I recently finished reading Amanda Green’s My Alien Self: My Journey Back to Me on my Kindle. It is a memoir that begins with the author’s diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and moves on to a journal entry from her teenage years about being raped – a journal entry that she didn’t remember writing about an event that she’d suppressed in her memory.
The first half of the book covers the events in her life leading up to the BPD diagnosis and to the development of her alien self. Many of these events are typical of borderline thinking and behaving in the face of painful emotions, depression and dysphoria. She engages in self-injury. She has suicidal ideation. She abuses substances. She places much value in short-term relationships with several men and is devastated when these relationships fail to materialize or make her feel better. The most striking behavior in the author’s case (at least to me) is the pattern of “running away” to foreign lands to escape the painful states of mind. I’ve seen people with BPD do this on several occasions (including my own wife) and it is hard for the family members to understand fully. The author does a remarkable job of explaining this running away impulse and what is means in her life. Anyone who is a family member of a person with BPD who exhibits this behavior, whether it is running away to another country or just running from situation to situation, can find My Alien Life valuable. I felt that the first part of the book was a bit long, but I also understood the point of the detailed explanations of her behavior leading to treatment. Sprinkled with journal entries, email communication with her therapists and conversations with her significant other(s), the first section accomplishes the task of explaining the thinking behind the disorder from the inside out. One tragic cloud looming over her childhood is the specter that she will turn out like her mother, who is schizophrenic (catatonic subtype). I can only imagine what the fear of that end would cause in a child and young adult.
She makes a number of impulsive decisions throughout the first section, including buying a condo in Spain, shuttling between Australia and the U.K., Japan and Thailand, making bad business deals that resulted in bankruptcy and other such examples. She vacillates between adoring and abhorring her significant other. Much of this behavior screams borderline personality disorder, and it is helpful that she finally received a proper diagnosis.
The book really shines in the second half which concerns the “what now?” post-diagnosis return to her self. While there are many borderline personality disorder memoirs out now (including The Buddha and the Borderline, Loud House of Myself, Get Me Out of Here, Girl in Need of a Tourniquet and Poisoned Love – see this link), My Alien Self goes a long way to providing hope to the sufferers of BPD. By publishing the steps taken to reframe certain ways thinking, through CBT worksheets and other exercises, the author has revealed that recovery from BPD is possible. I found the second half of the book quite useful in pointing sufferers and their family members alike in the effective direction of healing. While the first half might resonate more fully with a person with BPD – in the “that sounds like me” fashion – the second half, which covers the road to recovery and the rediscovery of the true self, is quite beneficial to both sufferers and those that love them.
About Amanda Green
Amanda Green – author of my alien self, my journey back to me, mental health stigma campaigner and how I overcame borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, OCD and various adversities. Amanda Green’s Website.