I’ve borrowed my title from a good friend. She struggles like me and when she suggested we were both “almost too sensitive for the regular world“, I finally had the words that I hadn’t been able to find. How do I fit into this regular world when so much of it grates so painfully against my raw skin?
I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It’s also known in some countries as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD). I admit I have struggled to get a hold of what the well-known BPD spokesperson, Marsha Linehan, said a while ago. She said that people with BPD are like people with third degree burns right across their emotional skin. I know lots of people with BPD find that description very helpful, but it just didn’t mean anything to me for so long. Perhaps because I’ve never had third degree burns on my body. I’m on the ‘outside looking in‘. I have no idea what that feels like. I can only imagine, and that must only go a small way to knowing the full reality.
But it’s starting to make sense at the moment. I’m struggling with my black and white thinking, a common problem amongst BPD sufferers. I so want there to be a whole spectrum of colours in my world, yet I always come back to my black or white. Yes, I can’t even do black AND white mixed, or grey. It is one or the other. It’s so difficult to see another way of looking at things. I simply can’t see it, and actually I don’t particularly want to. Yes, that’s right, I want the spectrum, but I also want my safety of black or white. I think we all want to hold onto what we believe and know, unwilling to see another way. This is more than that though. It’s not just unwilling, but unable. It’s simply doesn’t exist.
This week there have been a number of things upsetting me, in a range of environments. What I mean is that they packed a punch right in my chest, they had the ability to wreck my day. Often they do wreck my day… if I let them and don’t fight back. But this is simply ‘normal’ living with BPD and it requires hard, conscious work to have me see it differently without wrecking the day. This week has seen me tied up in knots over what I believe to be right and wrong. Yes, I may as well transpose ‘right and wrong‘ for ‘black and white‘. I’m not so much talking about what is right and wrong for anyone else, but rather what is right and wrong for me. And I want my black or white. It’s simply how my world should be. Shouldn’t it?
See, put aside BPD and I’m actually pretty open-minded about other people and society. What I have trouble being open-minded about is me. Pretty much you can do what’s right for you, and it won’t ever trouble me. I’d like very much for you to stick by the law, and be compassionate towards fellow beings, but aside from that, I am not interested in judging you. What I can’t seem to stop doing is judging is me. And that’s where the horrors of BPD get me tangled up.
Going back to those third degree burns, people with BPD feel everything with so much more intensity but we are also incredibly unsure of ourselves. I judge myself and my reactions to the world around me, yet I have little idea if I have got it right or not. I constantly doubt those reactions. And of course, with my black and white thinking I need to know if I have it right or not. Without that, I don’t know who I am. And not knowing who I am is yet another part of BPD.
There are plenty of people out there who are willing and champing at the bit to tell you that people with BPD are incredibly hard people to live with and even associate with. Mental health professionals are among them, and it was not that long ago that my own doctor seemed to forget that I had BPD and told me what terrible people we are. There are masses of web sites which will tell you these so-called ‘truths’ about BPD. The last thing you should want for yourself is a Borderline in your life. Apparently.
I have no time for these myths, and not simply because I have BPD. I base my bias on the recognition that while sometimes it might be difficult to be interacting with someone with BPD, the reality of life for the actual person who lives with this disorder in their mind day in, day out is so much worse than anything you can experience by knowing them.
Imagine those third degree burns. I know it’s difficult but imagine living with real, physical third degree burns over your entire body. Whether we’ve been there or not, we know it’s going to be painful, uncomfortable, difficult to move and hard to function in everyday life. Now try to imagine those ‘burns’, or maybe wounds (probably yet to be healed) on your emotions. Again, it’s going to be painful, uncomfortable and difficult to simply live life. That’s what living with BPD is like.
Next time you get told, or read, that a person with BPD is hell to live with, stop and think how it is for the person themselves. It is so much more painful. Maybe we need support and empathy rather than judgement. It is almost like we don’t fit in this world, but we can do with your acceptance. I believe that there is hope for people with BPD. We simply can’t do it while we’re being judged.
“For all these years, you’ve lived under the illusion that somehow, you made it because you were tough enough to overpower the abuse, the hatred, the hard knocks of life. But really you made it because love is so powerful that tiny little doses of it are enough to overcome the pain of the worst things life can dish out. Toughness was a faulty coping mechanism you devised to get by. But, in reality, it has been your ability to never give up, to keep seeking love, and your resourcefulness to make that love last long enough to sustain you. That is what has gotten you by.”
― Rachel Reiland, Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder
© Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.