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Girl on a rock at the lakeshore

Between a rock and a hard place


Borderline Personality Disorder and the element of surprise


It doesn’t matter how many times BPD engulfs my mind, I can never recognize it for what it is at the outset.
There’s something so cruel about being the last to know your sense of perspective’s gone AWOL. You wish someone had pulled you aside sooner and told you – but I probably would’ve been ready with a ton of excuses. I mean, how do you hand over the keys to your mind and accept you’re not fit to be at the wheel? It takes something bigger than you to convince you.

The thing about perspective is, it’s like a contact lens; no one else can see if it’s there or not, but it influences the entire outlook of the wearer. My thought process undergoes an imperceptible slide, a subtle shift, right up to the point when BAM! it’s like someone flicked a switch and what was once OK now seems unbearable. By then it’s too late to do anything. It’s as though I’ve travelled through light years in a short space of time to a place that’s a polar opposite of where I was before without even remembering how I got there. All I can do is berate myself for letting things get this bad – but I can’t be sure things could’ve been any different. I can’t spot my changed thinking until it’s pronounced enough.

I knew I wasn’t feeling right. Doubts paralyzed my creativity – everything I wrote read back stilted and lifeless to me, just like this does. I seemed to have lost touch with myself. I put it down to a culmination of recent events: the evaporation of a possible new posting, an unexpected email from someone back home with their own mental issues, a reminder of things we’ve sacrificed in favor of expat life. I had one day of feeling flat and numb – a vacuum of joylessness – before the plunge into despair began, culminating in an anguish that grew larger than I could contain.

Depression sucks all the joy from your existence and, as if that wasn’t enough, it bills you for the inconvenience, extracting guilt and sickening self-pity with menaces.

It spilled out in tears on the way home from school pick-up and encircled me like a pervasive mind-altering gas as I sat, overwhelmed, on the kitchen floor; standing, just like the prospect of living, suddenly more than I had the strength for. Thoughts of self-injury flashed into my consciousness like subliminal messaging, and that’s when the fear started. I’d been here before, could still recall the pain of cuts that went too far. I didn’t want ANY of this – how could I stop this stuff from being in my head?

In the old days I’d withdraw – hide myself away, and, when forced to interact would pretend everything was “just fine”. I kept my terror private, riding out the storm like an addict going cold turkey. The patient, non-judgmental people who staffed the phone lines of the Samaritans in those lonely pre-dawn hours were the only ones I could reach out to without fear of recrimination.

Although I still shrink into myself, over the years I’ve got better about communicating my needs to those close to me, ignoring the revulsion I feel at my clumsy patheticism. But ultimately, thanks to our double misfortune when it comes to familial support, if I can’t make K understand how I feel, I’m entirely alone every time I lock horns with BPD, and that’s the bleakest outlook by far.


Author’s note, June 2014: Since the time of writing I’ve been re-diagnosed with Aspergers and Bipolar II. I no longer meet the criteria for BPD and given the existing cases of Aspergers and bipolar in my direct family I have to admit this re-diagnosis seems a more accurate explanation for my symptoms. Oh, the beauty of hindsight…