It might be time to learn the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD).
*But do keep in mind that like all personality disorders, it's a controversial diagnosis. Sometimes BPD is diagnosed when really it's trauma or ADHD, and a large percentage of those 'diagnosed' are women who have experienced assault or abuse. And remember that you are a unique person, not just a diagnosis.
What are the apparent symptoms of this disorder, then?
At the heart of borderline personality disorder is a deep fear of being abandoned. If you even vaguely feel you are about to be rejected -- a slightly off remark by a partner, say, or hearing a rumour that a friend said something behind your back? You act out. You might break up with the partner out of the blue, refuse to talk to the friend ever again, or take quick and swift revenge.
Speaking of that revenge... you might regret it later, but the thing is, you just can’t seem to stop yourself. You have what psychologists call ‘impulsivity’, where you act before you think things through. And you can just get so.... angry.
It's not just relationships. You are also impulsive and reckless in other ways. You spend money you don't have, have sex with people and regret it (especially as you didn't use protection, even thought you knew you should). You quit your job out of the blue, get drunk when you have to get up early for an exam the next day, drive dangerously for kicks.
You are happy, over the moon, even. Having one of those perfect days. And then you receive a text from the person you are dating, cancelling your meet up that night with no reason given.
Suddenly it feels like the worse day ever. You feel not only bad but depressed, enraged, totally lost, like your life is falling apart. Your friends tell you to calm down, but you can’t. You have “emotional dysregulation’ -- your emotions vary wildly, and are beyond your control.
People always tell you that you overreact, and that you are too sensitive. They might be right, but at the same time, from your perspective, people are being mean to you, or treating you unfairly. It's not your fault you seem to be missing some emotional 'skin' other people have.
You really thought they were the one, it felt so perfect and they seemed like the most amazing person you had ever met. And then you saw a flaw. And then she or he drove you crazy. And now you realise you were just blind and they are terrible, you wish you had never met them.
The thing is, it always happens this way, and people are starting to say you’ve got a problem. Which might be true, as there is a long string of broken relationships behind you.
You aren’t trying to be intense. You are just being you. Or trying to, because you feel one way when you are with certain people, and then another way around someone else. It's like you naturally adjust to each situation.
Sometimes you do feel like people are magnetised to you, though, even like you have a special power. But then sometimes you are aware that people find you ‘too much’, and you secretly feel ashamed.
It might just be a cut here, a burn there. Just enough to create a numb feeling that stops your overwhelming emotions. But it's self-harm. And you can't stop doing it.
Or maybe you overeat to get that numb feeling. Eating until your stomach hurts and you wonder how you'll afford groceries, now you ate the entire week's worth.
If a partner really upsets you then you tell them you'll just kill yourself. Is that what they want? Sometimes the words just come out your mouth. Other times you feel so empty inside you wonder if it's actually a good idea. Then people would feel sorry for how they treat you, wouldn't they?
You might have experienced child sexual abuse in the past. A large percentage of those with BPD have.
Be wary of self diagnosis. We can all, at different times in our life, have symptoms that match personality disorders. Really having a personality disorder means we have these symptoms all the time, in most areas of our life, and that we have seen the world differently like this since we were a teen.
There are also other psychological issues and disorders that share symptoms with BPD, including adult ADHD, post-traumatic shock disorder. So a diagnosis does need to be done by an experienced psychiatrist. Choose one that treats you like a person and doesn't just quickly diagnose and dole out drugs.
Or talk to a psychotherapist or counsellor about your concerns. It can feel a huge relief to connect with someone who understands and doesn’t judge. After a few sessions, they can tell you if they think you might have BPD. If so, they can then connect you with a psychiatrist for testing.
Is today the day you decide to make a change and finally get the help you deserve? Book a therapist you like at a price you can afford, and be on your way to feeling better.