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The Equity Issue

A Day in the Life With Borderline Personality Disorder

When I mention to people I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), one of two things usually happens. Either they’ve never heard of it before, and they say something like, “Is it like bipolar?”. Or they show signs of agitation, and I imagine them mentally checking for the exit points to hunker down to safety.

To the first group, I’ll usually explain how BPD is a personality disorder characterized by unstable moods, relationships, emotions, and behaviors. For the second group, I don’t wholly blame them , I felt the same way when I first looked it up for myself.

Although more research is highlighting how BPD causes significant personal issues, such as disruption to education, work, or personal life, those with less socially accepted issues tend to be seen as dangerous and unstable due to negative media portrayals of mental illnesses. With BPD, these stigmas even permeate into the medical profession. Some professionals will stereotype us as manipulative and attention-seeking; some will be unwilling to treat those with the disorder. Due to the pressures of societal judgment, it is no wonder many of us suffer from self-stigma.

I was no exception either.

When I was first diagnosed, I swore I’d tell no one and pretend I was OK. However, only through speaking about my experiences could I heal. Not to mention, after a couple of years of treatment, I have settled into a stable-ish cadence.

With 256 potential symptom combinations, to say BPD affects everyone differently is an understatement. So, here’s my unique perspective on what one day of life with BPD looks like.

BPD Diaries

9:15 a.m.: I’m working with my therapist to get into a better morning routine. I’ve successfully managed to stop waking up around lunchtime, but the mornings are still a work in progress. Although I hate them, I’ve found listening to music particularly helpful in brightening my mood, so I put on my “Morning Dance Party” playlist and start getting ready.

10:00 a.m.: Our university shifted to remote learning due to the pandemic, so I fire up my laptop to start my coursework. These days it is becoming harder to stay motivated, and I’m concerned that, after previously leaving two undergraduate degrees, history could repeat itself.

10:25 a.m.: I drop my pen on the floor, and as I go to pick it up, I notice a growing red stain seeping into my shirt. I lift it to see where the blood is coming from and grab a tissue to stop the bleeding, and it is then I notice there is also a lot of blood on my fingertips. Today it seems the pressure may be getting to me.

I used to bite my nails, but with how much time I spend typing, it seems I’ve moved to skin picking. The wound I've made, this time, is a deep one, so I bleed through a couple of bits of tissue before I can stop the bleeding for sure.

11:20 a.m.: I regularly deal with internal self-hatred, but today it seems louder than ever. I’m such a failure; I knew I’d never finish this program; what’s the point in trying? Although I know I am only a couple of weeks behind, it’s becoming harder to believe I’ll make it.

After a couple of deep breaths, I retrieve my therapy book. I also start loading up, on my phone, the image of my Feeling Wheel. I write down the emotions I’m feeling, their cause and reflect on whether or not my heightened panic is appropriate. I also list all the evidence for and against my self-labeling as a failure. The 'against' column wins, and I can feel my body slowly start to relax as my mind begins to clear.

12:00 p.m.: I love online therapy. Should the pandemic ever come to an end, this and wearing face masks are the things I’d wish to keep. I’m also fortunate that my therapist seems to “get me” and can always see through my b*******.

I tell her about my mini-spiral from the morning, and she points out how part of my current academic struggles are likely due to a manifestation of my self-destructive tendencies. For example, procrastinating starting on assignments. It seems so simple, and yet the discovery is clarifying.

I’m unconsciously self-sabotaging to get the imagined disappointment out of the way.

She asks me whether or not I’ve been doing my breathwork—I have not—and reminds me of its utility in conjunction with my journaling.

12:50 p.m.: I open up Twitter. After the blasting from therapy, the cheap dopamine hits are certainly needed. I tell myself I’ll only scroll on it for 10 minutes, but even I know that is a lie.

1:25 p.m.: As well as being a freelance writer, I’m also the editor of my own publication. Obviously, my busy schedule isn’t helping with the stress I’m currently under, but it has to be done. I negotiate with myself on whether I should review the submissions for my publication or answer my emails. Although my growing inbox is becoming a further concern, it evidently isn’t a big enough worry just yet. Submissions it is.

2:10 p.m.: Back on Twitter. I can’t help myself! I’m obsessed. Today, the timeline (TL) is once again talking about relationships. So I share the funniest tweets from the discussion with a friend, and it sparks a conversation around our own love lives.

Sometime later, she asks me whether or not I’ll consider getting back in the dating game. It’s funny; my friends laughed it off when I first told them I was swearing off dating. In their defense, I was always having sex with someone. But now that I’ve not dated in over three years and had only one sexual experience in that time, I can tell they’re now a little worried.

