Where do I end and my mental illnesses begin? The question that patronizes me every single day of my life. When I first was diagnosed, I remember a friend of mine calling me out, telling me that I was making my whole identity my mental health diagnoses. She challenged me to change my mantra to “I have Borderline,” not “I am Borderline.” It definitely helped, but I still struggle with keeping me and my mental illnesses separate.
When I begin to doubt a relationship, I automatically assume it’s rooted in facts that I have experienced. But when I stop to think about the doubt, the knowledge that people with Borderline can have really unstable views of relationships dawns on me. Now not only am I doubting the relationship, I’m doubting the fact that I’m doubting! I’ve ended or almost ended a number of relationships because I doubted them, and I wanted to jump the gun and end the relationship before they had a chance to the same. In a weird way, I figured I’d be less hurt if I was the one to end it, rather than be the one to be left behind. But at the end of the day, I find myself alone and without my friend, often unnecessarily.
Sometimes I don’t even realize or make a conscious decision to end the relationship. Sometimes I sabotage the relationship without even fully realizing what I’m doing. There was one time I lied about one of my mental health diagnoses to my support group in an effort to get the attention and support that I felt like I needed from my best friends, boyfriend, and his family. At the time I wasn’t aware that that’s what I was doing. All I knew was that I finally felt listened to and supported. Doctors had speculated that I had this diagnosis, but ultimately decided I didn’t have the disorder. It felt all too easy to run with it, especially since some of the manifestations of Borderline Personality Disorder were similar to the manifestations of this other disorder. It was a frantic grab to ensure that I wasn’t going to lose my friends or have my boyfriend break up with me. But one day, while playing up the false disorder, my boyfriend’s mom questioned the validity of what I was saying and doing. I panicked and knew that I was caught. I stormed out of his house and drove to therapy. I cried harder than I had in years. That was the last time I saw my boyfriend. That night I stayed with my best friend’s parents because I felt like if I went back to my apartment and spent the night alone, that I wouldn’t be able to keep myself safe. That next day was the day I attempted suicide and got very close to succeeding. I spent the next few days in the hospital on the psych ward. During those days, my two best friends told me that they needed a two-week break from me and my boyfriend broke up with me. In frantically attempting to keep my relationships, I lost all of them. Ever since then, I feel like I’m always walking on eggshells with my relationships, questioning myself every time my illnesses seem to take over. I wish I was better at making the distinction between which actions of mine are legit and which ones are symptoms of one of my mental illnesses.
After that attempt, I threw myself into books, trying to learn everything that I could about my mental illnesses. I became unhealthily obsessed, like I talked about in my post “I’m My Own Bestie.” I studied everything that I could about my mental illnesses, trying to learn everything there was to learn. I wanted to know what parts of my relationships and my life were because of my mental illnesses, and which parts were just part of being human. I never wanted to go through losing friends or a significant other again. But the truth of the matter is that that’s just a part of life. Friends drift apart, couples break up. Mental illness or no, these things happen. Simultaneously, my mental illnesses DO have an impact on my relationships. I feel like I’m a part of this never-ending cycle of not knowing what’s my mental illnesses and what’s just part of life.
Having struggled with this for years, I’m beginning to radically accept that I may never always know the difference. It’s not always easy, dealing with unknowns and absolutes. I’m learning to live with my disorders, and I think part of that is learning that I may never know which is which. Have you ever struggled with this? Do you have any thoughts on knowing what’s you versus what’s just your mental illness? Let me know in the comments below!