‘Alice’ shares her courageous story about learning to live with and heal from Borderline Personality Disorder.
Note: This story contains some explicit content.
I’m 26 years old and have been living with Borderline Personality Disorder since 2012. Unfortunately, that isn’t when this diagnosis began.
Most people with BPD have had traumatic experiences during their childhood, which is true for me. I was six years old the first time I was shown what sex was. I was asked to lie down on the floor and take off my pants. I did so without hesitation because it was my brother who was giving me the orders. I hadn’t experienced pain and distrust yet. I remember my father standing at the bottom of the stairs and asking what we were up to. My brother convinced me to crawl over to the top of the stairs with Barbies so that my dad wouldn’t come upstairs. I did as I was told.
The next three years, my brother continued to have sex with me, and encouraged our neighbor to do the same. Now nine years old, I knew it must be wrong because we always had to hide, but I didn’t realize how bad it really was.
My parents ended up getting a divorce when I was ten, and my younger brother and I moved in with my mom, while my older brother moved in with his dad and never really came around anymore. I swept the past under the rug and attempted to move on with my young life.
My mother didn’t take the divorce well. She began to drink a lot, and brought home random guys from the bars. I had to listen to her have sex with different men for the next six years. Sometimes, my mom wouldn’t return home from the bars for a couple days, leaving me to take care of myself and my younger brother. Sometimes, she would have 5-10 guys over and they would snort drugs from our computer desk. But anytime I brought up her substance abuse to family members, I was shot down. Everyone swept my mom’s habits under the rug and let her continue to go down this path.
When I was 16, my mom hit my little brother. She slapped him across the face just because he asked how many guys she had in her bedroom. To be fair, it was a legit question. Unfortunately for my little brother, my mom had been coming down from a high and was extra irritable. When she slapped my little brother, I lost my mind. That was the last straw. I called her all the names I knew. I told her we hated her. I screamed at the top of my lungs while my brother bawled and clutched my leg. I called our dad and we moved out of my mom’s house that night.
Life with my dad and step-mom was okay, but there was still something missing. Some need wasn’t getting filled personally, but I didn’t know what it was. I felt out of control, so to gain control, I turned to anorexia and I cut a little deeper. I had started cutting at the age of 13 to deal with the stress my mom caused. Unfortunately for me, it became my number one coping skill for the next 10 years.
I found a couple friends at school who were just as depressed as I was so we made a pact to not eat and to cut together. It was going well until my friends stopped participating and said it was too much. But it didn’t feel like too much to me. I still felt empty and sad.
One day at high school, I had a breakdown. I bawled to my gym teacher about my past and current struggles. She was very consoling and non-judgemental. She took me to our school psychologist and helped me work through my trust issues and find my voice. The psychologist ended up calling my dad in for a meeting. It was the most uncomfortable meeting of my life, but looking back on it now, I see that it needed to happen.
That day, as I sat across from my father with a lump in my throat, changed everything. My dad found out about the anorexia, the cutting, and the abuse from when I was a child. I thought everything would be better now that I was being honest and open, but I was wrong. My dad was furious with my older brother and completely ignored the rest, which to me were the most important parts: the anorexia and the cutting.
My dad called my brother, screamed at him, called my mom, screamed at her. I could sense this wasn’t going to end well. And I was right. A couple months after opening up, just two days before my 17th birthday, my older brother committed suicide. He hanged himself in his apartment and didn’t leave a note. I was devastated and full of guilt. I had gotten over the anorexia, but the cutting was still my muse. I cut deeper and more often than I ever had before, as I struggled with the guilt and anger of my brother dying. It took me five years to finally get over the guilt of his death. Each year is still difficult on that day, but I am able to process it in a healthier way by using the tools I got in therapy.
I didn’t go to therapy again until my second semester of college. I was doing really well in therapy until I became friends with a girl who was emotionally and mentally draining. We had a very toxic relationship and would feed off of each other’s negative behavior. Everything she did in therapy, I would mimic with my therapist. Eventually, my therapist caught on and advised we separate until we were mentally stable.
In December of 2012, I hit my all-time low. I sat in the dark, by myself, in my toxic friend’s apartment for three hours. She was supposed to be home from work, but had decided to hang out with some other friends. For a normal person, this wouldn’t be a problem. But for me, it was everything. I was insanely jealous of the other friends and I was pissed off at myself for being so upset. I decided nobody cared about me and I should try to die. I sat in my friend’s bath tub and slit my wrists. I lay in the dark, cold bathtub with my eyes closed. I went through all my life decisions and convinced myself I was an awful person and friend. At that point in my life, I thought I was happy with the decision I had just made. I lay there awhile, hoping my friend would come home and save me, but she never did.
I realized I would need stitches, so I drove myself to the ER and committed myself to the psychiatric unit. I stayed in the psych unit for three days. The doctors I saw didn’t help me at all, but the other patients made me feel welcome and a little less crazy. However, I knew I would still need help when I got out. I called my therapist right away as I walked to my car in the hospital parking lot. She answered, which was great, but she delivered the news that she believed I had BPD and she was referring me to a specialist.
December of 2012 is when I began my BPD journey. I met with a specialist whom I very much disliked, at first. However, I eventually learned to trust her and open up regarding my feelings. She did Dialectical Behavior Therapy with me and it worked well. I saw her every single week for two years. There were many ups and downs during the sessions, but I know that without her, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I learned how to ask for help, and how to calm myself down when I feel my BPD taking control. I learned a lot of healthy coping tools and strayed away from self-injury. I am doing a lot better today than I was five years ago, but I’ll never be completely healed. I will have BPD for the rest of my life, and will have to make sure to manage it and deal with whatever issues arise right away, instead of pushing them down. I have to try even harder at my job than somebody without BPD, every day. And I have to try hard to hang out with all of my friends and not get attached to just one. It’s a constant battle, but one I know I can win over and over again.
A Message from the Editor: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think it’s one many people can relate to, even if they haven’t had a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Abuse is more common than people want to acknowledge, and so are post-traumatic symptoms. It takes your kind of courage to power through it, and bravery to open up to the world about your experiences, to get more people seeking the help they need and deserve.
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