What I talk about when I talk about borderline personality disorder


I want to tell you about the best thing that ever happened to me.

Almost exactly one year ago, I was having a very hard time.

I’d been able to manage my moods publicly and live despite depression for years, but I was very, very tired.

Somehow, though, I convinced myself to go to the mental health crisis centre.

I talked to staffer after staffer until finally I was in a room with a psychiatrist and two of his students.

“Have you ever heard of borderline personality disorder?” he asked after about 30 minutes of questions on the cycling of my moods, my interpersonal history, my family medical history, the specifics of my suicidal thoughts that day.

He left the room to get me referral forms for a day-hospital program and I Googled it.

“Shit,” I believe I said. “My parents have this.”

“I have this.”

My vague recollections from Intro Psych included something about possible psychosis and “crazy bitch syndrome.”

Some people do have those symptoms, but that’s not really me — even though I’m TEXTBOOK borderline.

It’s more like … emotional overload.

I’m never happy. I’m ECSTATIC, GIDDY or BLISSFUL.

What might irritate a normal person INFURIATES me.

The line between “a bad day” and a black hole of despair is painfully thin.

Sometimes after the feelings, I get a feelings hangover. Anhedonia. The colour removed for the world, for days, weeks, months if it was intense enough.

The patron saint of borderlines, Marsha Linehan, described it thusly: “People with BPD are like people with third-degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.”

Now that I’m feeling better, though, I don’t think of it in such negative terms.

Everyone has a double-edged superpower, and mine is the ability to experience the world in technicolour.

My readings of people are never superficial.

I can slip in between versions of myself guilelessly as the situation requires.

I am a master placater who always knows exactly how to push someone’s buttons … if need be.

So eventually the diagnosis got me into a day-hospital program, five days a week for five weeks.

All my life I had felt like an alien trying to collect enough data on how humans worked to pretend to be one.

But suddenly I was in a room full of aliens. MY PEOPLE. I hadn’t known they were out there, had no map to get me back to my home planet but neither did they, until they put us in a room and gave us that map and we helped each other learn how to use it. No feeling will ever compare to the realization that there are people just like me; so many of them, in fact, that I now find them everywhere I go. Alien-dar.

The world stopped being a funhouse mirror that day, the day I was handed the correct calibrations to fix my view, the language to use to put words on my distortions.

Still besieged by life event after life event after life event, I now knew how to tread water.

Not every day has been amazing since then. I stumble, I fall back, but now I have this hope that was never there before. That, quite frankly, wouldn’t have been possible without putting a Very Bad Label squarely on my forehead.


needs more about stigma, badness of bpd, technically what it is etc. underlying point is badness of diagnosis vs. goodness of diagnosis = same difference



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