My Emotional Compass is Broken: The Reality of Undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder

I lost my compass. No, not the one I got at day camp in sixth grade; although that one went missing years ago as well, I mean my emotional compass. I’m pretty sure the shattered remains are in a shoe box somewhere in the closet of my memories.

I realize most people have ups and downs. For those without the dual diagnoses of bipolar and borderline personality disorder — the thing I didn’t want to mention in my first post about this — the ups and downs look a little like this.

sine wave graphic in red and yellow tones

The comforting, even keel of normal.

Yeah, I wish. Mine looks more like this graph of Australia’s population spikes in the mid-1700s. Imagine 10 is the baseline of calm, content, not, well, overly emotional about things.

Did I mention this graph is a single day in my life? Think of the points above 15 like winning the lottery, and the points below 5 as literally wanting to die; or possibly kill someone.

This is why I sought help. I don’t like spending a whole day curled in a ball in bed to prevent myself from breaking other people’s property or hurting myself or others. According to my psychiatrist, the fact that I did curl up in bed and didn’t break things indicates that I’m high-functioning. She’s said that a few times.

To those reading who want to congratulate me for that high-functioning part, please don’t. That knowledge doesn’t make it hurt less; doesn’t make this easier. If anything, the high-functioning part made it harder to get the help I needed before my fourth decade on this earth. I kept a lid on just how extreme the turmoil inside me is.

I want to add two final notes: one for those in a great deal of pain who may or may not know the cause, and one for the authors of several articles I’ve encountered in the last week.

First, to those in pain of any variety, please seek out a support system and seek out help. If you’ve received a diagnosis, know that the label is only a description designed to try to help. For those already specifically diagnosed with borderline, know you are not what people say you are. Find the help you need to get to that wounded child inside who holds the secret to keeping yourself steady, because that child is you.

It will hurt. That’s okay. You didn’t get here overnight. You won’t heal overnight. However, if you choose to take the path to healing, it will be well worth it. I’ll keep you posted on mine.

Second, to those authors of the articles I saw in an attempt to research resources for BPD, please consider carefully your words. Yes, those of us with this diagnosis are capable of extreme behavior. I beg you, though, stop painting in broad strokes. Just like any other diagnosis in the DSM-V, BPD expresses itself in ways as varied as the individual. You have had one experience, maybe two. You have not met us all.

If you read this far, thanks for listening. I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but I’ll keep posting through it.


3 thoughts on “My Emotional Compass is Broken: The Reality of Undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder”

  1. I thought borderline personality disorder might have been related with your other diagnosis. I have a family member with a similar diagnosis. There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to BPD as well as a lot of unfair stereotyping. I agree with you that BPD shouldn’t be painted with large strokes.

    1. RaidonTPhoenix

      Thank you. You thought correctly. It’s pretty hard to want to mention something when the primary characterization on line is, “You have this? Oh, so you’re abusive etc.” My psychiatrist provided some further insight yesterday, and the title of a book I’ll look into, so we’ll see where that goes.

  2. I’m glad you don’t appear to have learned to numb as a reaction to having mad feels. When EVERY emotional expression garnered negative consequences, ranging from disgust and humiliation to physical punishment, I soon decided that allowing myself NO emotion was necessary for survival. Problem is, I retreated into survival mode over and over as my expressing emotions continued having negative consequences, often self-inflicted, but sometimes affecting others. I was soon resorting to maladaptive mirroring, being what others seemed to need or want me to be in order to engage with them. I was pretty sure everyone did this, but my observations were biased because I had trouble seeing that the boundaries and identities that people had to both be themselves and protect their “self” were healthy and desirable. Imagine that!

    I hope these insights give you food for thought. I SO want to share my experiences, not put of vanity or selfishness but to assist you in your journey through BPD in a way that will enable you to proceed with more wisdom than I have. In other words, I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been though on my worst enemy, and want to try to spare you a little wear and tear, if possible.

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