Dispel the myth that people with Borderline Personality Disorder are monsters 2k15

So, full disclosure: I have Borderline Personality Disorder.

I know this may shock some of you, but that’s how it is. I was diagnosed when I was 16, slept through most of my classes in high school because I was so doped out on various medications, struggled through college without therapy or medication, and eventually spiraled my way into a very open, very chill DBT ward in southern Germany.

I just got out this morning – again. This was the third time that I was on that particular ward, and I keep going back because it’s unlike any other psych ward I’ve been on before. The nurses actually talk to you, the doctors are actually available for consultation, nobody goes through your bags, and you’re allowed to come and go as you please. It’s this sort of open, trusting environment – the kind of non-dehumanizing environment that I believe all mentally unhealthy people can benefit from – that leads to the patients being calm, quiet, and generally happy there.

What struck me in particular about this visit was how easily I came into contact with the other patients. I normally keep to myself, but this time around, I already felt so comfortable on the ward – a familiar, structured place – that I didn’t find it difficult at all to strike up a little conversation. Furthermore, it occurred to me that even though people with Borderline are perceived to be these dangerous, evil, manipulative, awful people who will stop at nothing to hurt others, that was absolutely not what I was experiencing, being surrounded by others like me. I saw a lot of compassion, and I want to share that with you. I want you to know that people with Borderline are capable of compassion – that we have gentle souls and gentle hearts, and it is exactly this sensitivity which drives our illness.

This past week in the clinic reawakened my faith in humanity.

I saw one woman sleep on a couch in the hallway all week because she was afraid of sleeping alone, and I saw other patients stay up late to make her feel safe.

I saw people express concern for their roommates when they were sleeping all day or when they had stomach trouble. I saw them gently encourage each other to get up, watch TV with us, play a game, get out of bed and show us that beautiful smile.

I saw patients buy candy for each other, I even saw a patient buy coffee for the nursing staff, because she herself is a nurse and appreciates what they do for us.

I saw other patients be kind and welcoming to each others’ visitors, and express genuine joy at each other’s successes, and sadness at each other’s struggles.

I saw patients comfort each other, watch movies together, go for walks together, and go far out of their way to show kindness and concern for each other.

People with Borderline are not monsters. Put them together, treat them with kindness and understanding, and you can really see that.

I had a bad day.

So, for those of you who were blissfully unaware, I suffer from a mental illness, and some days are harder than others. Today was one of those hard days. After my dear boyfriend dropped me off at home so I could get ready for my class, I was hit with a wave of depression and apathy so paralyzing, I didn’t make it to the university. I bargained with myself about the consequences of missing this class yet again, and only partially satisfied with my justifications, I went back to sleep.

Only fear of losing my job made me drag myself out of bed in the afternoon and make it to work on time, but work was difficult. I work at Starbucks, and people expect us to be happy and peppy, but I simply didn’t have it in me. I worked slowly… something about being weighed down with depression makes it hard to move quickly, doesn’t it? I was more quiet than usual, I didn’t crack jokes like I often do, and I silently begged for time to pass by faster so I could get back to the safety of my apartment. What didn’t help was that there was far more business than usual, and so I had no opportunity to catch my proverbial breath. I struggled to keep up with the constantly growing line of cups on the bar, slowed down by the stickiness of syrups, spilled milk, and my own sluggish, dragging mood.

I tried so hard to smile, to radiate joy. I tried to be a light. A coworker gave me a sweet compliment, and this gave me a little encouragement, but it didn’t last long. Another coworker, noticing my stress, did his best to make my job a bit easier, and this, of course, I greatly appreciated. I went on a break and tried to improve my mood with a much-needed late lunch and a phone call to my boyfriend to whine about my poor mood. This did make me feel momentarily better, and when I came back to the store, one of my regular customers was there, one I hadn’t seen in a long time, and he was happy to see me.

He said something like, “Linda, du kleines Maus! Ich habe dich seit so lange nicht mehr gesehen.” (EN: “Linda, you little mouse! I haven’t seen you in so long!”)

That made me happy, too. He’s such a nice guy.. he’s always very polite and he brings us chocolates from time to time. Once, when I hurt myself working, he went over to the pharmacy across the way and bought me a bottle of disinfectant spray. He’s one of my favorites, and it was great to see him, and it was somehow nice to know that somebody had noticed my absence from their life.

But that didn’t keep me happy for long either. As soon as I was back “on”, back in the public eye, my mood sank again. I struggled through the rest of my shift, and now I’m wondering what to do with myself next. One thing that bothered me about the whole day was the worry that my poor mood was somehow rude to the customers. I was afraid somebody would complain because I didn’t offer them enough kind words or a sincere enough smile, so consumed I was with my own pain. But as hard as I tried to put on a happy face, today, it just wasn’t going to happen. I feel so out of place in a world that places so much emphasis on being in a good mood all the time… and actually, I’m sure this phenomenon is worse in America.

If you’re in a bad mood, people will try to get you out of it. They will try to cheer you up, give you advice, and when they fail, they may blame you for bringing them down. What do we do with a culture like this? People have mental illnesses that affect their moods. People without mental illnesses have bad days, too. Is it not sickeningly superficial to fake happiness out of courtesy, and to expect others to do the same?

I don’t have an answer to this, or much of an argument to make right now. I just don’t see the harm in admitting that we are in pain. I am a human and today, I showed my humanity.