Although I am not giving up on the WordPress blog format (although I have been less than vigilant lately about posting!), I have moved my “central” page to Facebook under the name Midnite Runners. I would sincerely appreciate it if you would take a moment to follow the link, review the site, add any comments, questions or reply to existing threads, and please please “like” the page. Many admin and advertising functions are limited until I can prove that I have a loyal base of followers (that’s you!).
If you haven’t been following me over the years, what started as a blog about my harrowing, sometimes humorous, often horrifying experiences with being diagnosed and labeled and living as a person with Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a much misunderstood illness, a much maligned diagnosis by laymen and professionals alike, and so it often goes un- or under-treated because the patients/friends/family are “manipulative,” or other such epithets. Looking at the diagnostic criteria for BPD, it is no wonder that patients experience such actions and emotions and elicit such dramatic responses. Looking further, at the real lives people with BPD face, have faced, do suffer with and live with every day, there is no question that much research and support remains unmet and unfinished.
My book, a collection of my blog articles, doesn’t attempt to clinically interpret my trials and tribulations. Instead, I tell a story of day-to-day life living with BPD. The experiences leading up to my diagnosis, and most likely a probable cause of the diagnosis, are discussed at various stages, and my life post-diagnosis is detailed in a rambling prose style of writing, mostly unstructured poetry with some short essays.
If you or someone you know or care about is or may be suffering from BPD, the one thing I have found universally true is that there is a dearth of literature written for the patient. When I went looking for support, I found clinical manuals on how to “deal” with borderline patients, I found the much-lauded but tragically critical book “Walking on Eggshells,” and various other clinical research studies and other books written for and directed at the families and friends of sufferers, again meant to provide assistance on “dealing” with the BPD patient. Nowhere, in the millions of books that Amazon carries, in the thousands of books at local booksellers, did I find a book written and directed at the sufferer. Some came close, but none captured the essence of what I was feeling and experiencing. I found this void unacceptable, and chose to publish my blog articles as a self-published book on Amazon, published through createspace.com, a subsidiary company. I don’t make much money off these sales, but my goal is to raise awareness and provide support, not get rich. I want to reach out to the fellow sufferer and let them, unlike me, know they are not alone. No, I have no instant cures or even long-term “fixes,” I do believe that BPD is a life-long illness that at best can be “managed,” but I definitively and adamantly do not subscribe to the widespread assumption that non-BPD-patients must “deal with” the sufferer, as if the patient is an animal at a zoo, caged, with warning signs to not provoke the beast, and instruction manuals on how to walk away (i.e., break up with or divorce) from the animal without fear of him breaking the bars of the cage and taking down the world in rage. I think BPD patients can learn to have control over their emotions, to the extent that there is a self-awareness of when the emotions are misaligned with the intensity or reality of the present situation, and I think that the emotional response, while always present, can be diminished by allowing rational thought into the feeling-thought-action cycle and start a feedback loop that allows for a deeper understanding of the situation that is not black-and-white, that is not “the sky is falling,” but that analyzes and copes with the present moment, recognizing the impossibility of controlling the situation, without rendering oneself as having given up control over themselves. I believe that we can control ourselves even when the situation is uncontrollable, and that may be the ultimate goal or desired outcome of treatment.
