As mediocre as it gets?
January 19, 2010 7:48 PM   Subscribe

I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in college, and now I'm 25. My life now is a lot more stable. My life then seemed a lot more fun... where to next?

I came from an extremely psychologically abusive family and was essentially sent out into in the world as damaged goods. I'd been in and out of therapies, medication regimens, and psych hospitals for 8ish years before being diagnosed with BPD in mid 2007 and starting to do the hard work of recovery, which, all external factors considered, has gone quite well. I have a solid, loving marriage, have cut ties with my most toxic family members, and found responsible employment. Yet... I reminisce about and sometimes long for the thrill of the "old days" - living purely on impulse, drinking and drugging all hours of the night, changing my look every week, having sex whenever with whomever, spending tons of money, and hurting myself if I damn well pleased to. Of course I realize there was something wrong with all that, or I wouldn't have changed. But "the good life" just seems so bland in comparison... not terrible, but not all I was hoping it would be when I fought myself internally every day to become someone new. It is bittersweet to see how pleased my husband and longer-term friends are with my progress, and yet not to feel all that accomplished or satisfied in my heart.

FYI, I do take antidepressants which I've found are certainly not "happy pills" but keep my suicidal tendencies at bay. I recently parted ways with my therapist because I was really annoyed with his tendency to ignore my extensive history and try to convince me I never had BPD, and also kind of freaked out with personal details he shared of his life, including a graphic suicide attempt 20 years ago. I'd like to get another therapist to help me deal with loose ends such as moderate trichotillomania, but I'm of very limited means at the moment and not eligible for the county mental health system w/o Medicaid, which I don't qualify for.

YANAD (or maybe you are), YANMD. I have read most of the BPD threads, but what I'm really looking for are your personal experiences or those of your loved ones who have "moved on" from the more active phase of the illness. I'm trying to get an honest picture of how my emotional life might play out from here, and MetaFilter seems like an honest place. I hope I've given enough relevant detail.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Were I you, I would pay some attention to the idea that while your former life may have been more fun for you, it probably wasn't more fun for the people around you. But at the same time, know that it's OK to mourn something that is now missing.

If you want to read a memoir of what is, essentially, before and after - treated and untreated - I highly recommend An Unquiet Mind.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:06 PM on January 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

FWIW your therapist might have wanted you to step away from that label as it is one that many therapists and mental health professionals either see as untreatable or unpleasantly difficult to work with. It's also quite possible one could be misdiagnosed with it and really have type II bipolar, and vice versa.

Honestly from the symptoms you describe, I'm wondering if your therapist might have been right, seeing as most folks I know with BPD are totally, totally miserable with it, plus it sounds like you could have been describing hypomania instead (which yes, I can understand from personal experience, might be something one might miss.)

One other thing-as a person grows older they continue to go thru life stages (there was a book in the 70's called Passages that dealt with this very thing.) People do tend to settle down a wee bit as they get older-I certainly did.

(If you are not comfortable with a therapist you do right to dump them-not blaming you one bit for getting rid of yours, but do consider that he/she still might have had a point.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:35 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

While you were being wild and crazy neurons were firing and it felt great. But let's be clear: you miss the spontaneity and freedom, not the partying and craziness. My internet diagnosis is that you need a hobby. From here it seems that you're missing the state of flow. Pick an activity and run with it... whether it be painting, music, the long jump, bobsledding or whatever. Just get into it, really into it.

Life is not mediocre if you don't let it be.
posted by pwally at 8:45 PM on January 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

Uhm... I'm not trying to snark here, but everyone has more fun in college. It's better to live in what is than to dwell on what was.

Seek out new hobbies. Find your passions. Dream big. Really big. And then take steps toward making the dream reality.

What really gets you excited? There's your new compass. Go that way.
posted by 2oh1 at 8:56 PM on January 19, 2010

You might see if you can pinpoint exactly what it is you miss. Is it the actual partying, changing your look all the time, sex with whomever? Is it just some of that? Is it the feeling of knowing you're doing crazy shit but you don't care? The adrenaline rush?

