Today's guest post is written by Charlotte (she/her), a recent university graduate who lives with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) among other diagnoses and conditions. Charlotte is hugely passionate about Disney, swimming and a good book, and can be found on Twitter @charlotte_em_d.
Future in Flux by Charlotte
'Recently, with the help of some wonderful people, I completed a three-year degree at university. However, I’ve now arrived at that point in my life where I’ve spent a lot of time asking myself the question ‘what comes next?’. Perhaps this is a feeling you can relate to? It’s a future I never planned for; a future I didn’t expect to be alive for – something that for so long, I never expected to become reality.
The DSM-5 provides nine diagnostic criteria for BPD (of which, five or more are required for a diagnosis) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p.663). In this post, I will briefly explore the second and third criteria, and how I feel these characteristics may make it difficult for both myself and others to have hope for a future:
2. Up and down, very intense relationships associated with switching between idealising someone and then devaluing them.
3. Identity disturbance, including noticeable and ongoing unstable self-image or sense of self.
Beneath the question of ‘what next?’, the real question ‘who am I supposed to be?’ is revealed. Like so many people who have, or relate to, the BPD diagnosis, my childhood was always overshadowed by a sense of constant instability . I learnt how to regulate the actions and emotions of others, at the expense of my own. Now as an adult trying to make plans for a future, I find myself looking to people to tell me who to be, only to be reminded it’s time I need to just figure it out for myself.
While I don’t mean to completely disregard this response – there is a lot of truth in it – nonetheless, it can be incredibly frustrating. Experiencing identity disturbance for me means I find it hard to know who I really am. My identity is very much fragmented and increasingly bound up with my relationships with people and the projects I am involved with. In some ways, it can be likened to (or is) what BPD communities’ term ‘favourite person’. It’s that person who you idolise in almost every way, although it can change – and change quickly too. When the person that I see myself to be is dependent on others and fluctuates so much, planning for a future seems near impossible.
I think at some point for a lot of us we have had to try and figure out who we are in a world which tell us who to be. It’s exhausting work. Sometimes I have a plan – only to tear it to pieces myself three days later. Not knowing what will avoid all points of potential conflict; make the most people happy; lead to the least expectancy, negates being true to the person at the core of my being. I’m trying to follow her wishes as best as possible which means for now continuing doing what I’ve enjoyed so much over the last three-years.
Despite all of this, my self-worth and value continues to rocket up and plunge back down; I have fear as much as excitement for the life in front of me. Sometimes I wish I had a better idea of who I am beneath the BPD, while at other times I can simply smile and look at how far that girl who once had no hope has already come.
1. I personally avoid the phrases ‘childhood trauma’, ‘trauma’, and ‘abuse’ more broadly when describing my past. A lot of my experiences would be fall into these categories, but presently I feel it places blame on people still in my life and I still fear what this would mean. It is something I am still on a personal journey with.'
- Charlotte @charlotte_em_d
Thank you so much Charlotte for sharing your thoughts and experiences here. I think that many people will relate to you, especially after completing something as long and intense as a university degree. This sentence is so powerful: 'I learnt how to regulate the actions and emotions of others, at the expense of my own'. Your words have captured something that many readers will identify with, but may not have been able to summarise so precisely.
It sounds very confusing to be in this state of not knowing, but I feel very happy that you are here expressing yourself and staying with these difficult feelings. Sometimes time brings a little more clarity, bit by bit, moment by moment. I'm hoping that this clarity comes to you soon and until then you can spend time doing things that bring you enjoyment like Disney, swimming and reading. Thank you so much again for sharing this here and I wish you all the very best Charlotte.
American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.