I am not embarrassed to say that I, by and large, manage my symptoms entirely through medication. I have seen therapists in the past, several of whom I grew to be very fond of because of their understanding of the situation and recognition that small steps were huge accomplishments. They taught me that focusing on the present moment can lead to clarity and insight, but also not forgetting to take into account past interactions and similar situations so that a holistic impression can be made that is less black-and-white and more shades of grey, accepting that a certain present response to a situation is just that, a present response, but instead of acting on that response, it should be considered in the light of the “bigger picture,” where past interactions help to mediate the emotionality of the situation and force one to first think before acting. Perhaps a friend has disinvited you to dinner. Your immediate feeling is that you are seen as a parasite, as a leper, etc. But feelings are just the start of the cycle. Taking those feelings, accepting them as valid but perhaps incomplete, start the thought process of pulling apart those feelings and examining them piece by piece. What really are you feeling? Offended. Under offended you might find that you feel embarrassed. Most commonly, BPD patients feel anger, overwhelming anger, but are unable to clearly express what the anger comes from, what it means, and why it exists. Anger is a secondary emotion. Other primary, or fundamental, emotions contribute to and combine together to rise up to a level where so many factors conflue that there is no way to feel anything but anger, if only anger at the realization that other person’s actions have created such a barrage of emotions. But under that anger is the hurt pride, the embarrassment, the confusion (why did this event occur?), the uncertainty as to an appropriate response, the desire to isolate this event and view it through a black-and-white lens, instead of, perhaps, taking past behaviors into account or present knowledge into account (remember, the present knowledge exists or can be discovered once one realizes that emotions are but part of the feeling-thought-action feedback loop and is willing to entertain the idea of receiving further input or information), and, again, perhaps, realizing that the party host had ultimately decided it was just going to be a family affair, and really she had cancelled invitations for many of her friends, and that you were not singled out. Or, perhaps, you were in fact singled out, but not because your actions were “strange,” “weird,” “unexpected,” etc., but because the date or location had changed, or the theme of the party was different than originally planned, or that you were, correctly or mistakenly, believed to be unavailable on that particular date. Perhaps, in the worst case scenario, there were bad feelings between you and another party guest, and instead of putting you both in the same room, she decides to hold a separate party to which you will be invited, and not the other person. Could she have stated all that clearly in the dis-invitation letter? Perhaps. But perhaps she didn’t have time to explain, or thought it was self-explanatory, or explained it in a way that didn’t make sense to you, or any number of other possibilities. Our tendency as BPD patients is to jump to conclusions based on the information directly in front of us, not accounting for the fact that our interpretation of the information may be biased, or that further information is available, if only it could be requested. Maybe further information is unavailable. Fine. Just repeat the above process and slow down and break down your feelings into the primary emotions that give rise to the anger (which generally is the emotion that is most commonly felt), then imagine alternatives to each primary emotion that is felt, imagine that your intuition may be flawed, not because you’re stupid or have an illness, but because most people, in general, have unacknowledged biases that go into their thought processes. It only takes one counter-example of why, say, you feel embarrassed, which really represents a lack of self-worth, which really means that what you “feel” is that you are unloved (and you extrapolate that to mean you are unlovable, in a generalized sense). But what you might “think” as a counter response to the feeling is that your friendship, say, has stretched back several years, and this one incident, even if it was rude, was probably not intended to be rude and is certainly not intended to ruin the relationship that you have enjoyed for so long. Perhaps you decide to take “action” based on this counter example, and call your friend, and ask why you were dis-invited, and you find out that, say, the caterers fell through and the entire party was cancelled, or that there was suddenly not enough food, fun and games for the original plan to remain feasible, so several people were disinvited, but that another event will be planned that includes you, because, as you remembered after thinking about it, you are friends and she enjoys being around you and is very sad it won’t work this time, but is sure you’ll understand. Give her that benefit of understanding, instead of lashing out, and you won’t be seen as an “eggshell” personality, a person to be “dealt” with, but as a responsible, caring individual that may be a bit more sensitive than most, but that doesn’t let their emotions run their lives, rather relying on rational thought and acceptance of new information. Doing that makes you stronger than most people, in general, who all too often let their emotions guide their actions. Un-linking actions from emotions and letting the thought process separate the two not only gives you space to more carefully choose your actions, rather than let your feelings give immediate rise to actions, but it gives you back the control you yearn for so desperately, that sense that life doesn’t happen “to” you but that you are an essential part of the equation and that you have a choice as to what you do, with whom you do it, how it is done, when and where it takes place, and whether participation at all is in your best interest. That type of examination is your rational mind super-ceding your reptilian brain (your “gut feelings”), takes you out of your animal cage and puts you back into the society you so longingly crave. Crave no more, be part of the change, change your thought patterns, let your feelings be inputs, not outputs, and you’d be surprised at how much control you really do have.
