The Perfect Drug…

“…you are exactly my brand of heroin.”

Edward Cullen, Twilight

When you have BPD it is inevitable that at some point you will become addicted to another person. It sounds ridiculous I’m sure, but it’s true. They can affect you so deeply, and seem to be your perfect match in every way. The more time you spend with this person, the more addicted you become. It can become so intense that when you’re separated from them, even for a short amount of time, it causes physical pain. Depression can set in and a sort of withdraw takes place. Nothing feels right until you are with them again. If you have never had an addiction, even if just coffee, and you don’t have BPD, you will never truly understand what I’m saying. It’s being in love, but the deepest (almost dysfunctional) type of love you could ever imagine. It’s beyond lust, yearning, and needing. It constantly feels like you’ll break into a million pieces. When you are with them, you’ll break apart from the happiness. When they are gone, you’ll break apart from the pain. But always you want more. It doesn’t matter if other relationships suffer, or that you may blow off work/school/responsibilities just so you can spend a little more time with them. Love is our drug of choice. For people with BPD, everything we do, everything we look for, comes down to love. So when we find it (or think we’ve found it) we become obsessed. We think of the person constantly. Not a moment goes by where they aren’t on your mind. You would gladly be smothered to death if they were the one smothering you. It’s a drug. It’s stronger than cocaine, pain pills and heroin combined.

I get that this may sound like the beginning stages of stalking behavior. And who knows, maybe a lot of stalkers have BPD. I don’t know. I personally have never stalked anyone, regardless of how strongly they have affected me. I’ve thought about it, but never acted on it. Well… maybe a little on social media, but I think just about everyone over the age of 20 has stalked someone on social media! Be it an ex, best friend, ex boss, whatever. I am not making light of stalking. There was a guy who stalked me for almost a year and it was truly frightening. I still suffer from PTSD because of it. Thankfully this was before Facebook, Twitter and all the rest were around.

So back to our drug of choice. Love. Everyone craves it, everyone needs it. It is essential to human survival. Why though, do people with BPD need it so much more than typical people? Is it purely our heightened emotional state? Is it because most Borderlines have had some sort of trauma in our lives where love either wasn’t given or was given in harmful ways? I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that when we feel love this strongly it’s often referred to as idealization. You place this person on a pedestal so high that you’d think it impossible for them to ever come down. You adore every look they give you, you would kill to have them smile at you, you cherish every touch and embrace. And you are completely and utterly terrified it will be ripped away from you at any moment. You become so in tune with them that you often know what they are feeling before they know it themselves. But then it begins to shift. Every bad mood, or even just boredom, seems to be directed at you. Or so you think. (As you progress in treatment, if you’re in treatment, you will learn that this is rarely the case.) The doubts become more and more insistent. You don’t stop to think that they aren’t calling because they are sick, busy at work, or their phone is lost under the sofa. No, they aren’t calling YOU. They hate you, you get on their nerves, they’re mad at you, sick of you. You re-read every text and email, go over every single conversation you’ve ever had. Searching for what you did wrong. The pain becomes more and more intense. You start to lose your identity, and you just know they are going to leave you alone, just like everyone does. It’s here that devaluation steps in. Another survival mechanism in the BPD arsenal. This person you loved above all else, they aren’t so great! That pedestal that was higher than the heavens themselves? It starts to crumble. Tiny pieces at first. Small chips of stone here and there. Then they call or text or show up. Wait!!! They aren’t so bad! And you NEED them, remember? So you patch up the pedestal, ignoring or not seeing the cracks that are starting to form. But then they say that they can’t hang out, or cancel an arranged afternoon at the last second. What?! They suck, you hate them. Why would they do this to you? Don’t they realize what you’ve sacrificed for them?! The honest answer (most of the time, especially for Quiet Borderlines) is no. No, they don’t realize how much time and energy you’ve put into the relationship. I’m not talking about just romantic relationships either. This can happen with friendships, family relationships, even workplace relationships. It does tend to be strongest with romantic relationships and close friendships however.

