My Personal Borderline Personality Disorder Story

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***Please Note***

Before you read further I want you to realize that this page was developed with the concern of other Borderlines, their friends and family members who want to learn more about the disorder in mind. BPD is definitely one of the least understood disorders. The initials are commonly misinterpreted to be BiPolar depression. Pure BPD does not include depression. The "borderline" name comes from the observation that BPD people have natures on the border between neurosis and psychosis. It is an emotional illness.

In the following paragraphs, I speak frankly about my experience with Borderline Personality Disorder. If you are critical, or tend to find fault with people with disabilities, read no further. Click hereto go to my home page.

The events that led up to my hospitalization in 1974 are unclear, and what I do remember, I don't like to discuss. I do know that when I was finally released (or did I escape?) from the hospital, I was divorced and lost custody of my daughter because of the hospitalization. Despite all that court talk I never heard a diagnosis mentioned. Of course after I lost custody I kidnapped her back, but that's another story.

I feel one of the reasons I never advanced beyond the symptoms for which I was hospitalized is that I was never provided a diagnosis. If I had, perhaps I could have received therapy. At the very least, I would have known the reason for my strange behavior, and maybe found a way to harness it. I don't know if the hospital staff withheld the diagnosis from me thinking I would grown out of being borderline, or thought that if I didn't know I was borderline I wouldn't act borderline. Whatever it was, it left me no room for improvement, and twenty years is a long time for a wayward personality to become concrete.

In 1975 I left the hospital in Boston, and moved to Florida. When I had Manda (my daughter) I worked for the Miami Herald 's West Palm Beach bureau as a writer. I had my own "Happenings" column and a by-line which couldn't be my real name, since I was in hiding. Eventually I moved back to Naples and went to carpentry school. After carpentry school I got a job and married the boss. Well, it didn't happen quite that fast. We had our ups and downs.

A week before I met him I turned my motorcycle in for a Gremlin. I frequented the beer bars and played pool. I had a few boyfriends, simultaneously, thought nothing of having sex, and at night I would cut words into my arms, and with the blood I would write the words on my wall. I had other psychotic episodes and other strange behavior. This is what Jim walked into that Thanksgiving time in 1978. I was 28, he was 48, and Manda was 8. Jim and I lived together on and off until 1982 when our son was born, and in 1984 we got married.

In 1994 some of the psychotic activity returned, and with the help of a friend, I was able to obtain the hospital papers from the Boston State Hospital. The discharge diagnosis read: 1) psychotic depressive reaction 2) borderline personality.

I had never heard of Borderline Personality so I started researching the subject. In 1995 I also started seeing a therapist, but neither he or I mentioned borderline, even after I got the papers and read the books. Halfway into therapy I responded to a "real or perceived" abandonment issue and reacted with "borderline rage." A week or two after that I found John G. Gunderson's Borderline Personality Disorder and when I read that book I knew I was dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder. I ended therapy shortly after that, seeing therapy as being too long and too expensive, and for the most part useless. I don't know if my therapist ever knew a borderline before.

I've been able to make adjustments to my life based on the knowledge I gained reading the books. I've copied the DSM criteria for BPD into the space below and I'm going to try to respond to each one, as honestly as I can, as to how each criteria "symptom" effects my life at this time.

* frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment

This is a BIG one. There is a panic that enters my body when I lose my car in a parking lot, lose my husband at a flea market, or learn that a good friend is going on vacation. I get a sick feeling when someone close arrives late, or when I am suppose to be somewhere and arrive late. The same panicky feeling comes when my plans fall through (like, what will I do now!?) I have my "Major Objects" (see Gunderson) and any changes related to those items (a person, place or situation) can and usually do create chaos in my attitude and thought activity. This altered thought activity has been referred to as "autistic thinking". We take "drastic efforts" to maintain our major objects, and when that fails, we go into the protection modes of autistic thinking and disassociation.

* a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation

It is nearly impossible for me to form friendships. On the other hand, once I do form a relationship, it becomes the most important thing in my life, a so-called major object. It has been said that there is no gray area in a borderline's relationships. It has also been said that borderline people forget the friendship when the friend is gone, forget they are loved when the lover is gone. Borderlines don't really know how to miss somebody. Life in general and people in particular always seem markedly temporary. To understand this it helps to understand that friend, lover and confidant are seperate job descriptions. I think I usually miss or remember the lover the most, or maybe exclusively, because that was the most vividly alive part of the relationship.

