Woman stepping on man

Borderline Personality Disorder Is Linked To Masochism In Women

Among women, sexual masochism is one of the most common forms of paraphilia. However, its etiology and clinical correlations remained unknown — until now.

A new study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, examined 60 women diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, along with 60 others that suffered from a different personality disorder.

According to researchers, women with BPD were ten times more likely to have masochism traits, compared to women who did not suffer from such personality disorder.

Furthermore, researchers also noted that masochism found in women with BPD fantasized about being whipped, tied up, and spanked.

However, make no mistake: Women who are diagnosed with BPD does not necessarily mean that they have masochism traits.

Instead, researchers suggested that masochistic women suffering from BPD may have been more likely to suffer from childhood sexual abuse, as the data concluded.

In an interview with PsyPost‘s Eric Dolan, Alvaro Frias Ibanez, one of the lead researchers of the study, gave the following statement in regards to the findings.

“Based on my clinical experience, clinicians should address whether borderline patients may have sado-masochistic sexual disorder, specifically in order to avoid forthcoming sexual risk behaviors and also as a manner to treat with trauma-related symptomatology.”

Sexual abuse may play a major role in the comorbidity of both disorders; but more research needs to be done to investigate this link.



11 Little Tips For Spotting Borderline Personality Disorder In Yourself

When struggling with a mental health issue it can be difficult to figure out what, exactly, is going on. While symptoms for things like anxiety and depression are often easy to recognize, this isn’t the case for every disorder. Some are notoriously difficult to identify, like the signs of Borderline Personality Disorder(BPD). And it can make the process of getting a diagnosis incredibly frustrating.

This has a lot to do with the fact BPD was only officially recognized in 1980. Since it’s newer on the scene, it doesn’t have as much research and understanding as anxiety, depression, or even bipolar disorder. BPD also tends to mimic or coincide with other disorders. “In some cases, co-existing mental illnesses may have symptoms that overlap with BPD, making it difficult to distinguish BPD from other mental health illnesses,” says licensed clinical professional counselor Julienne Derichs, LCPC. There is, however, a definition for BPD as well as info on what sets it apart from other issues.

As Derichs says, “Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental disorder manifested by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning.” These mood shifts happen much faster than the ones found in bipolar disorder, and the issues with self-esteem and functioning tend to be more pervasive and longer-lasting than those found in anxiety and depression. Sound familiar? Then read on for more ways to spot BPD.

1. You View People As Either “All Good” Or “All Bad”

If you have BPD, you might notice there’s no middle ground when it comes to how you view friends, family, and partner. “Individuals who suffer with this have unstable interpersonal relationships. They see things as very black and white,” psychologist Dr. Nikki Maritnez tells Bustle. As a result, you might fluctuate between loving your friends and hating them, all within the same day.

2. You Have Trouble Reading Emotions

If you have BPD, then you likely won’t have much in the way of “emotional intelligence.” As Derichs says, “Emotional intelligence is about observing emotions, both your own and those of the people around you, and then using this knowledge to guide your thinking and actions.” Without it, you’re likely to come off as “needy’ or “rude.”

3. You’re All Sorts Of Impulsive  

People with BPD are highly impulsive. As Derichs tells me, you might catch yourself doing risky things like abusing drugs, spending money you don’t have, driving recklessly, or having lots of unsafe sex

4. You Lack A Stable Sense Of “Self”

BPD sufferers tend to lack of a sense of self. As a result, you might always feel “empty,” constantly clinging to others for validation and self-esteem, or changing your life plans on a whim. (Switching careers, moving a lot, etc.) It can be a very lonely feeling, as well as one that causes a lot of problems.

5. You Don’t Always Care About Your Personal Safety

Some people with BPD self harm or put themselves in risky situations, like that aforementioned reckless driving. As Derichs says, any recurring suicidal behaviors or threats can be a sign of the disorder. If you feel suicidal or like you “don’t care” — even for a minute — talk with a doctor ASAP.

6. You’ve Cycled Through Many A Therapist

If you’ve been dealing with these symptoms for a while, you may have already popped on over to a therapist to figure out what the heck is going on in your life. And then maybe another therapist. And then another. As Martinez tells me, BPD patients are notorious for skipping out on appointments because they’re therapist “offended” them or they don’t want to put in the work. It can lead to a cycle of starting therapy and stopping, and constantly looking for someone else to talk to.

7. Your Mood Changes All The Time

Mood swings are often associated with bipolar disorder, but the peaks and valleys of bipolar disorder tend to last weeks or even months. BPD sufferers have mood swings, too, but Derichs tells me yours might change faster, like every few hours or days.

8. Your Relationships Are Always Intense

Think about your relationship history. Do you have intense but very unstable relationships with friends, family, and significant others? If so, this is thanks to the black and white thinking, Derichs tells me. When you’re idolizing people one moment and hating them the next, it can lead to all sorts of relationship issues.

9. You Have Trouble Controlling Your Anger

Anger is a huge problem for those with BPD. Instead of just getting mad, you get mad. And it’s always over something small, too. You blow things out or proportion, read into little “slights,” and then have trouble reeling your emotions back in.

10. You Often Lose Touch With Reality

When super stressed, you might have a sort of “out of body” feeling known as dissociation. As Derichs says, it’ll cause you to feel cut off from yourself or like you’re observing things from outside your body. You might also feel paranoid and catch yourself saying or accusing people of all sorts of wild things.

11. You Have A Huge Fear Of Abandonment  

BPD can cause you to feel clingy, and thus very afraid of real and imagined abandonment, Derichs tells me. You might think you see “signs” someone is going to leave or feel crushed and slighted by little things, like your partner not texting back immediately. It can be very exhausting for all involved.

BPD is a tough disorder to deal with, and even more difficult to diagnose and treat. There is hope, though. With treatments like talk therapy — and understanding friends and family — it is possible to feel better.


