The Borderline Battle

I’m stable but I’m struggling, if that makes any sense. My bipolar disorder is stable, but now my borderline personality disorder is raging. I’m battling with myself constantly, trying to stay level but it’s getting harder to do so. At the moment, I am level. I feel logical and rational, but that won’t last for long. One part of my BPD will rear its ugly little head, and say “Oh hey, I heard you thought you were fine. Let me reassure you that you aren’t, because I’m here.” There are nine symptoms of BPD, and lately I’ve been experiencing all of the symptoms. I’m going to try to explain these nine symptoms, and how they manifest within me.

  1. Fear of Abandonment. Real or imagined, people with BPD have a fear of abandonment and will make frantic efforts to avoid it. I have this intense fear that my husband will leave me, even though he reassures me on a daily basis that he isn’t going anywhere. Why can’t I accept what he says? I don’t have an answer for that. I believe him, so why does my brain keep insisting that one day he will get fed up with me and decide to leave? It’s an irrational thought and I know that, but I can’t stop being afraid of him leaving. I’ve been with my husband over 10 years now, and they’ve been the best 10 years of my life. You’d think I would feel secure in my relationship by now. I’m not, though and it sucks because my insecurities cause a ripple effect in my relationship, which makes it unstable at times. And that brings me to the next symptom…
  2. Unstable Relationships. My relationship with my husband is relatively stable. Our relationship seems perfect, we rarely ever fight. My friendships are pretty stable as well. I have a history of rocky relationships, both platonic and romantic. Lately my BPD has been acting up, and it is causing arguments between me and my husband. I’ll split (switching between idealization and devaluation) on myself or him, my moods will flip, and I’ll start fights. For no good reason. I can only imagine what he’s thinking and feeling when this happens, it must be like an emotional whiplash. Not just for him, but also for me. I usually end up splitting on myself, because I feel I am a bad person for starting an argument and taking it out on my husband. Splitting is a common occurrence with me, and I’m not alone as it’s fairly common in people with BPD. I’ll explain more about splitting later.
  3. Unclear or Shifting Self Image. I’ve struggled with knowing who I am for most of my life. My sense of self has typically been unstable. For the most part, I think of myself as a loving, supportive, good person. However, I tend to experience splitting on myself and all it takes is making a simple mistake for me to split and all of a sudden I hate myself. I will think that I’m a horrible person who doesn’t deserve love. I don’t have a clear picture of my career goals, some days I don’t know who I am or what I want to do with my life. I’m a stay at home mom, and I struggle with it sometimes. I feel like I should have an education and career by my age and I don’t, and it gets to me. I’ll mentally beat myself up over being a housewife and stay at home mom, and it just makes the splitting worse. How do I deal with splitting? I do something impulsive.
  4. Impulsive, Self Destructive Behaviours. Oh boy, where do I begin… I tend to engage in behaviours that are both sensation seeking and harmful, especially when I’m upset or feeling any emotion strongly. I spend money we can’t afford to spend, I have binge eating problems, I text people impulsively. I don’t drink or do drugs, I don’t gamble, I don’t engage in promiscuous sex, I don’t drive recklessly, though many people with BPD tend to struggle with these things on a regular basis. Sometimes I impulsively harm myself, which I’ll get to in just a moment. My impulsiveness has gotten me into trouble more than a few times. There are consequences to my impulsive, self destructive ways. Maxed out credit cards, overdraft and NSF fees, weight gain, self esteem issues, the list goes on. I don’t have many self destructive behaviours but the ones I do have wreak havoc on my life.
  5. Self-harm, Suicidal Behaviour. Deliberate self-harm and suicidal behaviour are common in people with BPD, and I am certainly no exception. I am a survivor of two suicide attempts. Cutting is one form of self harm, and it’s an addiction of mine. I’ve relapsed numerous times over the years, I managed to go 6 years without cutting once. Currently, I’m working towards 10 months clean from cutting. I still get urges to cut, especially when I’m feeling numb, empty, or stressed. Burning is another form of self-harm, though I don’t engage in it. I have been plagued by intrusive suicidal thoughts in the past, and I go through periods of having a preoccupation with suicide and death. I’ve planned my suicide more than once, as a teenager I honestly believed I wouldn’t live past the age of 23. I have a tattoo on my forearm, a semi colon with “This Too Shall Pass” written underneath. It gives me inner strength, and reminds me that no matter how bad life gets, the bad times don’t last forever. Good times will come. They often come sooner than later, as the good and bad times are dictated by my moods.
  6. Extreme Emotional Swings. Volatile mood swings are common with BPD. I can be elated one minute and raging the next, it doesn’t take much to trigger the mood swings. It could be a joke or an innocent remark that triggers my moods to flip and send me into a tailspin. Trying to manage my mood swings is like trying to drive down a twisting and winding road while blindfolded. Though these mood swings are quite intense, they tend to pass fairly quickly. Unlike bipolar disorder, these mood swings last maybe a few minutes or hours. I experience these rapid shifts in mood multiple times in a day, it’s exhausting sometimes. One of the emotions I struggle to manage is my anger.
  7. Explosive Anger. Most people with BPD struggle with having a short temper and inappropriate, intense anger. While my temper is pretty mild, my anger is intense and it isn’t pretty. It takes a lot for my fuse to get lit but once it is, I have trouble controlling myself. I don’t think before talking, I shoot from the hip so to speak. I have a sharp tongue, and I’m also hurtfully blunt. I become severely sarcastic, and snappy. Some people yell, others throw things. Anger isn’t always directed outwards, though. My anger tends to be directed inwards, at myself. I’ll have intrusive thoughts and get extremely angry with myself for having those thoughts. I’ll get upset with myself for procrastinating, or for having fibromyalgia pain which I can’t control. I do have the occasional angry outburst, and it scares me when it does happen. I feel cornered and out of control, it’s a horrible thing to experience. Often times when I experience explosive anger, a switch inside of me flips and all of a sudden I feel nothing, just like an empty shell.
  8. Chronic Feelings of Emptiness. Many people with BPD report feeling empty inside, like there is a void or hole inside them. Some people report feeling frequently bored or numb. I go through periods where I feel empty, like I’m nothing. When I experience drastic mood swings, the aftermath is usually feeling numb. Some people try to fill the void with drugs, alcohol, food, or sex. For me, it’s food. I LOVE FOOD. I binge eat. When I feel empty, I eat as if filling my stomach will make me feel whole again. I’ve really struggled with feeling numb and empty inside since my Mother passed away last October. I tend to dissociate when I feel empty or numb, I think it’s my brain’s way of protecting me.
  9. Paranoia And Dissociation. I’ve read that paranoia is quite common in people with BPD, though I don’t have much experience with it myself. I have lots of experience with dissociation, on the other hand. I space out often, to be honest. I feel out of touch with reality, like I’m not real and what is happening isn’t really happening. It happened when my Mother died, I was dissociating throughout my time in the hospital. I dissociate whenever rape is brought up in conversation, or domestic violence. Sometimes I feel as though I’m outside of my body, it’s really hard to describe the feeling. Whenever I get a piercing, or attend a doctor’s appointment where a physical exam will be happening, I hyper-focus on something in the room and it helps me cope with whatever is happening. I didn’t know this until recently but this is also dissociating, and a self defense mechanism.

