Forget Everything I’ve Said – I’ve Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder

Introduction to This Blog Series

I was 27 years old when I entered into the realization that there was something wrong with me and one of the original diagnosis was Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD. 

I say something wrong with me because I was just not able to manage my life on my own and somehow knew there was something wrong with my mind.

Back then, not a lot was known about this horribly stigmatized disorder because BPD patients were considered impossible to treat or wrongly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. 

Along with BPD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS) were also added to my diagnostic mix.

ADHD was quickly debunked and over the past two decades most professionals leaned towards my having PTSD or a Dissociative Disorder – but something about these disorders never seemed to fit.

Add menopause to the mix and the confusion became even more confusing.

Anxiety

Here are past blogs I’ve written about my struggles with anxiety and what felt like PTSD or DDNOS:

Alcohol Addiction

As well, I have a history of alcohol addiction.

On February 17th, 2020 I began living an alcohol-free life.

My Struggles With Alcohol Can be Read in These Blogs:

Present Day

At 52 years old, and after a thorough assessment by a seasoned psychiatrist – I was finally properly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.

This blog series called Owning and Unraveling Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder is my way of processing and understanding these complex personality disorders and how they manifest, interfere with and enhance my life.

And, as it has been said to me from friends who have family members with Borderline Personality Disorder, perhaps I can help dispel misconceptions and stigmas associated with these mental illnesses.

As well, perhaps I can shed some light and more personal information on what living with Histrionic Personality Disorder is like, for those who are also walking this path.

With hope,

Stephanie, 💛

December 18th, 2016 - Grinderwald, Switzerland -Männlichen Ski Resort
December 18th, 2016 – Grinderwald, Switzerland -Männlichen Ski Resort

The Beginning of a New Journey

February 9th, 2022.

Diagnosis day, again.

Last diagnosis days were over 20 years ago. This included four different diagnosis by experts – four different opinions on why I was the way I was.

I’m over 20 years of living with a brain I somehow knew wasn’t operating properly.

As mentioned, add menopause to the mix and the confusion became even more confusing.

And again, I was 27 years old when I entered into the realization that there was something wrong with me and one of the original diagnosis was Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD.

But, not a lot was known about this horribly stigmatized disorder because BPD patients were considered impossible to treat or wrongly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

Along with BPD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS) were also added to the diagnostic mix.

I had symptoms of each diagnosis that overlapped.

I’m going to write about how I experienced each past diagnosis given to me. I’m not going to go into too much detail with each diagnosis – just a brief overview of what I can best remember of how I experienced the symptoms that classically define them.

For most of my adult life, I have been wearing the lens of possibly having PTSD and DDNOS.

This is because most of the doctors and therapists I saw over the years, leaned towards these diagnoses.

I’m four days into my new diagnosis of BPD and Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) and won’t discuss then too much, as they are basically new to me – especially the HPD.

ADHD Theory Debunked

I did not show the symptoms from childhood.

I had the impulsivity. I still do. I mean how many people marry someone they hardly know then give up their entire life and move to the Middle East with them? I’d say that is impulsive, a risk taker. ps…. we’re still married!

I had the lack of focus, and still do. I don’t sit still very well. Conversations – the focus it requires is painful. Even more insidious is the level of disinterest I have in conversations. I want to be interested. I know I should be. I really do care about people. It is just really hard for me to do. This most recent insight into me is still to be explored with my therapist.

I had the lack of being able to follow through on tasks. I would start an interest in something and never follow though. Nothing seemed to “fit” me. I would bounce all over the place.

I had struggles with employment – chronically underemployed. 37 jobs by the time I was 37. I was fired from Tim Hortons for stealing. Charges were never pressed.

I have interpersonal struggles – being around people – feeling different from everyone else. I was/am considered loud and love to be the life of the party (but always regret later because I’m sure I’ve upset someone or embarrassed someone).

But, the meds didn’t work on me – another huge indicator I did not have ADHD.

PTSD – But Something Is Missing

I have the flooding feelings of fear triggered by certain people, places, and things manifesting in what looks to either be a panic attack or a trauma response.

My body can also go into somatic response and release when I’m in an episode that feels like a panic attack or a trauma response.

What was missing was a specific episode in my life that I either experienced or witnessed that I felt like I was experiencing, again, in real time – when I was in an episode.

This was REALLY tricky for me to understand and to identify as I would explain a symptom rather than a situation.

I didn’t realize I was doing this.

I would be in a situation in real time and be flooded with fear from being triggered by a person, place or thing.

The fear was always loss.

Fear of loss.

Someone or something was going to take something or someone from me.

Or that I was doing something wrong and going to get in trouble, fired or hurt. I have a horrible fear of authority figures.

I would be reminded of a fearful situation, yes. But, I didn’t or don’t feel like I’m back there. I’m just reminded of an event, how awful it was for me and now have the opportunity to release the emotions attached to it.

