Marina Afzal-Khan, Online Wellbeing Editor
Personality disorders are still a new phenomenom in the world of mental health and require more awareness. There is a stigma that sufferers are just attention seeking. This is not the case. Here is an account of the struggles that arise from Borderline Personality Disorder.
To this day, I’m afraid of rollercoasters and refuse to go on them. However, ironically, it seems that when it comes to my emotions, it's hard not to see a similarity. When I was 20, I was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, more commonly known as Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD is a personality disorder characterised by extreme emotional reactions, impulsive behaviours, unstable relationships and an unstable sense of self.
Through this, I’ve come to learn a lot about myself and why my emotions range from one end of the spectrum - euphoria to the other, depressive. I am in a constant battle, not knowing when I’m going to feel on top of the world or feel as if life is too much for me to handle.
Not having an awareness of when I am going to be extremely social, energetic and happy or the opposite can be extremely exhausting. People with BPD tend not to have a strong sense of self and struggle with their own identity which changes depending on who they are around. My friends and family always ask me the same routine questions: ‘why can’t you just have a balance; why can’t you just feel normal, not always either so happy or so sad?’ The only response I have to this is: that is not how my brain works.
For me, one week or even one day can be extremely chaotic, full of drama and chaos and I’d make decisions which are often extremely catastrophic in hindsight, yet in the moment, they are the best decisions. Due to my impulsive mind, I seek drama, I seek action and I am constantly on my feet. I usually feel overly excited, constantly fidgeting and end up doing harmful self-destructive accts. My relationships and friendships can feel very intense and unstable which can be mentally draining because of the fear of feeling abandoned and therefore constantly craving strong attachments. Sleeping without my mind racing is impossible and eating is non-existent. The only things I seem to care about are being social, energetic and to remain as euphoric as I can for as long as I can. On the other hand, feeling euphoric for a long period of time can also feel uncomfortable. There is never a moment where I feel a healthy and content range of emotions.
My relationships and friendships can feel very intense and unstable which can be mentally draining because of the fear of feeling abandoned and therefore constantly craving strong attachments.
The reality is, what comes up must come down. After a certain number of days, or even in the space of hours, I am brought back down and grounded. I suffer an extreme crash, where all the happiness I had felt suddenly disappears and a very uncomfortable feeling takes its place. This can bring about feelings of shame, embarrassment, paranoia and the fear of wondering what I’ve done or how I have behaved during my intensely happy period.
I am lucky to have friends and family that understand, so that when they see me in my different emotional states, they are able to be there for me and not judge my actions, especially the behaviour that is self-destructive and harmful to myself. However, for me, it is exhausting. During a crash, I feel unable to do anything and need to rest for a significant proportion of time. The sheer guilt, shame and embarrassment that follows, even if I haven’t done anything terrible ends up being overwhelming and then the cycle starts again.
Suffering with chronically unstable emotions is more than just going through a small mood swing. Although it consumes my life, I try to look at the positives. As much as it can be tiring and I can feel out of control having to feel every emotion so deeply, it is also exciting and an amazing feeling when I’m euphoric. At the end of the day, your brain works in its own way, no one is the same and you’ve just got to own it.
borderline personality also means you struggle to really label your emotions, they’re often confusing and misleading, making you feel worse about everything in the first place. HOW FUN.— Ruw. (@RuShakti) March 22, 2019
There isn’t any official medication for BPD, there isn’t anything I can physically do besides try to stay in the driving seat of my mind. Taking the extra second before making the decision or feeling a certain way can help manage your emotions and keep you grounded a little bit more. (SHERPA) offered by the Student Health Service had offered me emotional regulation therapy which has also been a saviour. Being able to talk about my week and how my emotions have fluctuated with a professional has helped me understand them more and has made me feel less ashamed of my actions. Addressing them also means I can notice a manic or depressive spell more often and stay in control.
Having unstable emotions does not have to be debilitating; as much as I fear rollercoasters, I know the majority of people enjoy the ride, which I am beginning to do myself. I’ve accepted BPD as a part of my identity instead of just being an illness because I am doing something about it and through my personal journey, I love the person I have become.
Featured Image / Marina Afzal-Khan
To find out more about Borderline Personality Disorder, get in touch with your GP or medical professional.