Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Back From the Brink: Living With Borderline Personality Disorder

Huffington Post ~ On a glaring July day in 2001, having just received a breakup email from my boyfriend, I walked into the bathroom and tried to kill myself. I remember hearing my cat meow at me as I downed every pill in the medicine cabinet and the room faded to gray, then black. What I do not remember is the paramedics breaking down the door to save me, but the webcams took pictures of that. Fresh out of art school and thinking I was making an important statement, I'd become one of the first "camgirls," young women who broadcast our lives to the world.
Three days later, I woke up in the intensive care unit with an IV in my right hand and my mother holding my left. I was angry I had lived, overcome with guilt and shame about what I had put my loved ones through, and desperate to call my ex and beg him to take me back. In other words, I woke up with the same raw desperation, the same lack of skin.
It was the latest in a long line of suicide attempts, after 17 years of having an eating disorder. I was terrified of and exhausted by the world. I no longer trusted myself to be around people; I inevitably scared them off with my rage and self-loathing. Never-ending chaos is no way to live, and I had been living it for as long as I could remember. So much so that I had a literal drama degree; constantly filling myself with another character was the only way I survived college. (Then I got a spiky haircut and an M.F.A. in performance art, because the guy I'd convinced myself I couldn't live without told me Laurie Anderson was the only woman he'd ever marry.)
The day I came home from the hospital, I was greeted by dozens of websites featuring images of me swallowing pills, passing out and being rescued. There I was slumped on the floor with my head in the toilet, surrounded by prescription bottles. There were the paramedics, hauling me out of the bathroom. In my email was a massive web hosting bill and notice that my account had been canceled. I couldn't afford the bandwidth used by all the people who'd tuned in to watch me die - my biggest audience ever, for the performance I'll never live down.
I had known for years I had a mental illness; that much was blatantly obvious. For years, I'd been diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. I was as comfortable with the label as one can be; bipolar disorder was, after all, just a chemical imbalance, a few neuronal switches flipped the wrong direction here and there. Borderline personality disorder, on the other hand, the whispered thing I'd heard, was a wicked jungle-bred stepchild of a diagnosis. Borderline was Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction." It was a shameful, incurable thing to be.
But I continued to flagrantly be it, until the day when my latest therapist (I was always firing them in a huff, or being fired because they didn't want the liability of dealing with a suicidal patient) gave me a piece of paper with the phone number for the dialectical behavior therapy program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. "You have borderline personality disorder," she said. "D.B.T. will help you. This is where you need to be."

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