When I first decided I was going to write about my experiences living with BPD, I planned to tell lots of stories… Stories of all the messed-up things that happened in my kid & teen years that were probably responsible for molding my brain into something abnormal.
Um, no one wants to read that. We’re in a Facebook world now, where people only share the highlights of their lives, where the one socially acceptable answer to “How are you?” is “I’M SO GOOD. EVERYTHING IS WONDERFULLL.”
But just like I’m not going to weep “Oh, poor me, growing up was so awful,” I’m also not going to lie. I’ll be honest. Battling an often misunderstood mental illness is, of course, hard. But the sun shines sometimes on even the cloudiest of places. In my last post I listed the 9 symptoms to search for in a borderline diagnosis. Some, like repeated suicide attempts and self-injurious behaviors, don’t really have a positive slant, but I surprised myself by finding the silver lining in the rest.
Intense fear of abandonment.
The bad: I lost a lot of friends growing up, mostly because I lived in a dying town and they all moved away. Repeatedly. I was an intensely lonely child. Now, I assume as soon as I love someone, they will leave. I’ve been proven right a great many times.
The good: In an effort to keep people close, I can be a very devoted friend. If you’ve gained my trust, I will be fiercely loyal and almost always make time for you when you need it.
A pattern of intense, unstable relationships.
The bad: I have a tendency to pick favorites. There are usually one or two people at a time that I’ll idealize and it can be totally random. Someone was nice to me on the school bus? Someone sat next to me when I was feeling lonely? Someone complimented me or flirted without making a sexual remark? Boom, favorite. It’s like a crush, only platonic. (Though my current partner was a favorite of mine when we were “just friends.”) I’ll want to be around you as much as I can and I might subconsciously pick up on your mannerisms. Basically, I’ll think you’re just the coolest person ever… and you might not deserve that title. I’m easily hurt by people I’ve trusted too soon.
The good: Not everyone I’ve looked up to has been bad. Since I’ll eagerly listen to the advice given to me by my favorites, sometimes they can make my life better. I used to think these two twin girls I met on Twitter were so beautiful, so accomplished, compared to boring old me. They first started interacting with me because of my art and pushed me to follow it further. When I first started doing vendor shows, before each one, my ipad would blow up with messages of “good luck!” from two different time zones. One of the girls encouraged me to look for a gallery in Atlanta, and even though my Atlanta show bombed and I never ended up selling there anywhere else, the semester I spent there was a wonderful adventure. Though we don’t talk nearly as much, I’m still in contact with both of those people through Instagram, and they’re still encouraging of my creative endeavors more than two years later.
Lately, since I don’t get out much here in South Carolina (and even less in Minnesota, where I wasted 6 months of last year), most of my favorites have been online friends, the majority of them from other countries. These guys (and one girl) have opened my world up! Through Facebook, Youtube, and Skype calls, I’ve been exposed to a ton of new music and movies. I have a (very) basic self-taught knowledge of Italian, French, and Afrikaans simply because I thought my penpals were super cool and I wanted to make them happy.
Periods of stress-related paranoia.
The bad: Isn’t it obvious? Being stressed out all the time is probably bad for my heart.
The good: Excessive worry has made me observant. I can hold my own in sketchy neighborhoods. When I drive, I am a very cautious driver. Also, watching everything around me has made me really good at reading moods, memorizing directions, and even keeping track of inventory and stopping shoplifters at work.
Rapid changes in self-identity/reckless decision making.
The bad: Most people are like this… as teenagers. I still constantly experiment with “finding myself.” Not just in superficial ways like dying my hair or wearing different clothes. (Though I do that too.) I went to three high schools and four universities by choice and still don’t know where “home” is. I’ve noticed a lot of BPD patients are sexually promiscuous. Not me. I am a compulsive shopper.
The good: I’ve seen so many cities in my search for somewhere to belong. It’s given me a love for travel and an open mind to different cultures. Since I’m not likely to get married or have children, I have no reason to chase the 9 to 5, picket fence, suburban dream. I pay my bills on time because it’s the responsible thing to do, but I care very little about material wealth. When I’m gone, I can’t take a car or house or a fancy phone with me. But on my deathbed, I will have my memories of places I’ve seen and passions I’ve pursued, even though maybe I couldn’t really “afford” that road trip or that bag of craft supplies.
Since my impulsive tendencies make it hard to save money, I’ve also learned to be thrifty out of necessity. Do you need to figure out what brand of knockoff mac and cheese is the best? What thrift shops sell the best quality clothes? How to get across the country on the cheapest bus route? I’m your girl!
I can be a hard person to love. I’m needy, but push people away. I’m reckless and stubbornly driven, yet a huge slacker. A walking contradiction. I spent years and years hating every bit of my existence because I wanted so badly to be normal. But after thinking of all these things and forming them into words that are almost positive (yeah, that’s weird), I’ve come to hate myself a little less.