Depending on what it is, some of those feelings or actions may be things you can replicate now in a way that is not bad for you or hard on the people you love. As pwally suggested, there are hobbies or other things you can do that might recreate the feeling without being too dangerous. For instance, I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Rather than drive a motorcycle or pick fights in bars or whatnot, I play violent sports. It gives a lot of the same feeling, while still being at least somewhat safer, and with far more positive social consequences (team bonding, social approbation, etc).

Similarly, there's no reason (unless it is against the rules at your job) that you can't change your hair every week. Most adults don't, but why do what most people do? If doing things like that will give you some of the sense of "life" that you crave and help to keep you on track in all the important ways, then I would say go for it.
posted by forza at 9:30 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your therapist's reluctance to fully embrace the BPD may, in part, be because therapists often shy away from focusing too much on a person's DNM diagnosis. They think that this detracts their attention from the whole person with a history, temperament, proclivities, relationships, jobs - the whole catastrophe. They may also feel like a diagnosis can become a self-fulfilling prophesy - one that lies outside of a person's control. Finally, BPD is a very common outgrowth of being raised in bat-shit-crazy abusive families, so it makes perfect sense that your therapist would want to focus on your family. Still, if your therapist isn't working out, find a new one.

As to your problem. I'm somewhat bi-polar and understand missing that part of yourself that was impulsive and wild. The two disorders are exactly alike, but I do think there is some of overlap. I used to love the sense that I could go forever on - as you say - impulse. If I wanted to drink, I drank. If I wanted to do a few lines of coke, I did a few lines of coke. If I wanted to make out with girls in night-clubs with my boyfriend near by, I did it. I bought whatever I wanted on credit cards and I didn't much care if I paid the bill. I had a blast. For a spell. But then....

The money always runs out. You end up fucking people you really wish you hadn't. You either end up hopelessly addicted or your body goes into revolt over your flagrant mistreatment of it. Relationships that once seemed intense and sparkly give way to petty, childish dramas. You alienate people, big time. You get tired of being viewed as someone flaky, untrustworthy, incompetent. Depression - deep, unshakable depression sets in, and because you've surrounded yourself with people just as fucked-up as you are, there is no one to help pull you out. Because other people have grown up and you have not, your world starts to feel really lonely and empty.

Look back of your wild days with fondness. Enjoy the memories of feeling like you could either act without consequence or that you could handle whatever consequences came your way. You had fun - so relish it. But remember that none of that fun was free and you paid for it one way or another.

Your life now has its own pleasures and rewards - ones that would not be possible in your other life. So relish those too.
posted by space_cookie at 10:04 PM on January 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

You're looking for something. What is it about impulsiveness do you love? The impulse to drink whenever, make out with whomever is the same impulse that makes people get up and take a trip to Europe for no reason at all, except a spontaneous trip to Europe makes you (in other's points of view) "spontaneous" instead of "wild". It's the thing that's associated with the thing that makes people have a certain point of view on it, which obviously depends on their own background or history. I'm pretty sure it's not the drinking or the sex that you like, necessarily, it's the feeling that anything can happen and all you have to do is go get it. No matter how mundane or silly it might seem to be a few days later, sometimes getting a burrito can seem to be the greatest adventure of your life, because you decided your fate for the next hour or so. And the feeling that you are in control of your life, is, really one of the best feelings ever, I should say.

So. I am not your therapist. But all the crap about what makes the good ol' days the good ol' days is everyone else's social construction. It just so happens that what you like about drinking works well with what most people like about drinking, even though they're probably separate things. Bittersweet, you say? That's because you stopped being impulsive. That's why the "good life" doesn't seem so good after all.

Maybe you could go with my theory that just because you were impulsive then doesn't mean you can't be impulsive now. Just don't do the same actions that got you where you are now. Do something different that is impulsive. Do you want to take a few months off and travel around the world for a while? Go to film school? Play on a sports team? Fly a kite? Build a house? Paint a self portrait? I don't know what might spark some enthusiasm, but whatever positive thing that pops into your head at the moment, take that impulsive side of you and just do it. Ask him out, eat that ice cream, take the ferry, learn how to make creme brulee, whatever. Don't stop being impulsive just because it might've fucked you over before.

