What having borderline personality disorder really means

Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s what the psychiatrist in the hospital said. Finally, after years of psychological turmoil and endless waiting, I could put a name to these terrible things which were affecting me. Obviously I’d done my own research and had my own ideas, but to have someone properly validate that what I’d been going through was tough but priceless.

My name is Alice...

My name's Alice. I’m sitting in hospital writing this, after an attempted suicide about six weeks ago. It’s my second admission since October 2015, which has been really hard to come to terms with. I guess it’s just the fact I’d been ignoring I was ill for so long that now it’s all come to a head - it’s just very hard to cope with. But that’s okay, and I am managing. Progress is slow, but at least it’s progress.
So there I am, sitting in the psychiatrist’s office when she finally utters these immortal words: BPD and PTSD. I finally know what’s been plaguing me for so long. Both diagnoses, however, come as a bit of a shock. In my ignorance, I thought that being borderline meant being manipulative, that being diagnosed with a personality disorder meant being rude, abrasive and flawed. What’s more, I thought that PTSD was only diagnosed in soldiers returning from war. How wrong I was.
BPD and PTSD affect me on a daily basis. Having BPD means I struggle a lot with my own identity, with my unstable and often overflowing and ever-changing emotions, with relationships, with basic functioning, and very often with self-harm. Self-harm is always my personal elephant in the room. It’s always there, but I never talk about it and try desperately to hide it. So here I am admitting to it, and it feels… good, I think. PTSD causes me to suffer from panic attacks, flashbacks, anxiety and depression as a result of repeated trauma from a few years ago. I’ve very often reached the stage where I want to end my life, and that’s where I am now. It’s a scary place to be, not wanting to face the future, but my hope is that if I keep fighting it will get better. Nothing is constant, everything is changeable- that’s the phrase I’ve kept muttering to myself. I won’t feel like this forever, this too shall pass.
All in all, I’ve come to learn that my BPD does not make me an awful person, as I may have once thought. I’m also learning to accept my PTSD and the trauma which led to it. Although I’m not able to talk about it just yet, having had someone acknowledge that I have not been able to process the trauma correctly has given me comfort. 

Part of what's helped has been family and friends...

Part of what has helped me get through is the reactions of my friends and family. Most people have continued treating me as normal, which I’d say is the main thing you can do to help someone who has a mental health problem. They haven’t tried to save me or to cure me, but they’ve just been there for me when I need them, constantly keeping in touch and showing they care through little gestures here and there. Lots of my friends have decided to educate themselves on my condition, which has been really helpful because they are able to differentiate between me and my illness. However, some people haven’t had such good reactions. I’ve had friends tell me that I can’t have gone through real trauma because I’ve never spoken about it, and friends who have distanced themselves since I told them I was ill. To that I have two responses: firstly, that every single person has fought battles that others know nothing about, and secondly, that I’m still the same person despite my illness, and I’ve developed as a person because of it. 
Mental illness is that one roller coaster you never want to ride. You get to the theme park and you see it, standing there, in all its terrifying glory. You’re desperate to avoid it, but suddenly somebody drags you on and there you are, riding this awful creation through every twist and turn. There are ups – I’ve met some incredible people and firmed some important friendships through having a mental illness – and there are some extreme downs, but there is always an end in sight if you just continue on the roller coaster and let it run its course. 
That’s a really long metaphor, I do apologise.But I hope you know what I mean, and I hope that any other people who’ve experienced similar things can also relate. Mental illness is a roller coaster we’re riding, but it’s not our defining trait, and it never will be so long as we keep fighting and keep talking. 


