On Feelings Of Abandonment (BPD Awareness Month 2022)

I’d hoped to write and post more for Borderline Personality Awareness Month but between my depression and changing medications, I’ve been struggling to write; I’ve started a handful of posts but been unable to finish them. But, of the symptoms of BPD, my fears around abandonment have been particularly oppressive recently and so I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I thought I’d write done some of my thoughts; it’s the best I can do right now.

Fear of abandonment is a significant aspect of Borderline Personality Disorder and it’s something that I’ve personally struggled with for most of my life. I was diagnosed with BPD when I was twenty and the consensus was – and still is – that it was due to the difficult and frustrating process of being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, where I was repeatedly ignored and invalidated by medical professionals when I expressed how much I was struggling. I guess those could be interpreted as abandonments. But I’d been abandoned in the more traditional sense multiple times before that, so the ‘foundation’ – I guess you could call it – for a fear of abandonment was already there (I’m not sure if it works like that but I noticed the pattern as I thought back): most of my friends stopped hanging out with me when I was eleven and then my one remaining friend moved abroad about a year later so I started secondary school with basically no friends; my Dad died suddenly when I was thirteen; and then, when I was nineteen, a very important figure in my life just cut me off without warning. Each one reinforced the fear and the fear just kept building exponentially. So I think it’s fair to say that I was well on my way to developing a complex about being abandoned by the time I was diagnosed with BPD.

It didn’t stop there – and there were a couple of painful ones – but, on the whole, life has been relatively stable until recently. Over the last few months though, I’ve been dealing with a lot of feelings of abandonment. Some of the actions that have caused these feelings were intentional, some not; some of these feelings are based in reality and some are based on anxiety. People who’d been consistent in my life for a long time left suddenly for work or family stuff, people not being who I thought they were, people drifting away… I don’t want to write about them specifically because the point of this is not to ‘name and shame’ – it’s just felt like one after another after another lately and it’s been really tough. And, again, I’m not trying to say that these people are deliberately, intentionally abandoning me; BPD has just made me particularly sensitive to situations that could be perceived as abandonments, especially when they seem to be happening a lot. Sometimes it’s on me for overthinking or overreacting, sometimes it’s on them for doing or not doing something, and sometimes nobody did anything but it still feels awful. We’re all human beings just doing our best (most of the time, at least). I guess the point I’m making here is that it’s a feature of BPD that I have to live with and have to navigate on a daily basis and this is a part of that.

I don’t think it’s a great leap to assume there’s a link to low self esteem. I find it hard to see why other people would want to be friends with me, which has only been exacerbated by all of my health problems: I feel like a burden (something I wrote about in this year’s MHAW post).

I remember seeing this on Instagram and relating to it to a painful degree…

Now I don’t even feel capable of being useful.

I feel like I’m always the one who can’t keep up, the one letting people down. I feel like, between me and my problems, I’m just too much for most people. Both too much and not enough at the same. And I can’t help but feel that if someone doesn’t think that yet, then it’s just a matter of time until they realise it. I know that these are my thoughts and not necessarily what other people think but it’s a hard thought pattern to shift; it’s pretty deeply ingrained at this point. It’s something I need to work on in therapy but I haven’t had access to therapy recently. Hopefully soon, although there’s a lot that’s happened over the last year that I need to work though.

I don’t know what I think about this post. I find writing about anything BPD related very difficult. It always feels much more personal and revealing to write about, compared to writing about Autism, for example. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because a lot of the symptoms of BPD correspond with issues that we’re conditioned to feel shame for and around: fear of abandonment can be portrayed as ‘clingy’ or ‘manipulative’; an unstable sense of self sounds scary to a casual ear; self-destructive behaviour can be interpreted as not wanting to be helped; and so on and so forth. Plus there’s a lot of stigma around BPD, even amongst the people who should really know better.

