All it took was one minute.
My manager had kindly given me suggestions to improve in the workplace. Until that conversation, I had been peppy and had been doing what I thought was a good job. Apparently, someone else hadn’t thought that and had spoken to my manager about it. She’d sat me down, told me what the problem was, and how to improve.
All composure had broken in one minute.
Over the course of that shift, I broke down sobbing, rocking myself in the corner of the bathroom, had thoughts of self-injury and lost hope for my future. I emailed my therapist and my depression turned to rage as I vented about how unjust the complaint was, how stupid my coworkers were for not seeing how good I was and how I should just quit. By the end of my shift, the depression had returned. I sat in my car and contemplated driving off the third floor of the parking garage. My life was a failure, I concluded. Everyone hated me.
It doesn’t take much for that wave of emotion to knock me to my knees. People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have difficulty with managing emotions. Any bit of criticism or praise can set off a long chain that can bewilder even the most sympathetic person.
Keeping any sort of friendship is difficult for me. Finding — and keeping — my husband was no small miracle. Even now, I worry I’m not good enough for him. Relationship instability is another intense issue for anyone with BPD. I constantly have to check myself when I’m around people to make sure that I’m being socially appropriate. When I do make a connection with anyone, I cling hard to that person until it unnerves them. When they start to pull away, I panic, apologize and do whatever I can to keep myself close to them. I remember vividly when I was in high school, a girl telling me that my constant apologizing was a huge turn-off for her. Of course, just saying that is enough to unleash the tsunami of emotions. Needless to say, relationships are a very delicate balancing act.
The problems associated with BPD have kept my life turbulent. I’m covered in scars from years of self-injury. I have two separate sojourns at two separate hospitals under my belt. I’ve attempted suicide four times. I can count on one hand the amount of jobs I’ve kept longer than a year. I’ve had times I’ve been so depressed I failed out of class. Impulsiveness has led to reckless and sometimes unsavory behaviors; spending money, sex, lying.
Finding that oasis of stability has been so, so hard. The incident I opened this article with happened just last week. I’m fortunate to have a rock in my husband, my therapist and a community I’m still struggling to integrate myself into. I find that opening up to my professors and close friends about my mental illness helps them to understand why I sometimes react the way I do, or why I sometimes disappear from life for a while. Still, I don’t announce my illness to the world. I’m not ashamed I have BPD, and I’ll freely admit it to anyone who asks about my scars.
However, my BPD does not define me, nor will I try to use it as an excuse. Someday, through therapy and my own personal strength, I hope to be able to regulate my own emotions. It’s a lofty goal for someone like me.
But starting that goal only takes one minute.