I’d like to say living with a mental illness is easy peasy, except I would be lying. And I strive to not do exactly that. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a sort of slithering madness that creeps up into my thoughts constantly. It eats away at my carefully, jealously guarded sanity with the not-so-silent whispers of worthlessness. It brings the thoughts of being better off dead and of how everyone around me doesn’t actually care about me. If they did, I wouldn’t be in so much pain all the time. At least, that’s what my BPD tells me at least once a day (on a good day it’s only once.)
Living with BPD is a practice in trying to control the spiraling downs and the soaring highs I experience anywhere from several times a day to dozens of times throughout the span of a week. One moment, I can be filled with joy at something as simple as getting a phone call or text from someone I care about. The next moment I am far into the dark I’m fighting the impulse to press a razor to my skin. This is coupled with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On a good day, it’s just barely manageable. On a bad day, it’s crippling.
I have to be consciously aware of every emotion I experience, of what is causing it and where it is coming from. It’s this exhaustive awareness that others never see. This is what the people in my daily life don’t have to witness, the struggle of trying to figure out if my reaction to every little thing is an appropriate one or if I’m just letting my BPD get the better of me.
I feel with an intensity that few others share. When I am happy, the world is perfect and I am over the moon. When I am angry, I see red. There is little anyone can do but let me blow off steam and get myself under control. When I am sad, it is horrifyingly scary and I want to die. I plan on how to do it. Suicidal ideation is a part of my daily thoughts. Fighting it is a war I will be in for the rest of my life.
The upside to this intensity of emotions is that when I love, I love with everything in me, with every fiber of my being. When I am happy, it consumes me. Joy is pure in my world, unsullied and beautiful. Empathy is much more a boon than a detriment. If I am around someone who is happy, who is filled with joy, then I can’t help but be as well. If they are happy, then I am too. This intensity is a large part of what has blown apart relationship after relationship with me. The intensity of my emotions is scary to those who don’t feel with the depth I do.
I have tried explaining it using the mantis shrimp and its ability to see a vastly broader range of color than humans or other animals (The Oatmeal has a great article on the Mantis Shrimp, and it adds a little levity during a hard discussion.) I have tried using the academic approach and providing them with as much scientific and academic information available. I try to give them something that is some semblance of what it is like to be in my head.
Unfortunately, unless you have a disorder that causes the same sort of depth of feeling, there is no way to truly prepare someone for loving a person with it. We “borderlines” can be a handful. At the same time, we are a whirlwind of new experiences and excitement. Be prepared for a wild ride.