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Hi Alice, Just wanted to say that I can appreciate the struggle you have gone through. I suffered from anxiety for over a year and for most of that year I had no idea what was afflicting me. I received therapy and was on the mend, and then suffered from a traumatic experience which left me in pieces. I could barely leave the house afterwards, so anxious that I nearly threw up everytime I even took a step outside. My therapist told me that I also now had PTSD, just to add to the list. It was however a relief to have someone acknowledge my problem and give it credibility. After a long time trying out different dosages of anxiety medication (an awful process, I got terrible side effects for a long time and felt completely hopeless)I finally found the right level and combined it with another good dosage of therapy, 2 sessions a week for a while. My trauma was in the summer, and 6 months on from then, I can say that I am doing really well. I feel calmer about the world and am not just coping anymore, I am enjoying life. I am sure there will be plenty more low moments, but they are worth enduring to make sure there can be plenty of happy ones too. I wanted to share my experience with you to remind you that, no matter how hard it is to believe, you can get off that rollercoaster eventually, and everything you have suffered will help you to appreciate all the great parts of life. I speak like I am an old man; I'm only 20, but I feel like I am in a position to understand you maybe a little bit more than the average person. Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you all the best. Michael (forever the optimist)


I have the same diagnosises, I'm still coming to terms with it. Thank you for your article it's made me feel less alone.

Keep going...

Hey alice, Same diagnosises as you, similar story I imagine, roller coaster ride type thing, but just wanted to say that keep going, remember you're important to lots of people and hopefully one day you'll get to the settleder bit of the ride. The calmer bit. It is possible - I'm in the process myself and am nearer the calmer bit of the ride more often than ever before. Good luck! Hold on etc and keep talking as much as possible. Xxx rosie.

What an excellent way of

What an excellent way of describing mental health Alice. You are obviously a really strong person and your strength along with the support of your family and friends will get you through this difficult time. The people who have distanced themselves are not worth bothering with and lucky them for never experiencing mental health problems. Take care of yourself and stay positive. Xxx

Mental illness

Thank you for sharing your story. I needed that. I too was diagnosed with BPD and PTSD a year ago, which I still haven't fully accepted, but I'm hopeful that with therapy I'll find a place of acceptance and peace.


Hi Alice, Thanks for sharing your story. I too have the same diagnosis and have only recently been given it. My trauma happened when I was 10 years old culminating in an attempted suicide. This meant my mind and my emotions haven't developed as they should have and therefore have developed BPD. I find it a struggle to get through most days still as I have been passed from pillar to post by my doctors. It's good to know there are similar people out there with similar issues and stories. I'm doing what I can to raise awareness in my own circles to get the stimga gone. Keep surviving Alice. Tom

Thank you

You are amazingly strong Alice, stay focused and fight. It's not an easy task ahead but you have already come so far and have so much to achieve. Don't let anyone pull you down (including yourself). I find you truly inspirational. Keep going and don't ever give in to any negative thoughts, you are too precious! With lots of love for Alice and everyone else diagnosed with the same or similar conditions. Keep strong, stay focused and relax as much as you can wherever you can. Life is very special. Kerry P


Was diagnosed about 20 years ago as having a Borderline Personality Disorder, after a suicide attempt and some Freudian type of psychotherapy. I'm not able to make friends but I have two grown up daughters and a second husband. My husband has an Anti-social Personality Disorder and has communication difficulties and can be very manipulative. Basically we are both square pegs in two round holes! I don't feel strong but i am not suicidal - having Grandchildren is lovely. Retired now, I have joined local U3A groups to get me out of the house and to learn new things. Cant make friends - that is a big problem for me and one that doesn't go away or get any easier. I have been on the anti-depressants for 20 years and would be scared to come off them. Maybe they help me to keep going? Life is not exactly the party i had hoped for but I do my best to dance. Val


Thank-you for your story, Alice. You are so brave to be honest and seek help. My question to you is how to support a loved one who shows many symptoms of a personality disorder but is in total denial. A recent trauma has caused her to reveal her symptoms to more relatives and is alienating them with unfiltered, hurtful and abusive language, bodth written and spoken. She also uses veiled threats of isolating family members if we question any of her actions or need for control. It seems those closest to her are most at risk. How do we support her while feeling so emotionally unsafe if she perceives the slightest failing on our parts? We only recently became aware of the extent of this illness, whatever it is, after 10 years of knowing her. It now explains a few confusing and hurtful happenings in the past that we at the time dismissed.

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