Coming out as Borderline, Part 1: Not a Character Problem

The Great Escape is a Blog about Borderline Personality Disorder, or Dyslimbia. The name came about when my friend asked “How’s life?” I replied, “It’s like a prison, where the guards take me out to be tortured for most of the day and then throw me back in the cell with the rats and mold at night. And there are other people who talk to me from outside and tell me it’s all going to be ok, but it’s like to them the entire dungeon is invisible. They have no idea what I see because we have different eyes.” Nevertheless, I keep fighting every day for the Great Escape.
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One of the most difficult challenges about Dyslimbia is that people rarely understand it, and often misrepresent it. At the same time, removing stigma can only be done by practicing honesty and transparency. Among your friends and family, I believe it is healthy to “come out” as having a Dyslimbia/Borderlines Personality diagnosis.

So how do you explain to people about your sickness? I will be posting a series of topics related to this “coming out” process. I will do this in a rough question-and-answer format. Real life conversions won’t be this cut and dry, but try to model them so that you still answer your friends’ questions clearly. First on the list is telling your loved ones you have an illness, not a character problem.

You: Hey, I know we have had some rough times. I want to explain to you that I have a disorder, and the disorder has been the cause of some of my mistakes in the past. It’s called Borderline Personality Disorder, or Dyslimbia.

Person: A disorder can’t explain bad behavior. I think you’re just over emotional, or uncaring, and you need to try harder.

You (take a deep breath): Think of it like this. Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological disease. Something goes wrong in the brain. As a result, motor coordination is altered. With Dyslimbia, something ‘went wrong’ with the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system controls emotions. Studies have shown that people with Borderline have very irregular limbic systems. This means that the structure of my brain makes it impossible to regulate emotions normally.

Person: So you think the brain controls emotions? And because one of your brain systems is messed up, you have these emotional problems? This makes it sound like you have no control at all, and we’re all just robots to our brain machinery. I don’t believe that.

You: That is not true. I can still control my actions about as well as anybody. I can’t control the way I feel. I might get very very angry over something small, and that feels very uncomfortable, but I can still control myself enough to not yell curse words and break things. I can control myself enough to make the decision to go to therapy. I can control myself enough to practice helpful habits like daily exercise, eating well, and spirituality. I can control myself enough to make a decision to try medications, or to buy self-help books. The only part I can’t control is the emotions themselves. They might appear with no cause. Or they might be extreme feelings in response to tiny events. Does that make sense?

Again, real conversations won’t flow like that. But the point is to be able to calmly explain yourself to someone without a brain illness. Explain that new studies really do show that Dyslimbia is a brain condition, like epilepsy, and not a character problem.

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3 thoughts on “Coming out as Borderline, Part 1: Not a Character Problem”

  1. Hi, I’ve just discovered this blog and from what I’ve read, I feel like I’ve found a home, somewhere safe where I am understood. Thank you. I’ve been looking for a long time.

    1. I’m so glad this blog is helpful. 🙂 I wrote it hoping it would be helpful or comforting to at least one other person. I’ll try to put up a new post soon. What are your biggest struggles with BPD? (In vague terms of course, you don’t have to get personal).

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