Romantic relationships are hard for anyone, but even more so for those with BPD. I idealized the last person I was serious with, and when the relationship ended, I became so distressed that I almost committed suicide. But I don’t tell her this.

Although quiet borderline personality disorder isn’t a recognized subtype, I undoubtedly have it. Rather than projecting my anger outwards, it’s always internal. So, I know this could be an excellent chance to share my feelings with my friend, but I don’t want to seem like a burden.

I text back, “Maybe in a year? Never? Conversations like these remind me dating is the ghetto [laughing emoji].”

2:22 p.m.: The chat with my friend still has me thinking. Relationships are definitely a trigger of mine, and I don’t think I’m ready. Besides, I don’t really want to return to splitting again. A pit of sadness forms in my stomach as I remind myself that it’s safer to just stay alone.

But I don’t suppress the feeling; instead, I try to allow it. And with my therapist’s voice echoing in my head, I load up the Breathe app on my iWatch and do my breathwork.

2:29 p.m.: I should really do these more often.

3:45 p.m.: My psychiatrist has been pushing me to do mindful walking, but I hate walking without intent. Instead, I’ve gotten into weight-lifting. I go to the gym four times a week, and today is leg day. Ugh. I always end up completely wiped after a session, so I make sure to grab some food before going.

5:15 p.m.: I take a break to check my emails to see if an editor I just worked with has responded to my next pitch. She hasn’t. A slight panic starts to build as I wonder whether my pitch was so bad that she doesn’t even want to respond. Or maybe I was a pain to work with? No, I’m doing it again. I take a few deep breaths and, this time, make a pro and con list of my worries in my head. I remind myself that, since I’m also an editor, I know she’s probably just always swamped.

7:30 p.m.: I’d left for the gym before my younger siblings had arrived back from school, so, now that I’m back, they run up to me and give me the biggest hugs.

I shuttle between my mom and dad’s place (the joys of divorced parents), and the little siblings are definitely a perk of staying at his.

8:15 p.m.: Although I’m trying to get out of the habit of doing work at night, I can’t help myself. I am so much more alert in the evening, so I settle back upstairs to work on some of my other projects.

9:20 p.m.: My phone vibrates, and I see I have a text from another one of my friends. We’ve been talking religiously for the past couple of weeks, and he’s definitely my current favorite person (FP).

For those with BPD, an FP is typically someone you depend on emotionally because they are a source of comfort and an anchor. It is not an officially recognized feature, nor does it always arise in those with BPD, but our FPs provide us with emotional validity and security.

They can be anyone from your partner to a parent, and it is possible to have more than one. Mine are always male and tend to be potential (or current) romantic partners. In this case, he is an ex-university fling, so it’s… emotionally complicated.

It took me over six months to figure out whether or not my feelings for him were genuine or due to the validation he gave me. I still don’t really know, but we aren’t compatible, so I wouldn’t want to date him — a revelation I could have never made a few years prior. Come to think of it, the fact I’m not panicking about the situation and just enjoying his company is a sign of significant internal improvements.

Perhaps I’m in the position to pursue romantic relationships sooner than I thought? I make an internal promise to myself to seriously consider dating when I cut down the time it takes to emotionally process my feelings in half. Fingers crossed it takes longer than a year.

10:00 p.m.: Wow, it’s late. I finally close my laptop and head to bed. I have trouble sleeping, but my therapist warned me it was likely due to my electronic device usage at night. I’d promised her to not use them this late at night — or take my phone to bed — but I think we are already past that. So I switch to Youtube and binge on some of my favorite channels.

11:30 p.m.: Bedtime!

I whip out my medicine bag and take my antidepressant to treat my major depressive disorder ; those with BPD are more likely to have physical and psychiatric comorbidities, i.e., two or more conditions existing in a person at the same time. The medication is very effective, but it gives me the worst nausea, so I try to take it right before I go to bed. I always forget to take my supplements during the day, so I take these too. Do they work? I have no idea. But what is there to lose?

In Closing

Constantly having to re-process my emotions and feelings can get extremely exhausting. It’s also irritating that I repeatedly have the same internal debates. So, I regularly find myself a little upset at the constant self-care I have to provide to ensure I remain stable. But the longer I do it, the more automatic it becomes.

BPD is not curable, but the older I get, the less daunting living with the disorder becomes. Whereas I used to be hesitant to plan for the future, I am pretty optimistic about what it may hold.

I refuse to be called a BPD sufferer; with all the internal battles I fight, I’m unquestionably a warrior.

If you or a loved one are struggling with BPD, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Artwork by Alex Dos Diaz

11 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Zuva Seven
Zuva Seven is a freelance writer, editor, and founder of An Injustice!. Follow her on Twitter here.