We Are Not Monsters | Borderline Personality Disorder

A tweet from a twitter friend today confirmed that I needed to write this post. She came across a BPD hate website, apparently written by ex-lovers of people with Borderline Personality Disorder. Although I haven't personally read the site (nor do I want to), as a person who lives with, copes with, and who is healing from the diagnosis, I feel it's time to speak up.

We're not all monsters. While the media sometimes portrays us as such, the truth is we are human beings who are extremely sensitive emotionally, and we do often have some extreme behavior patterns. For many, it's a combination of life-sabotaging, impulsive choices or literal physical self-harm. The people I have met in my ongoing DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) groups, while they experience these symptoms and behaviors, are also very vulnerable and desperately seek to be liked, approved of, and cared about. They want to be in relationships with others but the dichotomy of this desperate desire and a fear of being hurt and rejected causes confusion and overwhelm. The result is acting out in ways that have, up until now, seemed to serve to get our needs met.

That being said, it's not to say that living with someone with BPD is an easy ride. It can be really difficult. It depends in large part on where the person is in his or her recovery and treatment. Each experience is very individual.  Several years ago, I was so different than I am now. Even up until last year, I made incredibly desperate attempts to seek attention from my significant other and friends, only to push them away both emotionally and physically.

Winona Ryder plays a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder in
"Girl Interrupted"


I've spoken carelessly and said hurtful things. I've acted in ways that made people who cared about me feel helpless and sometimes hopeless.

I didn't do it from some narcissistic place, a feeling of entitlement, or because I deliberately wanted to make anyone else suffer with me as I surfed the emotional ups and downs and emptiness that I experienced (especially when circumstances were "drama-free" for a while -- then I'd unconsciously stir something up just to feel something). The truth is, I was living very unconsciously. I didn't know any better. It's not an excuse. It's reality.

And even when sometimes I did feel that I was a bit off, I desperately clung to old patterns and old ways that seemed to work to get my needs met. I didn't have the tools, knowledge, or support that I have now. These things make a huge difference.  If I were to behave in the same ways at the level of maturity I've begun to reach through DBT, something wouldn't be quite right. I take things day by day, sometimes hour by hour. I have my ups and downs. I slip up sometimes, and most of the time, I move forward and progress toward a healthier mind and life.

I'm much more conscious now. But, the person you love, care about, or treat who has BPD may not be "there" yet in terms of consciousness.  He or she may not even be trying yet. This can be discouraging for the both of you. Remember that you didn't do anything to cause your partner's distress.  There are all sorts of reasons and often years worth of a history filled with trauma and crises when a person ends up with this diagnosis (there may be instances where this is not the case, but I haven't come across any).

If the person  you love isn't ready to acknowledge his or her diagnosis and get the proven treatment so that he or she can recover, you can't expect much to change. But, if he or she takes that step and truly invests in his or her recovery, you will see improvements over time. At least that's what I've observed in my own life and with others around me who have Borderline Personality Disorder.

Going online and venting about difficulties is fine - that's your prerogative and right. Perhaps you find it healing.  The one thing that I would urge is to refrain from bashing someone based on their mental health diagnosis. Remember that each person is doing the best they can, where they are at, and with the tools they currently have.


Thanks for reading.
More Soon.



"Girl Interrupted" movie on DVD



"Girl Interrupted" book by Susanna Kaysen



24 comments:

  1. Well said. It disturbs me as a former mental health worker to come across this discrimination towards one particular diagnosis. So much judgment, so little understanding. Best of luck to you.

    best, @liberalandold

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    1. Thank you for being a mental health worker who finds this concerning and for your support.

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  2. Its not fair to all of us to have such hate and judgement for being mentally ill. Living with BPD is not easy and everyday is a struggle an inner battle with yourself.I make a conscious effort everyday to be a better person to others and to myself.Its not ok for people to dehumanize bpd sufferers and make us all to be evil and and promote this kind of image of us.

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    1. Everything that you are doing with your conscious effort is HELPING to prove long standing stigmas about people with BPD wrong. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. When I was given my diagnosis of BPD the condition was not explained to me. In searching for info I came across many of the kind of sites you mention. In many cases the vitriol from those declaring themselves 'normal' was staggering. After reading some of those forums and posts in detail my conclusions were that 1) the stories of the posters often inadvertently included details of their own behaviour that could only be considered abusive and / or invalidating in the extreme to any former partner no matter what the former partner's alleged behaviour 2)very, very few of these former partners had ever been diagnosed with BPD or any other condition by a qualified medical practitioner, rather the poster considered themself qualified to make such a diagnosis based on their own non acceptance of the end of the relationship or related issues like not being granted full custody of children, or even just due to their former partner 'moving on'and finding someone new. 3) A surprising (to me) amount of these posters were actually new female partners seemingly intent on showing their devotion to their new man by demonising said man's ex by 'diagnosing' disorders in line with both 1 and 2 above. So while I don't doubt that it can be very difficult at times to maintain a successful close relationship as or with someone with BPD and I admire the dedication and love shown by those who see beyond the illness to the person, I also recommend those sites and the things their posters write are taken with a good pinch of salt. DBTwise I consider that those poster's opinions are 'not my problem' now and rather than anger I will try to feel compassion for the poster's apparent inability to deal with their own issues more constructively (for themselves)and move on.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing what you have found out there and your related concerns. I make a deliberate choice to avoid such sites.