Thus the “swinging” continues. Getting faster and stronger at every pass. The timing between idealization and devaluation becomes shorter in duration. Sound exhausting? It is, believe me. This is a particularly hard time for someone with BPD. We are consumed with this rollercoaster of emotions. Just like an addict who is nearing the point of rock bottom, we want this person in our life so badly we can’t let go. At the same time, wanting them gone, never to see them again. For me personally, silently begging them to go away and to take all my memories of them when they go. The process of devaluation can become pretty ugly. The stronger the love, the stronger the hate. A lot of times the person you are involved with has no idea that this war is being waged. You snap at them, disappear on them, avoid them, say horrid things to them. If it’s a romantic relationship you may even cheat on them. In my experience, looking back, I wanted them to feel my pain, even if it was just a fraction of what I felt. There’s a song lyric that comes to mind: “Without you I’m nothing. Without you, I’m nothing at all.” – Placebo. That’s exactly how I feel whether I’m in the process of idealization or devaluation. It fits both. I actually plan on doing a post about songs that are about BPD. While I’m not positive, I am pretty sure that Brian Molko, the lead singer of Placebo, has BPD himself. If he doesn’t then he is very close to someone who does.

Anyways, if you are in a relationship with someone who has BPD, I’m not saying that how they handle idealization/devaluation is okay. I do however urge you to communicate with them in an honest and sincere manner. If you need to cancel with them, give an explanation and as much notice as possible. Also try to reschedule if at all possible. If you know you are going to be in work meetings all day, shoot them a text giving them a head’s up beforehand, and if your relationship is close enough, contact them afterwards. If you are living together, and you are going to be home late, let them know and let them know when they can expect you. You do not need to cater to someone with BPD, nor do you need to walk on eggshells around them, but a little extra communication goes a long way. Please understand that we ourselves often don’t know why we feel the way we do. It can confuse us and scare us, giving rise to inappropriate reactions. Since many of us have had traumatic pasts it’s a part of our makeup to self preserve. We may not always go about it in the correct way, but it always comes from the same place; love.

It’s Always Unexpected

This post was originally going to be about the two main subtypes of BPD: “typical” and “quiet”. I myself am considered a “quiet” borderline vs a “typical” borderline. But the past few days have been considerably rough and yesterday was downright miserable and scary. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to show exactly what I wanted this blog to reflect. A day-in-life…

Some people with BPD also have psychosis. It’s not common per se, but there are cases. I do not have psychosis, and I am very grateful for that. It makes a very complicated disorder even more disabling. That being said, last Friday I started to hear what I thought was my phone going off, but not my usual ringtone. It sounded like piano music. It was far away but close at the same time. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from! It happened a few times on Friday, each time only lasting for maybe 20 seconds. On Saturday, I kept thinking I could hear people talking from a few yards away. I checked but no one was around. Nothing was discernable, but I could definitely hear it. And it didn’t matter where I was. Inside, outside, in the car… anywhere. I also heard the “music” a few more times as well. I was a little worried but not so much that I thought too much of it. By Monday I was hearing the “music” (always the same piano sound), the distant “conversations”, and a strange ringing. I have had ringing in my ears before, due to migraines and/or sinus infections. This was similar but different. The sound was the same but it was external, not internal like with a sinus infection. So yesterday (Tuesday) I finally called my therapist and asked if auditory hallucinations could be brought on by stress. She thought it was probable, especially considering how bad my anxiety becomes. However, she also stated I needed to go the ER to get checked out immediately. First, to make sure there was no physical cause, and second, to make sure if it was anxiety based it didn’t turn into a crisis.

As early as six months ago, I probably wouldn’t have contacted her. I am much more of a suffer in silence type person, and even more so concerning my psychiatric issues. We have made a lot of progress though over the last two years and I am really starting to trust her, so I called her. I’m glad that I did. So, in tears, I contact my husband and explain what was going on. He said he would pick up our son from school and urged me to get to the ER as fast as possible. This where it gets fun! If you don’t have a mental illness, you will never understand the stigma we deal with every single day. I walk into the ER and their front desk is pretty open. The main waiting room is RIGHT there. The guy at the desk asks what brought me in. I said that my therapist had sent me due to auditory hallucinations. There were two other women behind the desk as well, and they both looked over so fast I thought their necks would snap from the force. Now I’ll say this, when you go into an ER and tell them you are there for psychiatric issues, they don’t waste time. I was taken back to a room immediately even though there were approximately 12 other people in the waiting area.

