What Isolation Feels Like With Borderline Personality Disorder

 

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Someone said something hurtful today. Or something that I perceived as hurtful and now I am afraid. They told me that they forgot we had plans today and would need to reschedule. Something else came up. Something more important than me, I guess.  They really don’t want to see me, and they really don’t want to spend time with me. Now I’m crying—look what they did! People who love you don’t do this! They don’t like me and that’s fine, because now I hate them. Yes, I loved them yesterday, but I hate them today. They never liked me anyway. This is why I don’t have friends. This is why I can’t have friends. Friends hurt. Relationships hurt. I’m too scared to try again. It is much easier being alone.

 Something as simple as cancelled plans can set someone, like me, into isolation. Before my diagnosis, I was unaware that what I was doing was isolation. I just knew that there were periods where I was terrified to be around people. If someone said something that I perceived as hurtful, my relationship with them could change in an instant. We could go from speaking every day, to hardly speaking at all.

The only thing that I felt was everlasting fear of the intentions and words of others’.

That is still true today.

Having Borderline Personality Disorder means perpetual misunderstandings. Misunderstandings on both your end, and on the end of the person you are communicating with.

Communication is a never-ending problem with BPD sufferers, affecting our ability to develop and maintain interpersonal relationships. We have an aching, nagging desire to interact with people on a personal level, but that fearful, irrational voice in our head wins us over every time with its’ statements of “what ifs”.

“What if this person is just trying to get something from you”

“What if he/ she is just pretending to be your friend”

“What did they really mean when they said (insert said dialogue).

 I manage well in passing interactions like, “Hi, how are you?”, in which I can respond,“Good, and yourself”—and continue on with my day with little to no interaction with that person again. But creating personal relationships is unbelievably difficult.

  • Wanting to create relationships while having BPD is like being pulled in two directions. Imagine that a weak person is pulling on your left arm, and a very strong person is pulling on your right arm. You are swaying from left to right, and both your arms are becoming stressed. You may start to panic, wanting someone to let go. The stronger person will end up winning, but both of your arms will be exhausted. The weak person is my “rational” thoughts, and the strong person is my “irrational” thoughts. My irrational thoughts about forming relationships always wins because my fear is stronger than my courage and will to take a chance. As much as I want the “weak person” (my rational thoughts) to win—it hardly ever happens.

 

  • Isolation with Borderline Personality Disorder is not wanting to be alone, but not wanting to be around people either. This is extremely conflicting and creates a lot of anxiety. I cling to just one person, and when that one person is busy I will stay at home by myself no matter how much I want to interact. I can also become hostile towards them because I will feel as if they have abandoned me if they have other obligations.Because I cannot trust anyone else, I would rather be alone for days on end waiting for one person than take a chance and spend time with someone new. The lack of support around me causes me to develop a lot of feelings of emptiness, depression, and boredom.

 

  • Becoming paranoid in isolation is inevitable. Since I am too afraid to spend time with people, I can go days without too much social interaction. Because I am lost in my own mind and alone during these times, I become paranoid. I become even more paranoid that people are saying things behind my back, or are planning things that could hurt me. This becomes an unbreakable cycle of delusions that is problematic because it only causes me to isolate myself even more.

 

  • Being in isolation causes panic attacks prior to arranged interactions. Being in isolation also worsens the anxiety I feel before social gatherings or interactions, causing me to have panic attacks. The idea of having to communicate builds up so much uneasiness that I become exhausted even hours before interacting. If I can avoid it, I will. If I cannot, it causes panic to the point of crying and hyperventilation. If I do have a high level of anxiety/panic, I will disassociate. This feels as if I am watching myself in a movie, or as if I am out of my body. Since I had been in my own head for so long, it also almost feels like I have forgotten how to have normal communication. I develop poor eye contact, and look at my feet a lot. I will then resort to a corner or isolated area of the gathering to avoid social interactions.

 

  • I lash out as a result of my separation from society. Part of having BPD are extreme emotional reactions, even aggressive ones, to simple situations. If I have isolated myself for quite some time—I will become even more irritable as a result of all of the racing thoughts in mind that I have failed to manage on my own. I may scream, slam doors, or throw objects. I have never (and will never) hurt anyone—however, I have turned my anger onto myself with self-mutilation, suicide attempts as a teen, and Anorexia Nervosa.

 

  • I can only pretend for so long. I have borderline Personality Disorder, but I am also a public speaker, and a former Miss Maryland 2015 for the Miss World Organization—which put me in social situations on a regular basis. I was able to manage social situations over short periods by making myself feel beautiful and glamourous. It was a lot like playing dress-up and make believe. I loved partaking in pageants because it allowed me to embody a confident, outgoing woman when I often felt unsure and nervous, with a very unstable self-image. While I “pretended” to be much more confident and outgoing than I was in reality, it also gave me the courage to show parts of my personality while feeling safe in a physical image that I felt was more acceptable to society. I still struggle with feeling “safe” in being myself.