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How Quitting Booze Helped My Borderline Personality Disorder

When people ask me why I don’t drink, the reasons I give vary from “I don’t like feeling drunk” to “I do it for my boxing” to “I did Stoptober and just kept going.” They’re all true, but not the whole truth. And the whole truth is a long story. A long story I’m not ashamed of anymore. So, if you’re interested, pull up a chair and let’s go back a few years…
After moving back home after university, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. A month later, I was referred to a psychologist and told I “presented with symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.” If you’re unfamiliar with BPD, symptoms include: chronic feelings of emptiness; intense, unstable relationships; impulsive, dangerous behaviours (such as substance abuse, binge eating and reckless driving); and an unclear self-image. You’re also more likely to need treating for others disorders, such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders. The cause of BPD is still unclear but research suggests it’s a combination of genetics and environmental factors, like childhood abuse or neglect.
Thanks to a nerdy personal interest in psychology and the movie Girl Interrupted, my diagnosis didn’t come as a shock. I was an eccentric and incredibly sensitive child who always felt different – and wasn’t alone in that opinion. Other kids (and even my own mum) always told me I was “weird.” I had intense relationships from a young age. At uni, two nights out ended in A&E because I’d gone a few rounds with a wall and lost. But I should point out now that, other than those two ambulance rides, I’d never had a problem with drinking. Since I went to my first house party aged 13, all the way through to my student days, I was never The Mess but more the Holder Upper, The Kebab Shop Shepherd or The Mother Hen.
For 18 months, I took my anti-depressants and went to group for dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), which is like CBT but with more focus on mindfulness and self-acceptance. (And if you want to take the piss out of mindfulness for being part of the trendy “wellness” culture, it works better for BPD than any drug, so fuck you.) Eventually I “no longer presenting” with as many BPD symptoms, stopped going to group and went on living life.
And life was good. I moved to London, got a job in journalism and had a great social life. Then, without warning, my solid friendship with booze fell on its arse. Drunk Ally, who had always been a fun, good-time girl, would suddenly get a darker look in her eyes. She’d totally shut down, wouldn’t listen to anybody and would sneak off to a quiet spot and self-harm. I didn’t recognise this person. The hangovers were also worse; not physically, but I’d feel incredibly sad and ashamed.
But alcohol tolerance changes all the time, right? Especially after uni, where you’re used to drinking every day? But this wasn’t that. This was excessive drinking, simple as. Every time I knocked back a drink, I’d be straight up for another and, thanks to a strong stomach, I never needed to stop. As for the consequences…
“You really weren’t that bad last night, Ally. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Well… alrighty then.
When I first told people I was going teetotal, most were surprised and thought it was extreme, because I wasn’t a “liability” when I drank and nothing “that bad” ever went down. But I’m a firm believer that you don’t need to be hospitalised to take your mental health seriously, or for anybody else to. If you think you might be depressed, but don’t deserve help because “I haven’t tried to kill myself”, stop it now. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be kind to yourself. When I drank too much, I self-harmed and didn’t tell anyone. And I figured, because I wasn’t hurting anyone but myself, everything was fine, right? Looking back, I was my own worst enemy.
After a particularly messy night in September 2015, I decided to try Stopober. And what a revelation! I felt great. Being a confident person, I didn’t feel awkward or anxious without booze. I sank Virgin Dark & Stormies and woke up with nothing but sore feet from dancing. No hangover, bloodied knuckles or cuts. No sinking feelings of fear, shame or dread. No apology texts. I missed having an excuse to eat pizza at 4am but thought, yeah, I could get used to this…
Not only did Drunk Ally get a few more outings before 2015 was done, she also started testing a theory that maybe her choice of substance was the problem, not her. Yeah, things were starting to get really dangerous. My last drink was some time in the early hours of New Year’s Day. I was a wild nuisance and woke up that afternoon feeling more sad and pointless than ever. I’d had enough. Feeling this low for the sake of a little buzz just wasn’t worth it anymore. I’d done Stoptober. I survived a hen do without a drop of booze, for goodness sake. I could do anything! And so I decided, as many of us do on January 1st, that I’d never drink again. That was over a year ago. And get your sickbags out, guys, because it’s one of the best and easiest things I’ve ever done.
Mental health isn’t black and white. I made a mistake thinking I was “cured” after therapy. The symptoms of BPD will always be there because this is who I am. And I’m OK with that now.
Since stopping drinking, my mental and physical health are the best they’ve ever been. I spent a lot of 2016 (ironic that that’s my best year to-date) having words with myself and finding out what my triggers are. I realised that those “impulsive, dangerous behaviours” happen when I feel empty because there’s no emotion, no natural instinct shouting, “Hey, Ally, put down that glass/fist/knife, this is probably a terrible idea!”
You can’t always control how you feel. Some days you just feel shit. But if you can identify your triggers, you can start to turn things around. I now know that if I work too long or too hard, I turn into a robot. Lesson? Take a lunch break, Ally. Nobody’s going to thank you for that overtime.
Also, I often hear people worry that stopping drinking will make them boring. Give. A. Shit. If this is you, maybe you should try a dry month to work on getting a better opinion of yourself. Being teetotal in no way makes you “better” than other people, but it definitely makes you more comfortable in your own skin. There’s something really liberating about acting like a silly bugger with nobody able to say “Oh, she’s just doing that because she’s hammered.” If I dance on a table or text someone I probably shouldn’t at 2am, it’s because I want to. I now live a life with absolutely no regrets.
So is this teetotal thing forever-ever? Yeah, probably. I just don’t miss it at all. And I’m not saying all this to try and convert anyone. Do what ya like, mate. My dad loves a bottle of red, doesn’t get drunk or hungover, and apparently has the cholesterol of a 25-year-old. Why should he stop? But if one person reads this and takes comfort, decides to get help or makes a positive change, then that’s something I can raise a cuppa to.
healing from bpd one step at a time

7 Stages of Healing for Those with Borderline Personality Disorder

Being diagnosed with a personality disorder can be discouraging at first. But if a person has to have one, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is the best. Of all the disorders, BPD has the highest rate of mindfulness and is even marked as having the ability to fully recovery. No other personality disorder can claim such status.

