Borderline Personality Disorder,  Pain,  Shame

A Comment on my Blog that needs promoting

A while back I received a comment on the article Four Reasons Bipolar is Accepted and Borderline Personality Disorder is Not that was apparently re-posted on a forum for people with BPD. It turns out that many of the people with BPD identified with this comment (more than my post actually). So, I thought I’d re-post this comment as a blog post so that people can read it (in a highlighted sort of way):

I do not think that lying and manipulation are part of this diagnosis. If they seem to be present, look either to another PD or to shame and anxiety as the cause, along with a long history of learning to never overtly state what you needed to be okay, or to express how rotten you felt, as the consequences always seemed to be much worse…

Sometimes it seems as if people hate those that are dx BPD precisely because they haven’t quite gone off the deep end for good. It’s bewildering how many professionals seem to resent them for this too.
They may curl up in a fetal position for hours, but then they will struggle out of bed and go on. They smile at us, while their inner world self-destructs. They might seem as alive as anyone, but -in the best of times- they feel dead inside; and as intelligent and gifted as many of them are, they never realize their full potential. But they would rather die than admit this to the outside world.

Who would today be dx’d BPD? Vincent Van Gogh, Kafka, Proust, Nathanial West, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison…

It’s ironic that they are so often seen as “emotional” when what they lack is a full nuanced range of emotions. Inner tension keeps anxiety coiled, emotionally stressful situations release it, and before they have a chance to think through what they feel, they are overwhelmed by fear and anger and despair. They get mired in their negativity. Studies have shown that those with BPD do not get angry more often than anyone else, but they have trouble leaving it behind when they do. And afterwards they drown in remorse, because these reactions are NOT felt to be syntonic. No one seems to pay much attention to this, but all other “personality disorders” are understood to be PD’s because they are syntonic with the personality. This is radically different in BPD.

That right there should raise lots of doubts about what this dx is. Is it part of the affective disorder spectrum? Is a akin to partial seizures in frontal lobe epilepsy? Is it a developmental disorder akin to autism? This is all possible, and perhaps BPD is a dx given to many different people who do not share underlying causes. This should at least stop us from quickly claiming that they CHOSE to feel the way they do. As if they were hell bent on living in hell…

When they do awkwardly, fearfully, try to communicate this pain, when they do reach out for help, they generally do so when their psyche is at it’s most shattered. They will quickly learn that their behavior is not acceptable to anyone. So they’ll go through DBT or through some other behavioral therapy, and sink into so much shame and guilt that lo and behold they will no longer qualify on the DSM for BPD; they will have learned to suffer in silence and to isolate (if they haven’t before – many of those with BPD will never consult a therapist in their lifetime and go through life pretty much invisible), learned to not bother anyone, but the dysthymia, the insomnia, and the dysphoria will still be there, eroding their lives, their aliveness. And as hard as they try, fear will still strike them out of the blue when they least expect it. As hard as they try, they will still plummet down into misery with the least negative emotion. Skinless creatures, they can not tune out human suffering, they can do nothing about the heightened sensitivity that they were born with. Only now no one will know. And so hopefully, thankfully, no one will ever call them “Borderline” again.



One Comment

  • Bob Hamilton

    Amazingly true based on my experience in caring for a young person later diagnosed with BPD. I have a question though — about DBT and what I think I hear you saying about learning to suffer in silence and isolate. Do you think DBT leads to silence and isolation? I’ve always believed that telling the truth, rather than suppressing it, was the best thing–but does DBT somehow help people suppress? (I’ve never gone through DBT myself but I’ve learned some things from reading and in conversation with those who care for people who have been in that therapy.)

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