Is It Really Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder is one of the hardest disorders to diagnose

Borderline Personality DisorderMy diagnosis is formal and was made by a professional.  Don’t use this to diagnose yourself.  We’re all people, we’re all different.  While I match many of the diagnostic criteria, I don’t match them all.  However, if you haven’t been formally diagnosed and you’re reading this and nodding your head, you may want to talk to a professional about it.

So here goes.  What makes Bruce Anderson suffer from Borderline Personalty Disorder (and what doesn’t).

Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder:

1.  Feels emotions more easily, deeply, and longer than others do—CHECK.

Is this a bad thing?  Sometimes.  But sometimes it’s good.  If I wasn’t able to keep those emotions running high, I could’ve never written my prizewinning screenplay, which is emotionally brutal and makes everyone who reads it cry.  But when I get hurt, it takes a long, long time to shut it off.  Something most people get over in a few hours can take me a few days or more.

2.  Exhibits signs of impulsive behavior, such as substance abuse, eating disorders, unprotected sex, and reckless spending or driving—CHECK.

I smoke.  I drink.  At one time, I did drugs.  I’ve fathered two children that I love, but never intended to have.  Casinos are very dangerous places for me.  But I drive like an old man, very slowly, most of the time.

3.  Self-Harm and Suicidal Behavior—CHECK.

The scars are mostly faded, but the razorblades and lit cigarette were once close friends of mine.  So are booze and pills.

4.  Unstable, intense personal relationships—CHECK.

Married twice.  More girlfriends than I can count.  Every relationship ends in tears, usually mine.

5.  Black and white thinking—NO.  Well, MAYBE in the moment.

But I’m pretty realistic when it comes to how I see others.  I realize that no one is all-bad or all-good, though I do have a tendency to idealize my romantic partners.

6.  Manipulative behavior to obtain nurturance—DOUBLE CHECK.

Maybe even triple.  I’ll do anything, things I’m terribly ashamed of later, to get that feeling of being loved and cared for.

7.  Poor sense of self—CHECK, but not so much anymore.

It took me to the age of almost forty to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  I want to write and teach, and I’m doing just that.  And it feels good.  At the same time, it is sometimes hard for me to know what I value and enjoy.

Do I really write because I like to?  Do I really teach because I love it?  Maybe.  It could be just that I’ve found that I’m good at both, and being good at both gets me attention and admiration from others.  I’m not really sure that I enjoy anything.

8.  Dissociation, feeling empty, or zoning out—CHECK.

Now, everyone zones out from time to time, but probably not to the same level that I do, and probably not for the same reasons.  Periods of high emotions can make me shut down at a cognitive level.  I become so preoccupied by the wave of emotion crashing over me that I can think of nothing else.  Sometimes, this is nice.  Like that first feeling of new love where my heart goes all aflutter.  That’s AWESOME.  But most of the time, it’s a negative emotion that has
my attention.  And that pretty much sucks.

Well, those are pretty much my life in a nutshell.  Sucks to be me sometimes, but not all of the time.  I gotta try to remember that.  Until next time.

Your bother in arms,

-Bruce

Read more from Bruce Anderson here: How I Became the Freak in the Corner

(A page that tells his story from the beginning and has links to several of his articles)

Treating Borderline Personality Disorder

Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder

Signs and Symptoms of BPD

Dissociation, Flat Affect and Feeling Empty with BPD

What do Zen Buddhism and Borderline Personality Disorder have in common?

Zen Buddism and BPDNothing.  Not really.  But the whole “clear your mind and think of nothing” thing that Zen Buddhism claims can be a path of enlightenment?  Well, we’ve got something close, but much, much worse.

We can’t think of nothing, but we can become nothingness itself.

For me, this happens right on the heels of an abandonment incident.  I allow the other party to become such a part of me that when they leave, they take what was me with them.  I’m kind of in that sort of a state now.

