Living with high-functioning Borderline Personality Disorder

Trigger warning: this article talks open and frankly about issues surrounding mental health, including thoughts of self-harm and suicide.

I don’t know who first said that life was like a kaleidoscope but they were on the ball. Maybe it was the person who invented kaleidoscopes…

The point of that saying is that life is complicated and vast with lots of different colours, shades and shapes. Its whacky and at times mesmerising. It’s often abstract, confusing and conflicting. Especially if you have a mental illness.

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Like a kaleidoscope, it has multiple symptoms, a goody bag of mental health issues. The most common ones are: unstable and extreme emotions; paranoia or abandonment issues;  depression; anxiety; frequent breaks in reality or outer-body experiences.

There’s much more to it than that. I am on the side of the spectrum that’s quite severe in all areas. My nature is contradictory due to the ever changing emotions. I can say or feel one thing and then have it flip back and forth, up and down in a matter of seconds. I self-harm and have to fight not to do it almost every night. I’ve been suicidal constantly for years now. I have major trust issues and think everyone hates me. I am drawn to toxic relationships or things that will harm me. I am very self-conscious and despise my own image. My thoughts are constantly out of control like a hive of panicked bees. I’ve been on edge with this since I can remember.

Aside from a few rare precious moments, I have never been collected, calm or “chill”.

Yet ask my friends and family or even acquaintances and they will probably say I’m one of the most chill people they’ve ever known.

See, I am also what’s classed as high-functioning. High-functioning means that you are very self-aware of your issues and their roots, you can do most day-to-day things and generally try to get on with it. You can smile and laugh with your friends. Inside, though, it is like fire burning my chest, a voice screaming inside my skull. I have felt intense physical pain a lot with my Crohn’s disease and the various accompanying ailments associated with it. For me personally, though, my mental health issues hurt far more. It becomes physical and that pain overwhelms me every day to the point of fighting back tears.

No one really clicks that there’s something else going on unless they are an empathetic person or I tell them. I tell all of my friends and I’m pretty open to some extent with strangers too.  It can lead to difficulties though. Difficulties with doctors and people. Because for the most part I do love laughing and joking around; I write comedy a lot when I’m not writing incredibly sad poetry or grim stories about death and misery.

I struggle to get help from doctors or analysts as they can often think I’m coping well because I’m very capable of explaining what’s wrong. I can tell them why and where my issues came from in great detail instead of being confused and lost without an explanation. People don’t often get that I’m sad because in social situations I bury myself deep behind a very strong mask that I’ve spent 22 years crafting. I come across as happy. The random nihilistic joke here and there will slip out but for the most part I appear to be more than okay.

I don’t know whether I want people to know that whilst I’m telling a joke to them and smiling I’m also thinking of killing myself. That when I sarcastically tell them that I feel like death I mean it seriously. On one hand I’m an extrovert who craves being with someone. I like the outside world, socialising with people, making friends, making them smile. Loving my friends and being loved by them. At the same time on the other hand I’m also an introvert who hates being in crowds, hates talking with too many people and wants to stay in bed and watch Netflix all day, alone, even though my constant feeling of loneliness that plagues me even around my closest friends leads to a lot of my suicidal thoughts.

Do you see why it can get confusing?

It can be harder to cope when you live your life behind a mask that even you can’t sometimes take off, or even remember putting on in the first place. Sometimes I just want people to know I’m sad and then the high-functioning side takes over and I’m away chatting about my favourite TV shows or some other bullshit I’m too tired to talk about.

I suppose I see life as a kaleidoscope because nothing is ever simple. There’s always a tonne of factors that I can see in every situation, feeling and action, always changing my perception on the world and making me feel wildly different things every hour that passes by. Without sounding like an edgelord, complicated unfortunately doesn’t really do me justice anymore. It’s hard for me to pin down exactly who I am. It’s hard for me to see which is the real me when no one else can either

Words and art by Jess Brown

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