Growing up with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) resulted in scarce, jumbled memories of my childhood. Every moment was saturated in intense emotion. Facts, people, and events are difficult to recall. I remember life as how I perceived it as a child, filled with false beliefs, interpretations and assumptions. As a young girl, I was consumed with sadness, rage, and confusion daily. I literally felt like I was up against the entire world by myself. I assumed most teachers disliked me, I believed my peers thought I was weird, and I was convinced that my family’s collective goal was to make me miserable. I lived my life constantly distracted. I buried my head in books when I walked the hallways at school so I wouldn’t have to face my classmates. Books were my gateway to a different person and different life. Most days when I got home from school, I locked myself in my room and cried for hours. I didn’t know why I was crying, but I remember always hoping that someone would come in my room and comfort me. No one ever did, which made me even more upset. Each day, I spent hours pouring my emotions into my journal. I personified my journal and she became my closest confidant and main source of comfort. I kept a collection of over 20 journals in a large box until I realized the pages only contained painful memories and I threw them all away. Each page crinkled from tears, torn from angry pen scribbling, and had unhappy faces drawn on the covers of each notebook.
One of the symptoms of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) I experience is unstable relationships. Many of my unstable relationships stemmed from my concepts of myself and others as “all good” or “all bad,” also known as overvaluing and devaluing. As a child (and even still as an adult), I subconsciously overvalued and devalued people. I had teachers who were angels sent from heaven to be shining lights of perfection. I also had teachers who were terrible monsters, resolute to cause my suffering. My parents were distant god-like figures who were tyrannical, frightening and omniscient. I believed that my bratty, petulant little sister was the source of all my problems. However, my perfect, intelligent older brother could do nothing wrong. Growing up, I held erroneous and damaging beliefs about myself that I conjectured from what I thought was my parents’ and others’ views of me. I convinced myself I was a “bad” child. I never expressed this belief to anyone, so I knew nothing else.
I grew up in a rather strict Christian household. I knew what the Bible said about God’s love for his children and that Jesus died so I would be able to go to heaven. But the idea of a God who loves me despite my imperfections didn’t make sense to me. Either I’m perfect and God loves me, or I’m bad and God hates me. I chose to believe the latter, because I couldn’t understand the former.
A child with Borderline is one of the most fragile human beings, and I was one of them-unbeknownst to my well-meaning parents. I believe there are cases when spanking is necessary and beneficial. However, I’m describing my personal experience, which was very different from my siblings. One of the most distressing experiences in my childhood was my dad spanking me. As a child, I never understood why I was being spanked, and I couldn’t recall what I did wrong. I never asked because I thought I knew the answer. I genuinely believed my parents disliked me and wanted to humiliate and hurt me. I thought that I was a terrible child. I felt humiliated, misunderstood, and neglected from a young age. I held inside a deep hatred for my parents that I never told anyone or expressed for fear of more punishment. I thought it was wrong of me to hate my parents, which is why I thought that God hated me even more.
As an adult, I have stable, loving, and understanding relationships with my parents and my siblings, but it took me years to heal from the pain of feeling hurt and neglected. God is still working in me so I can completely forgive those who unintentionally caused me pain.
Another symptom I experience from an early age was unstable self-image. I remember in elementary school feeling like a different person every week. One week I was the nice, sweet care-free girl, then the sporty, tom-boy, skateboarder, then the quiet, goth girl who only wore black, then the nerdy bookworm, then the flirty girly-girl who wore too much lip gloss. This constant shifting was a source of confusion and frustration for me. I envied my peers who seemed much more self-assured in who they were than I was. As a young adult, my self-image issues have intensified as I face more critical life decisions such as college, relationships and jobs.
Another symptom I struggle with is suicidal thoughts. When I was in fifth grade, I cut for the first time. I reasoned that since I was feeling badly, I should hurt myself. I found that I didn’t feel better afterwards, but I tried a few other times in the future because I was feeling suicidal. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I distinctly remember the first time I ever wrote down in my journal my desire to die. I wouldn’t dare tell anyone about my secret wish, but writing it down was a huge step of admitting it to myself. I thought that no one cared about me anyway, and my life wouldn’t get better so why continue? These thoughts and desires scared me and I didn’t know how to get rid of them. I felt like I was screaming for help, but couldn’t get out a single word. I wanted reassurance from someone that I wasn’t crazy or a terrible person for feeling that way. But I kept everything inside.
When you struggle with mental illness, it’s easy to feel alone. Feeling stuck in your own thoughts, fears, and anxiety, it can seem like a prison you can’t escape from. I’ve been feeling alone and misunderstood since I was a child. However, as an adult, I’ve learned that no matter what I’m going through I’m never truly alone. It helps to know that there are others who feel the same way as I do. I’ve met some amazing, strong, and determined women in my group therapy that inspire me to keep fighting even when I can’t see to the next day. It’s taken many years, but I finally feel like I can ask for help when I’m struggling and see the strength in reaching out. There’s a huge difference between someone who has resources and doesn’t use them, and someone who has resources and uses them. I’ve created a support system around me of people who care deeply about my well-being and want to know how I’m doing. I’m blessed to know that I always have at least one person to turn to when I need it. These wonderful people (you know who you are!) surround me with love, compassion, and acceptance every day. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidality, I encourage you to reach out to someone and you might be surprised by the results.
“Share in each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2