“The Empties” as I like to call them are what your doctor will call “flat affect” or “dissociation.”  Basically, it’s a feeling of not being real.  When the Empties hit, we walk through life with expressionless faces.  We have no opinions on anything.  We eat only because our bodies tell us to, because food really has no flavor.  Movies, books, games, friends… none of them hold any real interest and none can hold our attention for long.

We drift like rotting logs in a fetid river, just going with the flow, remaining alive, but not really living.  Even zombies have it better, because they at least want something and seek to get it.  Not for us.  For us, life is over, or more to a point, life is on hold.

This is another time when we are likely to hurt ourselves.  Not because we want to escape our pain, but because we want the pain.  We want to feel something, anything again.  The thin red line drawn by a razorblade on a bicep or inner thigh is a source of comfort.

“I’m bleeding.  Only living things bleed.  Therefore, I am alive.”

That’s the mindset of self-injury… well, some of the time, anyway.  If you’re cutting yourself and hoping someone will notice, that’s a desire for attention.  If you’re cutting yourself deep and hoping to hit an artery, that’s a desire for peace.  If you’re cutting someplace no one will see and not deep enough to kill, that’s a desire for life.

Sick, isn’t it?  I’ve said it before.  You’ve got to hurt to heal.  But I promise you, self-injury isn’t the way to do it.

You see, your body isn’t where you need to hurt.  Your heart is where you need to hurt.  And I know how sick you are of hurting, my friends.  God, how I know!  But you’ve been hurting the wrong way.  You’ve been hurting in unproductive ways.  And you’ve been hurting alone.

It’s time you stopped.  It’s time you let the real hurting, and the real healing, begin.  And we’ll get to how to do that soon.  I promise.  But first, we’re going to make sure Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is really what fits.

Until next time, keep your chin off of the floor.  Rug burn isn’t attractive.

Your brother in arms,

Bruce

Read more from Bruce Anderson here: How I Became the Freak in the Corner

(A page that tells his story from the beginning and has links to several of his articles)

Borderline Personality Disorder and Zen Buddhism

Suicide and Self-Harm with Borderline Personality Disorder

Hey.  It happens.  End of article.

Just kidding.  Just like with Mary Poppins, I find that humor can be the spoonful of sugar helps to help the medicine go down, and this is some very, very bitter medicine indeed.  But first a little good news.

Borderline Personality Disorder is totally treatable, possibly even curable.  According to one study, as many as 94% of us can receive almost total remission of our symptoms.  But only if we get treatment for it.  So figure out a way to shuck out the bucks.  It’s a long, hard road (years, baby, years) but isn’t your happiness worth it?

Now… let’s look at another percentage.  If you choose not to get treatment, you have a 1 in 10 chance of killing yourself.  And who knows how high the percentage of us is that at least tries.

My first serious attempt was June 1st, 2013.

Depressed and LonelyI had been working at tough job, teaching 9th grade in a city with the second highest crime rate in America.  I had turned in my resignation, and had yet to find another job.  Not only was I stressed from not knowing where my next meal was coming from, but I had genuinely fallen in love with some of the kids at the school, and now they were all going away and I was never going to see any of them again.  Abandonment!

And to top things off, while all of this was happening, my girlfriend decided she no longer wanted to be in relationship.  That’s two, big double whammies of abandonment piled on top of each other.

Now, I’ve made “cries for help” in the past.  There have been points in my life where I would cut or burn myself as either a way to seek nurturance from someone or as a way to feel something, anything again (2the Empties.”  We’ll talk more about these later).  But this time, I just gathered the things which meant something to me—the art my ex had given to me, all our pictures and memories—place them on the bed in the spare room, and started washing down pills with alcohol.

Now don’t laugh at me.  It was red wine, not whiskey, and the pills were over-the-counter.  Enough of both would have worked.  I asked my doctor.  But here’s the problem…

I only had so many pills in a bottle, the rest were in blister packs, which I got too drunk to open.  So the next time you wanna complain about how hard it is to get into those pills, just remember that they make them that way for a reason.

