Battling BPD

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… 


By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Extremely well written as always Aisha, you hit the money on the head. So glad that you are speaking out on this issue, depression can be managed, but we all need to talk about it.

  2. Wondering if there are any non-pharmaceutical solutions that would help? I don’t think I have BPD, but I’ve had some serious battles with depression and have found that taking 5HTP, a serotonin precursor, and listening to entrainment audio tracks helps keep me on a move even keel.

    1. I could probably do with some good sleep, but my neighbour isn’t always obliging as far as keeping the music down’s concerned, and I’ve done myself no favours by letting my mindfulness practice slide. Off to google entrainment audio tracks and 5HTP 🙂 Here’s hoping this week’s an improvement on the last.

  3. My family has been devastated by depression, and every word you’ve written here is sadly familiar. I have no words of comfort for you, Aisha, unless you count “I understand” and “I’m thinking of you.” Keep on fighting the good fight.

    1. This is the first time I’ve spoken out while still struggling through an episode. The messages of support have helped make me feel less isolated and hearing from other people helps with the perspective issues – thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience.

  4. What you’ve written here doesn’t feel stilted or lifeless.
    You can communicate pain. I’m happy you can, because you deserve that others know you’re going through this.

    1. Thank you – at a time when my own judgement is totally unreliable, it’s wonderful to have such positive external validation. You don’t know what a relief it is to hear that I’m not as utterly devoid of expression as I feel.

  5. Sorry to hear you are going through the chasm of a depressive episode and all the thoughts of self harm. But also really positive you feel able to blog about your experience – I hope this made you feel better, by just getting your thoughts out and down. X.

    1. I usually scribble stuff down but making it public has been helpful for the dialogue it’s opened up in what would normally be a very isolated and withdrawn time for me. I think it’s also helped correct the skewed perspective a little more quickly, so yes, a positive outcome overall. Thanks for stopping by to comment 🙂

  6. Hi Aisha,
    Don’t ever forget, you are a brilliant writer! Now, write that statement down on a sticky note and post it in various places around the house just as a reminder. You have a depth of emotion, unwelcome at times I know but can be used as a catalyst nonetheless. Don’t stop writing. As you’ve demonstrated it’s good medicine not only for you but for others who are suffering silently and to educate those with little understanding. Self doubt is ‘normal’ but as you have explained is magnified exponentially by BPD. Putting your energies into the outpouring of your experiences through writing is a better overall outcome. Don’t stop…

    Big hug,

    1. Thanks Anne, just the encouragement I needed right now. You’re spot on, BPD magnifies all my fears and doubts, if only it did the same for things like focus and self-belief. Strangely though, as my husband will readily attest, I’m quick to forget my achievements in favor of my shortcomings. Thanks for helping me keep the discouragement at bay with your understanding comment, and thanks for the hug 🙂

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