The reason for this is that a person with BPD has a heightened level of emotional awareness and expression that is very transparent. Their ability to be instantly in-tune with their emotional reaction allows for many therapeutic methods to successfully work on the management aspect. In other words, there is no false façade that needs to be broken down first like with other personality disorders. What you see is what you get.

While the tell mark characteristics of BPD are readily noticeable to others, it is not always as initially apparent to a person with this disorder. But after reflection and a few steps along the way, most persons with BPD learn to embrace their uniqueness and wear it with pride. Here are some of those steps.

  1. Denial. All initial stages of awareness begin with a defense mechanism such as denial. It is far easier to reject a problem, issue, death, or divorce than it is to confront it. Admitting to a disorder requires accepting responsibility. This in turn forces a person to acknowledge the string of broken relationships, repeated conflicts, an inability to handle stress, and some type of work history impairment. Denial is a far easier response in the beginning.
  2. Confusion. After a while, it becomes impossible to ignore life’s difficulties, especially when others seem to not have the same level of daily frustration, conflict, or intensity. This leads to seeking out help to figure out what is wrong which results in the first exposure of BPD. Many quickly return back to dissociation as a defense mechanism. One of the defining characteristics of a person with BPD is the ability to slip outside of themselves during a traumatic situation. This frequently results in a temporary memory gap which only increases the confusion.
  3. Resistance. The increasing awareness of memory gaps returns a person to learning more about BPD. But the resistance towards diagnosis is strong because another defining characteristic is impulsivity in dangerous situations. Accepting responsibility for a disorder coincides with accepting responsibility for high-risk behavior. This is uncomfortable for anyone but for a person with BPD, this can be overwhelming and traumatic. Instead it is easier to resist the disorder and continue to blame others for the damage.
  4. Anger. Persons with BPD feel emotion more intensely than others which are especially evident in their anger outbursts. When they can no longer resist the diagnosis, the go-to emotion is anger which is frequently taken out on family members or anyone who tried to help along the way. Sadly, their response leads to further isolation from others activating an intense uncontrollable fear of abandonment. Others are confused by the pushing away with anger followed by the pulling in when feeling abandoned. Thereby triggering the next stage.
  5. Depression. Deep sadness over feeling alone, misunderstood, and rejected by others settles into the person with BPD. This is precisely when another characteristic of suicidality becomes apparent. Not only is the person with BPD just now beginning to comprehend the vast difference between the level of intense feeling they possess in comparison to others but they are also grasping at huge missed opportunities and relationships. The impact of their disorder on others has hit them very hard. The period of time between depression and acceptance is different for everyone. But the depression is needed to spark the motivation to move forward.
  6. Acceptance. This is the best of all the stages because they are starting to open up to understanding the disorder. No longer is it some horrible diagnosis, rather it seen as a gifting. Persons with BPD have a unique talent to not only be aware of their emotions but also the emotions of others. Frequently they can know a person is upset way before the other person even realizes it. This is so useful in many occupations where it is essential to accurately perceive another person’s feelings. Learning how to harness this gift is part of acceptance.
  7. Therapy. Now the work begins on developing coping mechanisms for handling stress, understanding the impact of the disorder on others, and healing from a series of traumatic events. Unfortunately this entire pattern is frequently repeated during the therapeutic process as new insights are obtained and consciousness of emotion is achieved. But once a person is on the other side of the process, they function very well and most new people will have no idea they even have this disorder.

It requires a good deal of patience from everyone involved to successfully reach the end of the stages. But once there, the change is beautifully dramatic.



I’ve lived with Borderline Personality Disorder for years. Why I’m finally talking about my diagnosis

Erica Ruth Kelly was diagnosed in her teens, but stigma has kept her quiet—even amid calls for more acceptance of mental health challenges.

Trigger warning: self-injury, suicide

When I was 18, a psychiatrist kicked me out of her office in my hometown of Montreal. A framed Sigmund Freud witnessed my humiliation. I’d raised my voice, confessing that I’d scratched up my arm again because I was “fucking sad.” My psychiatrist told me to go to the hospital. She couldn’t help me, she said.

I wondered if she knew how helpless I already felt during our sessions. I wondered if she noticed how the frenetic sound of her keystrokes made me tense, or how I would hold my breath when she’d interrupt the logging of my despair into her laptop to look me in the eye. Would she again suggest that I was lazy? Could she tell my pupils dilated whenever we discussed my medication? I knew that she couldn’t help. What I didn’t know was that I had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and for the next 17 years, help would be hard to find.

If you read an article on BPD, you’ll likely see the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5), the standard classification system of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in North America. These criteria can tell you that a person with BPD likely has significant impairments in personality and interpersonal functioning, such as unstable self-image often associated with self-criticism. That doesn’t explain what it’s like to spend most waking hours feeling hollow. The DSM-5 describes pathological personality traits, such as anxiousness, separation insecurity, and depressivity. That doesn’t tell you what it’s like to think you might lose your mind because someone you care about is an hour late. The DSM-5 lists impulsivity, citing “self-harming behaviours under emotional distress,” as well as hostility, manifested as “anger in response to minor slights and insults.” That doesn’t illustrate that despite improvements, BPD remains one of the most highly stigmatized diagnoses.

The professional stigma against BPD is only worsened by the performative one. Two percent of the North American population suffers from BPD. Yet mainstream representations of BPD consistently use the same characters bending to the same arc—a white, cisgender, heterosexual woman (think Girl, Interrupted; Welcome to Me) who has often been spurned by a male lover with whom she becomes violently obsessed (Fatal Attraction; Malicious; Play Misty for Me).

Through this lens, we only see BPD sufferers on their worst day. Context and history seem less important than presenting audiences with the hysterical woman, perhaps because it’s easier than trying to understand the complexities of the disorder. But these representations negate the individual narratives of those with BPD and reinforce the stigma. The stigma reinforces silence. The silence reinforces stigma.