I think this is where control fits in. My need for control may have developed as a child surviving amid alcoholics. These days the only way I feel safe is if I am in, or feel in control. It is probably for this reason I have trouble with authority figures. I often manipulate to gain control, and then crash when I loose that control. Knowing this happens doesn't help. I don't plan it. It just happens

My idealization and devaluation is more like black and white thinking. Suicide is the ultimate example of black and white thinking. It's all or nothing. All good or all bad. These days I can idealize and devalue at the same time. This is also sometimes called splitting


* identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self, impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)

I'm too poor to splurge on spending and I have this rule that when my size 12 jeans don't fit, I stop eating until they do. I don't drive recklessly, although I do usually drive fast, and I sure don't need a ticket and higher insurance rates. I can drink myself into a haze to numb inner turmoil, and I know I can get quickly into trouble sexually, but none of these are marked and persistent. I find that I am able to maintain my "sense of self" by being referring to myself, and having others refer to me in a specific manner. I have a distinct style of dressing (jeans), and I insist being called by my name Sandy. Not Sandra, not Sister, not Mrs., not Ms. It's like if somebody uses a term other than Sandy, they are not talking to or dealing with the real me.

I loose myself at times, and then I like to be left alone. I just don't seem to fit into any situation. Like I said, my self abusive actions are cutting, drinking alcohol and inappropriate sex.

* recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior

Again a big issue in the past, less now. I do think of suicide whenever something goes wrong, but because of my religion I don't make plans. It was a suicide attempt that got me hospitalized in 1974. However, I do have the underlying feeling that my eventual death will be by suicide. I can relate to one ACOAs remark about suicidal behavior: "Most people, when they get a flat tire on the highway call Triple A. I call the suicide hotline." With BPs it's the black/white thinking. Everything is either fine, or horrible.

Borderlines have a very short tolerance for their own inefficiencies, and well as those of others. I ordered a birthday gift on ebay, and needed it by Monday, the 14th. Because it was a Monday, I kept a constant watch on the mailbox, except for a short trip to WalMart to take our son to work. When the mailbox was still empty at 1 pm., I called the post office, only to find the mailman had finished and gone home. I went back to WalMart and bought a replacement gift, then went directly to the birthday party. When I got home I emailed the seller and got a tracking number. The tracking number reported it had been delivered at 11:28 that morning. The mailman had come at 11:28 (during our first trip to WalMart) and left the box to the right of our front foor. Because we almost always use the back door, and because I go out the front door and turn left to get the mail, and that day I picked up a beer in our front yard so I took it directly to the back of the house, I never noticed the box on the right hand side of the front door. All my fault, my stupdity, my innefficienty. I was devestated!

I respond to some situations with self-mutilating behavior. Usually the situation involves some loss of control. Sometimes it comes in response to finding or controlling myself. I figure that if nothing else, I can bleed. I do it neatly, do not leave marks or scars (anymore) and I do find satisfaction in this action. Sometime alcohol will relieve or replace the need to cut. The house elves in Harry Potter, particularly Dobby, showed a good example of borderline self abuse.

I'm going to make a feeble attempt to explain this need to self injure. Have you ever had a bad itch, like poison ivy, that you just have to keep itching. I have. I recently had one ankle itch so bad that I took the heel of my shoe and itched it as we drove along in the car. I itched it so hard I scraped all the skin off. The wound was so bad it was scabed over for weeks. But it didn't hurt when I did it; it did help relieve the itch.

Well, borderline emotional pain is like that. When we experience rejection, or abandonment, or change, it hurts inside so bad that we have to do something to soothe that pain. We can't itch it, we can't rub it or massage it away, so we self injure to help take our minds off it.

Now, I know you'll wonder how simple abandonemnt, rejection or change can hurt that much, and I'll tell you that that is what being borderline is all about.

* affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood

I can act perfectly fine one minute, see or hear something and turn into an absolute monster. I turn into a monster when people raise their voices. Television shows can trigger intense feelings of hate, anger and sometimes psychosis. Arguing, shouting, and abusive scenes send raging emotions through my body and mind. Songs on the radio can also trigger changes in my mood. One wrong word or action in a church service can turn me against the speaker and maybe even make me hate the whole church (black and white thinking). I've left church many times with the intention of never returning, or worse.

* chronic feelings of emptiness

Left alone, I am nothing. I have to have familiar radio or internet or some activity to keep me focused. I don't like television, maybe because I don't know the words. Do the feeling of worthlessness come in here? The feelings of being a failure, hopeless, evil, wrong, useless, unworthy?

* inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger

This is known as Borderline Rage, and I mentioned it in a previous subject. My anger is intense and sudden. I kick and fight or verbal attack as if it were to death. I don't care if I am hurt, I don't care who I hurt. Once that switch is thrown, I turn into a short term terrorist. I hope I'm never holding a knife or gun when this anger attacks. This doesn't happen frequently, and is usually confined to within the family.

* transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

When the emptiness or abandonment gets out of control, I often dissociate. I loose touch with my surroundings, voices around me appear tunneled. Events that happen around me seem like events in a dream. People don't usually notice because they are involved in something else, and it is this situation of exclusion or abandonment that brings this on. Sometimes I feel unwhole - like parts of me go away when in the presence of "unestablished" acquaintenances. I become opaque to myself and I feel false or fraudulent. I run on autopilot, and hope I don't seem too aloof. Ironically, I do better, feel stronger and more connected when I communicate to a group of people, strangers or not. Does this make sense?

Once day our car broke down so we had to take a borowed car over to get it, then drive both cars home. I got to drive our car, but about half way home I had to go to the bathroom - really bad! I was right behind my husband's car, and we were stopped at a light, so I pulled ino the passing lane and passed him and I was sure he would notice me turning into Eckerd, but he didn't. He kept going and I went to the bathroom in Eckerd. When I came out, I was alone. He was gone. I had no idea how to get home. So sort of panicked, sort of disassociated, and I drove, and drove, and drove, for hours, thinking it would serve him right for me to get lost becasue he didn't pay attention, he abandoned me. He had a cell phone with him, I could have called. But that never crossed my mind, until I regained my sanity. I eventually made it home that night, and we never talked about it again.

Now, I don't know if this is BP or not, but I'm mentioning it because I want to know if other BPs have anything similar.

At night, always in bed, sometimes when I'm awake, sometimes in the middle of a deep sleep, a sensation resembling a chill or electrical current will start at the top of my head, run down or through my body and stop at my feet with a feeling that somebody is squeezing both feet, like with a rope, around the foot at the point of the arch. The whole thing takes about 4 seconds. It's not unpleasant, and because it almost always happens when I'm feeling anxious or on edge, I feel that somebody not of the body is recognizing my hurt, and is attempting to soothe me in this way. There is the repeating words, the traveling when I lay down, the feeling of falling through my pillow instead of stopping when my head hit it.

In the daytime my demon is neckties. I have really put a lot of work into fighting this, because it was creating most of my problems. I could be sitting in church (or the temple), and the speaker's necktie would literally turn into part of his male anatomy. This would also happen to little boys serving sacrament and it made me feel sick. I wanted to run away. I was constantly asking my bishop to button his jacket so I couldn't see the bottom of the tie.

My Recertification

Sometime in September 2003 I got my first notice that I was up for recertification on my SSI disability claim. I was given the opportunity to find a doctor, but the doctors I found either didn't want to get involved, or wanted to obtain all former records and start from there. But an organization in NY was handling the recertification process, and they didn't want to wait that long, so they found someone. I attended the meeting with my husband who had gone to support me, but he got scared off when the doctor told him not to help me with the cognitive questions and he took that to me he shouldn't help me in anything, so he didn't say a word the entie time. I felt sure I had failed, and scared because we had a lot of medical things coming up and I couldn't afford to loose the Medicaid. On Oct 11 I had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon that took Medicaid, so I was pleasently pleased (actually, overjoyed) when I got an notice in the mail that said the doctors had determined that I was still disabled and thefore I could keep my SSI for another 5-7 years.

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