Borderline Personality Disorder is complex and difficult, but is most commonly known for self destructive behaviours and rapidly changing, extreme moods and emotions. I was diagnosed with it at 18. At 19 I was told I was bipolar. And then I was back to BPD by 22, and swiftly moved to a BPD in-patient ward where I lived for over 2 years. It's pretty contentious with regards my diagnosis, but I think I know it pretty well still, so here's my A-Z. Obviously, this isn't comprehensive and isn't a diagnostic tool. Please seek professional help if you're worried about yourself or someone else.
A is for Attention Seeking.
This isn't an ever-so popular opinion, but sometimes a BPD behaviour might be for attention. But if a person needs to hurt themselves, they really do need the attention they might crave. We all do need attention to thrive, just with BPD it's harder for a person to learn to do it safely and effectively.
B is for Borderline.
I hate that word. HATE IT. It always reminds me of the idea of sitting on the fence and that's not me at all. Really though, in the context of BPD, it's more like the sufferer, affected by varied symptoms, is a land locked country with borders on all sorts of culturally different nations.
C is for Cutting Out.
People with BPD aren't necessarily the best at picking the right people to have relationships with and are often really vulnerable to being taken advantage of. It took a lot for me to cut some reeeeally negative people out of my life, people I allowed to hurt me time after time.
D is for Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.
DBT is the main therapy recommended for BPD. It's split into a few modules that focus on how you regulate your emotions, how to manage distress, how to manage relationships, and mindfulness. It wasn't my favourite therapy and I'm not sure how much I got out of it, but I saw others benefit from it. I suppose you get what you put in.
E is for Eating Disorders.
EDs are really common with people with BPD. For some people disordered eating is considered a symptom and with others they are diagnosed with both, as I am. There's a lot of cross over- low self-esteem is pretty commonplace with both disorders, in particular.
F is for Forgiving.
A lot of people with BPD have had traumatic pasts and I think there are some things that you shouldn't forgive. A lot of things that are inexcusable. But the one person who really deserves your compassion is yourself.
G is for Goals.
It's cool to change direction with your goals and to make new ones and drop old ones. It's all about development and people with BPD especially need to give themselves that room, because we are horrifically harsh when it comes to dealing with our perceived failures.
H is for Hope.
I promise, there is always hope. Whilst there is life in your bones and electricity in your brain, there is hope. Sometimes not in the form you'd expect, granted, but it's there.
I is for I.
It's OK to put yourself first. With BPD, sufferers often struggle to say no, for fear of rejection by other people. When I smoked, I was a push over for giving them away and I'm the ultimate bleeding heart still. That's fine, but so is knowing when to put yourself first.
J is for Jokes.
I can't stand jokes where mental illness is the punchline. Luckily, I haven't had to listen to too many BPD specific jokes, but it's really not cool to make jokes about people licking windows or rocking in corners btw.
K is for Kindness.
Most people are a lot more critical of themselves than they are others, but this is amplified with BPD. With others, they become hyper-critical of others, too. When I was particularly ill I was a bitch, but I think I'm leaving that behind. I try and counter anything negative I say to myself with a positive, because I'm determined to be kind to myself too.
L is for Love.
People with BPD feel things deeper than people without the condition. I love harder than anything and quicker than most. I think we're probably more likely to believe in love at first sight too, but I don't have proof, more a feeling. Ask me one time about how I knew I loved my girlfriend.
M is for Medication.
Medication isn't the only way to manage BPD but it can make it easier to engage in talking therapies. For me, I need my meds to function alongside therapy. Will I be on them forever? Who knows. I'm not too worried- whatever it takes for me to be well.
N is for No.
Often, it's really hard for BPD sufferers to say no and learning to assert myself and admit defeat was really key to my recovery. For a lot of sufferers, it's also learning to deal with being told no, and not assuming you're being told that as a rejection.
O is for Opportunity.
I'm a drama queen. Always have been. My last hospital was fantastic in recognising this and developing my skills- I've had opportunities to talk at numerous universities, national conferences, hospitals, workplaces... all over. Opportunities that came from my illness.
P is for Personality Disorder.
If I hate the word 'borderline', it's nothing compared to my hatred of the phrase 'personality disorder' because that sounds so insidious. It sounds dark. Like, you are meant to always say that you value a person's personality more than anything, but if it's disordered, diseased, not right, then what?
Q is for Queues.
I can only speak for my experiences of NHS England, but waiting times can be hellish. It took 10 months for me to get a specialist psychologist after I was discharged from a long-term unit and would have taken longer had I not been hospitalised so much. Things need to change, because the wait for help can make symptoms and behaviours worse because people feel 'not ill enough.'
R is for Robotic.
Because people with BPD feel things so deeply, we often get overwhelmed and can switch off and feel nothing at all. A bit like when an overworked system crashes. We can become somewhat robotic.
S is for Stigma.
Some of the worst stigma I've faced has come from professionals who see BPD as something less than disorders that are purely chemical, like schizophrenia. BPD isn't a choice or fad, it's an extreme illness that can manifest in ways that look like other mental illness.
T is for Triggers.
Because BPD behaviours are so varied, so are the triggers. It's best to understand the triggers of an individual through simply asking about them, rather than trying to generalise.
U is for United.
There's a lot of us out there who are going through similar things and sufferers could achieve a lot if we all stand together. The problem comes when people trigger behaviours in others, so sometimes relationships between sufferers can become dangerous and need to be carefully managed, especially within hospitals.
V is for Voices.
Hearing voices and experiencing other forms of psychosis is quite prevalent in BPD cases. My therapist has said that I need to accept they may never go and learn to live alongside them, which I think is a pretty interesting idea. It can be really bloody tiresome and distressing though.
W is for Weight.
Weight gain is a really common side effect of mental health medication, one that I know too well. On balance, I'd rather take them and be bigger than be in hospital and smaller. It's worth it, I swear.
X is for Xylophone.
Mostly because it's really, really hard to think of a decent X word and given xylophone is one of my fave words and I was once diagnosed BPD, I think it's fine.
Y is for Youth.
Most BPD sufferers are diagnosed when they're young and it's often a contentious diagnosis. In recent years, my diagnosis was changed away from BPD, which I was diagnosed with at 18. Really, people shouldn't be diagnosed with it so young because some 'symptoms' are more symptoms of being young.
Z is for Zany.
Zany is a nicer word than crazy, which is a word that makes me cringe all the way because of how most of the people who tell you they're crazy are just kind of boring. Zany though, zany is a colour that suits me well.