I’ve been contributing to this cycle for nearly half my life. I have never publicly disclosed my BPD diagnosis until now, because I’ve finally realized that not saying something says something.


The reality of living with BPD is as unique as the person experiencing it. For me, it means a heartless voice in my head that screams You’re worthless. Sometimes the voice gets quieter, but it’s always here, buzzing in the background like white noise. BPD means being scared easily and often—frightened that I’m one panic attack away from losing a job or losing a writing client, or that something someone says or does, or that I see in real life or on TV, will trigger a downward spiral. (One time I couldn’t leave my bed for four days after binge watching the first season of True Detective.) I know others who have BPD. They hear the white noise voice, too—one that tells them they are fundamentally unlovable. They try to cope by using drugs, alcohol, food, sex, self-harm—anything, as long as it numbs.

We also contend with real voices of health care practitioners. One doctor told my friend with BPD that “everyone feels sad sometimes.” Another told a friend they would have to attempt suicide to receive in any help.

“‘Borderline’ has become almost pejorative in the healthcare system,” says Dr. Jonathan Petraglia, a licensed psychologist in private practice in Montreal, lecturer at McGill University, and my former classmate in high school. In Grade 11, Petraglia’s locker was right next to mine. We would see each other in the morning, though I don’t know if he ever noticed how tired my eyes always looked. After I emailed him about interviewing him for this piece, he became the first person from high school to know about my diagnosis.


The author as a teen.

While I’ve often thought my symptoms started to emerge when I was about 14, Petraglia tells me it’s not possible to diagnose BPD in children or adolescents. Warning signs in children include frequent crying, hypersensitivity to interpersonal information, and separation anxiety. (At 9, I missed my mom so much at sleep-away camp that I cried until I nearly vomited.) But these signs are not uncommon in many children. Research indicates that it’s a matter of degree, which can be difficult for a parent to assess.

The same can be said for warning signs in teenagers, since the criteria describes what a lot of people go through in adolescence, Petraglia explains. A good example of this is identity diffusion, characterized by a “deep sense of emptiness, of disconnect from people, of feeling unloved, of not understanding who they are, what defines them.” It’s why many teenagers hear: “You’re going through a phase.”

For a long time, my mother had come to this same conclusion. Recognizing the duration and consistency of this phase, and the distress and decrease in functioning it causes, can be difficult. As an adolescent, I was brooding. I worried a lot, listened to a lot of Tori Amos, and wrote tortured poetry. Then, I started cutting or scratching myself, sometimes more than once a day. I thought about death. I hid those things from my mom, from everyone. I dropped out of CEGEP, my pre-university program, with only one semester until graduation. I couldn’t study. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t do anything but make macaroni and cheese and smoke cigarettes. I put on 50 pounds in six months.

“You always seemed like you were okay,” my mom would tell me a decade after that first major depressive episode. By my late teens, I knew I wasn’t. I was sure I was a terrible person. The nurse who assessed me after a cry-for-help overdose said it was my fault. I thought she was right. I thought I couldn’t get better. Following a devastating break up, at 19, I tried to kill myself. Up to 10 percent of individuals with BPD will die this way.

The author as a child.

Following the suicide attempt, my mom confided her concerns about me in a cousin. He gave her the phone number of a psychologist, a friend of his. My mom met with him once, told him my symptoms. He told her it sounded like I had BPD. I read up on it: Yes. That was me. I began looking for help. Unfortunately, in Quebec, programs for treating BPD are not the “all-encompassing type of program you would need to treat personality disorders in a very effective way,” Petraglia says. Instead, small treatment programs are offered at a number of clinics and hospitals; but they are not intensive.

I never knew such programs existed, but I did try everything else I could. For five years, I experimented with different medications, self-help books, modalities, psychiatrists, and therapists. One of the most marking experiences was the work I did with Lindsay Chipman, a licensed psychotherapist I saw from 2005 to 2009. Throughout that time, we never specifically discussed BPD. “Back then, I wasn’t interested in relating to you as BPD,” Chipman says. “I really just wanted to get to know you. And I think that’s really important when working with any patient. We’re not relating to the diagnosis,” which, she explains, doesn’t speak to any of the underlying dynamics that are creating any of the symptoms.

She’s not the first person to tell me this. A therapist to whom I’d disclosed my BPD diagnosis also didn’t want to focus on it, fearing the label might impede my progress in therapy. Some people with BPD find the label helpful; it helps them understand themselves better. Others find it forces them to pathologize what is actually very normal, human behaviour.

Chipman says BPD traits exist along a spectrum. She refers to the DSM-5’s list of criteria for the disorder, which she prefers to call a “character structure,” as “everything and the kitchen sink. You could fit many people into that category.” For instance, one of the most common traits of an individual with BPD is black-and-white thinking, or “splitting,” where we categorize things as all good or all bad. “We all do that,” Chipman says.

It’s also helpful to remember that at some point, the pathological behaviours that comprise this cluster called BPD “were absolutely necessary for (patients with BPD) to have their needs met…It’s just that their adaptiveness has expired.”

Chipman treated me until I came off my medications, Effexor and Seroquel, at the beginning of 2009. From 2009 to 2013, I was more functional than I’d been in years. I still occasionally had panic attacks, but I blamed it on graduate school, where I was studying English literature. I medicated with a more socially sanctioned method of self-harm: excessive alcohol. I thought I was fine.


Following a move from Montreal to Toronto in 2013, my symptoms re-emerged with a vengeance. I was in denial about it. Then, in November 2015, I had a dissociative episode. I dropped off my dog at a groomer, but something was off. As I walked, the sidewalk felt as though it was pulling me in, like the concrete was quicksand. About 72 hours later, I felt it again: I fell to my bedroom floor shaking and crying. I was convinced that if I left my spot, I would die.

I was too scared to tell anyone what had happened. It was too humiliating. I was a grown-up. I should be over BPD, I thought. What would people think if they found out? What would my family say if they knew I was self-injuring again? Would I be considered a lost cause? What would my friends do? Would they Google it and decide to never speak to me again? How could my doctor help? Would I get moved around the system in Ontario, the same way I was in Quebec, the same way one of my friends with BPD got misdiagnosed and tossed around in Manitoba?