I get back to a huge room (I guess they don’t want you getting Claustrophobic when you’re already worked up) and I’m ambushed by two nurses. I have to explain that the voices aren’t “voices” telling me what to do. It was more subtle than that, and that I was hearing this music and ringing too. They kept asking if I was suicidal, if I felt like harming myself or anyone else. I was asked if I had taken any drugs, street or prescription, and if I drank alcohol. Yes, these are all basic questions that any ER in America asks. It was the WAY they were asked. They were very friendly, almost overly friendly, with a distinct air of caution around them. Do I blame them? No. But was I slightly offended? To be honest, yes. I knew I wasn’t a danger to them. I still understand why they acted the way they did. Once the doctor came in and I spoke with her my anxiety about the situation began to subside. They ordered a CT scan and routine labs to make sure nothing physical was going on, like a tumor or blood clot in my brain. My anxiety and paranoia shot up a bit when that was mentioned, but my fears were unfounded. Everything came back normal thankfully. I was still at the hospital at the shift change (I was there for a total of 5 hours) and the new nurse who took over obviously wasn’t filled in completely about my situation. She walked in very warily and asked how I was feeling. She then asked if I was currently hearing any voices. I told her “no, it wasn’t really like that”. Guess she didn’t believe me because I went to shift my position on the stretcher and she literally jumped.

****SIGH****

Sometimes I think the stigma will never go away for any mental illness, no matter what the disorder. The doctor had me speak to a social worker and both concluded that these noises I was hearing was indeed caused by high levels of stress and anxiety. Last week I had to have a biopsy done on a mole since melanoma runs in my family. I might also need to have surgery on my right shoulder due to a torn rotator cuff. The surgery is scary enough, but being my right shoulder it’s even worse since I draw, paint and write. These three things are my salvation, and I’d be devastated if they were taken away from me. I have a teenage son with Autistic Disorder, and the everyday life stresses everyone has. I constantly hear the words “don’t worry so much”, or “you worry yourself too much, everything is fine”, which does absolutely nothing to calm a person’s anxiety. I got a knot in my stomach just typing that! Then there is that ever present feeling of a dark cloud hanging overhead. It seems like things will start to calm down, but then another curve ball is thrown my way before I can even catch my breath. It would be ideal if I could use the upcoming weekend to take care of myself, get some much needed sleep and just breathe. I already know that won’t happen. It’s Easter this Sunday which means dealing with family. Family means that I am not allowed to have any problems. You must focus solely on them and their lives. They are all aware that I have BPD but none of them, except for my younger sister Kat (she’s the middle child), have done any research on the disorder. My adopted mom refused, she said if she researched it it would just upset her. My youngest sister supposedly has no time and just keeps forgetting. My adopted dad is the same way. There is always something more pressing going on. My bio mom has not done any research either, nor has any of my friends, save one. And it was good that she did because she realized her long term boyfriend has BPD too. So when I try to explain what I am going through to family, all I get is exasperated looks. They think I’m overreacting or trying to gain attention. I despise being the center of attention. I eloped just so I wouldn’t have to walk down the aisle with everyone staring at me. Seriously. So why on earth would I make up stories of being miserable in my own skin for attention? BPD is way too exhausting by itself. No one with BPD would go out of their way to create even more drama. Yes, we do create our own drama sometimes, but it’s quite unintentional. We do not seek it out on purpose. At least not the “quiet” borderlines. From what I’ve witnessed, “quiet” borderlines want just that, quiet.