To learn more about BPD, you can find good information here and here, and here is a post I wrote about my experience with BPD in 2019. I hope this has been helpful or thought-provoking or something along those lines. I do want to write more about BPD because there needs to be more understanding around it as a disorder; it was just unfortunate that BPD Awareness Month – when I had planned to write a handful of posts about it – coincided with a period where writing felt really difficult. Combine that with a topic that I find hard to write about anyway and I’m kind of surprised that I even managed this, given how I’ve been feeling recently.

Quotes That Helped Me (BPD Edition)

While I do want to share some more in-depth posts this month, I wanted to post a few different things since different things are helpful and interesting. So, for my first post of Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month, here are some quotes about BPD, ranging from scientific explanations to emotional descriptions.

“I’m so good at beginnings, but in the end I always seem to destroy everything, including myself.” – Kiera Van Gelder

“Accepting a psychiatric diagnosis is like a religious conversion. It’s an adjustment in cosmology, with all its accompanying high priests, sacred texts, and stories of religion. And I am, for better or worse, an instant convert.” – Kiera Van Gelder

“To a large degree, a particular collision of genes and temperament with a suboptimal or hostile environment may explain the development of borderline personality disorder.” – Dolores Mosquera

“Most of the time, BPD arises from complex trauma and attachment wounds in childhood, and the symptoms of BPD are just defence mechanisms that protect these old wounds. For example, a person with BPD frantically avoids abandonment by shapeshifting to become who others want them to be, instead of who they truly are. They may also over-identify with painful emotions in an attempt to get other people to show them love and attention because this is the only way they received it in the past. They sometimes self-sabotage because they have a deep sense of shame that causes them to believe that they will fail, be left by others, and they would rather these happen on their terms, rather than blindsiding them.” – Hailey Shafir

“It is important to remember that those who are experiencing Borderline Personality Disorder come from a background of perceived or real chaos, abandonment, and other trauma in their childhood. As a result, their internal dialogue usually consists of, ‘I am not worthy of love,’ ‘People I love will leave me,’ or ‘I can’t trust anyone.’ As a result, when these persons become adults, their internal dialogue affects every aspect of their lives but is especially amplified in relationships. They learned early on to trust chaos in their families of origin. Therefore, they don’t trust peaceful situations or healthy relationships. This is why people with BPD are known for being ‘needy,’ ‘dramatic,’ ‘troublemakers,’ etc. They are following their internalized dialogue and consequently creating the one thing they fear: being abandoned and alone.” –  Keischa Pruden

“In the life cycle of an intense emotion, if it isn’t acted upon, it eventually peaks and then decreases. But as Dr. Linehan explains, people with BPD have a different physiological experience with this process because of three key biological vulnerabilities: First, we’re highly sensitive to emotional stimuli (meaning we experience social dynamics, the environment, and our own inner states with an acuteness similar to having exposed nerve endings). Second, we respond more intensely and much more quickly, than other people. And third, we don’t ‘come down’ from our emotions for a long time. Once the nerves have been touched, the sensations keep peaking. Shock waves of emotion that might pass through others in minutes keep cresting in us for hours, sometimes days.” – Kiera Van Gelder

“Owing to a poorly defined sense of self, people with BPD rely on others for their feelings of worth and emotional caretaking. So fearful are they of feeling alone that they may act in desperate ways that quite frequently bring about the very abandonment and rejection they’re trying to avoid.” – Kimberlee Roth

“To stave off the panic associated with the absence of a primary object, borderline patients frequently will impulsively engage in behaviors that numb the panic and establish contact with and control over some new object.” – Christine Ann Lawson

“I don’t know what it’s like to not have deep emotions, even when I feel nothing, I feel it completely.” – A. R. Asher

“Imagine all the strongest emotions you have ever felt in your life: anger, hopelessness, rage, embarrassment, regret, lust, fear…  Imagine that most days you feel forced to experience all of those in quick succession. How might one react to this? Dissociation in order to escape?  Self-harm to bring about a strong physical stimulus to briefly replace these emotions? Thoughts of suicide? Feelings of worthlessness or wondering ‘what is wrong with me?’ and ‘why am I not worthy of loving relationships?’ Feeling the need to quickly exit relationships before people find out the ‘real you’? Finding relief and closeness in intense but brief sexual encounters? Rapidly and repeatedly changing identity in order to find a way to escape? This is the heart of BPD and common reactions people suffering from BPD have to everyday situations.” – Dr. Nicolas Sikaczowski