Most people drink a lot. And have sex a lot. I can tell you that even those people that partay all nightay with their bacarday feel like they're missing something too. They're missing the same thing, except you don't have all that bs in the way of finding out exactly what it is that you're missing. Good luck.
posted by bam at 10:50 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please. Don't insult me. Thanks.

True Borderline Personalities don't know it, resist any awareness that they're "not right," and do not seek (true) help. My mother, who I haven't talked to in 16 years (although my younger brother still takes the risk) is one with true BPD.

You have improvement and you are in your 20's? Whatever your issues, they are not BPD.

Your problem currently is that you are more interested in your "label" rather than improvement!

Focus on being the best you can, forget criteria. Focusing on the negative won't help you, as you seem on the cusp of truly moving forward - so just move forward!

I applaud you for doing self-work. I caution you about labels. Better to judge your progress by objectively measuring your life and success as you go... life experience is longer than you think.

PS - You'll always miss the good old days. Is OK! You will make new ones if you live life, and as you go...
posted by jbenben at 11:43 PM on January 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't fall in love with your diagnosis. Learn to live in the moment in a responsible way. You can have your impulsiveness without the negatives.
posted by RussHy at 4:32 AM on January 20, 2010

Best answer: Is part of your frustration that you feel controlled by the forces of reason and "maturity morality" that are keeping you "in check"?

You know that your "new" self, the "healthy" (ugh), "grown-up" (double-ugh) self, is the one that will make a better life for you in the long (and short) run. But some write that we are made up of multiple selves (which does not mean Multiple Personality Disorder; it means that our inner lives are more complex than our conscious, rational minds are aware of).

So -- there is the idea that you needed to relinquish your old, "bad" or "unhealthy" (we can talk about this in moralistic terms or health terms -- in our society they often substitute for each other, anyway) self for a new, "good", "healthy" self. There seems to be a moral imperative (particularly in the culture of Borderline Personality Disorder, which is the most morally tinged of all diagnoses, in my opinion) to admit that you were "out of control" and all of that behavior was bad for you --

in other words, I Was Lost But Now I'm Found, amazing Grace! (or Gabapentin, or Geodon, or whatever)

But maybe it would help for you to allow in your other "selves", or part-selves, and value that your past feelings and behaviors were attempts at adaptation to the world you were living in (both externally and internally), and that there is a (big and important) part of you that wants and needs to live a Bigger life than the one you're living now.

Rather than jump into this or that activity, maybe, as was implied by a poster up there who talked about mourning (I think), the first step is to allow yourself to feel all the feelings that you are experiencing about this change in your life. That you're happy you made the changes, but there is also a Sad part about all of it, a big loss for you, and that is really what it is, if you allow yourself to strip away the "health"-related pragmatics of it.

One thing that occurs to me is that your New life is more people-related - that is, the deal is, You become Sane and Controlled, and then They are able to love you. The implication is that the way you were before, no one could Really love you, because you were too Self-Destructive! Self-oriented! who could love that!? ("I came from a psychologically destructive family") (which you complied with -- Yes I'm Nuts! Look at the crazy things I do! Who could love me?!)

Now, with all of these Sane people in your life, it's working better, but there's an implicit deal that, in order to maintain these relationships and this life, you must Tow The Line (not that anyone is actually saying these things to you -- hence, implicit), which means, in effect, that you must suppress some very important parts of you that you have always identified with.

I'm not in disagreement with the people here who are saying DO this and DO that to achieve some sort of "natural high" without the bad consequences of your prior behaviors; I'm just saying that you could spend a little time Experiencing more deeply what it is that you're feeling now. Remembering your former self, in part mourning her but also honoring how hard you struggled to make yourself feel alive when you probably felt pretty dead and horrible inside. And realizing that that person is STILL you, and there ARE wonderful parts about her. And it is really kind of a BUMMER that you still have to negotiate with the world and its inhabitants in order to make these deals that result in what we call A Life and can't just go off in an uninterrupted path from Impulse to Behavior. It sucks.