I’m not positive where I was going with this post. I wanted to highlight that no matter how much you think you know about a disorder, yours or someone else’s, it can change without any warning. It’s very important to pay attention to any changes and to get checked out by a health professional if something unexpected comes up. I also wanted to show that while mental health services have come a long way in the past couple decades, we still have a lot farther to go. Someone who has BPD is always questioning themselves, the added insecurity of stigmas makes it a lot worse. I know I have hid my symptoms before just because of the fear of what other people will think. Both sides need to change. We need to stop hiding and speak up, and they need to stop jumping to conclusions and hear us.

Borderline Personality Disorder: My Story

I was born in June 1978 and was adopted at three days old. The adoption was closed and I wouldn’t know of any family history for 37 long years. Ever since I can remember I have known I was different. I never quite fit in with my family, and I struggled with peer relationships. I was one of those kids that only had one or two close friends, and I instinctively knew that if I ever revealed my true self I would lose those as well. By the time adolescence hit, I was already going off the rails. I was defiant towards my adopted mother, I was starting to manipulate my adopted father, and was a nightmare towards my two younger sisters. especially my youngest sister who is my parent’s biological daughter. When I was 14, I started to smoke cigarettes and tried pot for the first time. At age 16, I was smoking both cigarettes and pot on a regular basis, plus drinking, dropping acid, and stealing from stores. All I wanted was to fit in but not be a conformist. I wanted to be numb, but also feel like I belonged. A lot of adolescents go through this, that is why it is almost impossible to diagnose Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in teenagers. Unfortunately I had also began to cut myself. It was almost daily. If I wasn’t cutting, I was pulling out my eyebrow hair or banging my head against walls. Actually, to this day, I can not drink tequila because I will start banging my head. I began hanging out with the Goth kids and the stoners around this time as well. By my junior year I was failing out of high school and dropped out half way through my senior year. *** I did receive my GED three months after dropping out.*** People couldn’t believe I left because I only had five months left, but what they didn’t know was that I was at least a year behind in credits and even more importantly, I was completely suicidal. I hid it well. So well, in fact, that I had overdosed on purpose on two separate occasions and my dear old dad thought I had the stomach flu both times. He was pretty naive, but I interpreted it as him not caring. I felt that as my father, he should’ve known that it was not a physical illness that made me so sick. Oh yeah, he and my mom had gotten divorced right before my freshman year. My adopted mom… oh I think that subject deserves it’s own post. She is very volatile. You never know what you are going to get with her. I have told my therapist that I can go to her with the exact same story/problem, and each time, her response will be completely different. I was never physically abused, but there was emotional and mental abuse on her side, and benign neglect from my dad. I never felt that unconditional love and security that family is suppose to provide. There was also an uncle who was “priming” me for sexual abuse. I had no idea at the time. It wasn’t until I began therapy a couple of years ago and mentioned him in passing that my therapist caught on. Geez, my therapist caught on after a passing remark, but my parents never did? This is what I label “benign neglect”. They were both so blind. To my troubles, to the troubles of the family as a whole, even to the general world around them.

I was thrust into therapy for the first time at the tender age of 13, right as my parents were ending the divorce process. My mom had me see HER therapist. Wow. Luckily I caught on quickly and refused to talk to the therapist. It was only a way for my mom to keep tabs on me, not to help me. Anyone who has had any history of any type of therapy knows that a proper therapist will not see members of the same family unless specific circumstances are present. My next therapist was a psychoanalyst. Psychoanalysis is RARELY appropriate for someone with BPD. Now this wasn’t completely their fault. We did not know that I had BPD at this point. My dad just asked for the best therapist in our area and that’s who they gave me. But while seeing this therapist is when the dissociative symptoms began. For any of you who may not know, a dissociative state is when you sort of black out or feel very distant from everything. Some people have no recollection during these times, others remember but it’s kind of “blurry”. I compare my dissociative states to the following; Have you ever been really, REALLY sick? The worst flu ever type of sick? And during this illness maybe you had to run to the store, or talk to a neighbor, or take your kids to and from school. Then, a few days later you wake up, feeling 100% better, and you realize just how out of it you really were. You can kind of remember doing things, but it’s all sort of hazy, like a dream that’s fading away. That is what my dissociative states are like. Everyone (even people without BPD) will experience a dissociative state at some time or another. A very mild state would be driving home from work, pulling into your driveway and realizing you’re not quite sure how you got there. So anyways, psychoanalysis is known for triggering dissociative states in people with BPD. This type of therapy delves too much into strong emotions and past traumas. The majority of people with BPD just can’t handle that amount of emotional stimulation. We don’t have the mental or emotional maturity. It was this therapist who diagnosed me with depression. I believe it was clinical depression to be exact.