“There weren’t as many layers between her and the world as there were with the rest of us.” – Renée Knight

“My skin is so thin that the innocent words of others burn holes right through me.” – Unknown

“People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over ninety percent of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.” – Marsha Linehan

“A borderline suffers a kind of emotional hemophilia; [s]he lacks the clotting mechanism needed to moderate [his or her] spurts of feeling. Stimulate a passion, and the borderline emotionally bleeds to death.” – Jerold Kreisman and Hal Straus

“I’ve grown up with an ethic, call it a part, that insists I hide my pain at all costs. As I talk, I feel this pain leaking out – not just the core symptom of BPD, but all the years of being blamed or ignored for my condition, and all the years I’ve blamed others for how I am. It’s the pain of being told I was too needy even as I could never get the help I needed.” – Kiera Van Gelder

“I couldn’t trust my own emotions. Which emotional reactions were justified, if any? And which ones were tainted by the mental illness of BPD? I found myself fiercely guarding and limiting my emotional reactions, chastising myself for possible distortions and motivations. People who had known me years ago would barely recognise me now. I had become quiet and withdrawn in social settings, no longer the life of the party. After all, how could I know if my boisterous humour was spontaneous or just a borderline desire to be the centre of attention? I could no longer trust any of my heartfelt beliefs and opinions on politics, religion, or life. The debate queen had withered. I found myself looking at every single side of an issue unable to come to any conclusions for fear they might be tainted. My lifelong ability to be assertive had turned into a constant state of passivity.” – Rachel Reiland

“This crack in your façade can be the first glimpse you have had to your real self. Ironically, your newly experienced vulnerability – the feeling that you are now exposed for all the world to see, that your weaknesses are now visible – is the very thing that can save you.” – Merri Lisa Johnson

“Certainly, it’s important to acknowledge and identify the effects of BPD on your life. It’s equally important to realize that it neither dictates who you are nor fixes your destiny.” – Kimberlee Roth

“I still get very high and very low in life. Daily. But I’ve finally accepted the fact that sensitive is just how I was made, that I don’t have to hide it and I don’t have to fix it. I’m not broken.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

These were surprisingly hard to find so if you know of any more, please let me know!

BPD As Described By Claudia Boleyn

Trigger Warning: frequent mentions of self harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behaviour. If this is something that you will find triggering or upsetting, please don’t read ahead. Please always put your mental health first.

Given that it’s Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Awareness Month, I felt I should write at least one post about BPD, although one is all I have time for at the moment, what with my uni workload. This is one of the videos I watched pretty early on after my BPD  diagnosis and it really, really helped me. It’s such a good, informative video, completely free of the stigma that is often attached to this diagnosis.

I really recommend watching the whole thing but I want to talk about some of the points Claudia makes, as well as adding some of my own thoughts.

Borderline Personality Disorder (also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder) is a type of personality disorder, a type of mental health problem where your attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours cause you longstanding problems in your life, that impact your life daily. Struggling with how you think and feel about yourself and others – and that causing problems in your life – can lead to an investigation into whether you might have BPD. Having said this, many clinicians are reluctant to diagnose it as there is such stigma attached to it, with many in the health sector seeing those diagnosed with BPD as ‘difficult’ and ‘attention seeking’ (x). Personally, I have been told on numerous occasions that I should consider abandoning the diagnosis to avoid negative assumptions from doctors, a suggestion I find deeply offensive and have ignored. It explains things about me that I can’t otherwise explain and I’m not going to give that up because of other people’s ignorance.

Considering how many misunderstandings and how much stigma there is around BPD, Claudia uses the framework of the diagnostic criteria, as detailed by the Mind website (as of 2016, although the diagnostic criteria listed has not changed), to describe the symptoms of BPD and how she experiences them.