Sobbing, I finally called a friend. Whether this was BPD or not, it was not a phase. It was not going anywhere unless I forced it to. 

My friend recommended I look into the services offered by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). I learned about its Borderline Personality Disorder clinic. For a year beginning in January 2016, I was part of an outpatient research study, where I received Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Designed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, psychologist, author, and professor at the University of Washington, DBT is widely considered the gold standard for treating BPD. It involves seeing an individual therapist for one hour per week and group therapy for two hours per week. DBT was originally developed to treat suicidal behaviours, but was subsequently expanded to treat BPD and other complex mental disorders that involve serious emotion dysregulation. This treatment was easily the most emotionally brutal and effective therapy I’ve ever received.

During each individual therapy session, I would present my therapist with a diary card on which I’d tracked my daily fluctuation of emotions, my urges to resort to maladaptive behaviours, and whether or not I’d engaged in them. I had to assign a number to the strength of these urges, zero being lowest and five being highest. If it sounds tedious, that’s because it is.

In group therapy, I learned skills from four different modules: interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance/reality acceptance, emotional regulation, and mindfulness skills. Every week, group members shared how they practiced the skill we learned the previous week. We often cried together, but it wasn’t confrontational or confessional in the way I’d imagined. Instead, it was a compassionate support system, vital to my recovery.

One week, one of the group members coming off of medication started to cry. I started to cry, too. I was empathetic: Withdrawal makes everything too loud, too manic, too much. I told her she was doing much better than she realized; the fact that she was in group that day was proof. She smiled and thanked me—and I wondered if perhaps this pain can be used for good.

Dr. Carmen Wiebe, one of my group facilitators, has been working at the BPD clinic since 2002. After I completed the program, I asked her if moving to a new city would have been enough to trigger someone’s symptoms. “Moving is definitely one of life’s big stressors, so it certainly makes sense,” she tells me, though it’s not as clear-cut as that. It also depends on what the stressor represents and whether it overlaps with previous triggers.

“BPD tends to be a waxing and waning disorder,” Wiebe explains. “The symptoms intensify and de-intensity over time.” It’s true. Sometimes BPD feels like an ever-looming spectre.

When I ask if these symptoms will ever go away, Wiebe says it’s complicated. “It depends on which symptom,” she responds. “The behavioural symptoms like self-harm and anger outbursts and other impulsive behaviours can go away completely.” Having emotions that are easily prompted and take awhile to resolve can also go away, or at least become more manageable over time.

That said, the outcome of treatment varies greatly depending on the individual. And access to treatment is unfortunately less than ideal. Given the prevalence of BPD and that CAMH’s clinic is “kind of tiny compared to a lot of other services… we are completely unable to meet the demand.”

CAMH’s BPD clinic treats approximately 280 patients per year. These patients included my fellow group members, Chantel, 33, and Elliott, 23, to whom I grew close. I heard my story in theirs. Misdiagnoses, getting tossed around the system, wrong medication, invalidation. “I’ve always been told I’m broken, or sensitive, or wired wrong, that I’m dramatic or crazy, untrustworthy, because I’m ‘classic Borderline’,” says Chantel. After suicide attempts brought them to CAMH’s emergency room, Elliott and Chantel both entered the DBT program.

While we began treatment at different times, the first few months were challenging for all of us. “I had a lot of issues at first,” Elliott, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronoun they, recounts, “especially concerning the fact that I was one of the few people of colour, and I felt very surrounded by white folks… it was very hard to open up and connect.” Chantel tells me that she’d struggled to get into the program for a year, during which time her then-girlfriend had become her caretaker. At the beginning, the program was “a band aid covering up too big a scar.” Her partner left her a month or two into Chantel’s therapy.

Things evolved for all of us, though. The “seemingly very easy skills” took some getting used to, but they eventually helped Elliott manage their emotions and symptoms “far more effectively.” Moreover, “the group started to become a place where I knew everyone understood what I was feeling,” they tell me. For Chantel, it was a matter of adjusting her focus inward. “It’s taken me a long time to do the program for me,” she says. “I can still be willful as fuck, but I can see myself trying… not to save a relationship, or convince my parents I’m not going to attempt to kill myself. For me.”

After my graduation in early January, I admittedly felt lost without my therapist, my group, my facilitators. I had moments of dark, troubling thoughts. I was surprised to find out that even though I’d finished my program less than two weeks prior, the most the clinic could offer me by way of support were recommendations to other services. I could not receive any more coaching.

I understood the possible rationale. Other people need help. The clinic needs to minimize therapist burnout. I was also angry and sad about it.

Then a funny thing happened. I noticed that I wasn’t hiding. I was reaching out to friends for help. I noticed that for the most part, I didn’t have any strong urges to self-harm, self-medicate, dissociate, or avoid my life. I noticed that somewhere in this 17-year tangle of trying to become a better person for others, I’d decided to start living.

For me.



I Am Beautifully Bipolar

Living with bipolar disorder, there is a fine line between amazing and awful. Because of our unique brain chemistry, we must learn to walk it well. We must master the art of resilience in a life skewed by mental illness. We are forced to learn how to rise often. We still feel a need to thrive just like everyone else but there are times when we must focus on mere survival instead.

Does this make us weak? No. Truly quite the contrary. We fight battles the rest of the world knows nothing about and this often means waking up to fight the same demons that left us so tired from the night before. It takes bravery and strength.

I love to explain this with two words: “beautifully broken.” The truth is, however, we are not “broken” at all. We are simply different. We are strong by default because our strength is what keeps us alive. Living with the pain and uncertainty of what tomorrow will look like in silence is no easy feat. Constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. You are a soldier. You are a warrior.

