What It’s Like to Have Borderline Personality Disorder

Written By PATRICK MARLBOROUGH

“I keep seeing my neighbor’s pool in winter, just an empty bowl of dusty blue tiles. Imagine standing in the middle of that, when suddenly, the pool fills up. In an instant, you’re drowning.”

It’s Mental Health Week across Australia. Each state starts and ends the special week at different times, but today—Monday—there’s a lot of overlap. So I want to explain why this week should feel like an important call to arms, and tell you what it’s like to live with a common—and little understood—mental illness: borderline personality disorder, or BPD.

Between 1 and 2 percent of Australians suffer from BPD. Women are up to three times more likely to have it than men. It is often connected to (or misdiagnosed as) another mental illnesses, which means it can get lost in other, bigger discussions. It can blend in with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. It might be genetic, or it may result from trauma. It might also be both, or neither.

It is hard to offer a simple medical definition of BPD, but I’ve heard it brilliantly summed up as “chronic irrationality.” Think severe mood swings, impulsivity, instability, and a whole lot of explosive anger.

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