Borderline Personality Disorder and Attention-Seeking
Editor’s note: If you struggle with suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
I’ve tried to reach out blindly to so many people for help these past few months, and all that’s done is given me the label “attention-seeker,” written off as manipulative, a liar and a waste of time.
Attention-seekers like myself are written off as lost causes instead of treated like people who are seriously and constantly hurting, who are only “wasting your time” because they know their own is running out. I want your attention the same way a person drowning wants the attention of a lifeguard, but I can’t scream for help and raise my hand because instead of drowning in water I am drowning in my own heightened emotions.
One of the most severe symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is recurring self-harm and suicidal behavior/attempts.
When it comes to feeling suicidal, I’ve noticed people stop taking you seriously after a while. If I was going to kill myself, surely I would have done it by now. In the minds of those who aren’t consumed by this disorder, I’m simply crying wolf in order to feast on some nice juicy attention again. The thing about “crying wolf” is that the wolf is invisible, but it’s still there. The reason I’m crying wolf is because the wolf is going to kill me.
I don’t know how anyone can feel like this for even one second of their entire existence and not explode fragments of their bleeding heart everywhere, because every second of being alive is exhausting. BPD has been described as the emotional equivalent of having third degree burns over 90 percent of your body. This disorder I wasn’t even aware I have has impacted every single part of my life.
The sleepless nights that turn into empty days.
The drugs and alcohol that numb for a minute and pain for an hour.
The constant, always present feelings of worthlessness and shame and of guilt. Guilt for who I am and what I’ve done to the people who used to be around me or are still tied to me because of relation or university class or a lease.
Cooking enough food to feed four even though I’m not hungry because it’s been days since I’ve remembered to swallow anything solid and that’s how many attempts it’s going to take to stay down. Pretending there’s something wrong with my scales because there’s no way I could be that weight, is there? It hasn’t been that long since I last ate…has it?
Holding knives against my throat at 3 a.m. because I can’t stand another second alone with my thoughts, tying scarves and chords into nooses that break, routinely overdosing on drugs not just on weekends with “friends” but in the middle of the afternoon alone in my bedroom, praying this is it. This will be the time my heart finally gives up and shuts down.
Crying, then laughing, then needing to cut, then laughing, then crying again, then arguing with myself about jumping off a building, then needing a hug. All in the space of an hour. Every hour. No breaks, no time outs, not even when I’m asleep because apparently with BPD even your subconscious is as unstable and spasmodic as you are. Nightmares and pleasant dreams lurch back and forth at sickening speeds until you awake confused and frightened, your reality questionable.
Always letting down the people in my life because no matter how hard I try I can never be more than what I am. Knowing that everyone I love who hasn’t already done so will leave me and never look back because they think there’s nothing left to look back on.
The look of disgust but not surprise on my beautiful housemate’s face when after everything I have put him through, from suicide attempts to uncontrollable emotional outbursts that required him to physically restrain me and call the police, he comes home to find me in my room drunk or high.
He thinks I don’t care, but all I do is care and that is why I can’t stop doing the things that are ruining my life. There is no neutral or in-between emotions for me, and until I learned what borderline personality disorder was I thought everyone felt the way I did and just handled it better.
Every emotion is like getting in the shower and either being hit with a stream of freezing ice cold water that makes your skin turn blue with cold and your teeth chatter, or getting assaulted with boiling hot water that stings your flesh and burns you deeply. I understand what lukewarm showers are, but I am unable to experience them.
The shower analogy also explains the way I see people around me. Black and white. All good or all bad. I will meet someone at a bar, share a laugh with them, accept their friend request on Facebook and then all but propose to them. Strangers will become family almost immediately and things like them not replying to my messages within a quick manner or rejecting an invite to hang out have the same impact on me as if they had punched me in the face or told me they wished I was dead. They have just confirmed everything I had always known about myself to be true. I’m disgusting. I’m unlovable. I’m nothing. Everyone hates me. I’m alone.
One of my best friends who now refuses to speak to me, once spoke to me on the phone for four hours when I was distressed. Not for the first time that week he did everything humanly possible to put me in a better headspace and reassure me I was loved, and it worked. Until he said goodbye and hung up the phone. Then it was as if those four hours had never happened. I remembered everything he had said and I still believed it all to be true, but I couldn’t retain the positive emotions I felt when he was speaking to me. I couldn’t hold on to the sense of relief and love I had felt only seconds ago, the shower was turned back on full blast and I was burning. So I called someone else. And when they hung up I messaged another person. My phone became full of screenshots of words of support and love from all those I communicated with, and for a while it helped me, but if I wasn’t continually receiving messages that proved people cared about me I would assume they had come to their senses and realized they would be better off without me in their lives. This fear of abandonment consumes me and causes my emotions to manifest into situations in which I will impulsively act out in dangerous ways in an attempt to communicate my pain to those around me or to try and sooth the storm inside me. These impulsive behaviors may seem like they are for attention, but more than half the time they take place when I am alone and no one is aware of them.
I’ve woken up more than once on my bedroom floor after purposely overdosing on a cocktail of drugs, surrounded by suicide notes I have no recollection of writing and a bleeding wrist. I have then continued on with my day because the world doesn’t stop just because I have. On my mother’s birthday I nearly took my own life after an argument with first my housemate and then her. I sat sobbing for nearly 10 hours trying to simultaneously convince myself to “just do it!” and also “Don’t be stupid!” I had convinced myself the best present I could give my mom was to not be in her life any longer. I convinced myself the only way I could make things right with my housemate was to permanently end my existence so he never had to look at me again.
I can’t remember the last day I’ve had where I haven’t seriously considered killing myself as the most viable option at least once. I am plagued by hopelessness. I can’t hold down a job because my emotional breakdowns happen out of the blue and I am unable to turn up to my shifts. I can’t do or say anything to get the friends that mean absolutely everything to me back in my life and in my corner again because no matter how badly I want to change and get better, I am a prisoner of my own pain and there is no key. I can’t find permanent accommodation because I can’t afford to live by myself and no one can stand to live with me. I can’t walk past a store without spending whatever small amount of money I have saved for bills or food on something to numb the pain.
It never stops and I don’t know where this disorder ends and I begin. Realizing what was causing my life to be so hard also made me realize I don’t know who I am, but I know who I’m not.
I’m not J. Jarvis anymore. Maybe I never really was.
I lost her somewhere between the sixth drink and the second pill. After the nightmares started happening while she was awake and the sun went down permanently.
I’m not the stand-up comedian or the soccer player or the writer I once prided myself on being.
I’m not anyone’s friend or anyone’s housemate or someone you met at a party once.
All I am is pain and loneliness and defeat swirling around in an underweight, scarred and tired shell. I’m only 20-years-old and already my life feels over. I want it to be over.
If you know someone with BPD please, just give them a hug because for that three to five seconds, you’ll make the unbearable agony inside of them endurable, and that’s all we are trying to do. We have no other choice. Every poor decision, every attention-seeking action is us trying to endure.