I have long wondered what was wrong with me. I’d have these intense emotional swings where I’d be either angry or giddy in a flash, or have long periods of sadness or depression. I couldn’t tell where these were coming from, yet they could rule my life for stretches of a time.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is marked by intense mood swings and irrational anger with fear of abandonment. It affects more women than it does men, but it does affect men too. It can be tough to treat, but with meds and targeted therapy, people can overcome it.
I am a man who is sensitive and creative, so my feelings always like they were always at the surface. I’d cry a lot, both in joy and sadness, and had weird episodes of anger. I’d take many things personally. And wondered why it seemed like I push away people. On the other hand, that pain, fear, joy, and instability fed the creative spirit inside of me wanting to come out, like a fuel that wasn’t burning cleanly and left lots of residue.
My particular diagnosis came at the end of a particularly trying summer. I was in the home stretch of my Master’s degree, heading for a June defense and an August graduation. I was dating someone that I was over-the-moon about. But I had been “burning the candle at both ends” personally and professionally for 2 years straight. While doing my research, I was serving on my church’s music team, teaching private lessons, had a Ã?Â½ time assistantship, and gigged with a dance band on weekends. In a wordÃ¢Â?Â¦ouch. I had time management down to an art. I had met this young woman at our church that spring, and we started dating. To our pleasant surprise we had a lot of in common and really hit it off. After two months, we started to feel like this was serious and might be headed towards the aisle.
All of the sudden, I started having panic attacks in the middle of the night. I started reacting emotionally, trying to get a hold of myself and leaning on her for support. It scared her and we broke up soon thereafter. It sent me into a cosmic tailspin of hurt, sadness and anger. I saw it in her eyes that she was pulling away, and something clicked off inside of me. I spent the duration of that summer in therapy and on meds. The obsessive thoughts and unbearable sadness had me locked in. I was hospitalized with bad panic episodes where I couldn’t stop shaking and crying. I felt like God has deserted me, and I spent endless nights warring against Him in my heart. I had panic attacks every night for 6 weeks in a row that summer, averaging 2-4 hours of sleep a night during the period. Eventually with the right meds, I came out of that. But at the end of the summer, I graduated and it felt like the bottom dropped out of my life. All of the sudden, there was nothing but silence. My degree was done, I was stood down from ministry, I lost the love of my life, and the silence in my mind was deafening. I was soon diagnosed with BPD, and as I did some fact-finding, the identifying factors all hit home.
I am part of a small-group of Christians who practice intercessory prayer and have diverse spiritual gifts. I had stopped meeting with them because my course load and research had gotten two taxing. But I cleared out my schedule enough to come back to the group, because I need the prayer, fellowship and accountability. They had a vision of me climbing a ladder out of a deep pit towards the light. I wasn’t ever questioning my salvation like I had earlier in my life, but I was fighting God like “why could you do this to me, after I thought that you had given me the woman I was about to marry?”. I was trying to shield my heart from Him, because I didn’t want to hurt any more. That meant not praying, lying to my friends, doing impulsive things like lashing out. I needed to be around people, but I didn’t want to. I wanted desperately to be left alone, which fed my issues. I was living inside.
Eventually things did start to calm downÃ¢Â?Â¦.
I think friends and relatives don’t understand how to deal with BPD in their loved ones. Heck, I was amazed and scared of my own feelings sometimes. The quick flashes of anger where nigh-on uncontrollable and only lasted a half-hour so, but when I was in those moments, nothing else matters. My moral grounding went out the window. Only to be replaced by guilt, then sadness, then angerÃ¢Â?Â¦you get the idea. I think that BPD people need an extra measure of grace and some gentle tough love. For me, it’s the abandonment issue. If I think someone is rejecting me, even if it’s not true, my mind takes it as rejection, and the emotions kick in. I either want to lash out or disappear. That extreme black-and-white thinking is a hallmark of BPD. I’d encourage you, if you have loved ones with BPD, to do some homework. Learn to recognize the symptoms, and while it may be really taxing to deal with, love them in the midst of their borderline moments.
For you BPD sufferers, here are some tips that I’ve found that help me. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I am climbing the ladder so to speak. I’m still on meds and on therapy. BPD is something that I don’t think many people truly get over, they just learn to contend with and overcome
1. Learn about BPD so you can understand it. Knowing is half the battle, as they say.
2. If you feel those emotions coming on, take one step back and ask “what’s reality here?”
3. Allow yourself and others grace
5. Get on the right meds, and don’t stop asking questions or trying until you do
6. Surround yourself with people you care about and trust. Let them know how you’re struggling
I don’t know if I’ll ever talk to my ex again, which is tough because as of this writing we still travel in the same social circles and same ministry our church. Neither of us has left over this, which is good, but it’s tough, when you see that person across the room and are trying to worship God while your emotions are taking over.
I am becoming slowly aware that God was with me all the time, never moving and always waiting patiently. During one of these prayer times with the group, I had a hazy vision of Jesus standing in the middle of the light with his arms opened towards me. I’ll never forget that. I know that many of you don’t believe there is a God, and given what this world sees every day, I can’t say as I blame you. As sure as I’m writing these words to you, there is a God. He came running to me, and He’ll do the same for you.