The word “borderline” was used in first labeling borderline personality disorder because it was thought to be “on the borderline” between psychosis and neurosis. While it’s not an entirely accurate description now that more research has been done on the disorder, it seems to be accurate for me to say I’m “on the borderline.” I feel that in many aspects of my life, I’m constantly pushing towards the edge, walking the tightrope, or standing with each foot planted in contradiction.
I may seem organized and well prepared to the outside world, but inside I constantly find myself one wrong move away from falling from the edge, one small alteration away from throwing myself onto the ground kicking and screaming. I am constantly on the borderline between stability and chaos, success and failure. I can’t think on my feet because there’s always disagreement in my body or the fight between irrational impulsivity and playing it safe. Asking me to be flexible is like asking me to break myself into pieces, like throwing a ball at a window.
I feel like a walking contradiction inside myself, in my life.
With friends, I try to be the comical, helpful, supportive. With my husband, I also try to support, but I also try to stay in my lane and allow him to have the control, trying to be the submissive one, the one that lets him have all the credit. At work, I must be the one in control, the one with all the ideas, the authority. But which version of me is the truth? I constantly feel I’m on another borderline: between who I must be and who I really want to show, the version of myself I’ve built and the version of myself that’s hiding in the shadows. I’ve reinvented myself so many times in my life that I’m not even certain what that person in the shadows really looks like.
Then there’s the emotional borderline: the one that is the most dangerous, the one that can do the most damage. I walk the tightrope constantly, attempting to maintain my balance because falling means losing control. It could be said that this borderline is the one between health and illness, between safety and harm, between life and death. Falling from this height could mean self-destruction, going back to the hospital, or never walking any tightropes ever again.
How do those of us with BPD come away from the edge, how do we keep ourselves from falling off the cliff and drowning in the waters below?
I can tell you that pretending to be okay doesn’t work: “fake it ‘til you make it” isn’t in our body.
For Kiera Van Gelder, author of The Buddha and the Borderline, it takes years of dialectical behavior therapy and “taking refuge” in Buddhism to find the beginnings of recovery. I can only hope that by jumping in head first to DBT helps me step back from that cliff as well because I’m seriously scared of drowning.