Fear of Abandonment

  • She talks briefly about her parents separating when she was a child and how, while it wasn’t an actual abandonment, it could be perceived that way, especially in the mind of a young child.
  • “I think I do struggle with that feeling that people are gonna leave, that people are gonna leave me.”

I definitely relate to this. I’ve had several people abandon me, intentionally or not, and so I have serious anxiety about people leaving me.

  • “[I’ve struggled with] that feeling of being not good enough and that when people know the real you, they’re not gonna want to stick around and stay with you. I really have struggled with that.”

I also relate to this, although my fear usually stems from feeling like a burden and that one day, the people in my life will feel like I’m just too much of a burden and walk away.

On Feeling Emotions Strongly

  • “I do have very, very strong, very, very intense emotions and I have done since I was younger.”

I most definitely have very strong emotions, sometimes overwhelmingly so.

  • “I don’t seem to have a middle point, for emotions at all. I don’t have a happy setting. I know that sounds odd but I don’t have a happy setting. My happy setting is feeling calm and I rarely manage to feel calm. I either feel very excited, very happy or very agitated or I feel anxious, and depressed, and low, and suicidal. I don’t have that relaxed place.”

This is very true for me too. My emotions tend to be at the extreme ends of the scale with very little middle ground. 

  • “It’s exhausting because everyday I’m going through these hundreds of emotions and I’m feeling the full force of them as if big things are happening when really hardly anything is and it exhausts me. It’s really tiring and it’s really hard to deal with day to day when your emotions can be so easily triggered like that. It says, ‘you can go from feeling very happy and confident in the morning to low and sad in the afternoon,’ and that is so me because I’ll wake up in the morning some days and feel great and… I don’t know… It happens so quickly and suddenly I’m suicidal… Most people assume that something big must’ve happened to make you get that low but with BPD it doesn’t need to be a big thing… I get really big ups and downs and there’s no middle ground for me.”

It can be scary and as Claudia says, exhausting, to have such big emotions that ricochet around inside you, changing every time they collide with something. If that makes sense. When they’re so big and they change so quickly and dramatically that it’s like the ground is constantly rocking until your feet; nothing feels stable or reliable.

  • “I do get really big ups and downs and there’s no middle ground for me emotionally. There is no centre.”

On Having Unstable Sense of Self

  • “I’ve had to develop a sense of who I am because, I think with BPD – just from my experience – I feel very empty and very blank canvas-y and I do struggle with understanding who I am: ‘Am I a good person or a bad person? What do I think about things?’ Sometimes I feel like I’m not even here, everything’s too much, and I just think… ‘What am I? What is this? What’s going on?'”

I really relate to this, to feeling empty, to feeling like I don’t truly know who I am. I know little things, that my favourite chocolate is milk chocolate and that thunderstorms make me feel alive. But the answers to the big questions about myself continue to elude me: Am I a good person or a selfish person? What do I really think about this issue or that issue? Am I actually good at the things I think I’m good at? What are my strengths? My weaknesses? It’s very confusing.

  • “You might notice I use the name ‘Claudia Boleyn’… It’s not my birth name anyway and I think what I’ve tried to do because of the issues I’ve had with feeling so empty and confused about this kind of thing is I’ve tried to form an identity based on people I admire… Some people think it’s like copying. It’s not necessarily copying; it’s trying to deal with that empty, confused thing. There are things I like and things I don’t like and I can tell you the things I enjoy and the things I don’t enjoy but I couldn’t tell you about me as a person because it changes so much. I couldn’t tell you if I was an introvert or an extrovert… it’s just a million things. I couldn’t describe myself. Or if I were to describe myself, you could ask me the next day or an hour later and it would entirely change… I do change a lot. Fictional characters are important to me and historical characters are important to me because they help me ground myself a little bit. It’s hard because, with BPD, people who don’t have it find it very difficult to understand that. So with the Anne Boleyn thing for me, she represents a lot of what I find admirable and I want to replicate some of those qualities but at the same time I want to be myself. It’s a really hard balance to strike. It’s not that people with BPD don’t have that personality, it’s that they feel so much so much of the time and they can change so often that it gets confusing, you know? What is my stable identity? What is that? It’s really hard to figure out when it’s changing all the time.”