And THEN paint a picture or whatever they said to do up there that's supposed to be so exciting.
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:57 AM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

Soon you will miss these days, too.
posted by milarepa at 5:08 AM on January 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so far for commenting. Even though I've seen a bit of it on other BPD threads, I was surprised to encounter yet more people seemingly content on deciding who is and is not a "true" borderline personality. FWIW it's simply untrue that EVERY SINGLE person with BPD is so far gone they can't or won't seek help. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize after 8 years of burned bridges and close relationships obliterated in a similar way that there may be some kind of negative pattern afoot. People with BPD are still essentially human - curious, desirous of love, loathing of pain. We're not just soulless destructobots. But I suppose I can understand, particularly since my father clearly has a much more extreme case than mine, why one might make that assumption. Also, my diagnosis was not fly-by-night; it was the result of literally months of testing and observation on the part of a very rockin' therapist I had at the time. I came to her having been labeled for years as bipolar and never feeling it fit me. On a side note as well: I don't consider it "focusing on the negative" to acknowledge reality about who I was/am/still could be if I don't watch it. Part of my problem before was slapping on a smiley face and turning the other way as Rome burned. I hope I don't sound like I'm lashing out at any specific poster, just pointing out some cultural stereotypes I find irritating. DMelanogaster makes a very insightful case, as does the commenter who spoke of "flow." Carry on.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 at 7:30 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have to second anybody who says, yes, for you it may have been awesome. But I am so glad you have sought help. You may or may not know, but there may have been people in your life you were hurting with your reckless behavior, or just by your personality. I have a person who is in my life who is not even full blown BPD, but she is incredibly self centered and hurtful the way she treats people- and she is totally oblivious it to it. So I try to spend as little time with her as possible (she is a relative, BTW). I know that maybe isn't the answer you're looking for, but from someone who is dealt with someone with these tendencies, I can't stress enough what a relief it must be for your family and friends. Sounds like you need to take up hard core exercise to deal with all that unused energy, too.
posted by Rocket26 at 9:48 AM on January 20, 2010

Your therapist was telling you of his own, graphic suicide attempt? Um....file a complaint with the medial board (if he's an MD) or at the very least look into where you can file for license pulling. He should never, ever make the story about him, especially with suicide and "triggers". What an incompetent baffoon.

Congrats on overcoming what most call the impossible. :)
posted by stormpooper at 10:05 AM on January 20, 2010

Hi. While I am not BPD, I am your age and greatly enjoyed my time spent with solo cups, tissue blades, mirrors, glass pipes, fungus that grows on cow poop, and boys (oh, the boys!). I, like you, no longer partake in these things on a regular basis.

It may help you to look at you life with "themes" for what you go through over the years. I consider the themes to be your motivating factors, what makes you get out of bed in the morning. For example my life would break down something like this (I will start when I really felt likt I gained control of my life as opposed to being "just a kid"):

ages 10-13 Exploration - I think I did 3 million sports and activities in this time, if not more.
ages 14-15 Preferences - I started dating and whittled down activities to only a few that I really enjoyed so I developed my preferences for people and activities
ages 16-18 Solidification and Validation - I began to feel like I had a cohesive personality and that I had potential to "be something". This at the time seemed validated by achievments in school and activities.
ages 19-23 Excess - I went to school and felt a little jaded because of my blue-collar background, which seemed in contrast to those around me. I realized I was not a special snowflake. I was also away from the people and things that had made me feel like a special snowflake before. I became bored with my life and bored with all seemingly possible outcomes of my life, so I began to throw myself curve balls. Getting to class is so much more of an adventure if you need to navigate the still-buzz from last night. with all the booze and drugs, my actual boring life became an obstacle course, the the late adolescent version of Chuck E. Cheese's.

ages 24-present Simplicity - Ok this is the really important part. The transition from Excess to Simplicity was really hard for me and I did stupid things trying to seek the thrill of the Excess period. But the fact of the matter is now I need to pay rent. I have a degree, I have a big girl job, I have responsibility to myself and others. Are you yawning yet?
But what I have been slowly finding out is now it's not about how fast and hard you can live, but about how much you can do with how little and still keep surprising yourself. How much can you keep the flame alive with one person? How much can you travel with wage slave hourly pay? How much goofy dancing can you do in only 5 hours of free time during the workweek? How much additional schooling can you get with little time?