We have the same emotions as everyone else but we can feel them more deeply. Our roaring emotions can feel unstoppable and sometimes so can we. It’s scary to quickly turn into someone you’re not when everything turns gray. It’s a battle we must win over and over again or the consequences could be fatal. An emotional baseline is faint and every emotion can feel like an illusion. Stability becomes a luxury we long for and one most people take for granted. Our negative emotions can be overwhelmingly debilitating. But on the other end of the spectrum, we are capable of loving harder, laughing louder and having more confidence.

This makes a bipolar brain unique in the very best way. It feels like I’m blessed and cursed all at the same time and it’s so confusing. I need not be ashamed and sometimes this means removing toxic people from my life. It is heartbreaking when the ones we love so deeply don’t understand us no matter how hard we try to explain.

It’s a disorder not a decision and something that must be lived to fully grasp this seemingly invisible condition. It can be the loneliest feeling in the world. We must learn early in life to accept the fact there is no such thing as perfect. We must learn not to compare our lives to the pictures people have painted of theirs.

Like an amazing work of art, only some will be able to appreciate the beauty that lies within us. We must learn to enjoy the good times to their fullest because just knowing we can feel that way again can be the only comfort when we are drowning. It becomes a life raft we won’t find elsewhere. Often forced to learn the hard way a life spent waiting for the next episode is no life at all. They say life only gives its hardest battles to its toughest soldiers and apparently, life believes you are a bad ass. And life is absolutely right.



A Tour Through a Messy Mind With Borderline Personality Disorder

It is not warm or welcoming. It’s cold and uninviting, yet so many people live there. Someone is always talking. usually more than one someone at once, and they never get along.

I’m going to take you through my messy, little mind in hopes you will better understand mental illness. Many people believe it is because we don’t eat right, sleep well or exercise enough. Even more people feel like we do this to ourselves. More frequently in the media, I see people romanticizing mental illness and I won’t stand for that. If you think mental illness is “tragically beautiful,” then I think you should look again, and for the people who are honestly trying to understand, I hope this helps.

There are many people living in my head. There is the manipulator, the angry one, the little girl, the shell, the void and the invincible. Here’s a more in-depth explanation of each:

The manipulator used to make her way out often.

“Hmm, my therapist hasn’t shown much interest lately. Why don’t we pretend to be worse than I am? My friend doesn’t seem to have made me as priority. Why don’t we breed lies and secrets against her other friends? The psychiatrist doesn’t seem to think I’m sick enough to be here. Maybe I should lead him to think something else. My friend and I are drifting. We need a secret to pull us closer. Let’s make something up!” This sick person takes over my body and I sit back and watch as she ruins my life.

The angry teenager rages against all that she feels she hasn’t deserved, angry she is always the one to be yelled at and the one to be blamed.

“If I’m just a kid, then why do I have to save the world? If I’m such an adult, then why are you treating me like a child?” Her abusive and neglectful childhood was so inconsistent, her sense of balance is forever warped. She is constantly mad at everyone for making her who she is.

The little girl, always feels the need to be held.

“Just hold me. Please, make me feel safe. Nothing is OK. I’m not OK. Please, help me. Please, I’m scared.” This little girl inside of me is always crying because she doesn’t feel safe, always wanting to run but never knowing where to run to, constantly in fear of being yelled at, being locked in the dark, being abandoned, being forgotten and left to fight the monsters by herself.

Now, there’s also this shell of a person. It’s not real. It doesn’t think I’m real. It doesn’t think any of this is real. When its in control, looking in the mirror is harder than ever. All I see is this ghost with no connection in her eyes. I’m just a shadow.

“None of this is real. Everything is OK because none of this is happening. You aren’t real. You aren’t real. You aren’t real. You don’t exist. You do not exist. You do not exist.” Over and over, like a broken record, there’s no way to stop it. If I hold my hands out in front of me, then I’m sure they aren’t mine. My insides are hollow, no feeling, no flicker of life.

Then there’s the void. It’s what happens when nobody is in control, yet I still can’t grab the reigns myself. It’s the depression at its worst. It’s existing and being nothing, meaning nothing matters in the least. Nobody hates you. Nobody loves you. You’re just floating in this deep sea of loneliness and all you want to do is sleep your days away. You can’t even muster up the emotion to be angry or afraid of anything. You are just a meaningless existence.

Sometimes I have short periods where this young girl takes over, just laughing, screaming, smiling and dancing everywhere and wanting to do everything. She doesn’t need sleep, friends or anything because she is a friend of the world. She is everywhere and everything. Those moments tend to be few and fleeting, but they come with dangers of their own. It’s hard to learn you aren’t invincible when you were sure you were.

Often, I can put up a facade to cover whichever person is running my body. They still have their outbursts, the moments when I loose all control and have to watch the disaster ensue.

Sometimes it feels strange to me there are people out there who haven’t thought seriously of suicide or don’t understand why people self-harm. The “sane” side of me is extremely glad there are people like that, but the sick side of me looks back on my five hospitalizations in the past year and a half and is baffled there are people coping with life. Not a week goes by where I don’t seriously consider suicide at least once and not a day goes by where I don’t have to talk myself out of self-harm.

Every day, I seriously consider self-harm. Every single day, I have to tell myself needing stitches will not solve my problems, but it isn’t only physical self-harm. Sometimes just putting myself in dangerous situations fulfills the self-destructive need. I sometimes put myself with someone I shouldn’t be, just so I can feel terrible about myself because I feel like I deserve it. There is always a part of me trying to ruin my relationships. I think things like, “I’m sure I don’t deserve them and I’m sure they’re going to just pick up and stop talking to me again so I better finish this my way!” I’ve managed to sabotage most of my relationships because of my actions, based on the rampage of countering thoughts running through my mind.

“That person must hate me because they didn’t initiate a hug.”

“Well I hate them. I’m never going to talk to them again.”

“No, no, no I need them. I hope they don’t hate me.”

“Love me, please! I need love don’t leave me!”

“Oh screw them, this is their fault.”

“Oh God, I hate myself for all this. I hope they don’t hate me too!”

“Oh look, they text me just to say hi, guess we’re all good!”

