- Written by Emily Woodhouse -
I am an introvert, and I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). Being an introvert does not necessarily mean I am a recluse and am always hiding away, although I do struggle with social skills. As someone who is very quiet and diagnosed with BPD, I focus my intense emotions, impulsivity and actions inward. Contrary to behavior where one may act out in rage episodes in public, become aggressive or even throw outbursts and tantrums, someone with “quiet” borderline acts inward.
That means I handle the profound emptiness, the endless whiplashing roller-coaster and lack of identity BPD brings in a more distant manner.
My BPD may be mild and less disruptive on the outside but that doesn’t mean I experience things any less intensely internally. I struggle with settling for the gray areas of life, especially relationships. Being a more reserved and silent person, I do not have many friends. But with the few friendships I have held onto, I am either latched on tight or am struggling to keep the contact going. It is a very painful way to have relationships. Most of the time, the standards I place on myself as to how a good friend maintains relationships are abnormally high. Within my distorted lens, I feel I place too much expectation on the unfortunate individual on the other side of the relationship. I harbor very idealistic standards perfected to the extreme on both ends. Other times I do not have the energy to try to keep up my end of the relationship. My head gets filled to the max with so many worries and scenarios that suddenly I’m a hollow shell in the dark. My mind is silent when I need it to be thinking about how to emotionally and logically contribute to the other person. I stop checking in on people, replying to messages and get lonely and hurt when they are silent in return. And then when they finally reach out to me, I am anxious, suspicious and doubtful of their concerned gestures. It’s a vicious cycle.
A significant characteristic of both “classic” and “quiet” BPD is wrestling feelings of abandonment. I tell myself almost every day that people have moved on from me, for a good reason too. Later, I only find out the person was simply busy and permanently dropping contact was not even on their radar. A typical trait of “classic” borderline may be to aggressively accuse the person of abandoning them and demanding angrily for an explanation. For me, I turn all of those feelings inward and chances are, I will loathe myself too much to say anything to the other person or apologetically seek validation for their friendship.
A sentence of the struggles of my mind can be summed up in this quote by Kiera Van Gelder:
“30 seconds of pure awareness is a long time, especially after a lifetime of escaping yourself at all costs.”
Oftentimes I feel like I am so hyperaware of everything; my detriments, my thoughts, my actions and behaviors that it hinders forward progress. I find unexamined pieces of myself and replicate elaborate stories in my head as to why I am the way I am and all the internal self-analysis creates so much more harm than good. But, then there may be times where things are the exact opposite. When dissociation takes over, I feel isolated from my own feelings, my voice is lost and I cannot help myself help others understand. My own existence is questioned, along with every sensation, every interaction and thought that goes through my mind.
My typical spiral when I’m in the midst of a BPD episode consists of anxiety and isolation, severe depression, intense, internal anger and finally, impulsive actions in attempts to end the pain I am feeling inside. I also have social anxiety and that paired with my emptiness and lack of identity turned inward, leads to isolating for hours in my room. I tell myself no one cares, that I deserve and am designed to be alone. I think back on all the positive memories I experienced in the past with people, question their validity and genuineness. I wonder if the intense emotional turmoil will ever end. Sometimes, these dark thoughts lead to swift and sudden suicidal ideation and at that point, I reach out and tell someone, sometimes not in the best way. I am usually really withdrawn and distant at that point, unable to find the words to explain the hurt I had created for myself. People are taken by surprise and do not understand because I cannot provide a decent explanation. Then I tell myself I am super weak for not being able to deal with these thoughts on my own. I am slowly learning with each time this happens, I will probably be battling suicidal thoughts often, but that is all it is — thoughts — and I do not necessarily have to act upon them.
Living with “quiet” BPD is somewhat like living a paradox in every possible way. I spend lots of time self-reflecting, yet I feel I have no sense of self-identity. Rather than thrive in this solitude, it ultimately leads my mind to turn against me. I burry into a deep hole of “what ifs,” and the empty, black scar of an abyss re-opens once again and swallows me whole.
A quote by James A Chu illustrates the reasoning behind frequent self-sabotaging behaviors:
“Self-destructiveness may be a primary form of communication for those who do not yet have ways to tame their excruciating inner conflicts and feelings and who cannot yet turn to others for support.”
In my despair of feeling so out of control to my outside world, I turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. My “quiet” BPD has also manifested into an eating disorder. Eating disorders are commonly linked to BPD. I struggle with both purging and restricting my food intake. Food suddenly has all of this emotional value that is not supposed to exist. Other times I go looking for sharp objects and discreetly harm myself. I get so caught up in all the imperfections, my relationships, how externally present my internal self is to others, I get stranded in a sinking ship of worries and fears I cannot even begin to verbally try to explain. I do one of my main unhealthy coping mechanisms — purging.
Then I come up for air and the vicious cycle resumes; I hate myself more for wasted time thinking on the deficits we all struggle with, for being completely irrational, and minimizing other people’s care. When I’m consumed in the depths of the disorder, I lose sight of all that I am working for. The aspirations in life I’ve been working so hard for whether it be school, my writing for myself, living a healthy active life, they are all forced to be placed on the back burner, and I remain stuck in a whirlpool of the fragmented, broken pieces of my exhausted mind. This pattern however, doesn’t have to take weeks or even days. It’s like a marathon in my head and oh, is it exhausting.
When I first was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, I thought the world was crashing down on me. And being only recently, a few short months ago, I still sometimes battle those thoughts because unfortunately, BPD is one of the most stigmatized, misunderstood mental illnesses. Even before I was diagnosed, I heard enough to be biased in my perception of what it is. The common theme I picked up was that borderline meant on the borderline of psychosis and “being insane.” People who are aggressive, out of control, dangerously impulsive and over all just very evil people. But it’s quite the contrary, those struggling with BPD I think, are among the most sensitive, caring people who feel emotions too intensely and just need some guidance and reassurance to calm the waves of their emotional storm.
I am sharing my experience not to quietly gain attention, but to raise awareness. To let others who are dealing with similar struggles to remember they are never alone. BPD is an extremely difficult beast to reckon with. I only recently was diagnosed at 20 years old after spending my preteen and teenage years feeling very misunderstood and alone. BPD is extremely tough to diagnose in anyone but, far more challenging to diagnose in someone who is extremely introverted. If you know someone with similar struggles, talk to them, and be patient as they may have to contemplate a little while. The internal baggage “quiet” borderlines carry contain a lot of unresolved internal pain.
Although I just wrote close to 1,800 words on the daily pain I, and many others who battle go through, there is hope. I’m writing this paragraph feeling one of my most low points. My energy is zapped, the eating disorder component is raising its razor-sharp claws, and I am wrestling feeling abandoned, unworthy, along with the opposing thoughts of wanting to be alone and not go to therapy. It’s in the midst of ascending negative thoughts, everything screeching inside to give up, that is when the fight happens. Go sit and be around other people, even if it is just listening to the conversations going on, it will help eventually. Jot down a good thing that happened at the end of each day and share with someone who’d keep accountability.
One famous saying always comes to mind when I am at my worst: “This too, shall pass.” The sharp twists and turns of the swift ride will always be anticipated. The trick is learning to balance trekking to the peak of comfort and happiness with the aches and sinking sensations thrust in plummeting down the rickety structure.
Are you struggling with BPD? Are you willing to share your story with us? Send us an email! We'd love to hear it.
If you need support right now, call your National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Head here to find yours. You can beat this.
Emily is a mental health advocate, you can follow her on The Mighty (here).