Written by Bridget Moore, Orygen youth advisory council member.
I’m Bridget, I’m 21, and I wanted to tell you a bit about my journey and story with borderline personality disorder (BPD). But first let me tell you what BPD is.
BPD might not be what you think it is, you might be thinking that because it has 'personality disorder' it must be something to do with switches in identity/personality, or similar to dissociative identity disorder, and honestly that’s one of the misconceptions.
But BPD doesn’t actually fit in within a diagnosis of a personality disorder, psychotic disorder or a mood disorder - it got its name because it sits on the borderline. So, while there are parts that involve how I see my identity, a big part of it is connected to my mood. Because it is quite complex, a mental health professional often won’t diagnose someone with BPD until they are 18. I am the 1-4% of the population to be living with BPD.
In early May 2017, 1-2 weeks after my 18th birthday, I was sitting in a school meeting with my counsellor and Dad and I just got an impulse to run away. I was missing for hours which prompted my Dad to start the process of filing a missing person report, until a friend found me and spoke to my family.
I was in a BPD crisis. I could not think straight and I believed I would be better off not being around. I had police and ambulance there to get me to the hospital, but I was not accepting help easily. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say, it wasn’t easy or pretty. I’d been in hospital many times before, but this admission was the one that gave me clarity over what I was experiencing.
I had never heard of BPD before I was diagnosed and I never even knew what it was or what the disorder consisted of, but looking back on my childhood and early adulthood BPD was prevalent in my life without me even knowing.
I believe BPD reared its head in my life in the middle stage of childhood. I was sensitive and had intense mood swings. I was a shy kid and was a victim of bullying so I didn’t have many friends. Due to my sensitive nature I’d snap over the slightest of things.
I was a ticking time bomb.
I spent my childhood yelling, screaming and crying in anger and sadness. I would sometimes get so angry I would threaten to physically hurt my family, and sometimes I did.
Of course I had happy and joyful times; but many of my memories consist of the times I locked myself in my wardrobe crying or the times my voice would hurt from yelling because of the intense anger I felt. It was so intense, I would rather call it rage.
Rage was my worst enemy. My whole body would clench, my breathing would get faster, my eyebrows would furrow and my body temperature would rise. When I was in this state I could not feel anything else other than this and I struggled to ground myself.
BPD made me feel a whirlwind of emotions. I either felt numb and as if I was a forever empty void that nothing could fill or I’d feel all the emotions in the world and unable to pinpoint the emotions or I’d feel an emotion so intensely I felt as if I could never feel any other emotion again. I also often experienced self harm and suicidal thoughts.
Amongst all these emotions came with not really knowing my identity and who I was. I would mould my identity off the people around me and how they perceived me. Which I thought was angry, so I continued to be the angry and aggressive person I thought I was seen as.
Throughout my experiences, my identity was often wrapped up in my mental ill-health, and I didn’t know who I was going to be when I was out of it. This meant I often believed I deserved to be mistreated.
To this day I still struggle immensely with my identity. I disassociate to the extreme, feeling as if my head is up in the clouds and away from reality. I forget what my own face looks like, which is hard to comprehend I know. I sometimes struggle recognising myself in pictures and get surprised when I see my own face in the mirror. I’m on a journey to finding and accepting myself. Part of this is accepting my gender and sexuality and I am proud to say that I am a Queer person.
Looking back, I was not a rebellious, bitchy and hurtful person but yet someone struggling with BPD. Underneath all that, I have a kind heart, I would never intentionally hurt anyone.
I hate stigma. I hate that just because I have BPD, I am often thought to be dangerous or evil and should be feared. But I am not dangerous, I’m not going to hurt you. I’m more at risk of hurting myself than hurting others. My mind is different but that doesn’t mean I’m dangerous, and I am not the same person I am when in a BPD crisis.
Though I am not defined by my BPD, it has allowed me to grow into the person I am today. Despite how challenging it has been at times and how hard it has been to navigate the mental health care system because of the complexities of this illness, I am really grateful for the lessons I’ve learnt.
My sensitivity can be a curse and a blessing. Along with feeling intense emotions, I can see, hear and feel more for other people. I can hear the crack in there voice just before they’re going to cry, the pain in their eyes, the shallow breaths before a panic attack begins or the way they feel uncomfortable and anxious in situations.
My mind is different and can sometimes make my life a struggle, but my mind is beautiful. It allows me to admire the beautiful things in life and have a true passion for mental health.