I’m not in a flashback.

Another major symptom of PTSD I never experienced was/is night terrors or nightmares about a specific situation that would flood me with fear.

It took a lot of digging by my psychiatrist during her assessment of me, with very clever questions on specific questions on the PTSD Checklist (PCL).

For me, the turning point was when she focused on question #12 – Feeling as if your future will somehow be cut short?

I was asked if I felt like I was going to die and that was why my future would be cut short.

My answer was not that I was going to die. My future was going to be cut short because I was going to lose everything. Someone was going to take something from me. Someone was going to leave me. I’m just not worthy enough to deserve the reality of my life, even though I’m working hard to have it.

For me, everything changed in that moment.

That was why I looked like I had PTSD – because I was scared all the time.

But scared of losing everything = abandonment.

Not scared in a PTSD sorta way because I am not reliving the trauma.

This was very hard for me to understand because when I am triggered into fear – I feel the fear so intensely that I can’t imagine it being anything OTHER than a PTSD flashback.

Not to say that I didn’t experience difficulty and trauma. I had my share of difficult times over the years, starting when I was very little with an alcoholic, cheating father whom my mother divorced and soon after I was sexually molested by a great uncle.

But, I am not reliving those memories in the here and now.

My fear is from something else.

Paranoia = Intense Unwarranted Mistrust of Others = Looks Like PTSD

This has been a part of my mental chatter for as long as I can remember.

My mistrust in people developed in my early teens. It was then I became a people drifter.

I always thought this was because my father cheated on my mother and other scenarios in my life that merited my distrust in men.

That said, for a variety of other reasons – either imagined or real (I struggle to differentiate) I inherently do not believe/trust people.

This symptom can look like PTSD, because having an inherent lack of trust in others is a part of PTSD.

DIDNOS – Yes But No – Just a Symptom

This was/is a crazy ride. I’m still trying to understand this.

Back when I first seeked treatment, I was sent to yet another psychiatrist who was the first to diagnose me with DDNOS. At this time I was doing a lot of inner child work with my therapist at Avalon Sexual Assault centre (who referred me to this psychiatrist) and was very familiar with the parts within me.

This psychiatrist who diagnosed me with DDNOS and I quickly had a falling out as I started to pull away from him. He cancelled our sessions.

I was left with the impression that there is something wrong with me and my brain.

As well, during those early times in my healing journey with inner child work, I had come to give “parts” of me names – only because my therapist asked and I said “sure”, and started naming them – when I hadn’t actually given them names before she asked.

Had I never been asked if I named my parts, and my answering yes because I thought that was the right answer to give – perhaps I would never have been referred to the psychiatrist who diagnosed with DDNOS. I told him I named my parts. He jumped on the DDNOS bandwagon. I remember thinking how quick he was to diagnose me when he really didn’t know me.

Here, I believe is where the easily impressionable symptom of Histrionic Personality Disorder showed itself and another reason why therapy was so hard for me, I constantly aimed to please. It was hard to tell my truth verses morphing into whatever the therapists asked.

Back to real time, and today, what I do experience is that feeling of disconnect.

And, dissociation – feeling disconnected and outside of yourself – is a symptom of BPD.

I feel disconnected from me. When I look in the mirror – I know that is me. I just don’t feel connected to the person looking back at me in the mirror.

I feel disconnected from my life. I feel separate from experiences in my life – both the good and the bad. Like someone else has lived them – not me – when I think about specific memories.

I feel disconnected from my feelings – sometimes. What happens is I get flooded with strong emotions and then I start to check out and the emotion lives in my body and I can feel it there.

This disconnect – can also feel like depersonalization (or maybe it is?) – that is also a symptom of PTSD.

The Confusion of Menopause and Poorly Regulated and Excessive Emotional Responses

What a ride.

I asked the psychiatrist who diagnosed me, who is a woman and according to my current therapist (who worked with this psychiatrist and knows her well), if my emotional instability and crazy “mood swings” are the result of menopause.

No.

And yes, menopause can exasperate emotional dysregulation.

Chronic Emptiness & Lack of Sense of Self & Feeling Powerless

This is much more difficult to explain and only truly shows itself when I unpack it in front of my therapist. At least to me, that is when it shows itself because that is when I allow myself to feel it the most.

It feels like the inability to connect to the experiences in my life and feel them within me; I can feel like an empty shell.

It feels like self-doubt at all times, questioning my ability to confidently be me – whoever me is as I imagine myself to be lots of things but wear them rather than feel connected to them.

As a result I consistently feel insecure, unsure and uncomfortable in my own skin.

This lack of sense of self manifests in the constant need of approval from another person to live my life, to help me make decisions by making them for me.

If you say okay, it must be. Typically, If I say okay – but you say not okay, I will defer to your okay.

Read that again.

I give all my power away – because I do not believe I have any. The only arena I feel I have power is with sex. But we will get to that later.