Whenever I fight with my husband, I try to remind myself that it isn’t me vs. him, it’s me and him vs. the problem. But then I start to think that I’M the problem, which leads to splitting. SplittingĀ means having difficulty holding opposing thoughts. I’m unable to weigh out the positive and negative attributes of a person or event, I don’t recognize that both good and bad traits can exist at the same time. It’s black and white thinking, all or nothing. Kinda like the Sith in Star Wars. You’re either with me or against me. You put a person, even yourself, on such a high pedestal (idealization). They can do no wrong, everything they say and do is admirable. Then the legs get kicked out and they fall into devaluation, where they’re wrong and bad, and looked at with disdain. Splitting sounds horrible, but it’s actually a way of coping, like a self defense mechanism that people with BPD use as a means to prevent being hurt, or avoiding rejection. I’ll push you away before you can do it to me, sort of thing.

My borderline has been quite active lately, and it is exhausting to manage. I’m a very sensitive person, and normally I can take a joke or teasing. Lately, I’ve been taking everything as a personal attack, which isn’t like me at all. I feel like I’m losing control of myself and I don’t like it. Typically I relate to only 2 or 3 BPD characteristics at a time but this past year I’ve experienced all 9 symptoms, sometimes in the same day or week.

Living with borderline can be nightmarish, because it’s like a never ending cycle of self destruction. All of my symptoms have an overlap, they all work together, against me. My moods will flip, I’ll get intense anger that spirals out of control, I’ll feel ashamed and guilt ridden from losing control, I’ll dissociate and reach for a knife then struggle with myself because I want to cut but don’t want to relapse, and then the emptiness takes over. One symptom triggers another, and so on. When I do relapse, I become terrified that my husband will leave me because I’m crazy and too much for him to handle. I’ll feel ashamed and guilty for giving in, for being weak when I should have been strong. I regret cutting myself every time, it feels great in the moment but that’s short lived. I can’t relapse again. I won’t, I refuse to give in to my addictions.

