I talk a lot about how I have Borderline Personality Disorder. Many people accuse me of using it as a crutch. Let me present a scenario to you.
Jimmy has a broken leg and is in a cast. One day Jimmy's friends ask him if he wants to play baseball. "I can't," Jimmy replies, "I have this broken leg." "Aww man," Jimmy's friends groan, "you always use that leg as an excuse!!"
Does this make sense? Seem fair? No? So how come when I say, "I am acting this way because of a trait of my BPD," It's using it as a crutch or excuse? Shouldn't stuff like that be celebrated? "Hey! She can recognize when it's the BPD." Shouldn't it be a good thing that I can recognize behaviors linked to my disorder and educate myself on how to get better?
Furthermore even if it was simply, "I feeling this way because of train A B and C," it's still not using it as a crutch. It's simply stating fact. If it wasn't true, then I wouldn't have this disorder. I guess the rules are different with mental illness.
Now, I feel like I should educate a bit on BPD. Symptom by symptom. You may look at these and think, "oh, I have that." The important thing to remember is that the key is these traits interfere with my daily functioning and life. That is not an excuse, it's fact. That's what mental illness does.
1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagine abandonment: I have a hypersensitivity to rejection, and abandonment fears so intense I can't put it into words. Sometimes it doesn't even have to be real abandonment. For example, I'll because frantic if I lose someone in a crowd; if someone cancels plans on me; if a friend does not call me back. These things can send me into panic mode. Sometimes to the point I will lose it and try to contact the person 35 times in a row.
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation. This is called "splitting.": I've never been in a romantic relationship for longer than six months, I jump right into things, I get attached very quickly, and breaking up no matter how much time with someone is always catastrophe. I respond to a break up after 2 months of dating as a person would after 2 years of dating. I've threatened suicide over breakups, I've gone into full blown panic attacks, hysteria. I got broken up with today and I texted him 35 times maybe. I'm still having trouble breathing, and it was only 2 months. I've lost so many friends. I've pushed them away.
3. Identity disturbance. Markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self:Sometimes I will get caught up in a new "identity" that really isn't me. I do it to fit in. Sometimes it's genuine, and I find a new part of me I didn't know existed, and sometimes it doesn't feel right to me. For example, I fell into the "liberty" movement when I met all the free state people. It was something new and exiting, but it didn't feel right. Sometimes I lose who I truly am. My self-image is terrible (though getting better), and I often need reassurance.
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating): Spending, reckless driving, and sex. If you're wondering.
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior: I cut (though I haven't since last Aug), and I've done the rest. Suicidal ideation or in "I-don't-get-mental-illness" terms, "seeking attention." Look, if someone is threatening suicide, give them some fucking attention.
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days): I have a diary card where I have to check off if I'm feeling certain target behaviors/feelings. Two of those are irritability and anxiety. I check those boxes (along with worry) almost daily.
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness: Yup.
8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights): You've seen my outbursts online, right? Oh I've told people to get AIDS and die, I've screamed at the top of my lungs at customer service people over the phone, I've yelled at someone for getting a food order wrong. I've never been in a physical fight, but sometimes I feel like I'm a walking Red Lantern.
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptom: THIS IS THE TRAIT I DON'T HAVE....I think...LOL.
So it sucks. A lot. I deal with severe anxiety, panic, night terrors, memory loss, worry, hysteria, fear, etc. I also deal with Complex PTSD and because of that and the BPD I have bad night terrors. My emotions are always cranked way up....all the time.
DBT helps, but a lot of times people do not understand or realize how hard it is. Sometimes, even when I'm doing the right things people do not get it. For example, me breaking down into a puddle of emotions and calling friends is actually a good thing. It doesn't mean I am weak. It means I am feeling and not ignoring and I'm using a distress tolerance skill. I didn't cut, I didn't get impulsive. I'm not always perfect, but baby steps.
It's hard to put what goes on in my head into words. All I ask is that you please think twice before accusing me of using my disorder as a crutch. Look closer, and you will actually see it gives me strength.