Over the years a general anxiety disorder was added to my history, as well as major depressive disorder. Another doctor simply labeled me as “just a defiant young adult” who would grow out of it. My favorite! It wasn’t until my son was born in 2003 that things began to fall into place. My son was diagnosed with Autistic Disorder in 2005. As we were getting him diagnosed (which took months!) I started to notice a lot of similarities between his symptoms and mine. I was referred to a specialist in adult diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorders. After testing we found that I scored right in the middle of Asperger’s, a type of autism. But this doctor was different in her approach to adult testing. She also screened for ADHD, personality disorders, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and Schizophrenia. At our last visit she told me I met many traits of BPD. I also had traits of OCD and Bipolar Disorder. She referred me to a new therapist who could look into these disorders even more. In 2014, after many interviews and tests, I had my answers. My diagnoses consist of Borderline Personality Disorder, Asperger’s, Bipolar II, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Depression, Anxiety Disorder, and traits of OCD. When it comes to BPD, in order to be diagnosed you need to meet five of the nine criteria. I meet all nine.

I mentioned before that BPD often occurs with other disorders that can make it very hard to diagnose. In my case this was extremely true. I was also diagnosed later than most people. Most BPD diagnoses happen in a person’s early to mid twenties. I have spent the past two years in intensive therapy, combining DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

I am sure that in the upcoming posts I will delve deeper into some of the environmental causes of my BPD, and I will definitely be discussing the biological causes as well. I was reunited with my biological mother in May 2015, and after meeting her and the rest of the family, it has proven to me that biological factors are a big part in the development of BPD.

Beginning of a Borderline

It is my intention to make this blog more casual, a sort of “day-in-the-life of” type blog, rather than a bunch of facts and statistics. However, in dealing with any disorder or mental illness, facts and statistics do have their place. If you, or someone you care about, has recently been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (which is often referred to as BPD), there are some amazing books and sites you can check out to learn more about this often debilitating disorder.

BPD itself is a contradiction of symptoms. Someone with BPD will swing wildly between emotions, even if they don’t show it outwardly. Their responses to situations may seem out of proportion or inappropriate. Some days they may seem completely “normal” and the next day they may be so severe that it requires hospitalization. This often confuses loved ones and may even make them feel as if they are being manipulated. This is RARELY the case. The majority of borderlines have little to no control over how they react.

BPD is a very serious personality disorder. The suicide rate is unprecedented compared to other personality disorders and mental illnesses. To make matters more complicated, BPD is often present with other mental disorders. It is believed that BPD is actually more common than Bipolar and Schizophrenia combined.

Before I begin my own personal story (which is still being written every single day), I wanted to mention some books and sites that I have found useful for those who are newly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Books:

  1. Borderline Personality Disorder: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed By: Alexander L. Chapman, PhD, RPsych, Kim L. Gratz, PhD
  2. Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified By: Robert O. Friedel, MD
  3. Coping with BPD By: Blaise Aguirre, MD, Gillian Galen, PsyD
  4. Sometimes I Act Crazy By: Jerold J. Kreisman, MD, Hal Straus

Sites:

  1. http://www.nimh.nih.gov
  2. http://www.nami.gov
  3. http://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com

There is hope out there for people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Therapy and medication(s) can be tremendously helpful for those with BPD. Support groups are another great resource to look into. Treating BPD takes time, and the support of friends and loved ones is instrumental in recovery. Many people diagnosed with BPD will no longer meet diagnostic criteria after proper treatment.