It’s a roller coaster I want to get off of, and even worse, sometimes the people in my head decide to fight. It’s not just a mild disagreement. Oh no, a full on screaming match and it’s all I can do to keep from losing my mind. Sometimes the voices get so loud, I can’t stand it. I have entire episodes of screaming at my mind to quiet down. It’s so intense and painful I feel like my brain is about to implode on itself.

My thoughts always run fast and wild, but during episodes, it feels like there are so many words in and out of my mind blurring together. It’s like blinding flashes of words going too fast to understand. I just shake from the feeling of holding the whole world in my mind.

I’m 17 and most days I wish not to exist anymore simply because I just cannot take all that happens in my mind. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people whispering behind my back because I’m never at school, have so many scars, have been hospitalized again or that I must be insane, but that’s just their own ignorance. I would love to be able to correct all that faulty thinking about mental illness.

The next time you hear someone laughing about people with mental illness or saying how “tragically beautiful” suicide and self-harm are, I would love it if you would tell them it is nowhere near funny or beautiful. It is painful and miserable and every day is a fight with yourself just to make it through. So don’t whisper and glare when you see my scars. Don’t criticize or say I’m not trying to get better because you don’t know what I’m going through. Everyone fights a different battle. Don’t judge someone’s battle just because it isn’t the same as yours.



When Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder ‘Cries Wolf’ – Rehab Center

I’ve tried to reach out blindly to so many people for help these past few months, and all that’s done is given me the label “attention-seeker,” written off as manipulative, a liar and a waste of time.

Attention-seekers like myself are written off as lost causes instead of treated like people who are seriously and constantly hurting, who are only “wasting your time” because they know their own is running out. I want your attention the same way a person drowning wants the attention of a lifeguard, but I can’t scream for help and raise my hand because instead of drowning in water I am drowning in my own heightened emotions.

One of the most severe symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is recurring self-harm and suicidal behavior/attempts.

When it comes to feeling suicidal, I’ve noticed people stop taking you seriously after a while. If I was going to kill myself, surely I would have done it by now. In the minds of those who aren’t consumed by this disorder, I’m simply crying wolf in order to feast on some nice juicy attention again. The thing about “crying wolf” is that the wolf is invisible, but it’s still there. The reason I’m crying wolf is because the wolf is going to kill me.

I don’t know how anyone can feel like this for even one second of their entire existence and not explode fragments of their bleeding heart everywhere, because every second of being alive is exhausting. BPD has been described as the emotional equivalent of having third degree burns over 90 percent of your body. This disorder I wasn’t even aware I have has impacted every single part of my life.

The sleepless nights that turn into empty days.

The drugs and alcohol that numb for a minute and pain for an hour.

The constant, always present feelings of worthlessness and shame and of guilt. Guilt for who I am and what I’ve done to the people who used to be around me or are still tied to me because of relation or university class or a lease.

Cooking enough food to feed four even though I’m not hungry because it’s been days since I’ve remembered to swallow anything solid and that’s how many attempts it’s going to take to stay down. Pretending there’s something wrong with my scales because there’s no way I could be that weight, is there? It hasn’t been that long since I last ate…has it?

Holding knives against my throat at 3 a.m. because I can’t stand another second alone with my thoughts, tying scarves and chords into nooses that break, routinely overdosing on drugs not just on weekends with “friends” but in the middle of the afternoon alone in my bedroom, praying this is it. This will be the time my heart finally gives up and shuts down.

Crying, then laughing, then needing to cut, then laughing, then crying again, then arguing with myself about jumping off a building, then needing a hug. All in the space of an hour. Every hour. No breaks, no time outs, not even when I’m asleep because apparently with BPD even your subconscious is as unstable and spasmodic as you are. Nightmares and pleasant dreams lurch back and forth at sickening speeds until you awake confused and frightened, your reality questionable.

Always letting down the people in my life because no matter how hard I try I can never be more than what I am. Knowing that everyone I love who hasn’t already done so will leave me and never look back because they think there’s nothing left to look back on.

The look of disgust but not surprise on my beautiful housemate’s face when after everything I have put him through, from suicide attempts to uncontrollable emotional outbursts that required him to physically restrain me and call the police, he comes home to find me in my room drunk or high.

He thinks I don’t care, but all I do is care and that is why I can’t stop doing the things that are ruining my life. There is no neutral or in-between emotions for me, and until I learned what borderline personality disorder was I thought everyone felt the way I did and just handled it better.

Every emotion is like getting in the shower and either being hit with a stream of freezing ice cold water that makes your skin turn blue with cold and your teeth chatter, or getting assaulted with boiling hot water that stings your flesh and burns you deeply. I understand what lukewarm showers are, but I am unable to experience them.

The shower analogy also explains the way I see people around me. Black and white. All good or all bad. I will meet someone at a bar, share a laugh with them, accept their friend request on Facebook and then all but propose to them. Strangers will become family almost immediately and things like them not replying to my messages within a quick manner or rejecting an invite to hang out have the same impact on me as if they had punched me in the face or told me they wished I was dead. They have just confirmed everything I had always known about myself to be true. I’m disgusting. I’m unlovable. I’m nothing. Everyone hates me. I’m alone.

One of my best friends who now refuses to speak to me, once spoke to me on the phone for four hours when I was distressed. Not for the first time that week he did everything humanly possible to put me in a better headspace and reassure me I was loved, and it worked. Until he said goodbye and hung up the phone. Then it was as if those four hours had never happened. I remembered everything he had said and I still believed it all to be true, but I couldn’t retain the positive emotions I felt when he was speaking to me. I couldn’t hold on to the sense of relief and love I had felt only seconds ago, the shower was turned back on full blast and I was burning. So I called someone else. And when they hung up I messaged another person. My phone became full of screenshots of words of support and love from all those I communicated with, and for a while it helped me, but if I wasn’t continually receiving messages that proved people cared about me I would assume they had come to their senses and realized they would be better off without me in their lives. This fear of abandonment consumes me and causes my emotions to manifest into situations in which I will impulsively act out in dangerous ways in an attempt to communicate my pain to those around me or to try and sooth the storm inside me. These impulsive behaviors may seem like they are for attention, but more than half the time they take place when I am alone and no one is aware of them.

