouldn’t feel alone or different and we would all get along better. I was easily convinced that others ideas and thoughts were always right and I was always wrong. The idea of thinking for myself or working on my own personality was terrifying. I was a follower, I needed decisions and ideas and thoughts to be made up for me. I was scared of being me, scared of being different. I had no sense of self, or what I liked. NOW, I can’t tell you how much I love being different. At 27 years old, I finally came into my own. I finally figuring out what I like and don’t like. I discovered a huge sense of self and it is the most liberating feeling. BE YOU!
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
Promiscuous sex, alcohol and spending money. If I didn’t feel loved by someone, I cheated or slept with someone just to feel something, anything. There wasn’t even any real connection with the person, I just wanted to feel wanted during times that I was feeling so empty and alone. I truly thought that my worth was defined by someone loving or not loving me. I would drink often, almost every night just to not have to deal with my problems. I would spend money that I didn’t have like nobody’s business, put myself in extreme amount of debt and lost a lot of valuable things around me just because shopping was what I thought, therapeutic. NOW – I will never put myself in these situations ever again. Maybe its maturity or recovery but I’m entirely grossed out by the thought of informal sex or drinking myself to sleep to not deal with my problems. If I feel empty or alone, I embrace it and sleep it off or I will surround myself with friends. If I’m dealing with an issue or problem in life, I will face it head on and not drink at all until things are resolved. I still struggle with spending, but I’ve come a long way.
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself.
I have never self-harmed or tried to commit suicide. I have had thoughts of not wanting to live anymore because life became too painful. Yes, I’ve thought about ways I could end my life but never attempted them. If I didn’t have my two beautiful children, things probably would have been different. They are my life and I can’t and won’t walk away from them. They are the reason I get out of bed every day.
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
I’m not sure if people can accurately see how intense my mood is and how quick it changes. Some say they can but often times I try to keep it to myself unless I see it affecting somebody else. I get irritable and depressed a lot. I used to have intense anger but I’ve come a long way with it. My mood swings or episodes can last from a couple hours to a couple days depending on the trigger. Self-awareness and realization is most important, once I realize I’m having an episode it is so much easier for me to control my actions. Sometimes it takes a stupid reaction to something to realize I’m not doing okay but luckily with a lot of work I can catch it before I react. My episodes happened more often a couple years ago than they do now, In part due to medication and better understanding of the illness. If I miss one day of my meds, I will be in a dark place within 24 hours and it’s tough to get out of because I blame myself for causing it, albeit unintentionally.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness.
YUP! Sometimes I feel so empty I can’t feel emotions. I can’t cry, I can’t feel anger, or sadness, I can’t feel sympathetic towards others, I’m not happy or unhappy, I just simply don’t feel a damn thing. I walk around like a robot. This one rarely ever happens for me but when it does, it can be bad. I have nothing inside me to give or care. I have no filter or motivation to care about anyone including myself. I feel useless and helpless. Empty.
- Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
Oh boy. I can’t explain how many things I’ve thrown and broken because my anger was so out of control. The name calling, and berating. I had and sometimes still do have a short fuse. I grew up watching it and living with it so I became it. I didn’t know how to control it or work on it. Now with therapy, I can’t remember the last time I reacted on anger, maybe 2 years ago? I still get angry, that’s an emotion we can get rid of, but I can control it much better than ever before. My kids used to see me get so angry and yell. Yelling solves nothing. Now if my kids are around, I will explain to them that for whatever reason, mommy is feeling angry so she is going to put her headphones in for a few minutes to calm down. They see me reacting to anger in a positive way rather than by me yelling, screaming and throwing things. I don’t want my kids to turn out that way, I don’t want them to see what I saw growing up and because of recovery – they won’t anymore.
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms.
I dissociate in my nightmares at night over traumatic experiences in my childhood but nothing severe or in the middle of the day. I’ve never been paranoid or had delusions.
Today is a tough one for me, so I’m going to write this out and see if it makes me feel better. I’ve never actually wrote a blog while I was having an episode. These are my current random thoughts this morning:
My heart is racing a million miles a minute, I can’t seem to calm myself down.
I just had therapy yesterday and it well, why do I feel this way?
I called in sick yesterday, I wasn’t feeling well, I was stressed, I had a lot of things to take care of, yet nothing was accomplished. I tried. Why can’t anything go right for once?
I tried to book a hotel for a future small trip I’m taking soon and of course I booked it for the wrong day, I wasn’t thinking. I call customer service and after trying to resolve the issue; I snapped at the lady. I rarely lose my temper, especially when the issue was my own damn fault. Why did I do that? Now I feel bad and I can’t apologize.
I had to come into work today, although I feel that nobody really needs me around here I’d still feel bad if I left. Why do I feel bad? My health should be my number one concern.
They took a job task away from me yesterday and gave it to someone else while I was out of the office. That fucking hurts, they know I’m always asking for more, they know I need the challenge. Why did they do that to me? They must hate me.
My thoughts are all over the place. Why can’t I calm down and just breathe?
Another admin at work is vindictive; nobody likes her. She’s picking a fight with me via email and there’s nothing I can do about it. I really wish she didn’t work here anymore. Wait. I really wish I didn’t work here anymore. Fuck this place.
I sleep 10 hours a day and it’s not enough, I’m so exhausted. I must be slipping into depression.
I’m hiding in my cubicle today, trying to catch up from yesterday. I can’t focus on anything! If one more person walks over and asks for something, I might lose it. Let me at least have my coffee first and catch up on my damn emails.
