If you know me, you know that I hate over-pathologizing things. You're not depressed, you're grieving; you're not OCD, you just enjoy having a clean bathroom, and so on, but then, I stumbled across a little thing called borderline personality disorder.... oh, wow, there's my entire personality described in the dsm criteria of a mental illness: excessive emotional reactions (anger), chronic feelings of emptiness, chronic boredom, impulsive behaviors (unsafe and inappropriate sexual conduct), tumultuous and unstable relationships, unstable self-image, fear of abandonment, idealizing people followed by hating them.
In reading, I stumbled across several other symptoms (which may fall under the categories covered above or may not) but that I also see in myself: telling strangers intimate details about yourself, seeing anger in neutral faces, inability to manage time well, inability to keep track of things (driver's licenses, keys, etc), ability to manipulate others easily, self-awareness of certain issues or patterns and unwillingness/inability to change, inability to lie (except through omission) due to childlike nature, non-linear thought patterns, constantly changing emotions (minute to minute, day to day), being drawn to ideological extremes, intelligence, disassociating (I'm not sure about this one, the way that I disassociate may be normal or just drift-y), bursts of happy mania, fluid gay-straight sexuality, tendency to have more than 20 sexual partners, excessive guilt.
There's also a lot in the literature (yes, I'm calling random internet browsing literature) on self-harming behaviors, and aside from making bad decisions (regular and sexual), taking drugs excessively (back in the day, not really now), over-drinking (not too much at the moment), and fantasizing about suicide as an adolescent, I'm not really a big self-harmer besides maybe a bit of head banging and hair pulling while in a rage.
There seems to be two types (or maybe it occurs on a continuum): people who are visibly very troubled and are in and out of mental health care their entire life and people who can hide all of these symptoms except in front of the people that they are closest to. I fall into the second category, mostly. So people whom I've known for 25 plus years actually aren't that familiar with many of my symptoms (although I have memories of being compared to the Sharon Stone character in Basic Instinct due to all the weird obsessions I was harboring in high school), but my husband and two people I dated about fifteen years ago can easily look at those symptoms and agree that they are a perfect match for me.
I'm not really concerned about whether I have BPD or not. One one hand, it seems like identifying a mental illness at a time when I feel ready to change could be counterproductive and could become a crutch/excuse. On the other hand, it has been useful to read about the symptoms because they have elucidated some of the issues that I wasn't that self aware of. For instance, a couple yeas ago, I had a conversation with a neighbor (it was probably my second conversation with her and just so that you know how fucked up I was making the situation at the time, I should probably admit that I was hitting on her husband at the time using some weird manipulation techniques that (I thought) I hadn't used in years), and after that conversation, I came home and announced these huge changes to my husband: I'm putting the kids in school, I'm going back to school, everything is changing, and he protested that it was weird that I would have that conversation with a virtual stranger instead of running it by him. I don't think I realized that was actually weird/unhealthy until I started reading about BPD. There were several other situations that were made a bit clearer as well, and there were also patterns that I identified in my book (the memoir I wrote last year) that seem a little clearer now that I stumbled into the magical world of BPD.
The problem is that I have been aware of much of this stuff for years. I even talk about breaking patterns in my damn journals from fifteen years ago. If I took a red marker through those to identify BPD behavior, every page would be red by the way. So, I bought another damn journal, and I'm going to read it when I'm 50 (in case you lost the math that means I have a journal from age 20, one from 35, and then, I'm reading at 50 so 15 year intervals), and if I still have the exact same set of BPD-emotions, I'm going to... what... who knows, but I'm exhausted, I have no interest in carrying the same destructive emotional patterns for another 15 years. Also, I think there were a lot of patterns (ie telling strangers intimate things) that I could get away with because I was young and cute, but telling random strangers about your issues when you're old and crusty is just tacky and gross.
That said, whether we're dealing with BPD or just symptoms that are similar to it (who cares), I know this is not an intellectual game. If it were, I would have busted it at 20 or even last year when I identified many of these patterns in the memoir. I think... it's more about emotional walls and letting myself break long long term patterns even if they are relatively comfortable to me in their shittiness.
And what happens if I drop all my defenses, will I become a fat person in a hemp dress?
Yes, yes, Minger, you will because, all mental health recovery involves getting fat and wearing hemp.
Will I start thinking more linear-ly and does that mean that I will never be able to write the stream-of-consciousness masterpiece I've been dreaming of since I finally read Mrs Dalloway a few months ago?
Or there is the remote possibility that by changing some of these behaviors (primarily the one where I fight against/build emotional walls against the people who are supposed to be the closest to me or the one where I freak out at the smallest things by having a rage fit) that I will be a happier healthier person and have happier healthier relationships.
And what's my block, why do I feel noticeably tenser even writing that?
Well, that question is why I'm paying for therapy. (and omg, btw, I can't wait until Obamacare kicks in in January so that I can actually get these costs covered, and according to what I've been able to find, it looks like we will be able to get a tax credit that could cover the entire cost of insurance at our income level, so we'll see how that pans out).