I’ve been wondering about borderline personality disorder. Daily even, for the past three years, ever since I was told I have it. And yet if someone asks me: what is it? My best answer would be: I can’t really explain.
It’s like childbirth, you only really know what it’s like once you’ve experienced it yourself. Divorce. Illness. Losing a job. However, there’s a fundamental difference between having a disorder and all those other experiences.
Take illness as an example. If society is water, then illness is a stone thrown into it from which circles form. You find yourself at the center of those circles, loved and protected. But borderline is like throwing a handful of rocks into water. Suddenly everything becomes choppy, erratic and irregular and you find yourself struggling to stay afloat.
I have decided to write this – and maybe I’ll write more about borderline, I don’t know yet – after two years of intensive therapy. I realised I had to when a friend sent me a text message yesterday saying something along the lines of embracing inner beauty, and seeing the inner beauty in others. It was meant to end a prickly conversation we were having about the arts. I was unsettled and initially wanted to answer something wise back which is what I tend to do when I’m fearing rejection and therefore in actual fact being self-evasive. Instead, I tried to understand why I was feeling angry, which led to anger at myself for feeling angry (this is a typical borderline trap). It was this: what she did compared to telling someone who has cancer that people who are sick should think positive thoughts. See the thing is, there is no inner beauty for people who suffer disorders, at least not naturally. That’s the whole essence of it.
When I started treatments, I hoped I’d become better. I felt I deserved to because I put in all the hard work. I was doing even more than that: I was managing to keep a great job, to be a mother, a friend to some, a girlfriend (eventually even only to one). There was no way I was going to admit defeat. I would function, period. And here I am: functioning. At such a level that some people have gone so far as to question, even deny, I have what I have.
But like with an illness, you cannot decide, plan or control the course of a psychological disorder. Psychiatric, I should say, but I don’t want to be too harsh om myself. It’s rocky enough out there as it is.
I do not wish for anyone to have what I have. And there are many good days too, days when believe I might actually conquer this instead of simply survive it. But maybe, just maybe, I can help society move forward a little in the way it responds to disorders. So here’s what I have to say for now. Do not reject, judge or walk away. Instead: form a circle. However hard the stones or rocky the water. Form a circle.