Living with a mental illness impacts everybody in the family. Often, these illnesses carry a genetic component to them, which means in all likelihood the person with the diagnosis often has family members with similar histories who were probably never properly diagnosed. For example, I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, and I can think of several family members who went through very similar experiences in their lives, yet they were just thought of as odd or difficult. I had one second cousin who did commit suicide and I can almost see the places mental illness has reared it’s head.
Back to living with a mental illness. From a young age I always felt different and detached from those around me and I felt things deeply. I was raised in a home where crying and anger were bad things and I learned to keep that all inside. Instead, to cope with my pain and confusion, I developed others ways of coping like disappearing into a fantasy world in my mind, retreating to the quiet of my room to hide and cry….unhealthy but survival skills to get me through.
It’s been noted that people with BPD feel things intensely. We are like emotional burn victims – raw and pained. There’s a spot in our brains that also controls things such as impulses and that doesn’t work properly in our brain. So we struggle to control our impulsive behaviors. We sometimes say inappropriate things because our filter isn’t quite lined up properly. And sometimes to get attention that we so desperately crave, we act out. We may make a scene, hurt ourselves or threaten to leave. We react to perceived abandonment with primal fear.
I did get carried away with generalizing what people with BPD experience. The above speaks really only to what I myself have experienced. And what my loved ones endure can at times be almost inhumane. They often times have to hide what they are feeling so not to “trigger” an episode with me. They tiptoe around me at times, never sure what mood I might be in. I think they are afraid to tell me what they really think because I’ve allowed them to believe that I’m too sick to handle truths. At times I think I have used my illness as an excuse for things I say or do, but that’s really bullshit.
When I upset the loved ones and they withdraw from me to heal themselves, I become desperately afraid that they will leave me. I still don’t believe in my core that they will stay. I don’t see why others would find me worthy, for all I can see are all the reasons why someone wouldn’t love me. That’s part of the disorder as well – fear of abandonment.
Not only is living with BPD a struggle for me, it’s a battle my loved ones wage with me. As long as loving me is worth loving the mess that comes with me, then I can get through this. I’m learning new skills every week to cope with the intensity of my emotions and feelings so that I can maybe stop doing things that are harmful. I love my family and they mean the world to me and I would never do anything on purpose to hurt them. I hope that the person inside me that is kind, loving, and awesome is enough to keep them around.