When I read the People Magazine article about Demi Moore, while I was waiting to get a haircut, I thought of Borderline Personality Disorder. I guess I wasn’t the only one. Here is an “open letter to Demi Moore” from Alisa Valdes, the author, about BPD and being lovable.
An Open Letter to Demi Moore
By Alisa Valdes
I don’t know you. So I ask you to forgive my false familiarity. We have New Mexico in common, and I know of people who knew you growing up in Roswell. From what I’ve heard, you had a rough start in this world. So I guess I we have that in common, too.
When I heard that you’d been hospitalized after your friend called 911 because you were having seizure-like symptoms, I recognized that, too. When I heard that the symptoms were attributed by medical professionals to stress, I remembered something similar happening to me in the wake of my divorce.
But it was when I saw the quote from you in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar that I really felt my heart lurch with sympathy for you. In that interview, you said the following:
“What scares me is that I’m going to ultimately find out at the end of my life that I’m really not lovable, that I’m not worthy of being loved. That there’s something fundamentally wrong with me…and that I wasn’t wanted here in the first place.”
I am sorry to say I know how that feels, too.
As I said, I don’t know you. I don’t know your heart. But I know enough of your early life, and enough from those tragic, painful words, to suspect you and I have another commonality.
Last year, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. At first, I balked. Like many people, I’d heard terrible things about this mood disorder, which was supposedly popularized by Glen Close’s creepy character in Fatal Attraction. Borderlines were supposed to be among the worst people in the world, without their own identities and completely unhinged. Or at least that’s what I thought. I resisted the diagnosis for a minute, and then agreed to learn about it.
YOU ARE LOVABLE
What I learned floored me. Finally, there was an explanation for why I always went back to that lonely place, that conviction that I was unlovable, in moments of pain and crisis—and it was NOT that I was unlovable. And neither are you, Demi. You are lovable. You are amazing. You have accomplished so much. You are so talented, successful, beautiful.
Borderline Personality Disorder is partly biological, in that we are born with a tendency to overreact, emotionally. Lots of writers and actors and musicians have this ability. In my case, my emotional sensitivity has been my greatest gift, and my worst enemy, at the same time. It made me a writer. It also made me difficult.
What pushes people like me into BPD isn’t biology alone. The disorder is triggered, according to the literature, by living through a childhood that is “invalidating.” When my therapist told me this, I asked her what that meant. She said there was a range of experiences that could be invalidating, from obvious neglect and abuse to subtle undermining statements, such as telling a hungry child, “No, you’re not hungry, we just ate.” Anything that invalidates that child’s truth, repeatedly, can lead to this disorder.
What happens, Demi, is that people like us start at an early age to doubt our own perceptions of self. We say we’re hungry, but our parent says we’re not. We must be wrong about ourselves. This thinking progresses to deriving almost our entire sense of self from outside ourselves. It isn’t that the Borderline lacks opinions or identity, it’s that she wants so terribly to win approval and love that she goes along with whatever the people around her say and do.
When you do this, you end up requiring someone else to determine the boundaries within which you believe yourself to exist. Jackie O once said she had no opinions of her own, because her husband’s were good enough for two. What happens to a woman like that when the husband is taken away? She ends up feeling unlovable, as though she doesn’t exist, as though the very foundation of her world has disappeared and taken her with it.
WE ARE BOTH LOVABLE
I have been there, Demi. I know this is how you’re feeling now. But I hope you will come to learn what I’ve had to learn the hard way—that you are lovable exactly as you truly are. That you are fine on your own. That life is worth living, even if you don’t have a husband, boyfriend or someone else to tell you who and what to be. You are as good as anyone else. Your taste and opinions are exciting and interesting on their own. Your talent is yours, not someone else’s.
Something else to think about, Demi. Borderlines are at greatly increased risk of eating disorders and drug addiction. Borderlines are notorious for acting out in self-destructive ways, because when their emotional mind takes over, their rational mind takes a back seat. We end up doing stupid things, like over-sharing about our personal lives in public. Like telling a magazine that we fear we are unlovable, in spite of mountains of evidence to prove that we have much more going for us than lots of people. I have decades of doing exactly that sort of thing, often—if not always—to my own detriment.
IT DOES GET BETTER
I am blessed to have finally come to understand this disorder, to finally have a name for what has plagued me, because it means I have a roadmap now for getting better. The wonderful news about BPD is that it doesn’t have to be permanent. There is a remarkable therapy out there, called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, that not only gives people like us the tools to cope and thrive, it can actually rid us of the disorder altogether.
More than anything, Demi, I want to reach out to you as someone who understands what it feels like. The yawning existential chasm, the absolute sense of worthlessness, the suicidal thoughts in the middle of the night, the chronic emotional instability, the chaos. I know very well that little voice that loves to whisper in our ears that we are useless. Listen to me, Demi. That voice is lying. That voice is the voice of a child who was much too young to understand that the invalidating experiences she was having were not her fault. There’s a reason we don’t let children drive cars; we shouldn’t let them run our lives, either.
Lift your chin, my dear. Live in the moment. Life is a precious gift. You are a gift to the world. You are loved by millions of fans, and by your children, and by God. You are lovable. Believe it.
Editor’s Note: This is not meant to be a diagnosis of Demi Moore’s health issues, as only a licensed professional can make such a diagnosis. We are pleased that she has chosen to seek treatment and wish her good health. New York Times best selling author Alisa Valdes has previously written about BPD for Mamiverse in To Fix Your Body, First You Must Fix Your Soul.