I can definitely understand taking the best of our favourite people or fictional characters and building an identity and personality using those traits. I’ve absolutely done it. When I was younger, I would accidentally take on the whole person with both the traits helpful and unhelpful to me; I’d end up making decisions that weren’t what I wanted at all but were what the person I was emulating would do, which got me into some complicated situations. But now that I’m older and I understand that this is something I do, sometimes unintentionally, I’m better able to use it to strengthen me, rather than completely change me.

On Finding It Hard to Make and Keep Stable Relationships

  • “I haven’t had a super serious romantic relationship… I actually am petrified – I tell you, PETRIFIED – of being in a serious, serious, like, forever relationship because, when you have something like BPD and you have that mindset, everything is very all-or-nothing so I do worry about the state of my emotions when being in love, and being in that sort of intense relationship because just the normal things for people with BPD can be overwhelming so with something like love, which ‘normal people’ find absolutely out there, for someone with BPD, that’s a lot. That’s a lot to deal with. I think I want to be in a really stable place for that.”

This definitely resonates with me. Romantic relationships scare the crap out of me. The only relationship I’d consider significant was late in my teens, before I had my diagnoses of BPD (as well as ASD, depression, anxiety, etc) and it ended very traumatically. While that will always be on the other person, I did really struggle throughout the time we knew each other, especially with the big emotions and fear of abandonment curtesy of the BPD, as well as the social difficulties of ASD. And with no explanation for why I operated that way, it was probably doomed from the start. Still, the other person didn’t need to be such a cruel, manipulative human being…

  • “It’s a lot to deal with if you have BPD. Maintaining those relationships is hard because it means so much to you. It means a lot. That being said, it’s not that I find it hard to keep stable relationships, or maybe I’ve just got lucky with the ones I’ve got… I do a thing where… (*see point below)… because of the BPD, where I do not talk to someone for a very long time and I don’t know why this is but I find it really hard to keep contact with people. So my closest friends are those people who are very understanding and very patient.”

I really relate to what she says about relationships being complicated because of how much you care. I’ve been devastated by the ending of friendships, relationships, etc and that does make maintaining relationships of any type very stressful at times: the idea of saying or doing the wrong thing and that damaging the relationship irreparably (even relationships that, in theory, aren’t so fragile that one mistake would ruin them) is terrifying and that in itself can lead to making bad decisions, saying or doing things, etc that aren’t true to who you are, that could damage the relationship. If that makes any sense.

I also relate to what she says about not being great at continuous contact. For me at least, I think it’s about exhaustion: communication is so loaded and requires so much energy, social energy, emotional energy, etc. Sometimes it all just becomes too much and I have to retreat for a while to recover.

  • *”Can I just say… if you’re a friend of mine and you’ve been a friend of mine once, I consider you a friend for my whole life. I just wanna put that out there.”

This is definitely a trait of mine. If you’re a friend once, you’re a friend forever (barring a serious falling out). It’s one of the things that I find very confusing in other people: when they don’t feel the same way about friendships. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

On Acting Impulsively

  • She explains that, with BPD, acting impulsively often involves doing harmful, dangerous, and risky behaviours, anything from shoplifting to taking drugs.
  • She, understandably, doesn’t want to discuss her personal risky behaviours on the internet but does elaborate on the feelings involved.
  • “The impulse control is bad with me. With BPD, because of the high emotions and feeling everything so intensely, obviously you feel so out of control and it can be really hard to control your impulses sometimes.”

I don’t consider myself a particularly impulsive person. In fact, I’ve always been terrified of not being in control of myself or making thoughtless decision. That’s probably partly why I’m such an overthinker. 