I need to be strong and fight my BPD, not only for my own sake but for my family’s sake as well. I can’t let my disorder control me. I have three kids, and they’re watching me. They will think that what they’re growing up with is normal, and I have to be mindful of that. I don’t want my kids growing up and having to recover from their childhood. They deserve a mother who is stable, and my husband deserves a stable wife. I’m trying my best to give them that. I’m trying my best for me too, because I deserve stability. I don’t like feeling this way, when my BPD gets the best of me.

Around 80% of people with BPD report a history of suicide attempts. 8-10% of people with BPD die by suicide. I refuse to become part of the latter statistic. I am literally fighting for my life. I want to live. I need to protect myself, from myself. I need to fight on in the never-ending borderline battle.

Living With Multiple Illnesses

Life is hard. It’s difficult to navigate without directions and instructions, you have to figure it out on your own. You can’t follow other’s paths, for their journey is their own. You have your own path to follow, carved by the decisions you make every day. What happens when you’re living with a mental illness? It makes life that much harder. What if you’re living with multiple illnesses? Then things really get interesting. You have to learn to distinguish the differences between your illnesses, and manage them appropriately on top of just existing. Many times, mental illnesses and physical illnesses overlap, exacerbating everyday life.

I live with many physical and psychiatric illnesses. Bipolar disorder 2 rapid cycling with mixed features, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, ADHD, high functioning autism, generalized anxiety, fibromyalgia, early onset psoriatic arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome. That’s to name a few. They make my life hell sometimes. Other times, some of them are like a blessing. It’s a double edged sword to handle, really. Over the years, I’ve noticed and recognized when my illnesses are working together against me. My bipolar and borderline are besties, as are my fibromyalgia and IBS. They hang out a lot, and when they stick around my other conditions come out to play. My ADHD runs rampant when I’m manic, and it makes an appearance during my depressive episodes. It’s always there, it just becomes prominent during episodes. My PTSD is a trickster, it likes to surprise me when I least expect it. My autism is always there, it’s my operating system. I like to say that autism is just a different operating system for the brain, I’m just like everyone else only my wavelength of thought is on a different frequency.

Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. Two illnesses that are commonly diagnosed together and also commonly mistaken for each other. I was diagnosed with both on January 9th, 2012. I knew quite a bit about bipolar disorder but the BPD diagnosis threw me through a loop. I researched my illnesses and read as much as I could about them. Research is one of my obsessions, it’s an autism thing. I felt such relief when I received my diagnoses, it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. For so many years I asked myself “What is wrong with me?”, I had mental illnesses that were unchecked and didn’t know it. No wonder I felt like I was off all the time. I have been on and off medications for over 20 years now (I’m 34 years old), and I feel most like myself when I am on medications. Without meds I feel like Jekyll and Hyde. I can’t control myself, at all. I don’t like how I am without medications and when I saw how it was affecting my marriage and my family, I made the decision to stick with meds. It has taken me a few years to learn the differences between my bipolar and borderline, some days I am left mystified as to which one is causing chaos in my life. It really sucks when both are actively messing with me. At times I can be extremely impulsive, which can be caused by both disorders. Something will set me off, and my moods will flip on me causing me to split on myself, then I become terrified that my husband will leave me because I’m unstable (thanks a lot BPD). The hypomania, I have to admit I love being manic for the most part. I love feeling hyper and happy, and productive. I feel grateful for not being depressed. There is a downside to mania, though and it isn’t pretty. The impulsive out of character behaviour, the rapid mood swings and irritability, the racing thoughts and discombobulation. Not to mention the manic spending sprees, I’m so bad for that. Also there is the inevitable crash into depression that brings anxiety. I never know when the crash will happen so I get anxiety over waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m not a big fan of mixed episodes, which is too bad because I get them on the regular. Mixed episodes are where you get symptoms of both depression and mania at the same time or as part of a single episode. My episodes vary, where I will have mental symptoms of mania and physical symptoms of depression, and vice versa. My depressive episodes are influenced by my fibromyalgia, which is a whole other basket of not so goodies.