Whereas before you would go to spring break in Mexico and be shit faceted 24/7 and cartwheeling ass over head out of bars at sunrise, now you go to Mexico and spend time off the beaten path and get to chat about life with some of the locals and eat some crazy good meal prepared by someone who makes 50 cents a day and still cares to share.

Obviously your "themes" are probably different, especially in the early parts of your life, but I guess what I'm trying to tell you is that for me, the let down you are feeling from your prior life is understandable, but replacable with more adventures of a different flavor.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:13 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

IANAtherapist so I'm not giving any psychological advice here and do not know if this is healthy or not especially for BPD cases. Essentially I am elaborating on getting into a state of flow when it comes to scheduling it in.

I would say most of the things in life we go through seem to be seen through the lenses of either/or, good/bad, nice/sucks, etc. As opposed to viewing it as a dichotomy, incorporate your other selves.

Sure, there are ways that you felt really good doing what you did, be it drinking, having crazy sex, trying out different things, a different look. Perhaps you can still do "some" of those things safely and in a controlled manner. Set up a time where you'll engage in a specific pre defined activity and what you will do but set consequences and end times and what if scenarios ahead of time. Put them out on paper and share them with your loved ones. So that they don't have to be worried too much and set limits of time, use secret words and phrases to come out of mental zones? But, before you engage in any of this, I would first find a new therapist. Meanwhile occupy yourself with something else, develop new hobbies like gaming or running.

It's like setting boundaries that are specific, rule bounded, yet allowed.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 2:25 PM on January 20, 2010

As someone who has been there, and sometimes still is there, I hope that these suggestions are helpful.

Not feeling accomplished or satisfied--

This is one of the unfortunate symptoms (or maybe it's a byproduct) of BPD.

Everyone around you focuses on the things they can see, that are obviously harmful. Hurting yourself. Substance abuse. Reckless behaviors.

The feeling that something isn't right, that is not so easy for people to see. So you hear everyone telling you how great you're doing, but part of you doesn't feel that.

You have spent a long, long time focusing on what NOT to do. And now you're not doing that. need to step back and figure out what you should do.

Start exploring even the most minor thing that catches your interest, that is NOT relationship-related. You don't have to like it that much. You just have to be vaguely interested in it. Try it out, mess around with it a little it. Read some stuff about it on the internet. No pressure. Find something else that catches your interest, do the same thing. If you keep doing this you'll eventually find something that will be a great hobby. A hobby!?!? That's it!?!? Yeah, a hobby. It sounds dorky but it will give you a lot of pleasure. Make sure you can do it completely independently, and that you are always in control of it.

It's probably a long way away, but at some point you'll end up figuring out a really cool long-term goal related to your hobby. I'll be cheesy and call it your "dream". You deserve to have a dream that only relates to you. You! Your dream. Do you feel like you deserve a dream? Because you do. Everyone does.
posted by kathrineg at 5:22 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

BTW, if you haven't done research on mindfulness, do it!

I understand if you're frustrated with the people who try to diagnose you, un-diagnose you, or quibble with you about your diagnosis (including your therapist). Everyone thinks they know soooo much about BPD when, frankly, very few people do. You are perfectly capable of deciding who you are and, for lack of a better phrase, what's wrong with you. Your therapist should have been perfectly capable of seeing you as a whole person, looking past the DSM IV, etc., while still treating your BPD. A diagnosis is important because an appropriate diagnosis leads to appropriate treatment. If he wasn't willing to accept your diagnosis, he wasn't going to provide you with the appropriate treatment. You made the right choice.
posted by kathrineg at 5:39 PM on January 20, 2010

I had BPD too and have been stable for ~6 years. I could go into a lot of detail but I saw that you were diagnosed in 2007. Believe me, that is not very long. Keep on truckin'! My life is stable and sane and practical, and has been for years -- but eventually silliness and excitement and pleasure and occasionally even a touch of danger creeps in. Just go with the flow.
posted by mjao at 6:58 PM on January 20, 2010

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