I have had symptoms of both of these personality disorders since I was eleven years old. Who knows, I may have had them even earlier, but right around age 11-12 I distinctly remember noticing something...different about me. And when I look back, I see that my symptoms were the worst between the ages of 13 and 16, though to this day (at age 19) I struggle.
Let me give you a little background information on myself and what I think led to the development of my mental health problems.
Growing up as a child and teenager, I had no real structure or stability. I lived mainly with my mother, father, and younger brother (about a year and a half my junior), though I did stay with my grandparents (my mother's mother and step-father) for a few weeks to months at a time when I was a child. When with my parents, we moved a lot, and I mean A LOT. By the time I was 13, I had lived in Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina, Florida, and Arizona. And in each of these states we had multiple homes. Sometimes we'd only live in one rental for a month or two; the longest I ever lived in one house was two years, I believe. Not only did we move very frequently, but when I was 12 to 14 we were also homeless off and on. I don't mean 'we're staying with my aunt until we get back on our feet homeless' either, I mean 'living in a little tent village in the middle of a desert campground' homeless. Needless to say, I attended quite a number of different schools and there were even years I wasn't educated at all though I would study on my own and therefore ended up doing very in high school. Between kindergarten and 12th grade I was in 7 schools, two online school programs, and home schooled for a few years as well.
This upbringing definitely had an impact on me, but there is more. Growing up in my family was rough at times. Although my parents are both very good people who did their best, their own issues plus the stress of our chaotic situations made it really hard to feel comfortable at home. My father is an alcoholic and would be sober for months at a time, but then go on a binge and sometimes be out of my life for a bit. My mother had traumas of her own and suffered with depression, anxiety, and (suspected and undiagnosed) Bipolar Disorder. Because of these reasons, I was often confused by their reactions. I could do one thing on Monday and be screamed at and heavily chastised for it, but then if I did the same thing Tuesday it would be ignored. It was common for the household to turn into almost a battleground, with everyone yelling at everyone else...all over something tiny such as (literally) spilled milk. I wasn't given much discipline and was generally left to take care of myself; I was allowed to do things at a very young age that many people would consider very taboo.
On top of all the family issues I had growing up, there was also sexual abuse present. I was molested as a very young child, then at 12 I got into a 'relationship' with a much older guy who sexually and verbally abused me. At 14 I entered into a relationship with a guy my age who (later) was diagnosed as Bipolar and a Paranoid Schizophrenic. I was with him for nearly five years and went through sexual abuse on a very regular basis, as well as physical and verbal abuse. There were a few other instances of sexual trauma; all of which I'll go into detail about in a later post.
As I mentioned earlier, I noticed significant symptoms starting around the age of 12. This is the time when my life really began getting hectic and scary; before this point I was mostly shielded by my parents. I remember just feeling empty, hollow, and totally alone. This was the first time I really switched identities, which is very common in those with BPD. I felt like every move was a brand new opportunity to be someone new. People without BPD might also have felt this way, but it was more extreme than is 'normal'. I would totally switch from one identity to another, always hoping to find that one thing, that one person, that one cause, which would ease the feelings of being empty. For example, at age 12 I 'converted' to Christianity, Baptist to be precise. I began dressing in long skirts, reading the bible, getting rides to church with a neighbor. Then I got into my animal rights phase during which I was a vegetarian, member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); I was even a supporter of an organization classified by the FBI as domestic terrorists known as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). I had what I call my 'slut stage'; during this time all I cared about was partying, running away, getting attention from as many men as possible, wearing extremely provocative clothing, etc. This phase is definitely more indicative of HPD than BPD, but because of the change in total identity I still consider it a BPD 'episode' of mine. After this phase I became a 'hippie'. Then an avid Atheist. Then a disciplined Buddhist. Next a Pagan; I joined a coven and practiced every night for months. And the list goes on.
Why did I change my identity so much? Why would I drastically alter the fundamentals of who I was? Like I said, there is a pervasive hollowness that is always present until something or someone peaks your interest. Then I'd dive in with my whole self; researching for days on end with no sleep, meeting new people, even changing my name, buying new clothes, etc. Most of these 'identities' lasted between a few months and a year, then I'd do a sort of purge. One little thing would throw me off (i.e. if it was a religion I was currently fixated on, I might see a fundamental of that religion and disagree with it) and I just couldn't handle being that me anymore. I'd abruptly stop talking to people, throw away all my journals, burn all my notes, and get that (now) past life as far away from me as possible. Then the emptiness came back until something else became the new me.