 

Eventually, it became exhausting to keep my true feelings and changing identity a secret. Part of having BPD is having an unstable identity. One minute I want short hair, and dark clothes—and the next minute I would want to pretend to be Barbie. Being in pageantry required me to have self-confidence and knowledge about myself that I truly did not have, and am still struggling to find. I could only pretend for so long. The same is true for having social interactions. It becomes very exhausting and difficult for me to manage.

Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious, complex mental illness where one of its’ primary symptoms can be isolation. It is an illness that is often difficult for the public to understand as sufferers struggle with “back and forth” thinking on wanting relationships, but also pushing people away. We want you to understand that our intentions are not to hurt you, and we really do not want to hurt ourselves. All we want is understanding and love. With patience and a commitment to helping loved ones suffering with BPD, they can get to a place where isolation from others’ can be an occurrence which happens less often. All we need is your support.

“Don’t Tell Anyone You Have Borderline Personality Disorder”

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“Don’t tell anyone you have Borderline Personality Disorder, it would be wise to keep it to yourself”.

That was the first statement my psychiatrist made upon diagnosing me with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Instead of taking his advice, I went public with my diagnosis.

I knew that BPD was an illness that was heavily stigmatized. Courtney Love, Amy Winehouse, and Lindsey Lohan are a few celebrities who have had very public struggles’ with mental illness and are speculated to have BPD. Their actions during difficult moments were erratic and quite frightening. I knew that with my past as a public figure and beauty queen that I may be viewed differently. I knew that, but that did not stop me. I felt I had to say it.

I had been battling mental illness for over a decade. I had been in and out of psychiatric wards during my adolescence with diagnosis’s of Anorexia Nervosa, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD),  major depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

I have been very honest with my childhood struggle of Anorexia Nervosa in the past, and even published a book about it. But I tried so hard to portray mental illness as my past, and was not open about the fact that I still struggle with it…and will likely always struggle with it to some degree.

Admitting to myself  that at 24 years old I was still struggling, was the most difficult part of this process. I really wanted to convince myself that all of my issues were a thing of the past. But the truth is that I was having debilitating panic attacks, suicidal ideation, disassociation, and mood swings that varied within minutes to hours. Sometimes I even self harmed. I was isolating myself from family and friends, and I did not want to go out. The most worrisome element of this illness was that I wanted to give up. Even scarier than that was that no one outside of my home could tell.

Being able to speak up about my current state of mind made me feel in control, when I had felt so powerless before. There was an immense amount of freedom in declaring, “No I am really not okay. My life is not perfect!”

I was fortunate to receive so much support in response to my truthfulness. But I wish I could say that is all I experienced. My truthfulness was also met with judgement and discrimination. If ever I was hurt, the response was “your illness is making you hurt”, “It’s all in your head”,  or “Your illness is distorting reality”. These remarks made me feel as if none of my feelings were real even though BPD actually means that you experience your feeling stronger than the average person. My feelings are always very much real.

The most stressful of all was the way my workplace changed once it was known that I was suffering from mental illness and placed on anti-psychotics. I was sent home over a headache. A rumor had floated around that I was “rocking back and forth in the corner screaming, ‘Get me out of here'”. Which, of course, was false. I had actually been sitting, rubbing my temples quietly for a few minutes and returned to work without a single word afterwards. I was then sent home on my lunch break because I was not “well enough to work”. Among these rumors were also those that I was schizophrenic and had split personality disorder. This was very distressing to me because I was still the same person I always was. BPD is very different from schizophrenia and split personality disorder. People also made comments that I looked different and pale. The only thing that changed was that they now knew something about me that they did not know before. The only true difference was that previously my illness went undiagnosed, and now I was diagnosed and receiving treatment. And I was actually getting better.

The fact of the matter is that I was judged. At times, subconsciously. At other times, it was even done consciously with malice. And this is the reality of living openly with mental illness. Yes, people will undoubtably express support and love for you. But they may also meet you with discrimination, misunderstandings, and even cruelty. Even with this reality, I could still see no other way to progress in my life. I would feel like I was not really living had I tried to hide it.

How would I even improve with dishonesty? How can those who care for me be mindful of my condition if they are unaware that I have a condition? What about when I have bad days and I need support, but don’t want to talk? How would they know?

Despite the misunderstandings and struggles that I faced in being honest about my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, I would do it over and over again. Even though my doctor told me not to.

I have only improved with being honest. I will continue to be straight forward about Borderline Personality Disorder, even with all of the ugly it brings.

How else can we triumph over the fear and stigma against mental illness if we are repeatedly told it is something we should be ashamed of? I am not ashamed and I am not afraid.