I struggle to differentiate my symptoms from myself. The symptoms of depression and anxiety are easier for me to identify and externalize. When I am depressed I feel empty and unfulfilled. Anxiety puts me on edge and makes me light-headed and nauseous. However, personality disorders become messy. The symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder are normal human responses, intensified, with a greater difficulty to control these emotions and emotional responses. My symptoms are intertwined with myself. These symptoms are how I’ve always felt and reacted. When I was diagnosed, I was given the ability to externalize these symptoms.
Borderline Personality Disorder causes difficulties in relationships. Honestly, that is an understatement. It feels as if I have this internal drive to sabotage what’s good in my life and make me feel safe. I am aware of how often I overreact. I have the responsibility to try my best to recognize when I’m overreacting. However, the other half of the disorder is how easy it is for me to not notice the overreaction. This is because my response is a normal reaction to how I feel inside, the intense emotions I have. As you can guess, it’s difficult to allow me not to react to how I initially see fit. Now not only is my reaction intensified, but my threshold to reacting is much lower. Rarely can I brush off little things. Instead, I must allow myself to react, but I try not to externalize my reaction to these little things.
This overreacting, lashing out, and getting my feelings hurt easily, leaves me with two emotions that linger – guilt and shame. Read any book on Borderline Personality Disorder and you’ll see them mention guilt and shame. It makes sense though. People with BPD do not lack self-awareness, and therefore often feel guilty and ashamed for how their illness influences them to react. , mental illness required care, from yourself and from others. Sometimes this means doing or making requests that could be considered selfish. However, we need to be selfish sometimes, it saves lives. This is not to suggest that self-care is selfish, but what I am saying is that if you need to be selfish for your health, sometimes that is necessary and 100% okay.
When my symptoms are difficult to recognize at the moment, I must reflect with a clear head. I take a deep breath and I honestly look at myself. I reflect on my actions, emotions, and beliefs. I process what has been going on by journaling and meditation. I often find that my pen and paper discover my true intentions and feelings before my mind does. This reflection allows me the opportunity to recognize my symptoms and remove blame. Additionally, I am supported. My fiancé, Tyler, is often good at removing blame from my symptoms. When he approaches the situation with a clear head can point out my symptoms and tell me that those are not me. he validates my difficult experience and my effort to hold myself together. However, this is an example of an ideal situation. If Tyler approaches the situation with his own emotions, it escalates the situation and my symptoms. Sometimes this happens, we are human, but when I acknowledge how helpful Tyler is when he approaches the situation with a clear head, I am validating his effort and making it easier for him to help me.
Being diagnosed with a mental illness is like being given a car manual, but discovering it is blank inside. You think you’re being given an explanation for why you work the way you do and how to help yourself when things are no longer working properly. In reality, that information is not given, its discovered. Instead, you are being given an opportunity for deeper self-awareness and understanding.
This impulsivity, reactivity, and sensitivity are not myself, these are symptoms. They may appear difficult to recognize, but taking the time to reject and recognize is essential to growth and healing. This is the core of my recovery.