A Chat About: BPD
Updated: Jun 16
"Control seemed to slip away from me"
“You always want everything your way." A phrase that I’ve been on the receiving end of
too many times to count.
From a friend three years ago to a romantic partner only three weeks ago, this statement is made as an easy way to have the final say in an argument. Though said in a moment of heat, it stings as it tears open a barely healed wound about my perceptions of myself over and over again.
I’ve always enjoyed having control over my own life, of the decisions I make, of everything to do with my own mind and self. Then, before I could really comprehend it, that control seemed to slip away from me.
What started as circumstantial depression at age 20 – I had physical health issues; the grandmother who brought me up was losing her battle against Alzheimer's; my academic future was in shambles – has stayed on beyond circumstances. It has become a constant swirl of uncertainties about the world, and myself.
When the dark cloud of anxieties hanging over me passed, I hoped and waited for the raging storm inside my mind to dissipate as well. Only, time passed and things went from bad to worse; I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
BPD is a mental illness that is characterised by high levels of emotional distress and anger, among other things. Suddenly, the thoughts in my mind gained a stronger voice - telling me I was worthless and that everyone would leave me at some point. Control of my mind, of who I was - and who I still am - no longer remained in my hands.
One of the symptoms of BPD, is the development of intense or unstable relationships. I meet someone, I connect with them deeply and then, seemingly out of nowhere, a switch flips.
My mind tells me this person I’ve grown to see as important in my life doesn’t like me. A fight or flight impulse bursts forth, and before I know it, I am arguing, threatening and crying in desperate attempts to prevent the perceived abandonment from happening.
Then comes the phrase, “You always want everything your way," usually accompanied by cutting, descriptive words such as manipulative, harsh, sensitive and emotional.
It would be dishonest to say that these words don’t describe me. Incidents, words and actions that the logical part of my brain would dismiss, twist themselves around my mind in a death grip, refusing to let go until I lash out; against other people or myself.
These bursts of uncontrollable emotions manifest as threats- to cut ties until someone does what I want, or to harm myself if they leave, before suddenly (and confusingly) demanding them to leave. If people do end up leaving, unable to hope with my ups and downs, it only leaves me feeling even worse.
I will not defend myself and say that my actions and the way I act is right. But does this mean I’m a bad person? Is every action- that my mind sees as self-preservation- a flaw and a reflection of who I am? Or is it just my illness?
Symptoms of physical ailments are visible and therefore understood. But the invisible symptoms of mental illness get mistaken for character flaws.
When I was ill with IBS in the past, I was treated with care and love. Now that I’m sick, with something seen only by my eyes, and heard by own ears, I’m met with exasperation and accusations of being fundamentally flawed.
Yes, I’m flawed. Yes, I manipulate to keep the ones I love – the ones my mind whispers will abandon me- close. I make no excuses for the way I behave when my BPD takes hold of me, it is hurtful, and not the way I should be treating anyone.
Yet the one thing I ask is this, while I work relentlessly on gaining control of myself, as I have been for the years since my diagnosis, is it so difficult to let me “have my way” when it comes to my relationships?
It is a simple inconvenience for you, but for me, it’s a small reassurance, a glimmer of hope that makes me want to keep going. It’s a victory against my own mind’s painful whispers - I won’t be alone.
I’m not manipulative. I’m not bad. I just have BPD and I’m fighting it, so don’t let me do it alone.