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  4. Fantastic post. Sadly, it doesn't shock me at all that there are websites like that. So many people (sometimes it feels like an overwhelming percentage) want to hate, discriminate and torture other people. I don't get it. In some respects, I feel bad for those people who have been so deeply hurt by the behaviour of someone else - but in many other respects, I highly doubt whether those same people who complain are innocent. I would imagine that if someone is nasty enough to create or participate in such a website that they themselves are just as much 'monsters' as the people they claim are. What I find even more disturbing is the ease with which such people generalise their own limited experience to everyone who has the same diagnosis they think their ex has. Sweeping generalisations are hurtful, and they piss me off. I've heard them made many times about people with Bipolar Disorder, and not once have the generalisations I have heard about my own disorder actually applied to me.

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    1. Sweeping generalizations are, indeed, hurtful. Not everyone is enlightened enough to realize this, unfortunately. Thank you for your comment.

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  5. thanks for this! i have bpd and i know before i got diagnosed and even for almost a year after i did nothing to change. but once i started doing dbt my life changed forever. i'm definitely NOT the person i was a year ago.

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    1. Another fan of DBT! I have the same story - before diagnosis, my life was a nightmare. DBT is changing my life. Welcome!

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  6. Got any examples of these sites? Long time BPD sufferer, ten years into DBT. I find more sites stating hard facts than I do ones heaping hate on people who don't deserve it so I'm wondering what I'm missing.

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    1. You're not missing anything. I avoid those sites, and even if I did know one of their web addresses, I certainly wouldn't promote them.

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  7. I don't need to see any of these sites to know and experience the stigma and fear from other people that comes from being diagnosed with a mental illness let alone a misunderstood one like BPD. But ignorance and fear and misunderstanding and hate can be changed, but it takes two, it's easier to blame others and label them as mentally ill because they do something that you don't understand or like. As for the movie I've seen it and I didn't know she had BPD. I have not heard of DBT my mother told me to do CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) probably because it was "nicer" to think I had depression than BPD. So thanks, at least someone out there knows I'm not a monster.

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    1. Leave it to other people to be concerned about our diagnosis being easy or nice for them to accept (insert sarcasm). No, we are not monsters, and the only way we can tear down the stereotypes and stigmas is by showing others who really are: extra sensitive individuals who are hurting and who need compassion and understanding. Thanks for your comment.

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  8. Thank for this post. I just recently was diagnosed with bpd, and up until earlier this year had not even heard of it, I always thought I was simply depressed and meds didn't work for me. Now that I know what it is, I have far more hope then I did, but its still a long road ahead for me and I haven't yet gotten into treatment, but I hope to by the end of the year.

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    1. I hope that, by now, you have been in treatment and are feeling better. Give us an update. ♥

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  9. I feel the same, I was diagnosed about a month ago. Its still very confussing to me and at the same time everything makes sense. I was in treatment for 3 months and I have been out for a week. I feel like my whole world is falling apart and no one understands me. I spent last night and most of this morning in the ER after taking an overdose because I simply cant deal with the fact that this is my problem and no one elses. I end up pushing everyone away from me. I feel helpless!!!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing. I really hope you're feeling a lot better and hope to get an update from you. ♥

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  10. I feel so alone and helpless, too.
    Anyone in the San Diego area or in SOCAL that has BPD? I would like someone to chat with on an ongoing basis whether it be pen-pal, or face-to-face. I am 30 years old and just want to make sense of it all and feel like I have a grip on my outlook on life.

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    1. I hope that, at this point, you have found some connections and are feeling better. Please do give us an update. ♥

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  11. This is one of my favorite posts by you, Debbie, and that's saying a lot. Thanks so much for sharing. <3

    ~ Mel (BPDTurtle.com)

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    1. What a kind thing to say. Thank you Melanie. ♥

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  12. If I had a dollar for every time I've been called 'emo', 'whiny', 'does not take responsibility', 'crazy', unstable or been shamed for my scars or meds (can't get rid of them even if I recover from BPD :( ) I could quit my job and retire to Bermuda. It's possible that we want people to know what we are feeling because we think if we can get them to understand, they will love and forgive us. That's at least what happens in my own head.

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    1. If *only* it worked that way -- I like your idea about Bermuda. :)

      Thank you for sharing your heart and taking the time to comment. ♥

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