In many ways I am a classic Borderline. I’ve been chronically suicidal, my moods are often labile (meaning they fluctuate very quickly and elastically), I have a tremendous fear of abandonment, I lack a stable sense of self, and I am prone to self-harm. The last of that list has been particularly troublesome for me since I was a teenager. I started cutting my arm when I was around thirteen. It was the only way I could find release sometimes. If I was numb, it made me feel something. If I was upset, at least it was a physical pain that I could see and touch. If I was angry at myself, it was a way to be punished. So I tore up the inside of my left arm, sometimes needing stitches if I went too far. I’ve also had bouts of scratching and in the hospital the last few times I had a strange obsession with punching walls, in an attempt to break my hand. I managed severe bruises and needed X-Rays because they were worried I’d broken something, but have had no lasting damage. Now, eighteen months since I was released from the hospital, I have been “clean” from self-harm (and I include my suicide attempt in this category) for twenty months.
I go through phases with self-harm. It becomes addictive and cyclic, something I have to do. So I’ll pass some months cutting fairly frequently, and then I’ll be able to stop for a few years. I’m not sure what my longest stint was but it was probably about three years in my mid-twenties. I am not prone to congratulating myself, but I feel like this is a success that I should pat myself on the back about. So. Pat pat.
I’ve written before about scars and tattoos. My tattoos cover most of the scars on my inner arm, so I don’t get super weird looks from everyone who peers over at me. It is hard to explain when someone does notice. I usually say I was in an accident when I was younger and people don’t ask anything beyond that. It’s not their business.
I have the same problem when people ask how I broke my back and my neck. I typically say it was an accident and I felt off of a ledge on to my head. Sometimes I own up to what really happened (that I jumped off of a high height on to my head), but most of the time I don’t.
Twenty months without something to lie about, no wounds to clean, no scars to heal. That’s pretty awesome.
I had a small discussion on Twitter about Borderline things that we wish were talked about more. The common comment was the feeling of unreality, a lack of a sense of self and identity. One woman said that she didn’t know what her passions or even who she was most of the time. I can relate. I get this feeling like I’m not real, I don’t know who I am, I barely exist, especially when I’m alone and I don’t have another person to bounce my humanity off of. Sometimes I desperately seek contact just to know that I’m alive. Those are moments where I am often vulnerable to my self-harming tendencies, but lately I’ve been able to manage them. I still have thoughts, but I can talk myself down.
It’s so hard to explain what an unstable sense of self really means. For me, I think, it’s that in my core I don’t feel real. My passions would change, and my identity with it. Like, “I ride horses. I am a horseback rider. And only a horseback rider.” Now I’ve sort of settled closer to a “ME” if there is one of those. My passions do shift, but they’ve solidified in the last year or so. This is new to me.
A lack of a sense of self makes one very vulnerable to outside influences. I think people with BPD get caught up really easily in people, ideas, hobbies, careers, addictions. And then we define ourselves by these outside factors. That’s my interpretation and experience. Whatever self was there before was subsumed by the new passion.
Maybe I’ll find better words for this later.