I’ve woken up more than once on my bedroom floor after purposely overdosing on a cocktail of drugs, surrounded by suicide notes I have no recollection of writing and a bleeding wrist. I have then continued on with my day because the world doesn’t stop just because I have. On my mother’s birthday I nearly took my own life after an argument with first my housemate and then her. I sat sobbing for nearly 10 hours trying to simultaneously convince myself to “just do it!” and also “Don’t be stupid!” I had convinced myself the best present I could give my mom was to not be in her life any longer. I convinced myself the only way I could make things right with my housemate was to permanently end my existence so he never had to look at me again.

I can’t remember the last day I’ve had where I haven’t seriously considered killing myself as the most viable option at least once. I am plagued by hopelessness. I can’t hold down a job because my emotional breakdowns happen out of the blue and I am unable to turn up to my shifts. I can’t do or say anything to get the friends that mean absolutely everything to me back in my life and in my corner again because no matter how badly I want to change and get better, I am a prisoner of my own pain and there is no key. I can’t find permanent accommodation because I can’t afford to live by myself and no one can stand to live with me. I can’t walk past a store without spending whatever small amount of money I have saved for bills or food on something to numb the pain.

It never stops and I don’t know where this disorder ends and I begin. Realizing what was causing my life to be so hard also made me realize I don’t know who I am, but I know who I’m not.

I’m not J. Jarvis anymore. Maybe I never really was.

I lost her somewhere between the sixth drink and the second pill. After the nightmares started happening while she was awake and the sun went down permanently.

I’m not the stand-up comedian or the soccer player or the writer I once prided myself on being.

I’m not anyone’s friend or anyone’s housemate or someone you met at a party once.

All I am is pain and loneliness and defeat swirling around in an underweight, scarred and tired shell. I’m only 20-years-old and already my life feels over. I want it to be over.

If you know someone with BPD please, just give them a hug because for that three to five seconds, you’ll make the unbearable agony inside of them endurable, and that’s all we are trying to do. We have no other choice. Every poor decision, every attention-seeking action is us trying to endure.



Borderline Personality Disorder Makes Me a Social ‘Chameleon’

For me, living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is like living the life of a chameleon. I feel like I have no identity of my own. In any given situation, I am both consciously and unconsciously trying to be someone I think others will accept. Trying to “fit in.”

For example, I would say I like a diverse genre of music. Mainly because if I am around you and you like country music, I will then listen to country music. If you like alternative rock, then I listen to alternative rock. And so on and so on.

Sure this makes me flexible and adaptive in many environments, but it also means I don’t know what I like. There is a sense of panic and a wrenching in my stomach when you ask me what I like. The honest answer is really I don’t know. The fear of abandonment with BPD is so strong, it feels like I am constantly drowning and I have to use whatever means necessary to stay afloat. Even if it means putting your needs before my own.

In time, it becomes automatic without forethought. The pain of abandonment is excruciating. It feels like in the blink of an eye, everything I love and hold dear to my heart is ripped away. In that moment, I cannot think rationally and I think the way I feel right then is going to last forever. I spiral into the “nobody loves me and I am all alone” trap. Depression kicks in. I panic. I feel worthless. I feel I am a burden and the world is better off without me. I am sure from the outside, it looks like I am being overly dramatic. I assure you, I am not. I am merely responding based on the sheer intensity of my thoughts and emotions.

If you care about someone with BPD, I hope you can understand why we would do anything to prevent this from happening. It truly does feel like our world is crashing down on us.

And if you ask “What do you want to eat?” and the person with BPD says, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care,” they might be a chameleon like me and they are doing their best to adapt to the current environment they are in. Please have patience. We are doing the best we can.



Bipolar Disorder Facts Vs. Myths: What People Living With Manic Depression Want You To Know

Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, and Carrie Fisher were notable artists in their respective fields who all had bipolar disorder, though it manifested in their lives in different ways. The disorder, characterized by mood swings, from high (manic) to low (depressed), affects 5.7 million adult Americans every year, yet misinformation abounds.

In Ted-ED’s latest video, “What is bipolar disorder?” Helen M. Farrell describes what being bipolar means, its root causes, and the treatments for the disorder.

Read More: Signs Of Bipolar Depression Explained

So, can you separate fact from myth when it comes to bipolar disorder?


False: There are many variations of bipolar disorder. For example, type 1 has extreme highs alongside the lows, while type 2 involves briefer, less extreme periods of elation interspersed with long periods of depression, according to Farrell. Unlike bipolar disorder, depression has no mania, meaning there is no state of seeming very happy, confident, energetic and productive. In bipolar disorder, people go through both low moods or depression and high moods where they experience increased energy, feelings of euphoria, insomnia, and impulsive behaviors like promiscuous sex.


False : There’s a popular misconception that if someone with bipolar disorder is depressed, taking antidepressants could flip them into a mania. If people fall into a deep depression with bipolar disorder, they need the drugs. In a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers randomly assigned 366 patients with bipolar disorder to a treatment of mood stabilizer drugs and a placebo or mood stabilizer drugs and an antidepressant for up to 26 weeks. The findings revealed there are no differences in adverse effects, like a shift from depression to mania between the groups.


True: Bipolar disorder gets worse if left untreated. A delay in diagnosis and treatment can lead to personal, social, and financial problems that can make the patient and those around them more difficult to deal with. Untreated bipolar disorder is associated with substance use, abuse, and dependence, and can lead to a 10 to 15 percent lifetime risk of suicide.


True: Doctors work with patients on a case-by-case basis to administer a combination of treatments and therapies that allows them to live to their fullest potential. People with bipolar disorder can benefit from even simpler changes, including regular exercise, good sleeping habits, and sobriety from drugs and alcohol. The acceptance and empathy of family and friends is crucial.