My boss last week told me that he knows when I am struggling with my disorder. I asked how he could tell aside from alienating myself from everyone in the workplace and hiding in my cubicle with my headphones in. He said, “I can tell because on days you struggle, you look like shit! You don’t do your hair, you don’t do your make-up, you look so exhausted.” His phone rang it was an “Important call” and he shushed me away. He apologized the next day, but why does it still bother me? I don’t even want to look at him. I always keep it professional and try to look my best. Knowing that I’m struggling today, do I look like shit? Can people tell?
Nobody has yet to ask me if I’m feeling okay? Did they even notice I was gone yesterday? Fuck, even my boss didn’t acknowledge my text about calling in sick yesterday. I guess he doesn’t give a shit. Nobody cares.
Apparently I forgot to punch out for lunch last week. They didn’t make the corrections because I was out of the office so now I’m going to be shorted on my paycheck tomorrow. Let’s just add onto the financial stress!
I just really want to be in bed, watching friends. That always makes me feel better.
I’m trying to find a new place on my own, but with an eviction 3 years ago and bankruptcy, I keep getting rejected. I’m never going to find a place for me and my kids. Stupid past mistakes! I’ve come so far, I really wish someone would give me a chance.
Headphones are in; music isn’t helping. Music almost always helps. I must be having a really bad low.
Kayla, all this shit is just in your head. I’m usually positive, think positive!
Just took my Lamictal, wish I didn’t have to take meds to calm me down. Why am I not strong enough to control these ridiculous thoughts?
Tonight is my night off without babies. A night to myself. OMG I can’t wait to do absolutely nothing! Yup, I must be slipping into depression. I always keep myself busy, but fuck it. I don’t want to right now.
My heart is still beating out of my chest. I need to focus. Breathe.
Why did I turn out this way? Why do I still struggle every once in a while? What triggered this?
Please dear God, don’t let me break down crying in the office. That would be embarrassing.
I need to schedule an appointment for taxes, I usually always get a lot back every year. What if I don’t? I really want to pay off debt but with my luck, I’ll have to owe this year. Sigh.
This feels weird opening up and venting to complete strangers, I hate complaining. I usually always keep to myself.
I’m not going to let this ruin my day, I can’t. I’m okay.
I can make it through one bad day. I’m not dying, it could be so much worse. Cheer up Kayla.
Nobody hates you. I have two beautiful kids that love me and a very loving boyfriend. Gosh he’s amazing.
I have so many things to be grateful for. I need to focus on that, oh and these damn reports that are overdue.
This isn’t my all time low, I’ve felt worse before. I picked myself up then, I can pick myself up now.
I should get back to work, after I get some more coffee of course, and food. Food always makes me feel better.
Breathe. Just Breathe. I am not alone. I can overcome this.
How many of us feel this way? From time to time I will get frustrated with myself because I can’t figure me out. Am I borderline? Am I bipolar? Am I cyclothymic? Or am I just a woman that struggles with PMS? I don’t know. Then again I don’t want to label myself as anything either so I try not to worry or think about it. I like to read and do research on mental illness. I love doing anything that involves learning or self-improvement. I try to have a positive mindset and not focus on the negative things in life. I tell myself one thing, I’m only 27, I’m still learning who I am, what I like and don’t like. I strongly believe that people change the most in their twenties; therefore how can we completely understand ourselves? It’s okay to not have all the answers. We can’t beat ourselves up over it. One day we will understand and it will all make sense.
I saw this and thought this would be an awesome exercise for me as I struggle with BPD.
I am doing this 31 days of BPD challenge because of the stigma associated with Borderline Personality Disorder. It is probably one of the last talked about (honestly) and explained from personal experience than any other mental illness. All these prompts have to do with characteristics of BPD, whether to do with specific symptoms and criteria of the illness or vague questions about items that are related to the illness, ex questions about specific relationships.
- Day 1: Think of the last time you were really angry. Why was that?
- Day 2: Why did your last friendship end?
- Day 3: Do you self-harm? If yes, how?
- Day 4: Have you ever attempted suicide?
- Day 5: Have you ever written a suicide note?
- Day 6: How’s your love life?
- Day 7: Have you ever dissociated? If so, how often?
- Day 8: Do you have any other diagnoses? Which ones?
- Day 9: Do you get mood swings?
- Day 10: What kind of impulsive decisions have you made?
- Day 11: Is there anything you do that helps keep you grounded?
- Day 12: What’s your relationship with your family?
- Day 13: Are you a perfectionist?
- Day 14: Do you ever become obsessive?
- Day 15: Have you ever changed your opinions, depending on the people you are with?
- Day 16: Does your style (clothing, hair, etc.) change a lot?
- Day 17: What are five of your biggest fears?
- Day 18: Do you worry what people think of you?
- Day 19: What are some lyrics that describe what you’re going through right now?
- Day 20: How do you usually express yourself?
- Day 21: How many people know about your diagnosis?
- Day 22: What’s a random story from your childhood?
- Day 23: How do you think other people see you?
- Day 24: If you could pick one year of your life to give back and start over, which one would it be?
- Day 25: What’s one thing you wish non-borderlines could understand?
- Day 26: Name three fictional characters you relate to.
- Day 27: Do you have any bad habits?
- Day 28: Do you consider yourself high-functioning or low-functioning?
- Day 29: If your mind was a house, what would the house look like?
- Day 30: What is your “safe place” when you are upset? (This can also be a person.)
- Day 31: Post a picture of yourself and tell us your story.