Anyway, the pills and booze took effect and I wound up passing out.  I woke up a few hours later because my body was telling me I had to go to the bathroom.  I wanted to die, but I sure didn’t want to be found in a puddle.  I dragged myself to my feet somehow, slumped into the bathroom, and saw myself in the mirror.

Every muscle in my body was slack.  My mouth hung open.  My eyes drooped.  My face was basically hanging off of my skull.  I barely looked human.  And the thing in the mirror scared me.

What if I didn’t die?  What if I was stuck this way for the rest of my life?  It was a distinct possibility, but one I couldn’t think too hard about.  I managed to pee, slump back to my bed, and pass out again.  I stayed there for the next fourteen hours.

When I woke up, I still had trouble controlling my muscles.  I felt and moved like a newborn giraffe.  I made it into the living room, flopped onto the sofa, watched some TV… and started drinking again.  No pills this time.  I didn’t want to die at the moment.  I didn’t feel anything.  And that’s what we’ll talk about next.

Your brother in arms,

Bruce

Borderline Personality Disorder is totally treatable, possibly even curable so it`s no need for suicide and self-harm!

Read more from Bruce Anderson here: How I Became the Freak in the Corner

(A page that tells his story from the beginning and has links to several of his articles)

It Is Not Just Our Own Boundaries BPD People Have Problems With

Boundaries and Borderline Personality Disorder, Part-2

Remember last time when I talked about the friend that “wouldn’t be my friend anymore” if I didn’t blow up frogs with him?  Well, my boundaries as an adult haven’t gotten much better.  For example:

“Sure, honey.  You can go back to your job as a stripper.  It’s just dancing, right?  I’ll totally overlook the fact that you are shaking your naked jiggly bits at strange men.  Just don’t leave me.

I’m paraphrasing, but I spoke basically those same words to my ex-wife, who also has Borderline Personality Disorder (and was in fact the first time I ever heard the term before).

BoundaryNow, I’m sure there are some open-minded guys out there who would legitimately have no problem with their wife being a stripper.  There are few guys who I’m sure would be totally turned on by it.  Well, I’m not one of those guys.  I’m old-fashioned, and by old-fashioned, I mean “jealous and possessive.”  What I wanted to say was:

“You are my wife.  Yes.  They’re your jiggly bits, but the only person I’m cool with you shaking them at is me.”

But did I tell her that?  No way!  She wanted to do it, so I said “do it.” Then went and cried about it, just like I cried about the frogs.

That’s my own biggest boundary problem.  I’m terrified both of asking for what I want and telling people what I will and will not accept from them.  And that really sucks.

Now… it’s not just our own boundaries people with BPD have problems with, but respecting the boundaries of others, too.   Here’s an example of what I mean.  Let’s pretend that what follows is a series of text messages between me and a former girlfriend of mine (we’ll call her Justine, because it’s not her real name, but it’s a totally hot name for a girlfriend to have, in my opinion).  I’d like to say these hypothetical texts are wildly exaggerated, but in reality, they probably aren’t.  And yes, we BOTH use proper grammar when we text.

JUSTINE: “Sorry, Bruce, but I can’t see you this weekend.  My son has a paper I have to help him with and I’ve GOT to get this project done by Monday.”

BRUCE: “You need space because you want to work on your art?  But the weekends are my time with you!  You NEVER wanna spend time with me anymore.”

JUSTINE: “I know we haven’t seen each other much lately, and I’m sorry.  I hate to not see you, but I really will be too busy.”

BRUCE: “Guess I’m just not very important to you.  You must not love me anymore, so I’m gonna send you mean, accusatory text messages and try to make you feel like a total waste of flesh.  You hurt me, so I’m gonna hurt you.”

That’s paraphrasing.  When I’m in “the zone,” I just do it.  I NEVER admit to it… at least not until after the fact.  I’m working on it.  And then, after five or ten minutes with no response from her, I start again.

BRUCE: “I’m sorry.  I’m a terrible person.  You deserve better.  I’m breaking up with you because I totally suck and should be destroyed.”

And another five minutes.  No response from her.

