Living With Borderline Personality Disorder

unwellAwhile back a medical professional told me that they believed I suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. To say that I was not pleased with that diagnosis would be a lie – “Borderline what?” I wondered. “Borderline crazy? I know I have problems but I’m not crazy!”

I thought that BPD sounded too close to being psychotic… but the truth is, I didn’t know anything about Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s a scary name but 1.6% of the population has some form of BPD, with women being diagnosed three times more often than men. Nobody knows if that’s because women are more susceptible or if it’s because women are far more likely to seek help.

So what is BPD? I’m going to quote from the Mayo Clinic website: “Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships.”

Okay. That seems pretty broad. Let’s look at the symptoms instead. Again, this comes from the Mayo Clinic:

  • An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
  • A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
  • Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
  • Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
  • Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
  • Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
  • Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights

When I first saw this list, I was like, “Whoa. I’ve suffered from a lot of these over the years.” Self-destructive tendencies have always been an ongoing problem of mine with severe impulse-control issues that worsened after the death of my dad back in 2010 and those problems fell off a cliff when I left what I believed was my dream job to take a position that I really hated.

Back in high school I read a book called The Way of Zen by Alan Watts and I immediately felt a light bulb go off in my head. “Yes! This is what I’ve always believed!” Suddenly I saw my feelings about reality and about spirituality there on the page and I felt a sense of belonging.

I felt the same kind of thing when I read those symptoms above. Suddenly a lot of my actions over the years, that confused even me (let alone my poor friends and partner), made sense to me. My “insanity” had a name and as all horror fans know, once you know the names of your demons, you have power over them.

So where am I now? What difference does it make to have a phrase attached to my “illness”? Well, I’m taking medication and it has helped reduce some of the darker thoughts that used to plague me. I accept that I’ve made so many awful mistakes and that I can never repair some of the relationships that I’ve damaged. For that, and so much more, I am sorry. I know what my issues are now and I track them with a daily app… and I’ve tried to distance myself from those who enabled many of my worst tendencies. I’ve reconnected with friends that accept me for who I am, flaws and all. I’m focusing on being a good dad. I have a job now that I truly love and that I want to stay in for the rest of my working career. I will never have back all the things that I have lost but that’s okay – may those people move on without me and find the peace and happiness they deserve.

I am not, and never will be, ‘cured.’ I still spend money sometimes that I don’t have. I’ve gained thirty pounds since I got divorced, mostly because of binge eating. I sometimes sabotage my own success. I often view myself and those around me through the lens of self-loathing. But now I know the names of my demons… I see them. I own them.

And I will not let them have dominion over me.

I am Barry Reese. I have lied, cheated and stolen from those that cared about me… but I am more than the bad things that I have done. I have also lifted up others, supported those that needed help, and loved those that maybe didn’t ‘deserve’ it at the time.

I am not a ‘good’ man.

I am not a ‘bad’ man.

I am who I am.

And that’s okay.

Happy Holidays

IMG_17792019 has been a challenging year. My marriage of 23 years came to an end, I live alone for the for the first time in my life, I’ve discovered that my mental illness has a name (hello, Borderline Personality Disorder!), and I sold my intellectual properties to Pro Se.  There have been times when I thought my life was worthless and that the world would be better off without me… but there have been good things, too, and I wanted to try and remember a few of those:

  • I have a job that I really love. Yeah, there are days when it came be frustrating but overall I have the best of all worlds: I get to talk about reading and writing all day long! And I love my kids, even when they’re being difficult. They’re the best part of what I do.
  • My struggles this year have shown me that a lot of people are willing to reach out and offer help. I’m not really the kind of person to accept that help but still – it’s nice to know.
  • I have an incredible son. He’s sensitive and intelligent. I love him.
  • I reconnected with my best friend after several years apart and we’re back doing our podcast together. I’m very happy about that.
  • Lots of great television and movies! My ex didn’t really enjoy watching a lot of TV but I’ve had plenty of free time to discover that I love Veronica Mars, Slasher, You, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Disenchanted and so many more… and I’ve watched the entire Conjuring universe of movies and loved those.
  • Lazarus Gray – I continue to enjoy writing Lazarus and his companions. In books 11 and 12 I completely break him down and destroy everyone’s view of him… and now I’m going to try and put him back together again. I wonder if any of that is inspired by my own inner conflicts?

No matter what holiday you celebrate – have a wonderful time with family and friends. Let’s hope 2020 will be even better.

BPD Links

harley-quinn-movieAs someone that suffers badly with Borderline Personality Disorder, I’m always looking for ways to manage my condition and to educate those around me about why I act the way I do. These are some interesting articles that I’ve come across lately:

Romantic Relationships Involving People With BPD

Helping Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder

How to overcome Borderline Personality Disorder

Recognizing Borderline Personality Disorder Triggers

 

Living with BPD

unwellAwhile back a medical professional told me that they believed I suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. To say that I was not pleased with that diagnosis would be a lie – “Borderline what?” I wondered. “Borderline crazy? I know I have problems but I’m not crazy!”

I thought that BPD sounded too close to being psychotic… but the truth is, I didn’t know anything about Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s a scary name but 1.6% of the population has some form of BPD, with women being diagnosed three times more often than men. Nobody knows if that’s because women are more susceptible or if it’s because women are far more likely to seek help.

So what is BPD? I’m going to quote from the Mayo Clinic website: “Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships.”

Okay. That seems pretty broad. Let’s look at the symptoms instead. Again, this comes from the Mayo Clinic:

  • An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
  • A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
  • Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
  • Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
  • Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
  • Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
  • Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights

When I first saw this list, I was like, “Whoa. I’ve suffered from a lot of these over the years.” Self-destructive tendencies have always been an ongoing problem of mine with severe impulse-control issues that worsened after the death of my dad back in 2010 and those problems fell off a cliff when I left what I believed was my dream job to take a position that I really hated.

Back in high school I read a book called The Way of Zen by Alan Watts and I immediately felt a light bulb go off in my head. “Yes! This is what I’ve always believed!” Suddenly I saw my feelings about reality and about spirituality there on the page and I felt a sense of belonging.

I felt the same kind of thing when I read those symptoms above. Suddenly a lot of my actions over the years, that confused even me (let alone my poor friends and partner), made sense to me. My “insanity” had a name and as all horror fans know, once you know the names of your demons, you have power over them.

So where am I now? What difference does it make to have a phrase attached to my “illness”? Well, I’m taking medication and it has helped reduce some of the darker thoughts that used to plague me. I accept that I’ve made so many awful mistakes and that I can never repair some of the relationships that I’ve damaged. For that, and so much more, I am sorry. I know what my issues are now and I track them with a daily app… and I’ve tried to distance myself from those who enabled many of my worst tendencies. I’ve reconnected with friends that accept me for who I am, flaws and all. I’m focusing on being a good dad. I have a job now that I truly love and that I want to stay in for the rest of my working career. I will never have back all the things that I have lost but that’s okay – may those people move on without me and find the peace and happiness they deserve.

I am not, and never will be, ‘cured.’ I still spend money sometimes that I don’t have. I’ve gained thirty pounds since I got divorced, mostly because of binge eating. I sometimes sabotage my own success. I often view myself and those around me through the lens of self-loathing. But now I know the names of my demons… I see them. I own them.

And I will not let them have dominion over me.

I am Barry Reese. I have lied, cheated and stolen from those that cared about me… but I am more than the bad things that I have done. I have also lifted up others, supported those that needed help, and loved those that maybe didn’t ‘deserve’ it at the time.

I am not a ‘good’ man.

I am not a ‘bad’ man.

I am who I am.

And that’s okay.