The Guy With BPD: Life as a Man Living With and Healing From Borderline Personality Disorder (Guest blogger David O'Garr)


For my 201st post on this blog, I'm doing something a bit different, and it's something I'd like to do from time to time: I'm featuring a guest blogger.  Today, David O'Garr, our peer, will share his very personal story as a man living with and healing from Borderline Personality Disorder.

As David will tell you, the support system for men with this disorder leaves much to be desired.  Read his very personal story, in his own words, then check out his blog and social media, which are listed at the end of this post.

Let's welcome David and honor his willingness to share so openly so that other men may feel less alone.

In kindness,
Debbie

Trigger Warning: David talks (though not in graphic details) about eating disorder, self-harm, and sexual behaviors in this post

"Wow, being asked by Debbie to do a guest post is pretty flattering -- I mean you’ve read her blog right? And her books? I feel like I’ve 'arrived,' that I’m quasi famous or something. Well I guess you have read her blog, since you’re here reading my guest post. ;-)

Lack of Support Online For Men With BPD

Before I get into my story specifically, I feel like I need to set up a bit of context. A lot of people don’t seem to understand BPD in men. If you Google the two terms together, you tend to get a lot of blog posts by men demonizing women with BPD, which can be really disheartening when you’re a male trying to find resources for yourself when you’re newly diagnosed. Not only are men with BPD invisible, but other men are actively promoting stigma against the disorder.

Why do we have such an imbalance in the blogosphere and twitterverse of male voices with Borderline Personality Disorder? There are more than a couple of us out there, but we seem to be few and far between.  We know that until recently it was thought that BPD was something found in women more often then men, but it turns out that this is not the case. It seems to be equally split. (Grant, B. F., Chou, S. P., Goldstein, R. B., et al., 2008)

But that doesn’t answer the question. We know academically, theoretically even, that there are just as many men as there are women with BPD; but in reality, in the online support communities that we have built for ourselves, it seems as imbalanced as ever. Sometimes it seems that there is one guy to every fifty or so women.  The amount of men I have actually spoken to that have disclosed their BPD diagnosis I can honestly count on just one hand.

Gender Socialization and Lack of "Outed" Men with BPD?

The reason for this, I believe, is gender socialization.  The reason we don’t see as many males with BPD can all be boiled down to how we raise our boys and what we expect from them. I am not going to go into huge detail on this, but it is worth pointing out. If you’re interested, this article on Psychology Today’s website written by Randi Kreger (which also appears in her book The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder)  Borderline Personality Disorder in Men Overlooked, Misdiagnosed is a good break down and is definitely worth the read.

My Story

So now onto me, my story, how I came to be diagnosed, how my recovery is going -- it’s all about me now. :-)
It’s one of favourite topics so much so that I write a whole blog about it. Even Debbie thinks I’m the most interesting thing ever, and it’s why I’m writing this guest post. I’m hilarious! :-)

I think my story is very similar to a lot of others I’ve heard. I was misdiagnosed as clinically depressed for years before anyone seemed to take my other symptoms into consideration. My outbursts of anger were really just filed away as typical male aggression, and because I wasn’t violent with my anger, no one seemed to take it too seriously. 

The Joys of Being Openly Gay in a Small Town

The other thing was my self harming behaviour, which seemed to be overcomplicated again by the fact that I was gay and dealing with a small town general practitioner who had never met a gay person, let alone a gay patient. So I felt that I started to fall through the cracks so to speak, as I didn’t have the proper support and education as a gay teenager. 

Everyone I knew had these backwards ideas of what gay men should be like, and I think many of the professionals in my life were afraid to point out bad/poor/atypical behaviours because I would claim they were homophobic, and they were so uncomfortable with teenage sexuality that they just didn’t bother. 

So, I couldn’t get any of the help I needed, because no one knew how to give it to me. During this time of my life is when I started doing really impulsive and self-harming behaviours. I really do feel that there was overlap between the two. 

Eating, Trying to Acquire Control, and Being Invalidated at Home

The first thing I did was become a vegetarian. I know that some people might think this is pretty innocuous and not really self-harming or impulsive, but I was actually unable to have any sort of control in my home life, and this was one of the ways I did it.  My step-father would refuse to make special meals for me and told my mother she was to do no such thing, so I was to eat what they eat or starve.  

I was never really all that overweight as a kid, although if you had asked me at the time I would have told you otherwise. At 15 years old when I was 5’6” – 5’8” before this started, I was of a healthy weight, weighing in at about 160 – 170 lbs.  By the time I was 17 I was 135 lbs, and my body was pretty much at the lowest weight it could be.  If you look at some of the pictures of me from that time, I looked frail and sick; it’s funny thinking back to that time, because despite being sickly thin, I still thought I was fat.