BRUCE: “Please stop ignoring me!  I don’t ignore you!  Can’t you see how much this is hurting me?”

And in less than two minutes…

BRUCE: “Don’t leave me!  I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!  I’M SORRY!”

And then I go cry, just like I did for exploded frogs and wiggled jiggly bits.  And ten minutes later, I get a reply.

JUSTINE: “Um… I was driving.  Stop being such a drama queen, Bruce.”

BRUCE: “I’m sorry.”

JUSTINE: “It’s OK.”

BRUCE: “Please don’t hate me.”

JUSTINE: “I don’t hate you, but I have to get to work now.”

BRUCE: “OK.  I’m sorry.”

Ten minutes.  No response.

BRUCE: “Please don’t leave me!”

I know, I know.  Pathetic.  I’d like to say I’m not that bad anymore, but considering I did something almost exactly like this when I opened my eyes this morning, I’d be lying.

Keep in mind; I’m new at all of this.  Don’t look at me as the wise old sage with all the wisdom.  I’m figuring this out as I’m going along.  

So anyway, once I realize the abandonment is only perceived, I’m able to get hold of things quickly, but I do find myself apologizing more and more these days.  Hey, at least I recognize that my behavior is wrong.  

Now… When the abandonment is real, when the relationship really is over, I’m much, much worse.  

BRUCE: “Fine then.  You don’t love me, and that’s because I’m unlovable.”

JUSTINE: “You’re not unlovable, Bruce.  I care about you a lot.  I just can’t be in a relationship right now.”

BRUCE: “That’s OK.  I understand.  I can’t be in this world right now.  I love you and I’m sorry for what I’m about to do.  Goodbye.”

And that, boys and girls, is where the booze and pills start going down the old gullet.  And that’s where I’m gonna leave (but not abandon) you for this time.

It’s an old writer’s trick.  The cliffhanger.  Always leave them wanting more.

Your brother in arms,

Bruce

Read more from Bruce Anderson here: How I Became the Freak in the Corner

(A page that tells his story from the beginning and has links to several of his articles)

Boundaries and Borderline Personality Disorder – Part I

Boundaries!  They’re not just for breakfast anymore!

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) – (Called emotionally unstable personality disorder)

Bondary FactorsI can’t remember the product the whole “not just for breakfast anymore” tagline comes from, but for some weird reason, it seems to apply.  See, as someone who has only very recently been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, in the past boundaries were “just for breakfast,” meaning I knew roughly what boundaries were about, I knew I was supposed to have them, but I never really thought about them.

As someone hoping to recover, I’m eating boundaries for breakfast, lunch, dinner and between-meal snacks.  It’s a conscious effort, and I’ll be the first one to tell you, they’re hard to swallow.  I’m already getting sick of it.  And yes, I barfed a few right back up.

For people without Borderline Personality Disorder, boundaries are something they learned naturally over the course of their lives.  For me, I’ve gotta pack all of that learning into my adulthood, when things such as boundaries are much harder to learn.  Or rather, I have to unlearn what I learned about boundaries in my childhood.

In my last article, I mentioned the fear of abandonment being the big nasty as far as BPD goes.  I also mentioned that it’s most likely caused by childhood trauma.  So, like a horrifying, traumatic version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (“chocolate and peanut butter—two great tastes that go great together”) I’m gonna talk about boundary problems from my childhood.  And please, try not to hate me when you read the next line.

When I was a kid, I used to hurt animals.

I know what you’re thinking.  That’s the sign of a whooooole different kind of personality issue and also one of the hallmark signs of a budding young serial killer.  So before you go running for the hills thinking you’ve been taking advice from Ted Bundy, allow me to clarify.

When I was a kid, I used to hurt animals… and then go cry about it.

I didn’t like it.  I hated doing it.  I’ve always been an animal lover.  To this day, the thought of what I did makes me sick to my heart.  See, I used to blow up frogs with firecrackers.  Not because I wanted to, but because my “friend” wanted me to.

