Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is complicated to diagnose because the symptoms are often mimicked in teenagers going through identity crises and rebellious phases. Usually, these problem behaviors and thinking patterns eventually dissipate. I realized I was not going through a rebellious teenager phase when I was in my early twenties and felt like my brain was being controlled by an internal self-destructive monster.
My journey to getting a formal diagnosis of Borderline took 21 years. Throughout my childhood I experienced unstable relationships, chronic feelings of emptiness, unstable self-image, intense emotions, and fear of abandonment. I thought every kid cried themselves to sleep at night. I thought every kid wanted to die sometimes, even if they had no idea why. I thought life was just as miserable for everyone as it was for me.
From a young age, I secluded myself fearing rejection from people. I lacked adequate social skills. At age 13, I became massively depressed from socially isolating myself. I would lie in bed all day, eating Nutella and watching “The Office” episodes on my laptop. I wouldn’t shower for days and I wanted to die. After almost 2 years of this, I decided I wasn’t going to allow depression to ruin my life anymore. I started exercising regularly and was accepted into a performing arts high school as a theater major.
Theater became my way of slowly building social skills with people who had a common interest with me. Acting also served as an outlet to express my intense emotions. My life was starting to get better for the first time in a while. I was starting to make friends and I wasn’t depressed anymore.
Growing up, I was the “goody two shoes” pastor’s daughter who never did anything bad. I was terrified of falling into sin, so I took extreme measures to shelter myself. I refused to talk about or participate in anything “sinful” and refuses to be around people who did. I never did anything impulsive. When I turned 18, everything I did was impulsive. I started sleeping with strangers, driving recklessly, telling off my parents, and developed an eating disorder.
One of my many impulsive decisions that I made as a young adult was to join the army. I joined because I had been acting out for a year or 2 and parents decided not to co-sign my student loans. I believed college was the only thing going for me at that time. I desperately needed financial support to go. When I found out the army would pay for my college, I ignored all precautions and signed an 8 year contract with a recruiter two weeks later.
The army was not a good decision for me. They verbally abuse the soldiers to break down the individual so they can build them up as a unified group. The problem is, they do nothing to build the soldiers up. I suffered through anxiety attacks daily and would have suicidal thoughts upon waking in the morning.
After a suicide attempt I had 5 months into my army training, I was hospitalized in Texas. I received a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, and Borderline symptoms. I remember hearing a psychiatrist use the word “Borderline” to describe me and I immediately reeled. I collapsed into a violent crying tantrum. I yelled, “How dare they even suggest I have Borderline Personality Disorder! That’s so insulting!” My outburst earned me a lonely 24 hours in the isolation room. During my hospital stay, I read a few books on Borderline including I Hate You-Don’t Leave Me, Get Me Out of Here, and The Buddha and The Borderline. Most of it upset me because the people in the books sounded crazy and I was NOT crazy like them. When I was discharged from the hospital and the Army, I immediately had another suicide attempt that landed me back in the hospital. I continued to reject any possibility of BPD.
A year past after my suicide attempt and I continued to behave in self-destructive ways. My severe lack of coping skills under stress shocked me. I couldn’t ignore the truth any longer. There was something else going on. Slowly, the reality that I might have BPD sank in. I felt relief because much of my life began to make sense. I was also heartbroken and felt I was irreversibly broken. I decided to enter into a therapy program specifically designed for people with BPD called Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT). I’ve been in this therapy for about two months, which is where I find myself now. From before I began DBT to now, I’ve grown and learned so much. With this blog, I hope to share practical coping skills to deal with BPD symptoms. In future posts, I will address prevalent symptoms of BPD and how we can cope using both a Dialectical and Biblical approach.