I’ve heard far too often from others, “Don’t use your mental illness as an excuse.”
I know I am responsible for my own actions, behaviors and choices. Mental illness doesn’t excuse that, as I have control over my decisions. Mental illness does make it more difficult for me to navigate life, and it affects my decision making. On the surface, it just looks like “I’m difficult” but there is more to it, the parts people don’t see.
I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), and it doesn’t excuse my behavior, but it explains it.
I know people get frustrated with me and my behavior, and as much as they are irritated by me, I’m irritated with myself too. It is helpful to understand the why, though, as people like me need compassion, not shaming.
From the outside looking in, it is just plain frustrating, and for me, it is hard to explain. Having BPD is needing constant reassurance and validation from others. It is feeling like there is a lonely child inside of me who just wants to be understood and accepted. That child is desperate for comfort from others but has trouble trusting them. This is why I sometimes lash out and push people away. I am extremely terrified of the idea of rejection and abandonment, which to me feels like death. People think I’m dramatic, but I just feel incredibly deeply. I don’t always know how to deal with these emotions, which causes me to cope in self-destructive ways, which often appears to be just attention-seeking. I’ve been told to “grow up” and to “stop being a baby,” but that just makes me feel worse.
BPD means I’m extremely sensitive, and my emotions are like a huge wave. I view the world differently, in black and white. I move from one extreme to the other in a matter of minutes. My brain doesn’t comprehend the idea there is a grey. I make impulsive decisions, and on the outside, it looks like I’m reckless, but I’m just trying to feel less empty. To others, it seems like I’m triggered all the time, but it is really just a deep fear I’m reacting to.
This is all because of the way my life started when I was very young. I act the way I do to protect the part of me that is hurting so badly. It is frustrating for the people around us, but even more frustrating to live with personally. None of this was my choice, it is just how my brain functions, but there is a reason why. None of this excuses any of my behavior. Those are my choices. I know that. Having BPD isn’t an excuse, it’s an explanation.