Published in Mental Health - 4 mins to read

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about borderline personality disorder, and what it means to me. I’m getting closer to someone and I feel like I’m going to have to have a conversation with them about it at some point soon, and I’ve been trying to work out what exactly I’m going to say; to me it’s such a large, complex topic that I have so many thoughts and feelings on, I haven’t figured out what I’m going to boil it down to yet.

My last therapist frequently suggested that a valuable tool in managing my own mental health in the long term was going to be for me to do my own reading and research, and to engage with my issues proactively myself, rather than by taking the more passive (and expensive) route of constantly going to therapy. Now I have a little more free time, given I’ve found a flat and I have no big races coming up, I thought I would put some effort into doing what she suggested, and to try and make working on my mental health more like a hobby than a chore. To that end, I watched a few videos on the BorderlinerNotes Youtube channel, which is rather American for my tastes - referring to people with a BDP diagnosis as “borderliners” seems a very American thing, and I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I like it. In my head it sounds like I’m some kind of ruffian or outlaw, living on the borderline of society, or perhaps some kind of ethereal traveller from a sci-fi novel, capable of flitting between dimensions by walking their border lines. Anyway, I digress.

I watched one video in particular, a “psychiatric interview” between a therapist and a borderliner, and it really stuck with me. I’ve seen my fair share of people talking about borderline on social media, and I’ve never felt like anyone has done justice to my experience with it, to its persistence and pervasiveness, but the lady in the video does. My experience is different to hers in some small ways, but almost everything she said resonated with me, and I think it’s the most authentic representation of BPD I’ve seen on the internet. Obviously it was very difficult for me to watch, to know that at times that might be how I appear to the people close to me. The way she unrelentingly beats herself up and apologises for her mere existence is painfully familiar and jarring in the extreme to see in someone else. The way she clearly battles between understanding rationally everything that she is doing but feeling powerless emotionally to stop it. Her extreme reluctance to admit she has a problem with alcohol because she knows it’s one of the few things that will quiet her mind. Her saying that her life would be easier and better without romantic relationships, or indeed relationships at all. Her intense fear of ever becoming angry, as she knows she’d completely lose control in that situation. Pointing out that she’s already had so much therapy, what would be the point in having more. All of it is alarmingly similar to the kind of thing that swirls around in my brain too.

Overall, the thing that struck me and that I found particularly true to my experience was simply how tired she seemed of the whole thing. She was totally exhausted by it, and resigned to things always being that way, and I feel very similarly. With BPD it seems like you need to make a huge effort to make a small change, and it’s hard to repeatedly buy into that.

In the days since watching it at the weekend, I had panicked a bit. I saw so much of myself in that lady, I wondered if she was me, if there really was no opportunity for me to improve beyond the stage I am at, because she seemed so smart and like she’d tried so hard to get better. Part of me definitely does feel like that, but I do have some hope that I can get to a better place than her. I’ve never had the same kind of destructive anger that she describes (possibly I am just better at burying it than her though), I am acutely aware of the nature of stereotypical borderline relationships and so do everything I can to avoid them, and I have made a conscious effort to build a sense of self that doesn’t centre around a romantic partner or other people in general.

I think re-examining all this, and my feelings around it all, has been a great exercise, even if it freaked me out quite a bit. I do want to do everything I can do keep improving, even if that does require a huge effort for only a small change. And engaging with this kind of raw reality of borderline is going to be a big part of that.