My fibromyalgia affects me on a daily basis. I never know how I will feel when I wake up, much like my BPD and bipolar. Some days are worse than others. I can go to sleep feeling happy and fine, and wake up with strong pains radiating throughout my body. The weather seems to influence my fibromyalgia, severe and sudden temperature fluctuations in particular. Flare ups are no walk in the park, they can last for days if not weeks. I noticed over the years that a fibro flare up will almost always cause a bipolar depressive episode. It’s depressing when the weather is nice and you want to go out and enjoy it but your body has other plans. The worst days are when I’m bedridden. During a flare up I’ll have great difficulty walking, getting dressed, and feeding myself. Forget about regular housework. It’s a huge blow to my productivity when a flare up occurs. I’m a housewife and stay at home mom; I keep the household running and when I can’t do it that falls onto my husband’s shoulders, and he already works full time. I feel useless and worthless during flare ups, like I’m a burden to my family and friends. I don’t want my husband to have to come home and do all of my work too, that isn’t fair to him. Then the depression creeps in, and boom. Depressive episode. Some days it gets so bad that my husband has to come home from work and take care of me, which means taking care of our three kids as well since I’m bedridden. It breaks my heart when I am physically unable to pick up my baby and hold him because the arthritis and fibromyalgia in my hands and arms render them useless.

My ADHD is always around, but during episodes it likes to mess with me. It puts a kibosh on my hyperproductivity during manic episodes, it makes me wander around my house aimlessly. I daydream when I should be working, my thoughts race so fast in my head it’s dizzying. As much as I try to stay organized, I horribly fail. It stresses me out when my forgetfulness takes its toll on my household. I’ll get caught up in housework and forget to start dinner. I’ll make shopping lists and forget them at home. I try to multitask and get distracted by something and then forget what I was doing. I get confused between my ADHD and my mania at times, the symptoms are very much alike and it’s hard to differentiate between the two. I’m still learning to do so.

As I mentioned earlier, my PTSD is a trickster. It always catches me off guard, which sucks because I am hyper vigilant. I’ve learned most of my triggers but maybe not all of them. Rape is a big trigger for me, the word itself I find triggering. Rape jokes cause me to dissociate, and give me flashbacks. Domestic violence is another big trigger. It could be brought up in conversation, or I might have come across it on social media, it doesn’t matter. It will trigger flashbacks and nightmares, and panic attacks. It sends me right back to where I was during the sexual abuse in my teens and abusive relationship in my twenties. Usually my PTSD will trigger a bipolar episode, mainly depressive. I never knew how to deal with my trauma, I always just shoved it back to the recesses of my brain and pretend it never happened. But that only worked for so many years, then I started having flashbacks and recurring nightmares. It wasn’t until I told my psychiatrist about them that I was diagnosed with PTSD, and that was just over three years ago. I’ve come a long way since then, I did a lot of research and bought some self help books. I like to think I’m in recovery, and I’m doing well. I have PTSD episodes once in a while but only when I’m triggered.

I fight through my episodes and flare ups, I have to in order to keep my sanity. I can’t give in to the intrusive negative thoughts, it’s too easy to fall into that trap. I keep reminding myself that this too shall pass; I won’t feel this way forever. I will feel better soon. Better days are coming. I remind myself of everything I am grateful for, I keep a gratefulness journal and read through it often for motivation and strength. I distract myself with various activities, depending on my fibro and arthritis and how they affect me. If my hands aren’t hurting I crochet, paint, colour, bake, play World of Warcraft, and type on my laptop. If my hands are useless, I tend to read and watch TV. My children and husband help cheer me up, just by being themselves. My husband is my main support, I would be totally lost without him. He is extremely understanding and sympathetic, and compassionate. He’s there for me through it all whether it’s to hold me through my panic attacks and flashbacks, dress me and feed me when I can’t do it myself, or keep me in check when I’m spending too much. He’s been there for the good, the bad, and the ugly, and still loves me for who I am. He is my hero. My husband is an amazing partner and father to our children. My two oldest children know and understand that sometimes Momma has bad pain days and bad brain days. They will help with the housework (on top of the chores they already do daily) during bad pain/brain days, without argument. They know that I have medical conditions that are debilitating at times, they know what bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia are, as well as ADHD and autism. They also have ADHD and autism, both of them. We’re all high functioning. They are aware that they have those conditions as well. I think it’s important for them to be aware of medical conditions and how they affect people. I believe that their knowledge about my conditions and their own has helped them, in matters of empathy and compassion. My family is close knit, and when one of us is hurting it affects all of us. We all work together, as a unit. My family gives me strength to keep going every day.

Living with multiple illnesses is rough but manageable. I don’t sit and dwell on why I have all of these conditions, I don’t much see a point in doing so. The fact is I have them, and they aren’t going anywhere. There are no cures for my illnesses, I have them for life. I might as well make the best of things and live positively. I can sit and ride on the pity train, stopping at the “Woe Is Me” station, but I would much rather buckle up and enjoy the ride on this roller coaster I call my life. It has its ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes there is a fire, but somehow I always manage to stay on track. If I ever derail, I will pick up the pieces and get myself back on track. I only have one life to live, and this is it.

