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  • Writer's pictureErin Malley

Living with Borderline

The Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder was a somewhat surreal experience. I was diagnosed with depression at just 11 years old after my first suicide attempt and depression just made sense to me. My maternal grandmother had it and my therapist took time explaining to me that this diagnosis was sometimes genetic and it in no way meant something was wrong with me.

Fast forward to age 23, I was back in therapy and finally seeking the assistance of medication. I was experiencing drastic mood shifts, unstable relationships, impulsive behaviors, constant feelings of worthlessness and suicidal ideation. At this point, I somehow knew there was something more wrong with me. I didn’t seem to fit the mold of my depression diagnosis anymore. I had this constant fear of abandonment that felt crippling at times. Once I told my new therapist I was ready to go on medication, it was finally time for an evaluation by a psychiatrist for the first time in my life. The official diagnosis was major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD). The psychiatrist briefly described the latter, but it went in one ear and out the other because I was trying to come to terms with the fact that it was more than “just depression”.

Family Response

When I went home, I immediately started to do research into BPD. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, everything I had been feeling for years was right there on my screen being described as known symptoms of BPD. I am extremely close with my father so I shared my new diagnosis with him. I gave him some time to process and research the topic himself. He was stunned by our next conversation. My complex attitude and behaviors we were struggling to deal with had a real diagnosis. I wasn’t just being difficult, irrational, and impulsive; but more importantly, the diagnosis gave us answers and treatment options.

Extreme emotional swings in BPD are subtle but noticeable, especially by those closest to me. I remember during one of my moods swings I was driving with my mom, we had just left my aunt’s house, I was in a great mood and all of a sudden, I wasn’t anymore. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t sad, it was like a numb feeling. No emotion at all. She asked me if there was anything she needed to do and I just explained to her, this is what it is like. I explained, to get through this moment I just need silence, I need to process whatever is currently happening in my head which is incredibly frustrating because ironically, absolutely nothings happens in my head during those times. Here I am 8 years later, these mood swings still happen, and they still feel the same. Sometimes others notice and sometimes I am able to at least contain it to an extent that it doesn’t affect others. Living with BPD, 8 years post-diagnosis, I have coping skills that I learned through dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and individual therapy.

Developing a Treatment Plan

BPD is one of the few mental health disorders that can have remission phases. After completing a full 6 month DBT skills group and some additional therapy, I experience my “remission” period for about 5 years of my recovery and treatment. Most of my symptoms of BPD were either not present or easily controlled with my DBT skills and continued therapy. However, it was still and will always be part of my diagnosis, there is no definitive cure. There is no medication that can specifically target and treat BPD. Treatment with medication is generally treating specific symptoms. For example, my treatment plan includes depression and anxiety medication to assist with the mood swings and suicidal ideation.

Lately, I have been experiencing some trouble with the intense emotional swings and my therapist suggested I go through DBT again because I just have to brush up on some of my coping skills. Luckily, I have all of my materials from my first round of DBT so I have started going through them again. It’s an eye opening experience seeing some of the little notes I wrote down 8 years ago and looking at the material with a completely different mindset. I can see how I was successful using certain coping skills and realizing others may suit my needs better now. Finding my BPD diagnosis completely changed my life. It did not eliminate the struggle, but it gave me the answers I needed to find the proper treatment to begin my road to recovery and happiness.

Follow my journey as I talk about the tough subjects surrounding mental health to try to end stigma for those who are still suffering in silence. You can find me on Instagram, @surviving.borderline


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