For as long as I can remember, I have been a very anxious and emotional person. As a child I was incredibly insecure and sensitive, which made me a prime target for the daily bullying I received. My dad made me feel weak and pathetic for being unable to stand up for myself and lost patience with my heightened sensitivity and anxiety very quickly. As a result, I tried to hide how I felt when in his presence. My feelings seemed to trigger such rage in him. I went through many abusive and toxic friendships where I felt further beaten down and unable to defend myself. Unfortunately, repressed emotions and feelings can only stay repressed for so long; for me the breaking point seemed to be going to university.
When I was 7 my sister went to university, and for the next 10 years this somehow became the only option in my life plan too. However by the time I had reached the stage of applying, there was an additional reason for wanting to leave home that was unrelated to my education; my ‘best friend’. People will say that you can’t have a best friend who makes you miserable and abuses you in almost every sense of the word, but you can when you have never known real friendship. For me my tumultuous relationships weren’t romantic, they were with friends.
In the end, I was so terrified of her that I wanted to put as much distance between us as possible and move up north. I’m grateful that I didn’t get the grades to go as far as I wanted to because it didn’t take me long to realise that this was part of my motive. Instead I ended up 2 hours away, which turned out to be just far enough.
Once away from her and no longer having to keep the mask of happiness in place for my own ‘safety’, everything started to unravel; slowly at first, then really, really fast. Over the period of my 4 year course, with the addition of lots of painful, and difficult situations and several more toxic people to navigate, I went from being on track to get a pretty decent grade, to almost not even being able to graduate.
I didn’t know what or who I was anymore; everything that I had clung onto before university was gone, it had all been a façade to keep others placated. I started to seriously question my existence. Why I didn’t seem to be able to have normal relationships with people? Why I didn’t ever feel like I fit in with others, no matter how hard I tried to be liked? More importantly though, why was I so unhappy all the time? Why did I feel like I didn’t have a place in the world, like I was defective and just wasn’t compatible with the life that everyone around me seemed to navigate with relative ease?
I became increasingly suicidal and depressed, and I found it harder and harder to function until the day I self-harmed for the first time. I didn’t understand what I had done and why it had somewhat helped, but I didn’t question it until I next went to see my GP in my final year. I told him the truth, and he put me straight on the list for mental health services, which terrified me.
It was at this point I was first made aware of Borderline Personality Disorder, however, only because the lady who assessed me said I have ‘high Borderline traits’. Unfortunately she couldn’t diagnose me with BPD because she wasn’t a Psychiatrist. That was the last time I saw her as it was nearly the end of my year and I was due to go home. I knew I was going to have to research BPD myself initially.
I will never forget the moment I discovered what it was. It was proving difficult to get a grasp of the reality of the disorder in a way that I could apply it to myself. I went to YouTube and found a video made by someone who had the same diagnosis, she was talking about how it affected her. In general, I wouldn’t advise anyone going too far down this road but it can help right initially when you just need to understand the basics in relation to yourself – as long as you approach with caution. Unexpectedly, I actually found myself crying with relief, because I had never related to anything as much in my whole life. It explained absolutely everything; why I felt the way I do and what caused it. The feeling of not feeling compatible with the world that had plagued my entire life could be explained. There was actually something wrong with me, but I wasn’t alone.
My next step was to get on Amazon and order as many recommended books on BPD as I could afford. More and more evidence pointed to it and I began to learn more, so that once I had returned home and had my first appointment with a psychiatrist, I felt prepared. Ultimately, I was officially diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (it is the same illness as BPD, just from different diagnostic manuals).
I did think things might start to improve from then onwards, but unfortunately they didn’t. I realised that mental health services in the UK were very overstretched and I wasn’t likely to get the help I needed. I turned elsewhere for help, knowledge and support: online and social media, although social media was pretty small and limited back then. Mental health services got worse and worse, sadly, during the government financial cuts to the NHS in the UK, and ultimately BPD is a disorder of which there isn’t a specific treatment. Medication is only prescribed for the co-morbid illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and therapy isnt readily available on the NHS, especially DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) which his the most highly recommended for BPD.
In the years since being diagnosed, I have had various forms of support and treatment with varying outcomes, the most successful of which has come from Mind. My original dreams of working as a primary teacher have long since passed because I have to be realistic with myself and my limits, as well as current teaching conditions. Plus, somewhere down the line since graduating, I became too unwell to work. However, I am still clinging to the hope that one day I might become well enough to work as a teaching assistant, and I currently volunteer in a school one day per week.
Even though the state of mental health services in the UK is very poor, and I have come into contact with many unhelpful professionals, there are some that really do want to help and will do everything they can. I am coming up for discharge from my current Care Co-ordinator because the team is very understaffed and she can’t offer me anything more. However, I am planning to move into my own flat very soon, where I’ll be under the catchment area of a different team, who I’ll be referred to when the time comes.
In the last 10 years since I have discovered BPD there have been many moments of fear, anger and desperation in the journey to find help and learn to help myself, but I do believe I have grown. Although there are some aspects of my illness that are still very challenging and difficult to function with, there are others that I have worked very hard to get somewhat under control and am finding more manageable the harder I work on them. I have hope that as more time passes, I will be able to get other parts under more control too.
BPD/EUPD is a very debilitating mental illness, and one for which there is no fixed method of treatment. This alone can make it seem like a bit of a death sentence, but there really is hope for change, even though it means putting in a lot of hard work to help yourself.
Encourage your loved ones to learn about the disorder, there are many resources for this, both in books and online. It is vital that the people closest to you understand your illness. BPD isn’t an excuse for bad or hurtful behaviour towards anyone, but it is often the cause. If you work together, there are ways to minimise or erase damaging behaviour. It is important to remember that having BPD is not your fault – you may have been in some way abused/neglected or your emotional needs may not have been met as a child and that leaves consequences. However, as an adult, who is forming close relationships and even starting families of your own, its absolutely vital to get the help you need; that part is your responsibility.
The right help is out there if you are willing to keep fighting to find it. You don’t deserve to suffer, and you do deserve to feel better. Be gentle with yourself and remember that BPD didn’t develop over night, so it definitely wont go away over night. Slip ups and relapses happen and that’s ok. The path to recovery isnt linear, or simple, but I do believe it is possible.