For at least a year, I was not allowed to eat cheese. I was not allowed to go jackknife into a fabulous round of brie or, god forbid! goat cheese. It was the worst culinary year of my life, not being allowed to indulge in that magical coagulated milk.
This terrible fate was thrust upon me in an effort to quell the wretched fiend known (idiotically) as BPD. And for the years since, I’ve struggled with this son of a bitch and made every effort possible to kill off his stupid hydra heads that grow back in slimy multitudes. With great thanks to this whole mindfulness nonsense, I’m much calmer, wiser, and stronger than I was several years ago.
Still, some days are better than others.
But not until today have I ever thought of BPD as a gift, and maybe it is.
It would be irresponsible to claim that I came up with this idea on my own, for I absolutely did not. I read about it here earlier on today, and I admit to experiencing a temporary paradigm shift. What if, what if, this thing I’ve struggled with for years is in fact a gift? I don’t really want this fucking gift sometimes, but given that it didn’t exactly come with a gift receipt…
I remember when I first heard the diagnosis several years ago: Borderline Personality Disorder. (Most inaccurate descriptor– Emotional Intensity Disorder sounds more on-point.) I’d heard of it obliquely in my internet wanderings, but the details were vague. So, I did what any self-respecting youngster would do and Googled it. At the time, the DSM IV was the leading authority on all brains fucked up, and it kindly explained that I suffered from: “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by give (or more) of the following:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
- Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self.
Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness.
Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.”
Me: “…. Oh my god, that’s me. Oh my god, that CAN’T be me. Oh my god, I’m so fucked. Oh my god, I’ll never be okay again, will I? Oh my god, everyone in the world would be better off if someone like this–if I–were dead.”
Luckily for me, the DSM was revised in 2011, along with the BPD criteria… oh wait. Just kidding. Same shit, different format. Not lucky for me.
Basically, the DSM says that I am a completely unstable and unpredictable ball of emotions and emptiness that manifests itself by metaphorically (or literally?) wrecking things. Thanks, DSM. Way to make a girl feel great about herself!
I won’t lie; I met many of the diagnostic criteria. If we listen to the IV, it’s true that I can’t bear to be abandoned or betrayed. I have had a shitty sense of self, an ugly history of self-injury (though a few years clean now), a stupidly unstable mood, and all of the emptiness with half of the dissociation. I have trust issues for sure. So, depending on the day I squeak in with the required 5-of-9 or miss it with only 4-of-9.
Yet, Statistics from 2012 say there is a 70% chance I will try to kill myself and a 10% chance I’ll get it right, most likely occurring sometime within the next 5-10 years. (This is 50 times the rate of suicide in the general population.) I don’t disagree with this assessment in the least. Some days, I feel pretty fucked.
So, naturally when someone describes BPD as a gift, first I think they’re shitbagging nuts, and then I cry from the incredible relief of knowing that someone thinks I’m human. No, they suggest I’m more than human– I’m amazing.
Allow me to quote briefly from that blog post:
“Science is figuring out what borderlines and great sages and philosophers have always said. We are all connected. So why is this a disorder again?
What we do is tell the people with this “Disorder” we call BPD, who have always felt connected to everything and everybody, we tell them that they are too emotional. What we are doing is we are telling these people with a gift, the gift of the truth, that they are crazy.
We then use this to diagnose them with Bipolar Disorder. Then what we can do is give them these “mood stabilizers” or these “antipsychotics,” and they will be sleeping and tired all day. Then what we say as we pat ourselves on the back is “Look, no more behaviors, we cured them!”
We have chemically restrained them and shut them up because they speak the truth.
Marsha Linehan said they are like 3rd degree burn victims: if you just walk by them you can hurt them. My biggest questions and concern is, why do we call that a disorder? They are the ones that know the truth and we don’t. We lie; we put a mask on them because we do not like what they have to say.
I am NOT saying this is easy to deal with. I have had relationships with some of them, and it is difficult to understand. They are not bad; they have a gift. They know your emotions instinctively, and they sense and feel things that we can’t feel. They know how to make people happy. They can read your soul.
In a way they are lucky, and in a way they are not.”
I cried like a fucking baby because maybe now someone understood.
I feel an incredible connection to everyone in my life, especially the people I love, and I love very quickly. If they hurt, I can feel that hurt as if it were my own: my chest suffocates, my throat burns, and my stomach throws up that voiceless scream. If they are happy, then I too am happy. Even if they live across the country, an ocean even, I somehow can feel them with me, or worse, I can feel the empty place they once were. When this connection is disrupted, which happens all the time in so many different ways, it feels like someone tore off a piece of my body and then pissed on it.
It feels like the universe ripped apart a little bit more, and I’m endlessly and exponentially losing my self in the abscess.
Like I said, I didn’t ask for this gift.
But even with its nearly unbearable consequences, this emotional sensitivity is a gift. I would not be myself–whatever exists of a self–without it. As much as I want to have “normal” responses, “normal” relationships, and a “normal” sense of self, I think I would hate to become that person.
I refuse to be the person who forgets about the people who touched their life. I refuse to be the person who cannot take on and share deeply in the pain of another. And most of all, I refuse to be the person who cannot forgive past transgressions and love freely again.
I will not be numb or dead to those with whom I share this air, this earth, this existence.
For once in my life, before this empowering euphoria fades and I decide once again that I can’t stand life in its poignant entropy, let me say this with righteous anger and self-assured strength:
FUCK YOU for calling my personality a “disorder.” Fuck you for putting me on enough medication that a wedge of brie could send me into a hypertensive crisis. Fuck you for making me feel like I’m broken, like I don’t belong, like I’m a disease that the mental health industry needs to cure. Fuck you for deciding that I’m impaired.
Look at how I and those like me experience the world, and tell us again that we’re the impaired ones. Say it again, motherfucker.
For the Love of Metta, since I do love all of you yak-brains more than my own self,