Dissociation Blues

I feel lost and disconnected. I find myself dissociating frequently, on a daily basis. I don’t want to feel this way, I want to feel happy but I know I can’t be happy all the time. I have to let myself feel the full spectrum of emotions, even the painful and negative ones. At the very least, acknowledge them and wait for them to pass. “This too shall pass.” It doesn’t take long for my moods to shift, between my bipolar and my borderline I have frequent episodes. If I were to plot out my ups and downs on paper, it would resemble the heartbeat of a squirrel stuck in traffic. This is what I’m like without medications. That being said, I’m on medications so I know it isn’t that. This is grief. This is depression. This is anxiety.

I live with depression and anxiety, I’m no stranger to them. This grief thing though, it’s really messing with me. Normally I am scatterbrained but now it’s just ridiculous. I spent ten minutes of my suppertime the other evening walking back and forth repeatedly from the dining room to the kitchen, all because I kept forgetting what I got up for and remembering what I needed once I got back to my chair. You wouldn’t believe how much time I waste in a day by being forgetful. I can pace around my house for hours, aimlessly looking in each room and wondering where to start and what to do. This is what I mean by feeling lost. It’s both frustrating and depressing to live like this.

I lose myself in almost anything lately. It’s like I’m mindfully avoiding the emptiness by distracting myself. I spend all hours with my baby during the day, exploring with him and playing. I tend to shirk my housewifely duties altogether, sadly. I don’t want or mean to, it just happens. There are countless days where my husband will come home from work to find me playing with baby, the house is a mess, and dinner hasn’t even been started. Thankfully, my husband is extremely understanding and helps me get back on track.

Last week was rough. I felt detached from my body, as if I were floating above myself like a balloon. I was there, but not all there. I went through the motions of cooking and cleaning without a thought process, and made the silliest mistakes. I kept telling my family and friends that I wasn’t feeling like myself and that I was dissociating, and while they sympathized I don’t think they fully understood. I stirred soup with a ladle instead of a whisk, I zoned out during conversations, I went speechless when I should have used my words, I stood around watching everyone else go about their day with a blank stare on my face. I drifted around my house and had urges to clean the bathroom when I should have been making pizza dough. I would confuse myself trying to be productive, which is actually counter productive. I felt myself slipping into dissociation and nothing I did could stop it. I noticed the signs but was helpless to help myself.

How do I stop myself from dissociating? That is a very good question. First, I have to recognize that I am indeed dissociating. Sometimes I don’t and it will continue for hours. When I do recognize it, I take note of what I am thinking and feeling. I use grounding techniques, mindfulness, music, and meditation. I go barefoot to feel my feet touching the ground. I wash my hands to feel the water and soap bubbles. I hug my children and feel their warmth. Lots of feels. Feeling things helps put me back together, so to speak. Music helps keep me from floating away in my mind, I have music playing for at least a few hours during the day. Usually I end up dancing, which lightens my mood and keeps me grounded. Mindfulness helps me a lot too. I get so lost trying to multitask around the house, mindfully doing one thing at a time is both relaxing and grounding. I’ll talk to myself and describe what I see, hear, feel, touch, smell or taste. Sometimes none of the above works, and that’s okay too. This too shall pass. I won’t feel this way forever, it will go away soon enough. I don’t give up when my techniques fail, I endure and persevere. I will keep reminding myself of where I am, what I see and what I’m doing. I will never give up on myself.

My husband is a huge help, he’s always there for me. He will walk with me through the fog with gentle reminders and supportive words. He helped me make myself a routine so I don’t wander around aimlessly during the day. I have to keep busy or else my mind wanders outside my body. It’s difficult to stick to my routine but I am trying my best and that’s what matters. I have alarms on my phone to help me too, and I am mindfully not dismissing them. Alarms for waking up, taking my meds, waking up the kids, doing my morning routine, making supper, etc. Every one of them has a purpose, and that is to keep me on track. I even have alarms to go to bed. It’s important for me to have a regular sleep cycle, because I have chronic insomnia and my insomnia affects my bipolar disorder. Insomnia and hypomania go hand in hand, for me anyways. I have to manage my illnesses so I can be stable for myself and my family. They depend on me, and I can’t let them down. I have to keep going, and to do that I need to fight the dissociation blues. I can do anything if I put my mind to it, if I believe in myself. I can do this. If I can weather the storms in my mind, I can enjoy the rainbow that eventually follows. If I can I will, and if I can’t, I’ll keep on trying.