Two months ago, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. For some reason, I ran from the diagnosis. I never felt the need to do more than a bit of light reading on the subject, purely I believe, because the Duloxetine started working so quickly. Now that the medication has settled and things haven’t remained “perfect,” I’m left searching for answers through this new new lens.
Borderline Personality Disorder is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships. People with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days.”
I’ve been stuck in a period of anxiety and depression for just about two weeks now. I missed some work because of it, I’ve drawn close friendships into fights and I have felt the familiar roller coaster once again. The difference is that now I’m buckled in. After my diagnosis, I told those who needed to be told, and they all went and looked it up. Both to strengthen their ability to support me and to get answers for my strange behaviour in the past. I was the only who seemed to just let the words roll off my tongue. That’s a real support system, and unfortunately, I didn’t clue in until today.
I’ve been reading about it for the past few hours and I feel like there has never been something that explains me so well. In this diagnosis I see myself. I’ve cut people out of my life in fear of being abandoned, my marriage was an example of just one unstable relationship ruled by my own instability, the fact I still see a fat seventeen-year-old in the mirror some days, my suicidal tendencies, my binge-eating, binge-smoking and the heavy, ever-present feeling of emptiness in the pit of my soul—it’s all explained with three letters: BPD.
My biological father abandoned my mother, older sister and I when I was a baby. Living with my mother now, I need to get the full story on this, because I’m still unaware of the circumstances. My sister was old enough to remember, I was not. Other than the fact that he left early one morning as Mom and us kids watched him go, I know little. I’ve always said things in his defense, like, “it just wasn’t in him,” or the supreme bullshit of, “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” But, it’s really just in this moment that I’m realizing how fucked up it is that my first memory—first memory at all—is of him leaving, again. How can you not know anything at all, but know that your father leaving is normal? It’s no wonder my mind developed the way it did.
I’m thankful that I was raised by an honourable man. I am shamed by the fact I was born of and live at the mercy of a spectre, even fifteen years after that spectre became a ghost. After my father killed himself, I kept making excuses for him. I remember talking to a man his age, drunk on the streets of Toronto and telling him all about my dad. We were roommates for the week while in town for training, and one night, after dinner, we tied a few on and started talking. I was twenty-one at the time, and my step-father had died just four months earlier. On the walk back to the hotel, I told the man about all of it and I could see his eyes well up. So, like I do, I felt responsible for his feelings in that moment and dismissed the grief I was experiencing with the biggest lie I’ve ever told.
“I can’t fault him. I get it, and I’ve been there. You do what you gotta do to get happy, man.”
Those words ring through my head all the time, and now that I’ve finally come out of the clouds with a mind of my own, I’m disgusted that I ever said something like that.
To be honest, the reaction that I’ve given to my father’s circumstance that rings the truest to this day, was given to my oldest sister, Aylla when she told me that our grandfather had met the same fate. I was twenty-two, and we were in Saskatchewan for our grandmother’s funeral. I mentioned that I didn’t know anything about our grandpa, Bernard, and she informed me that he too had killed himself. I lost my breath and my chest got tight. I remember standing and yelling at her, fists clenched and tears streaming down my face, “you mean our dad knew how it felt!?” I don’t remember anything else from that night, other than the echo of my own voice, exacerbated by the cold wooden planks that surrounded us.
What my father did is not inexplicable. It’s not a mystery, and like I said about my step-father the other night, the means justify the end. I have a case study on what not to do, built by my mother’s family and my father himself. I hold this in one hand, my medication in the other and carry the weight of the Borderline on my back. I finally feel able to recognize the behaviour in myself that killed my father, and with the help of this support network, I’m being shown the behaviours that are slowly killing me.
An enormous, underlying factor in my backslide has been my unwillingness to accept the diagnosis. The doctor I see is a reputable professional, and my entire family trusts him implicitly. The fact he sees my mother and sister has done me wonders—no one gets the medication right on the first try, but it’s been good to me so far. I think for this next chapter in my life, the first chapter that’s plotted out before hand, awareness is key.
See you tomorrow.
Writer, performer, producer and musician from Alberta.