I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and it feels strange to be the person who has that diagnosis. I’m not sure what my best course of action is?
That’s wonderful! You see? You didn’t even need me. You knew just what to do: feel weird. How else would a reasonable person feel if someone told them they had a difficult-to-treat disorder that has high rates of co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, addictions, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide? You’ve been defined as having problems with regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive reckless behaviour, and unstable relationships with other people. Not only does it sound terrible, it must be common too because it sounds like most human beings.
There is no way to be human. Each individual expresses their own personal version of being a human based on their life experiences and some details relating to their physiology. Some will talk more, some will hardly ever talk. Some will be strong and some will be weak. Some will be smart and some will be dull. And some will have very little passion and drive and therefore less anger or frustration, and some are profoundly passionate and then often equally explosive. Everyone fits into a range of behaviour and there is no wrong place to be within that range, and even then—it’s just a range. There’s a lot of ways to be one individual.
Who you are is more accurately stated: who you are expressing. Can your expressions get so bad that the rest of us choose to medicate you, or bar you from contact with others? Yes. But in most cases there’s not something horribly and irreparably wrong. It just means your fellow society members are signalling you to take a close look at how you interact with others. There may be room for improvement for sure. But either way, every now and then someone just catches someone else during a bad moment. Get a person whose chemistry is off because they haven’t eaten or slept properly; and then give them a situation that overloads their already-stressed neurology and you can easily get an explosive reaction. Far from an illness, that’s natural given those circumstances.
I can get snippy if I’m tired but it’s pretty rare that I lose my temper in any significant way. And the worst examples will always have a connection to a lack of food and sleep. The best part is that I can be explosively angry and yet within minutes I can sense where I’m at and settle myself down as I recognize what’s happened. But note I do lose it for a period of time. So don’t beat yourself up for being human. Stress a rope too much and some fibres will snap. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the rope, it just means that sometimes it’s possible for life to tie-on more weight than any given rope can handle. That hairy fuzz of broken fibres that you see on the outside of every old rope is actually called wisdom and experience.
I don’t know you so I don’t know how extreme your behaviour gets. But essentially anyone can gain more control over their emotional state, whether that’s a small amount of control or close to total control. But that doesn’t necessarily have to come from medications. It can very often emerge from your awareness of your ability to steer how you feel. Once you know how, basic respect for others tends to lead people to want to steer things in more peaceful and productive directions. So if you can develop that much connection with your fellow beings then you’re in reasonable shape.
It’s also very important for you to remember two things: disorders are inherently connected to ego. Someone got famous for suggesting the disorder existed, and some company is making profits off selling the solution. The disorder didn’t even exist until the 80’s I believe. And many of the previous ones have been proven false. Multiple Personality Disorder was a co-creation of a mentally unhealthy patient and a mentally unhealthy doctor who worked together in a way that allowed both of them to be famous and meet certain unhealthy psychological needs of their own.
Disorders aren’t really find-able diseases. These aren’t physical changes except for how your brain re-wires after the fact. But it’s not like we can do some scan and go, oh hey, there’s Dave’s Borderline Personality Tumour, or there’s Sarah’s Post Partum Depression Gland. Excepting limited cases, a large number of people suffering from “Depression,” or who have other negative “mental issues,” are simply people who have not been taught to manage their consciousness.
So yeah, go ahead and be freaked out because you’ve been told you’re really sick by some other human beings. They mean well and you think you should believe them because they wear smocks and they’ve thoroughly learned what other human beings believe (that’s how they graduated as doctors). So you can think about their definition and have a period of flailing around—where you think a bunch of scary associated thoughts—but after you travel through that and settle yourself chemically, I hope you can see that Borderline Personality Disorder is nothing more than three words that act as a label that someone chose to add to the story that is you. But that definition isn’t you. No matter what anyone says, you have capabilities and definitions, and the latter are ephemeral and meaningless, and the former are where your life is lived.
I can assure you I’ve worked with all kinds of people who’ve had all kinds of diagnoses that they no longer feel are appropriate to them. But I get why we’re all inclined to believe “the experts.” I understand that these people went to school a long time and invested a lot of money and they memorized a lot of stuff. But again: it’s other people’s stuff. Pay less attention to what others think about your experiences and place more attention on the moment-to-moment choices you’re making that form those experiences. At the very least you can have an enormous impact on how you process experiences and therefore how you react to them.
Do not feel penned-in by other people’s word-based definitions of you. Defintions don’t stop you from doing anything any more than your name does. If you’re having unloving behaviours punctuating your life too often then work on becoming more mindful. Once you’ve mastered that then you can start looking to see if you actually require some kind of external chemical influences. But in my experience that represents remarkably few cases, provided the person can comprehend what it is I’m imparting here.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about your life. So do what you can in regards to developing more awareness over your self control. The fact that this comes up is a clear indication that this is an area of development that requires your immediate and very earnest attention. By becoming more mindful of the control you have over your behaviour it becomes easy for you to avoid those that others are judging and defining as unacceptable to them. Just don’t forget, it’s possible to still be healthy and yet do things others don’t agree with.
So pay less attention to words and more attention to how you feel on a moment by moment basis. Because your life is not pre-defined. It is lived one moment at a time and in each of those moments you have choices. The only relevant question to your health is, will you stay conscious of your choices or will you simply choose what you historically have chosen? Because when people say you are this or you are that, what they really mean is—that is your most common choice.
So choose well and have a great week. Because that’s how that happens. And thanks for the question. 😉
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.