My book shows clearly that, in many places, at many times, I felt out of control, I let my feelings do my talking for me. I felt that so much control was taken away that the one single thing I still had control over was my life. And even that could be taken away. So, all too often, I chose death, to prove to myself that I had a choice over my life. It took years to begin to learn how to make choices, choices that I deserved to make, picking out a brand of ice cream at the store, recognizing that I can’t control everything, but I can control what happens to my own bodily integrity, and, eventually, I learned that the abusive situations I had placed myself in were not situations where I did have control over my body, and that I had the choice, the right, the dignity and the self-respect to walk away. That’s not an easy or light decision. My book ranges in topics from my many suicide attempts to repeated rape, abuse and violence, to drug addiction, homelessness and my experiences with prostitution. I am a gay male, and many of my stories revolve around experiences common to the gay lifestyle, but perhaps uncommon, unheard of or unacceptable to the general public. My response is that knowing, or understanding, life through another’s lens is beneficial to all involved, may lead to greater empathy and understanding of how life treats certain groups so differently than others, and, even if being gay is just unacceptable to the reader, the harrowing experiences I faced, regardless of the sexuality involved, were real, were far too common and often far too deadly. You don’t have to be gay yourself to step into the shoes of another. You simply have to accept that everyone’s experiences are different, but, in the case of BPD, they often merge into the same experiences over time. I want to express, in my book, the simple fact that no one who suffers from BPD is alone, they are not the first or last to experience the mental and physical trauma that results, that others have gone through it and survived it, and, I hope with all my heart, that someone out there who may be scared, alone and suicidal, can read my book and see that suicide, yes it is always an option, but perhaps its not the only option, perhaps control over your life can be found in smaller ways, in smaller things, but represent just enough control that you no longer have to prove your control by taking your life, but prove your control by, even, taking the first step to simply read my book in an attempt to better understand yourself. The act of choosing and reading a book requires a great deal of control, and taking the time and effort to understand what is being said requires emotional and mental control. These may seem slight or even overstated, but I assure you, it is only in the small matters that we can begin to build up a life where we find ourselves in control of larger and larger matters, life-changing matters, matters that don’t happen “to” us but “with” us or “because” of us. Knowing that it is possible to transform from a person with a bottle of pills in hand ready to overdose to becoming a person that has poise and integrity, a person that embraces life, because they chose life, just this simple knowledge may prevent those pills from being swallowed to forever take away our ability to make choices that are within our control. You may not know it, you may not think it, but look around you and see where, in the smallest things, you have control, and celebrate those successes as reason enough, for now, to live. It would be hypocritical of me to say that suicide should never be an option, I understood far too well the desperate need to prove control by ending your life, but once that’s done, there is forevermore no control. By choosing, actively choosing, unwillingly, even, choosing, to wait one more day, one more hour, one more minute before swallowing those pills, you’ve just exercised control over your life, which was your goal the whole time. So take that minute, that second, to think about what control you do have – swallow the pills or set them aside – and be proud of the fact that you alone have that choice, and every time you choose to set the pills aside, you’ve exercised what you considered your “final” choice, the choice of life or death, because you’ve chosen life. That is an incredible act of self-control, a badge you can wear with pride, and every time that choice comes up again, remember that choosing life is taking control of your own destiny for the remainder of your natural life. That’s powerful. I wish I had chosen life more often. I wish I had seen that just having that choice made me more powerful than I ever thought possible. I thought I had to, that I must die in order to prove I had control. I am extremely lucky, through the miracles of modern medicine, the care of friends and family and interventions by my doctors and therapists, to remain alive and relatively well. I don’t know if I’ll ever again try to take my life. I really don’t. I may sound here like I’ve experienced a moment of nirvana where everything suddenly makes sense. To my knowledge, no such thing exists. So what I’m telling you here is applicable to me too. These words aren’t empty, not coming from a place of judgment or superiority, but from someone who has legitimately suffered through the worst that BPD can throw at you, and yet still survived to live another day. I wake up every morning knowing I’m still alive. I may not always be grateful of that fact, but the reality of the situation is that, somewhere along the line, I made the ultimate choice to choose life, and as a result, I’m still here. And maybe I’ll have a good day, or even, perhaps I won’t, but either way I have retained control over my own personhood, I am learning to gain control over what brand of ice cream I select at the store, and I hope and am striving towards a goal that I can one day be rid of the negativity in which I so often find myself, the abuse and violence that permeates my existence. This book isn’t a self-help book, it isn’t a tale of hope, per se, it is simply a tale of a life lived with BPD, a life that you may well live too, and a tale of slowly learning what it takes to survive in a dark world, a world that often renders us so emotional that we break, but not, I repeat, not a black-and-white world, but a world in shades of grey, if only we can learn to look past the boundaries of what we know and experience and embrace the grey that makes life not just possible, not just survivable, but, dare I say, perhaps even enjoyable. That’s my story. That’s my message. That’s my hope. For me and for you. For everyone of us who suffers from BPD, for everyone who loves or cares for someone with BPD, and for everyone tasked with the responsibility of “dealing with” the BPD patient. Once you no longer have to be “dealt with,” once you’ve reached the point where you, instead, are yourself “dealing with” the situation, interacting with it, not letting it act upon you but rather acting as an agent with the power to influence your surroundings, once you’ve reached this point, you’re no longer an “eggshell” or a bomb about to explode, but a person who is proud, who can hold their head high, who can walk confidently into society knowing that they have the tools to make it, to survive, to thrive, to succeed. Yes, you can be that person. I have faith in you.
