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Borderline Personality Disorder - My Story

I wasn't formally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder until I was already in my forties; however, thinking back, I can see that I had it as far back as I can remember.

The National Institute of Mental Heath (NIMH) says that borderline personality disorder is "a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual's sense of self-identity. Originally thought to be at the "borderline" of psychosis, people with borderline personality disorder suffer from a disorder of emotion regulation."

Pervasive instability in moods. Unstable interpersonal relationships. Poor self-image. Irrational behavior. Disruptive family and work life. Long term planning non-existent. Individual's sense of self-identity…dependent upon my current boyfriend or husband's identity. Definitely a disorder of emotional regulation for me. But let me break it down.

Pervasive instability in moods. From the time I was an adolescent, I was described as being "moody," and the instability in moods was more of an extreme in moods. And that shift in extremes was not only frequent, but could occur several times in a given day.

Unstable interpersonal relationships. I had no idea what a healthy relationship entailed. My parents certainly did not teach me, nor did they model one for me. I was isolated from others, so no one else modeled one for me, either. And I was of the generation of "Leave it to Beaver" and, later, "Happy Days," yet knew the idyllic interpersonal relationships represented on those shows were just that-unrealistic fantasies, the stuff of which television sitcoms are made, having nothing to do with my life.

Poor self-image. Absolutely the foundation of my behavior from adolescence on. I not only viewed myself as physically unattractive, but also knew there was something definitely wrong with my mind. I knew I was crazy. I just didn't have a label for my insanity. I knew my parents didn't love me, so it was easy to equate that with being unlovable. Feeling unloved by my father also later fed into my poor self-identity and pattern of choosing abusive relationships.

Irrational behavior. I was actively self-destructive from the time I was 12 years old-when I was sexually molested. It happened again when I was 14, and again when I was 16. Somehow I felt that it was my fault, so I never told anyone. But by keeping this secret, I became depressed, suicidal, sexually promiscuous and reckless, very angry and bitter, and deeply involved with alcohol and drugs. In other words, I did anything and everything I could do to numb the pain and take my mind to oblivion, to forget. This continued all the way to my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in my forties.

Disruptive work life. I was never able to hold a job longer than six months, the biggest reason being that I was terrified that any longer than six months and they would find out that I was crazy. Or I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to keep up the mask any longer. So I made a "career" of being an office temporary, flitting from position to position, company to company, never staying in one place too long, never letting anyone get too close or know me too well at work, or have the chance to ask too many personal questions.

Disruptive family life. My mother had her first "breakdown" when I was 12 years old, requiring institutionalization. In retrospect, I can see that it was probably a form of bipolar disorder with psychotic features, but back then they just called it a nervous breakdown. I viewed it all. Before that, my mom had been my best friend. Because she had shock treatments, when she came home, she didn't even know who I was. Or my sister and two brothers.

Everything at home was tentative after Mom's "breakdown," walking on eggshells around her, keeping peace, not stressing her, keeping her from having another breakdown. This went on for years, everything centering around Mom's mental condition. This was especially difficult for me, as she became very childlike and our roles reversed, with me being her primary care-giver; so that at 12 years old, I became the "mom" in the family, growing up overnight. Talk about your identity crisis!

Long-term planning non-existent. My dreams were shattered. My little girl hopes of someday meeting my Prince Charming were dashed. Every little girl wants to be Daddy's Little Princess, and I was no exception. But from a young child on, I only felt like Daddy's little burden, unwanted, unloved. My dad used to "joke" and say, "You were our first child, and we didn't know how to do it right-that's why you're the way you are." But you hear something often enough, and you believe it to be the truth. I didn't believe he was joking after awhile. I hated myself. I could barely get through a single day, much less have any hope for the future. I was consumed with thoughts of suicide. I never, ever planned for the future because, for me, the future just did not exist.

Struggle with sense of identity. This is the biggie for me. During those formative years, the adolescent years, when most teens are coming into their own understanding of who they are as individuals and becoming young adults, my world was so full of chaos and turmoil, my emotions so off the wall, that I had no idea who I was. I knew my role in my family dynamics. I knew my parents didn't love me. I knew I had no friends. I knew I had a horrible self-image. I knew I didn't know God as a loving Heavenly Father, only as a heartless judge, who was counting my every mistake, just waiting to punish me when I died. I had no sense of identity at all. Or if I did, it was an extremely negative one. I tried to destroy myself at every turn. There were many suicide attempts, and one suicidal drug overdose, requiring resuscitation.

The sense of identity was a central point to my life up to my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. All my relationships were abusive ones. Much of that came from the fact that my father was a physically abusive man. Because of that, I came to believe that all men were abusive. I believed my father never loved me, so I believed I was not worthy of love. Abuse was all I ever knew, so I chose abusive men in relationships.

The best way I can describe the loss of identity part of borderline personality disorder and relationships is this: In the movie, The Runaway Bride, actress Julia Roberts plays a woman who gets engaged to several men, yet leaves them at the altar and runs away every time. The running gag is that, in each relationship, she likes her eggs however each of these men likes his eggs. In the end, as proof of her discovery of her own identity, she claims that she finally knows how she likes her own eggs.

Medication has helped me cope with the borderline personality disorder symptoms. However, what has helped me the most has been therapy. Not just individual therapy, but individual therapy combined with what is called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), a therapy designed specifically for those with borderline personality disorder.

My borderline personality disorder manifests as an inability to regulate my emotions. That is a primary symptom of borderline personality disorder. This therapy (DBT) is teaching me how to handle my emotions. Another way it has really helped is that I had always thought in terms of right and wrong, absolutes. Now I think in terms of effective and ineffective, of what works, instead. This has been so much easier for me, since the fear of being punished, of being abused, that went way back to my father, has been removed. That deep-down negative "tape" that played in my mind that said, "that's why you're the way you are," meaning to me, "you will never do anything right," has been erased.

The road to recovery has not been an easy one. There was so much emotional damage to overcome, that I will probably be traveling this road for a very long time. But I now know who I am, and I like who I am. I know that I am loved, not only by God, but by other people in my life. I not only know that I am loved, but I also know that I am worthy of love.

I am no longer self-destructive. And I have my dreams back. I even have hope again-and I have plans for the future. I may not have met my Prince Charming yet, but at least I know he's out there somewhere! I'm not taking giant steps yet, but at least I'm taking baby steps, and that is a beginning--a step forward in the healing journey. [And I finally know how I like my eggs!]

About the Author

Michele Soloway has dealt with bipolar disorder from a very young age. Her grandmother, mother, brother, herself, and her teenage son all have the disorder. She also lost her sister to suicide because of bipolar disorder. Michele has a blog for bipolar survivors at, and is also a contributing writer to and

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