Sexual Impulsiveness and Promiscuity

Then there was the sex, at 17, my very first sexual encounter was actually not consensual.  I know that what had happened, on top of the fact that I had so many messed up ideas of what gay sex was, is partially why I started having some really high risk sex.  Meeting with random people on the internet, not using condoms – I even started doing some sex work as well.  

As I was no longer living at home, money was not all that easy to come by. As well, there was definitely an element of not knowing how to relate to men, as all the men in my life up to that point had been pretty abusive. 

Generally, promiscuous sex falls into the criteria about impulsive behaviour, but I feel that this also bordered on being acts of self-harm. 

You Don't Know Me, But Neither Do I (Yet)

So in the end, I was supposed to be worried about being skinny and I’d grow out of the whole not eating thing, gay men are all suppose to be skinny anyway, right? “Well of course he’s having high risk sex and putting himself in dangerous situations – because that’s what gay men do.”

Of course if I wasn’t gay the sex thing would probably just be written off as just a typical boy, he’ll settle down when he finds a nice girl or whatever line of bull sh*t. 

Self-Harm Behaviors Hurt The Ones I Loved

I also cut, and I haven’t spent much time talking about that for a reason, because I didn’t do a lot of it. After the first time a good friend of mine found out and literally spent48 hours hanging out with me. We didn’t talk a lot, but it really made me realize how much it hurt other people so I quickly stopped doing it.

Living on The Edge - My Most Dangerous Phase - And My Escape

So these patterns of behaviour went on for years, I started drinking heavily and got involved in sex work while living in Toronto. I was putting myself into some pretty precarious and dangerous situations.  When it was really brought to light to me how what I was doing was affecting my loved ones I literally changed these behaviours over night.

Change is the key word here, because I still didn’t have the tools to fix the underlying problems and I traded one set of problematic behaviours for another. One of the first things I did was that I started to eat, the problem was that I didn’t really know how to stop eating.  I am now twice the size I was at 17 and am trying to work out what I need to do to feel both happy and healthy. 

When I stopped having sex, I actually stopped reaching out to people.  I just turned myself off emotionally from the idea of being in something romantic, because at that time I no longer saw sex as something fun and exciting. 

This went on for years, I tried almost every anti-depressant there is. At first I thought they were making a difference but in the end, I came to believe that it was all a placebo effect. I tried to just put my nose to the grindstone and pull myself up, convince myself that there was nothing wrong, but I always ended up sliding back into old behaviours. Then we would try a new pill and none of them would address the actual symptoms I was facing.

I would tell you about what relationships have been like for me, but to be honest I have never really had one. My longest relationship has been three months long, and to be honest I tend to push people out of my life so hard when I fear they’ll abandon me, that there’s really no hope that they’ll ever come back.

Work was always just as hard for me, I would start off as the model employee. I would end up getting triggered and end up rage quitting or doing something that would lead to get me fired. I tried to go to school, but that had the exact same results.

Things Started to Get A Lot Better


So that doesn’t quite bring us to now, but it brings us to about two years ago, when things were starting to go well in my life. I had a great job. I had some great friends, and I was just starting to put things back together. I feared, though, that I’d backslide if I didn’t find help. So, I went to my doctor, and he just prescribed me another anti-depressant – this time though, I also got a referral to a psychiatrist. After years of doctors just telling me I was just depressed, I no longer had to wait on those long waiting lists. I was finally going to talk to someone who knew more about mental health.

Well the anti-depressant, as I expected, did nothing for me -- (well I believe it did help me quit smoking, as the drug I was prescribed is also marketed as a smoking cessation aid -- so that was one good thing.) But in the meantime, I wasn’t in any sort of therapy and things started to get worse. I kept getting angrier and angrier at work until eventually no one really wanted to work with me, and I was at risk of losing my job. 


Finally Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder

A month before I eventually did lose my job I finally got to see the psychiatrist. That whole day in and of itself was a nightmare and a story that I will tell one day, but certainly merits more time then I can give it right now. After sitting with me for twenty minutes, he gave me my new diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and ushered me out, referring me to someone else that I wouldn’t get to see for another few months.

After that, things quickly fell apart. I felt lost. I had no idea what BPD was or what it meant. I felt like I had basically been told that I am not a real person, I have no real sense of self, that I barely exist, which fed into one of my biggest fears: a fear of not existing. This fear is something that has been driving me to make some sort of impact in the world, I need to know that I have had an effect on people’s lives, I need to know that I can do good in this world. To then be told, as I interpreted my diagnosis at the time, that I was not a whole person – just felt like I was barely there at all.  This was very triggering for me, and it was months before I got any sort of support.

Things that I would normally only find mildly irritating I started to rage about. I pushed away family and friends, except for the few that would not let me do it. I felt so lost and unsupported and scared. I didn’t know where to go or who to turn to. 

