The DSM-5 criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder is indicated by having five or more of the following symptoms in a variety of contexts:
Chronic feelings of emptiness
Emotional instability in reaction to day-to-day events (e.g., intense episodic sadness, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
Identity disturbance with markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
Impulsive behavior in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
Pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by extremes between idealization and devaluation (also known as "splitting")
I have met all the criteria at some point or another. You cannot be officially diagnosed under the age of eighteen and most of my symptoms appeared during late adolescence, yet I can recall instances in my childhood that point towards the development of the disorder.
I was always considered to be a “sensitive” and “dramatic” child and while that was mainly the result of growing up in a dysfunctional and abusive household, my sensitivity persists as emotional instability. My mood can be set off by the smallest change in someone’s tone or behavior. My emotional instability is mostly tied to my close interpersonal relationships (mainly friendships). This means that if someone I feel close to doesn’t have the same energy when I’m talking to them or cancels plans last minute, it’ll trigger an intense depression that will make me feel like I want to die, and I’ll just sit through it…until the anxiety kicks in of course, then I have the thought that that they hate me and don’t actually want to be my friend and that means I don’t really have any friends at all. Then the paranoia comes and I just know that they know all the crazy things I’m thinking in my head and I have to make sure I didn’t accidentally call or text them and tell them all of this. Eventually, anger rears its ugly head and turns into rage. I start to hate that I’m feeling this way and get mad at them because it’s really all their fault (I tend to draft long messages in my Notes app telling people off, or block people on social media during this time). Suddenly, a wave of calm washes over me and everything is fine. All of this happens in the span of ten minutes and I will cycle until something else grabs my attention (or they respond) and I snap out of it. I am often left wondering why I was so upset in the first place and the cycle continues. So it goes.
My constant emotional rollercoaster leads me to act impulsively. During these times, I’ll do just about anything to feel “like me” again. My room is filled with uncompleted projects and remnants of hobbies I barely dedicated time to, things I started when I was feeling “good” and stopped when I was “bad”. I often have the desire to completely change my goals in life and what I want to do based on how I am feeling. “New feeling. New me” I guess.
Given that my emotions cycle so rapidly, I have a hard time regulating them. I have a difficult time dealing with and expressing anger which leads to passive aggressive behavior towards others and/or isolation. When I didn’t have the appropriate tools to cope, I engaged in self-destructive and damaging behavior. I would consistently sabotage any effort I had put in to changing my life in a positive manner. I would ruin potential relationships by leaving people before they left me. I also cut myself as a form of release—a coping mechanism that in time became my one true vice.
Looking back, I see now that most my self-destructive behavior can all be linked to one thing: my fear of abandonment. I spent more time ruminating about being not enough or being too much than being present in my relationships. I stayed in toxic relationships much longer than I should have because I didn’t want to be alone. I consistently acted in ways that would push the people I cared about most, even though I didn’t mean to. Push, pull, high, low, repeat.
Some of my most severe symptoms have been brought on by traumatic events that unfortunately happened in rapid succession of one other. While initially I felt the full force of emotions after these events, I eventually swung into the other extreme and felt completely disconnected and detached from everything and everyone. Dissociation is difficult to describe if you’ve never experienced it and experiences vary in intensity and frequency, but I mainly experienced dissociative symptoms in the form of derealization and depersonalization. Everything felt like a dream and I felt like I was watching myself through a screen. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror and didn’t feel like a person, more like a ghost of myself. My most severe episode lasted for about three months and during that time I talked about myself and past experiences as if they were someone else’s and completely tried to detach myself from them. I was emotionless when talking to and about other people. As uncomfortable as those periods were, I was also the calmest I’ve ever felt, and it was a nice break from the usual exhaustion I felt from my rapid mood swings.