As the nerdy, sickly kid who always got beat up, friends were hard to come by.  So when I did find one, I did whatever it took to hang onto him or her.  Even if that meant doing something I knew in my heart was intrinsically evil.  If I didn’t do it, he “wouldn’t be my friend anymore.”

Those were his words.  I remember.  So, I did it… and then went and cried about it.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder have all sorts of boundary problems.  Our own personal boundaries can be far too flexible or far too rigid.  Personally, I’m of the “people pleasing” variety.

Whatever it takes to make someone else not leave me, I’m cool with it… sorta… but we’ll talk more about that next time.

Your brother in arms,

-Bruce

Read more from Bruce Anderson here: How I Became the Freak in the Corner

(A page that tells his story from the beginning and has links to several of his articles)

If You Have Got BPD You Are Hurting Right Now

Recovery and Roadblocks with Borderline Personality Disorder, Part II

So, when we left our hero (me) last week, I had been dumped by my girlfriend, was incredibly depressed, got on a dating site, found four smoking hot ladies who wanted to meet me within a week, had another friend who wanted to introduce me to her smoking hot friend that’s ten years younger than me, and managed to pull off the Holy Grail of masculine seduction: I got the phone number for a stripper while she was working!

So no problems, right?  WRONG.  It’s a very, very big problem. If I was capable of casual sex, I’d have been in hog heaven, especially with the stripper girl (they really are as good in bed as you think they are).

But for me, sex is about love.  And love, REAL love, takes time.

Borderline Personality DisorderSee, I had been in a committed, stable and loving relationship for three years.  Sure, it was long distance, but this woman really cared about me (still does) and I really cared about her (still do).  But rather than heal from the break, I immediately set out to “fill the void she left.”  But here’s the kicker.  That hole in me?  That was there long before she left.  Chances are, it’s part of the reason why she left to begin with.

But that hole hurts so much when it’s empty, you just gotta fill it.  Well, hooking up with any of those women would be just as effective as slapping a Hello Kitty Band-Aid on a sucking chest wound.

You see, I don’t know any of those women from the dating site.  I’ve never met my friend’s friend in person.  And after having been married to an exotic dancer once before, I know better than to get involved with another one.  I have no reason to love any of those women.  But within a week of meeting any of them, I’d have slept with them (I’m attractive, charming… and manipulative), and I would have made up a reason to instantly be in love with any one of them.

I’ve done it before, well, with every woman I’ve ever been with except this last one.  That one took time.  The relationship developed slowly.  If she wasn’t the right woman for me (something I’m still not prepared to admit), then I at least went about things the right way with her.

Remember that I promised news about my Borderline Personality Disorder that shocks even me?  Well here it is:

I shut down my dating site account.  And some of you guys out there are going to think I’m the dumbest man on earth, but I deleted the stripper’s phone number, too.  Sorry, ladies.  It’s not that I’m not interested.  It’s that I’m too interested.  Not in you, but in filling the hole.

And right now, I’m poison, baby.  Which, in a sick sort of way, makes me even sexier to some women.  Chances are, they’ll stumble across this blog for the same reasons you’re reading it and I’m writing it.  Because women who dig the damaged guys are probably damaged themselves.  Like attracts like, remember?

All hooking up with someone this soon after a breakup would do would be to continue the cycle.  You gotta hurt to heal, and in my case, it means I have to be alone.  And that absolutely terrifies me.  But I’m gonna do it.  I don’t feel like a “whole person” right now, but I realize, at least on an intellectual level, that no other person can “complete” me.  Only I can complete myself.

Now, I just gotta figure out a way to make my heart believe what my brain has known all along.

So if you’ve got BPD, chances are you’re hurting right now.  Just know you’re not the only one.  You got me, kiddies.  I’m right there in the trenches with you.  I know it’s cold comfort, but it’s all I can offer at the moment.

Your brother in arms,

Bruce

Read more from Bruce Anderson here: How I Became the Freak in the Corner

(A page that tells his story from the beginning and has links to several of his mental health related articles)