My Shift To The Path of Wellness

I started to write about my diagnosis, to start a dialogue at the very least with myself, about what was going on. I researched DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), mindfulness, biosocial theory, and the work of Dr. Marsha Linehan. After wading through the nasty things said about people with BPD by others online, and after reading one too many scholarly articles, I found Debbie’s healingwithbpd.org.

This blog has been instrumental with me in coming to terms with my disorder, and even though I couldn’t find much of a voice for men with BPD, I did find myself relating to this blog and was able to start to find a community of support on twitter, even if I was a bit resistant to it at first.

So I guess that’s my story so far as a man with BPD, you might find things you can relate to or things that are different. I think all of us with BPD have similar but unique stories. They say that we don’t have to have grown up in an invalidating environment to develop BPD but I have yet to meet someone with the diagnosis who didn’t grow up in such an environment, and most of us have trauma in our pasts as well. So I think on those levels many of us can relate to one another.

As the world changes and it becomes more socially acceptable for men to seek and get and even offer support, we’ll start to slowly see more men voice their concerns with this disorder. In fact, one of the biggest voices for BPD right now is Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears
,
and that right there is helping to break down so many barriers and much stigma.

We’re all in this together, men, women, and anyone whose gender doesn’t fall neatly into those categories; I think we all just need to do what we can to help each other out. "



You can follow David and his journey at:







You may also enjoy reading BPD & Males: Finally We Are Addressing It by Dr. Robert Fischer of Roanne Program.

Do you know of any other resources I should add for Men with Borderline Personality Disorder? Please be sure to mention them in the comment area below. Also, feel free to share your thoughts with David about his story.

Are you a man with BPD? Please share your experience and perspective.


Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for this post - It is extremely hard for men to find support. Being straight it's just as tough, believe me. One thing is that guys are supposed to handle stuff ourselves and if we can't it's assumed that we're just "immature".

    For me, i think being straight makes this part worse, there is an assumption that i have lots of scars. It's easy to chalk up even crazy amounts of scarring to just being a guy. So adding to everything you mentioned etc. for a guy to actually be diagnosed is tough enough.

    We do need to do something about the stigma too - Even at a psych hospital and exhibiting all the symptoms the doctors were very resistant to issuing the diagnosis, prefering to use low grade bipolar, ptsd, complex ptsd etc.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and share your experience. And, you're right -- regardless of our gender or orientation, BPD is a challenge...but it's one that with hard work, determination, and patience, we can "overcome" to a large degree. ♥

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    2. Trigger Warning in my response - Talking about violence.

      I definitely agree MMDC, sorry it's taken me so long to resp to do this I've been busy running all over the province for the holidays.

      That being said, that we're suppose to handle all of this stuff by ourselves, I definitely get that, and have even felt that, expecially since my father and step father tried to beat anything that wasn't typical masculine behaviour out of me. I lucked out there in my own way, because I was able to fight so hard against them that I was able to give myself some freedom in my identity and because of this was actually able to free myself from typical gender socialization. Which I think and feel is key as to why so many masculine men tend to either be dx with bipolar, PTSd and from some of the things I have seen, Antisocial Personality Disorder.

      Not to mention that there's studies out there that suggest that most men with BPD end up in the prison system because of addictions and even assault because of the inability to regulate emotions.

      YOu're right though, we really need to work towards fighting stigma! I am actually volunteering at my local hospital in doing staff training in Mental Health Stigma, and there's lost of things we can do every day, little things.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to add your comments on my guest post here and to share your story. My blog is a bit slow right now because I have been so crazy busy, but hopefully I'll see you around.

      And once again 'Healing From BPD' thanks for the opportunity.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story! I have been a member of the BPD forum on Reddit for about a year, and I've noticed quite a few guys post there. The forum is overall pretty supportive. (It's actually how I found this blog... someone posted a link to one of Debbie's post. Here's a thread about men and BPD: http://www.reddit.com/r/BPD/comments/zzydf/just_curious_how_many_men_that_post_here_suffer/

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    1. Thank you! I will definitely check this out!

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  3. I guess no one will see this as its one year after the last post.
    I am a 45 year old man with BPD. I was diagnosed just over a year ago .I always knew there was something wrong with me. I would get overly upset and distressed very easily and have suicidal thoughts. I would get attached to certain guys and get angry inside if they didn't feel the same and would lash out in a harassment way. I never did the sex thing though, but got overly keen almost immediately.
    I had my first relationship and only one at 34. I knew we were wrong for each other but I felt special and attached myself. It ended badly with him cheating. I hated him with a passion. I wanted to hurt him so badly. I wanted him dead. I was scared of being alone after trying to cut him out my life. I kept him as a friend. We have had unless rows with me enjoying his company and me wanting to kill him or kill myself. In November we had a lovely holiday in Orlando but when we got back he said something to set me off. I am in a depressive state and have gone back to hating him and not wanting to see him again. I am so confused.

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