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.

When You Have Intrusive Suicidal Thoughts

I was going through my Facebook memories yesterday morning and saw that two years ago I was having unwanted passive suicidal thoughts. I remember that day quite vividly. I was happy with my life but battling to maintain stability. I was fighting off a bipolar mixed episode and adjusting to a new dosage of my medication, Seroquel. My dosage was lowered and I was struggling. Every time my medications get a dosage tweak, my bipolar goes haywire. I can recognize the signs of mania and depression, and I can feel when an episode is starting but I don’t know how to stop them. It’s like the roller coaster in my head has gone out of control and I’m strapped in, going along for the ride. My borderline acts up too but it’s not as disruptive as my bipolar. I’m straying off topic here, sorry about that…

At the time, I was up and down multiple times in a day. I was hyper and feeling on top of the world one minute, then losing my cool over miniscule things like spilling sink water on myself. I was trying to maintain a level headedness, I was using my DBT skills. Everything I said or did was to the extreme though and it was frustrating. I had been struggling for a while with intrusive suicidal thoughts, and as my Seroquel dosage lowered the thoughts became more frequent. It was like my brain was trying to kill me. I didn’t want to have these thoughts, I didn’t want to die, I wanted to live. I was happy with my life and my family. But this little voice in my head kept whispering horrible thoughts to me and I couldn’t shut it up. I beat myself up a lot in my head for even having the thoughts cross my mind. Why would I want to kill myself when I was happy?

On that day a few years ago, I was being plagued by that damned little voice in my head which was telling me to slit my wrists. I was cutting a bagel for my son to have for breakfast and I hear in my head, “Do it. Cut your wrist and watch the blood flow.” I started crying, continuing to cut the bagel and proceeding to toast it for my son. At the time, I was over a year clean from cutting and quite proud of that. I didn’t want to hurt myself, especially not when my children were present! I became angry with myself for having that thought, and grew quiet. My children noticed and asked me what was wrong. I insisted it was nothing for them to worry about, and served them breakfast. I tried to distract myself with housework but everywhere I went, that stupid little voice whispered a different way for me to die. Determined to stay positive and maintain composure, I began cleaning my kitchen. I had left a bottle of tylenol on the counter from taking some earlier that morning for my fibro pain, and as I picked up the bottle and went to return it to the medicine cabinet that same little voice in my head said to me “Down them. Just take them all and go to sleep.” AHHHH WTF BRAIN?! I reacted by dropping the bottle on the floor, recoiling in horror as if the bottle was a spider. I phoned my husband at work, scared and crying, looking for advice. He suggested I have a self care day, and do things that made me feel good. So I went to the store to buy some snacks, and came home. I ran myself a bubble bath and even though the little voice told me to drown myself, I forced myself to relax.

All that day, I focused on doing things that made me happy. I stayed close to my kids and played games with them, I played World of Warcraft while they had quiet time, I ate sushi, melon salad, drank hot chocolate, and listened to upbeat music. I was determined to outsmart my own brain. I was determined to survive. I phoned my psychiatrist’s office and spoke to a nurse about my unwanted suicidal thoughts, she was very nice and supportive. I managed to get a telehealth appointment (it’s like Skype but for medical appointments) for the next day. My psychiatrist bumped my Seroquel to a higher dosage and almost immediately after starting the new dosage, my intrusive suicidal thoughts disappeared.

I stayed at that dosage for over a year, and during that time I didn’t have anymore intrusive suicidal thoughts. I’m on different medications now, I had to make some changes to treat my postpartum depression and anxiety. I still haven’t had any suicidal thoughts, and I am extremely grateful for that. There was a time in my life where I was actively suicidal; I am a survivor of two attempts. That was in my teens. My children and husband give me a reason to wake up each and every day, I want to live.

It’s utterly terrifying to experience passive suicidal ideation in the form of intrusive thoughts. The feeling when you can’t trust your own brain, which controls your whole body, is a feeling I don’t wish on anyone. When you’re having thoughts of suicide and you don’t want them, don’t listen to them. Fight for your life. I’m extremely thankful that I ignored that little voice. I’m grateful that I have a supportive husband. I love the life and family I have, and consider myself very lucky. I get to wake up next to the love of my life every morning, we have three wonderful children together. The fact that I was passively suicidal at a time in my life when I was happy is downright scary. I didn’t want to die yet my brain kept telling me to kill myself.

I’m speaking out about my experience with this for suicide awareness and prevention. I am not in danger, I am relatively stable, and of sound mind. I am in the throes of a depressive episode but I’m aware of it and managing it to the best of my ability. I understand that speaking out about being suicidal may cause people to judge me, and for those that know me to look at me differently, and I am alright with that. I am not doing this for attention, I am doing this because it may help someone else. Please, if you have thoughts of suicide, TELL SOMEONE. Don’t bottle it up inside, don’t be ashamed, and don’t face it alone. Your mind is playing tricks on you. You matter. Your life matters. You are loved and you are important. Don’t make permanent decisions based on fleeting thoughts and temporary feelings. Please. To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world. Your existence on this planet makes a difference whether you see it or not.