Please use my Facebook page, following the link at the start, to post comments to this blog. I reserve the right to take any responses I receive directly on this blog, which I deem applicable and appropriate, and repost them on Facebook in order to generate more conversation. I want to hear from fellow patients. I want to hear from those who have had encounters with BPD sufferers, I want to hear from those who take care of, in any fashion, a BPD person. In short, I want to hear from you and generate a conversation about the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the rich lives that are lived and, perhaps, shared with others similar to yourself. Don’t be shy, if you don’t feel comfortable posting on a public page, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Facebook Messenger, and let’s have a chat. I’m not a therapist, that is my formal disclaimer, but I have some experience under my belt and if you need to express your fears or frustrations, or share your accomplishments, I want to know about them. Partly, I’m just selfish, I want to know because I want to always remember I’m not alone. But I use this public posting platform because it’s not just me that needs to know that, its every other person in my position. Gay, straight, lesbian, bi, black, white, Indian, homeless, housed, starving, well-fed, drug-addicted or sober, we all share something in common, and I want to bring out our commonalities, not our differences. Its far too easy to point out how and why someone is different, and to, from there, jump to the conclusion that their lives and stories are not applicable. But dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find that they have the same fears, the same stories, the same experiences that you have, maybe in different ways at different times, but that that wall you put up dividing yourself from others only hurts yourself, since breaking it down, having empathy for others, builds up self-confidence, not fear, it builds up understanding, not bias, and, finally, it builds up integrity and control, giving you the option and the tools to choose life, just one more day or hour or minute, just long enough to remember that of which you are in control, that of which others like you have found themselves to have control over, and to remind yourself that death, while the ultimate form of control, forever excludes your personal development and growth into someone that has greater control than life or death, that has greater control than brands of ice cream, that, in fact, has control over their entire environment, how they interact with it, and whether they choose to stay in that environment. Control is so much more than setting aside the poison pill, it is actively choosing to engage in life so that the control you desperately seek comes to you in ways you never imagined possible. I smile at the thought you might choose life and find your own path to control, it makes me happy to think that your simple choice of choosing life has led you to a life of true happiness, and it makes me proud, whether I know you or not, that you have made the biggest choice of all, the choice to choose life, and you have put yourself on the path to success, to happiness, to humanity, to becoming someone ruled not by emotions and fear, but by rationality, becoming someone that is not numbed to this world but exuberant about the possibilities awaiting them. That’s you. Tell me about it. I’m listening.
You can find my book on Amazon here, or direct from the publisher here. Choose whichever you like, I think the pricing and shipping speed varies, so check them both out if you’d like. It is available in e-book format, which is offered free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, or it also comes in a lovely paperback format of my own personal design. If you purchase the book, please be kind, and pass it along. I would love to have this book presented to local booksellers in your area, and please let me know where it is accepted, if it is accepted. I want to see a tattered, used copy of this book lying around, having been read forward and back, passed from friend to friend, envisioning the path it took, the stories it told, and the people it helped. And, of course, please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon. Its very simple, just click on your account, select orders, then select review. Star ratings are fine, but a personal touch would make me so grateful and, given the byzantine process by which Amazon chooses to promote certain books over others, would help my book achieve a higher rank in Amazon searches and ultimately bring this book to light for so many others. Your purchase, your sharing and your review help others find this resource. And your comments here or on Facebook would fill me with gratitude, give me hope, give you hope, give others hope, show everyone that the trials you face are not faced alone, that the successes you experience can or may be experienced by others, and that its ok to be scared as long as you know that fear is just an emotion, one which you can learn to analyze and control. So seize control of yourself, your life, your destiny, and let’s start a conversation.
Thank you all, much love, and I look forward with exhilaration to further discussion.