Living with a Borderline Personality Disorder by Becca McDowell

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

*Trigger Warning* Borderline Personality Disorder, Self-Harm, Depression, Suicide

Since I can remember, I have struggled with extreme emotions. Whether it be from. fighting with my siblings, to hating myself when someone tells me I’ve done anything wrong, to feeling on top of the world when I should have just felt happy. I had no idea any of these strong emotions weren’t normal until I was in high school, when I had my first thoughts of suicide, self-harm, and an eventual suicide attempt. Several years and treatment attempts later, I found myself

a junior in college with nowhere to turn. I was eventually diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD.

BPD is a scary diagnosis. Since I had no idea what it was when I was diagnosed, I did my research and one of the first things to pop up was the suicide rate, around 9% of people diagnosed dying by suicide. When I read this, I became terrified. I had attempted suicide in the past a few times and was actively self-harming. I became unsure if I was going to make it through this or if this diagnosis was a death sentence and I should just end it now. Thankfully, I didn’t. The thing with Borderline personalities is that we are all different, but we are all very similar. I didn’t know anyone else with the illness at the time, so I became isolated. My family didn’t understand, my friends assumed having BPD meant there was something incredibly wrong with me, and I found myself feeling completely alone for the first time in my life.

I became sick of feeling so alone and searched for treatment options for BPD. I came across STEPPS or Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving. It is usually conducted in a group setting and takes around 16 weeks to complete. STEPPS saved my life by teaching me how to live it by showing me ways to process my emotions rather than allowing them to take over the entirety of my life. It taught me different filters that my brain struggles with that other people do not have to deal with. It showed me that while I process

emotions differently than other people, I can control how I process them and deal with other people at the same time. It taught me how to work to become a functioning human who doesn’t cry five times a day and smile the rest, someone who doesn’t become so angry for ten minutes and then be your best friend after. I also got to meet other people struggling with BPD and was able to finally relate to someone on how bad things were. These constant fluctuating extreme

emotions were ruining my life and my relationships, but now I am working every day to become more even keel. In other words, I taught my emotions to chill out when I need them to. I have never felt so thankful for a treatment until STEPPS.

Since going through treatment about a year ago, I still go through rough hours, days, and even months, but it’s nothing like it used to be. I understand that a single emotion cannot last forever, and that other emotions will come. This is an amazing thing to tell myself when I feel so sad I can’t move. I also understand that I take everything personally, but that I can shake it off if I work at it. I watched a video a few months ago about a woman with BPD, hoping to understand my illness a little better. She explained that people with BPD have weaker “emotional skin” and that having this weak “skin” makes us the emotional equivalent to third degree burn victims. Everything hurts so badly no matter how big or small it is, and everything is taken personally, like we caused everything that has ever happened to us or someone else. Through the skills I learned in STEPPS, I feel I have stronger “emotional skin” most days. I still feel alone much of the time, but I know there are people that do their best to support me. I still struggle with extreme emotions, but I know how to calm myself down from them, so they are not catastrophic.

I still have Borderline Personality Disorder, but I won’t let it have me.