On Suicidal Thoughts and Self Harming Behaviour

  • “I am constantly suicidal and I have been as long as I can remember. Now that sounds odd. I don’t mean in the sense that I’m going to actively go out and do it constantly 24/7. I just mean that there is a constant undercurrent with me… I think it’s called suicidal ideation, it’s sort of being passively suicidal. It’s that feeling of, even when you’re at your best, thinking, ‘well, I’m not going to do it but if a car hit me right now, I wouldn’t complain.’ It’s hard to exist like that. I think it’s hard for people who don’t understand that [to get it].”

I’ve been meaning to write a post about being passively suicidal for ages; I just haven’t had the time that I would want to dedicate to it, given how important it is. But I’ve definitely experienced this and continue to have phases of feeling this way, some that last for days and some that last for months.

  • “I think it’s to do with the huge emotions and the exhaustion and being so confused and things can feel like so much and there is a lot of pain that comes with BPD because being so emotional, reacting  to stuff so strongly can make you feel like you’ve got no skin. It’s like you’ve got no emotional skin, nothing to protect you, and it’s painful and it’s hard and it’s tiring and it’s exhausting and it leaves you with this, for me, this undercurrent of suicidal ideation.”

The ‘no emotional skin’ leapt out at me immediately. I really relate to that. Sometimes everything is just so overwhelming and painful; it can all feel like just too much to cope with, to survive, to live a life that isn’t unbearably painful.

  • She briefly mentions two suicide attempts but again, completely understandably, doesn’t want to share the details with the internet.
  • “I’ve been a self harmer since I was about twelve years old. I began self harming before I knew what self harming was… It just came as a sort of reaction to me. I used to scratch my thumb with a safety pin because I felt so upset and angry and when I felt a big emotion, I would just scratch until my thumb bled. I didn’t know self harm was a thing. It was a response to the emotions and feeling too much and feeling completely trapped in my body and not knowing what to do.”

I’ve self harmed on and off since I was about thirteen. To be honest, I never really thought about it as self harm – not for a long time at least: I didn’t think of it as harm myself because that wasn’t the primary motivation for doing it. I did it (and sometimes still do it) when I got so overwhelmed, so full of feeling that I had to get it out of me. I didn’t know how I would survive if I didn’t do it; it was a coping mechanism, like a pressure valve that helped me regulate the intensity of my emotions. I’m obviously aware now that it is self harm but after much discussion with my therapist, we’re not worried about it on it’s own. If it’s a coping mechanism (and one that I use relatively rarely), then the best use of our time is working on helping me to regulate my emotions so I don’t need to do it rather than stop me from using the only coping mechanism I currently have.

Feeling Empty and Lonely A Lot of the Time

  • “I do feel very empty and this sounds incredibly emo and angsty but it’s just a default setting for me, as it can be for other people with BPD. I just feel very empty and alone and just scared really. I think, living with BPD, you’re in a constant state of low fear, you know… terror sometimes and you get so used to it that it’s just there and it’s only when you come to think about it, you think, ‘wow, I’m living with this in me all the time.’ It’s quite hard to think about actually but it also makes me feel proud of myself for still being here and fighting through and getting the help that I needed and sorting myself out.”

I can absolutely understand the feeling of emptiness; I relate to it a lot. Sometimes I wonder if the emotions in me and around me are just so big and so overwhelming that that part of my brain just shuts down to keep me from being constantly overwhelmed, to keep all the fuses in my brain from blowing. Maybe empty is safe. I don’t know. But ‘feeling empty’ is definitely something that resonates with me. 

  • “I do have a constant sense of emptiness and just feeling like nothing is ever enough. Everything is too much for me and yet it’s simultaneously never enough for me, it’s never enough to fill that empty feeling.”

‘Everything is too much for me and yet it’s simultaneously never enough for me’ is a phrase that could sum up my relationship with my emotions. My emotions are so big that they’re overwhelming but they also don’t feel quite enough. I can’t really explain it; I don’t know if there are words for it. It’s so deeply emotional that I’m not sure it would translate. I guess it’s kind of like sucking in so much air you feel sick but none of it is actually getting to your lungs. Maybe? I think that’s the best analogy I’ve got. Right now, at least.