To this day I do this type of behavior, just in smaller more manageable ways. For example, instead of leaving my boyfriend after a fight because he didn't live up to my perfect expectations, I'll just back off for a day or so until I'm thinking clearly again. My journals are a really good example of this behavior. I've always been an avid writer and really enjoy documenting my day to day life and feelings. I will spend a decent amount of money on a brand new, beautiful notebook or journal. The first day or so I will write neatly, be very descriptive, etc. Then I'll get upset or just lazy one day and write sloppily...for some reason now that there is one small defect in the journal, the entire thing gets thrown away. It's rare for me to keep one for more than a week.
"Splitting" is a symptom of BPD that I really struggle with. Splitting is black or white thinking, all or nothing, good or bad; technically over idealization and devaluation. This can happen with people, jobs, pretty much everything. I'll give an example. Say I'm having a fun date with my boyfriend, I'll feel like he's the best person on the face of the earth. Not just in the normal girly way; I'll feel like he can do no wrong, like he's almost got god like qualities, like I'll do anything just to make him smile. I'll want to be with him constantly. I will end up expectations for him in my head. Then the instant one of my UNREALISTIC expectations is not met, I flip, or "split". I will totally devalue him as a boyfriend and as a person. I'll think he's a horrible person who doesn't care about me or love me, I'll have the urge to leave his life completely (though thank god I've controlled myself well enough in this way), etc. Only a few hours or days later I'll be back to over idealizing him. The same thing happens in jobs, religious and spiritual beliefs, relationships with family and friends, causes and groups I support, etc.
At the core of splitting (in my opinion) is the fantasy that plays out in my mind. I will have a random thought, usually negative or insecure in nature, then I'll run with it and develop an entire fantasy based around it, which turns into almost a truth. For example, I can be out with my best friend when we run into one of her other friends. I tiny thought crosses my mind that she likes this other girl more and next thing I know I'm fully positive that she is faking how much she likes me and really would rather be with this other girl. It sounds ridiculous being explained, but that's how it works.
Also a big issue of mine is fear of abandonment. It isn't nearly as bad now as it used to be; it's not as big of a problem for me this exact moment as splitting, but it is still there. It's not that I walk around everyday thinking that everyone is conspiring to leave me, but the thoughts creep up on me from little situations. My boyfriend or friend or mother will criticize me on a small flaw or mistake of mine (such as me forgetting to do the dishes, or I'll be told I'm 'acting bitchy', etc.) and then those intrusive thoughts come into my head where I JUST KNOW that I'll be left alone because this person sees all my screw ups and can't love me, doesn't truly love me, they've been lying the whole time, and on and on. This intense fear used to make me a pretty controlling person because I was so terrified of losing what I cared about. Over time, with the help of a man who loves me, I learned that controlling situations won't hold onto something or someone. I find myself thinking these things, but I've gotten pretty good at not acting on them.
Now, the HPD also plays a role in my life. For most of my life, I dressed really provocatively, even from a super young age. I still dress far from modestly, but I make a huge effort not to show too much. Up until only two weeks ago, I needed a full face of makeup to go out. Part of it was the normal insecurities of a young woman, but another part was getting attention. To be honest, I didn't even realize this symptom until a few days ago! I thought I just liked dressing that way and hated the attention; because it does make me uncomfortable sometimes...so it made no sense to me. But it's true. I also tend to become the 'center of attention'...turning a conversation into a speech, etc. In the past I also had issues with impulse control (which I'll detail in the future), which thankfully I've come pretty far with. I was a self-injurer from the ages of 12 to 16, and also dealt with Eating Disorders between 15 and 18. I still find myself trying to impress people or do whatever it takes to gain their approval...and when I don't have it I feel extremely depressed. A lot of people in my life have called me a bitch, or cold, or uncaring, or even selfish because of my shallow emotions. It's not that I don't care about others, I really truly do deep inside, it's just that IN THE MOMENT I only have the ability to look at my own thoughts, feels, and situations.
The 'Chameleon Effect' is mostly noted in literature about BPD, but a characteristic of HPD is very similar and so I'm sort of grouping it as one. Basically, us Borderlines and Histrionics can read people very quickly and easily. Within moments of meeting someone I can take in their manner of speech, dress, age, opinions, etc. and sort of morph into someone more resembling this person. Very quickly we learn how to gauge someones reaction to certain things and we'll use this to our advantage at times. It's not that we're trying to manipulate people or be deceitful, it honestly just subconsciously happens. In some ways people love this about us because I can be the best girlfriend, the best friend you've ever had, the perfect employee. At the end of the day though, this makes it really tough to figure out who I really am.
So, this is the basic story of me; I will be writing a part two soon.