It’s characterised by intense emotions that are sometimes hard to regulate, and unstable interpersonal relationships.
I was diagnosed with BPD at 22 after I had moved to London, but I’d suffered from the symptoms from around the age of 12.
I felt so strongly for everything that it was quite difficult to cope at times.
I come from a long line of highly strung, overachievers; I don’t know a member of my family that isn’t a perfectionist in some or all areas of their life.
Despite this, I lived in a loving, supportive home growing up, but the perfectionist gene was strong.
If I didn’t get everything I did exactly right when I was a child then I would feel a deep sense of self-loathing and was prone to outbursts of anger.
That self-loathing would often segue into depression and despair, a common trope being ‘I’m not good enough’.
The behaviour of the people around me would cause such strong emotional shifts in me that I would suffer from intense anxiety.
At the age of 14 I was hospitalised for such a severe panic attack they were concerned about the stress on my heart and I was given intravenous sedatives to calm the anxiety response.
Relationships could also be terrifying.
My tricky brain would convince me my partner wanted to leave me – the old ‘you’re not good enough’ feeling back again – and I’d act out in ways to try ‘keep’ them that actually pushed them away.
Finally, feeling actual abandoned I lapsed into substance abuse to dull the emotional chaos going on inside my head.
Not all people with BPD will end up that low, while others will end up lower.
The disorder is different in every person, but one thing we’ll all tell you in that our emotions can sometimes rule our lives.
The quick fixes we turn to can often be self-destructive so over the years we need to learn a healthy programme of self-care
Here are some of the things I do to manage my BPD.
This may seem like a strange, ineffectual medicine but it has been quite literally a life-saver for me.
When I feel uncontrollable rage bubbling I put on my headphones and go for a long, brisk walk.
The physical activity helps redistribute the cortisol stress hormone and release counteractive endorphins – happy hormones.
The stimuli of walking in an outdoor environment also ‘brings you back to earth’, helpful if you’re dissociating.
You can practice mindfulness on your walk, a therapy proven effective in the maintenance of BPD.
Take in everything you see and smell. What colour is the car on the road next to you?
Suddenly you’ll start noticing things about your area you never did before and this in itself is enriching.
To a friend, a family member or even a charity person such as the Samaritans.
Sometimes our emotions are confusing and we don’t know why what happened made us act that way.
Talking it through with another person can be a way of helping you to understand your triggers and how to keep calm.
It’s also helpful in working out if your reaction is proportionate.
Often with BPD you can’t tell if what someone said to you was your illness kicking in or if it was genuinely hurtful.
Trusted friends can be invaluable at helping you make that distinction and, in turn, saving some of your relationships.
Looking after your body
This is something we’re always told, but rarely do.
I’m not just talking about going to the gym, but eating enough good food to fuel you, drinking water and sleeping.
And of course you’re allowed little treats now and again too.
Sleep is crucial for our emotional regulation.
REM sleep is present later in our sleep stages in the night but is the part where our brain makes sense of our day, what happens and how we feel about this.
By going to bed late and then forcing yourself awake early, you’re essentially starving the brain of that important ‘emotional translation’ time every night, and will find it so much harder to function.
I was declared ‘clean’ by my doctors in 2011 but only became fully drug-free about five years ago.
I have recently gone a step further and cut out alcohol.
Countless scientific studies back up the fact recreational drug use of most kinds severely impairs cognitive function, especially the ability to emotionally regulate.
Anyone that has dabbled will know of the dreaded ‘comedown’ from MDMA, during which serotonin is sapped dry.
There’s also the ‘alcohol blues’, increasingly reported after a heavy night out drinking.
Alcohol is a depressant and as such can lead to low mood, as well as the physical symptoms of the hangover.
Many people with mental health issues can have a responsible, enjoyable relationship with alcohol, but if you’re starting to feel less able to shift those post night-out blues, maybe you should try giving up drinking for a couple of weeks and see if you feel an improvement.
Finally, I’ve yet to work out the panacea for relationships.
I do still find them hard, but being in a better place with my BPD overall from all the tips above helps.
Clear communication with those around you and being genuinely kind to your mind and body will always be the key to not just living but thriving with a disorder such as BPD.