Getting Angry and Struggling to Control Anger

  • “Yeah, I’ve had some issues with anger… [but] I’m not a violent person at all. Whenever I get the extreme upset and anger, I’ve always taken it out on myself. I’m a self harmer. I can be truly cruel to myself sometimes and when I feel that intense anger, I’ve always acted more inwardly.”

I don’t often get angry. I don’t think I ever even felt angry until I was twenty. I always just jumped straight to sad. So anger is a strange and confusing emotion for me. I only ever really let it out when in the midst of an autistic meltdown. As I’ve already talked about, I have a lot of fear around saying or doing the wrong thing and the chances of that happening, in the heat of an angry moment, make that a lot more likely to happen. Plus I really hate confrontation. I can do it but I hate it.

Paranoia, Psychotic Experiences, or Feeling Numb When Anxious

  • She talks about having had psychotic experiences and that they’re triggered either by feeling really low or by very intense emotion.
  • “I’ve had some very scary things happen before because of psychosis.”
  • She talks about a period of time where she genuinely believed that there would be a school shooting.
  • She goes on to talk about how, after talking about it with her psychologist, she learned that it was her brain’s response to extreme stress and “thankfully, [her] life is different now” so she hasn’t been experiencing that level of stress and the resulting psychotic episodes.

Fortunately, I’ve never experienced a psychotic episode and hopefully my mental health never reaches that point. They sound incredibly scary and I feel for anyone who has them.

  • “I get depersonalisation and derealisation, where I don’t feel like I’m a real person and I feel like the world is not real. Sometimes I get that when I’m getting towards psychosis because I feel like nothing is real and I’m not convinced… sometimes it feels like this is all some virtual reality or something and I’m not sure what’s real and what’s not and ‘Am I alive? Am I imagining this?’ and it can get really  scary and it spirals out of control quite fast. But yeah, I do get very numb and checked out and when I get ‘bad,’ sometimes I will sit down for a while and lose a huge chunk of time…”

I’ve definitely experienced periods of feeling like I’m not really here or like I’m really far away from everything and everyone, separated by something intangible but powerful. I’ve struggled to believe that I’m real and that the world is real. It’s confusing and difficult and lonely. I usually only experience it when I’m deeply depressed but it does appear on other occasions. 

She talks about the stigma similarly to the way I described it at the top of this post but says that she wanted to share her experience with it in the hopes that it will help people and lessen that stigma. She also talks about the impact that her mental illness has had on her life: she’s studying for a degree at home because that’s the path most conducive to her mental health and that’s something she’s proud of because she’s still working to achieve the things she wants to achieve, even if she has to go about it in a less than traditional way.

“I really am working on structuring my life now; like how some people structure healthy eating in their lives and they think about what they’re gonna eat in their diet, I think about myself emotionally and giving myself time and all these kind of weird emotional things that I have to think about, like that. But yeah, having my diagnosis was a huge weight off my shoulders because it feels real and you feel very validated… And like I said, some people don’t like a diagnosis and that’s fine. That’s up to them but for me, it felt validating and I’m not ashamed of it. At all.”

Many of the things I’ve talked about personally are very much inline with Quiet BPD, a less well known presentation of the disorder – sometimes people don’t initially believe me when I say I have BPD because I don’t fit neatly into the classic presentation. I read about it before my diagnosis and after investigating it with my psychiatrist, it’s always been accepted that this is the form that my BPD takes. I really want to write a longer, more personal piece on BPD and on my experience of Quiet BPD but I just haven’t got the time at the moment, being in the home stretch of my Masters. It’s also something that I feel is so important to get right and I just haven’t felt like I’ve been in the right space to do it justice. But these days I do feel more confident in my experience and, maybe when the stress of the Masters is over, I’ll feel able to write that post.