I live always on an an edge of needing approval for mostly everything I do to feel safe and okay in my life.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder was first put on the table when I was 27 years old.

I truly believe now, that I know why this diagnosis wasn’t followed through with back then because I wasn’t experiencing or exhibiting the extreme nature of the personality disorder that makes it so hard to treat.

  • I wasn’t cutting myself – self – harm.
  • I wasn’t attempting suicide to prevent people from leaving me.
  • My behavior didn’t appear Bipolar (BPD is commonly misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder) with extreme mood swings of hysterical happiness to despairing lows.

Back then, I was very contained because I kept myself very closed – scared to death to show my true self and understanding me. I was wild, yes. But, I wore many masks. I had no idea who I was. I struggled to live in the world.

Here is the kicker – back then (and perhaps, just as I am now with this blog) I would tell someone who I just met my entire life story. I was very overwhelming. Hot and fast.

Other times, when I opened the valve in my brain, I sometimes felt so free and had the best times of my life.

Other times, I found myself in situations where I think back and I am lucky I am alive.

According to handouts my therapist gave me ( I saw her the day after my diagnosis), BPD is a complex and serious mental disorder involving multiple symptoms and maladaptive behavior.

Thankfully, over the decades since BPD was first introduced to me, a lot has changed in treating it and how it is perceived.

According to the information from my therapist, BPD is characterized by:

  • frantic efforts to avoid perceived abandonment
  • long standing problems with relationships
  • identity of sense of self
  • the control of emotion and behavior

The article also says that people with BPD often have other personality disorders and mental illnesses, as well as related alcohol and drug abuse.

I am at the edge of a new starting place. I actually bought the book Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies as a simple starting place to try and understand what seems to be a complex disorder.

I know this diagnosis fits.

The journey is seeing how it manifested in my life to bring me to today.

To embrace the fun aspects of this disorder and change the parts that aren’t working for me.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

This was a shocker.

But, before we get to the sex – those with HPD – their self-esteem depends on the approval of others and does not come from a true feeling of self-worth.

Bang.

Right there is my life.

I always thought this was because I am an only child of a strong-willed mother.

As well, for as far back as I can remember, I was always a people pleaser, wearing many masks to fit in. I wonder if the HPD trait of being easily influenced by others can be identified as people pleasing? A good question for my therapist.

As mentioned, those with HPD tend to be easily influenced by others. I find this trait fascinating and such a contrast to the sexual power a person with HPD can have.

This sexual power is part of being the centre of attention for those with HPD. Those with HPD use sex and sensuality to be the centre of attention.

I thought every woman likes to make an entrance, to be the centre of attention and the prettiest woman in the room.

It seems there is something a bit more complex about this diagnosis than just enjoying making an entrance.

There is.

I have felt this and lived it.

It is just hard to write about when family and friends are reading this.

But, this is my story.

Hopefully, family, friends and my community will come to look with accepting eyes. Not judgement.

I love sex.

I always have.

Thankfully, my husband loves sex, too. So, we’re a good fit that way.

I do not want a stigma to stop me from talking about this.

I want to be able to tell my story while respecting societal norms, but perhaps I can push (just a bit) the boundaries of society norms, too?

So Now What?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

This helps with BPD.

My therapist and I will be starting this together.

As well, a time line of my life.

I’ve been trying, for years, to piece my life together in a timeline that makes sense in an attempt to understand the puzzle that is my brain and what caused it to be this way.

It seems biology and the social environment are key to the development of BPD.

HPD – I don’t know much about this, yet.

So, I welcome you to my new blog series of unraveling and owning Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.

I hope in some way, my writing about this journey helps another get the clarity I’m seeking as I write these blogs.

S, ☀️

Quote - Robert Tew - The Struggle You're In Today

Photo Credit – Pinterest

Owning and Unraveling Borderline Personality Disorder & Histrionic Personality Disorder

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Jennifer Henry says:

    Steph- from the moment I met you, I was drawn to your energy. You are literally a ray of sunshine and your laugh just warms my soul. Reading this makes me appreciate you even more. You putting this out in the universe helps all of us with mental illness. Your honesty and bravery are epic and I’m so blessed to know you ❤️

    1. Thank you so much Jenn. Your words are very appreciated. I’m lucky to work along side you. Peer support with those who navigate mental illness is so valuable, especially when women are supporting women! HUGS!!!! 🌼💛💛🌼💛

  2. Nothing is wrong with you. If something was wrong with you, you would have ignored this and not kept trying to get answers. Mental health is normal and should be talked about just as that and just as you are doing 💚

    1. 💛💛💛

  3. And now I finished reading but lose my thoughts so I apologize for the double posting.

    Thanks for sharing so much and being so real. I appreciate that and enjoyed reading and learning about all that. Keep being resilient and breaking stigmas and taking care of yourself. I am so impressed with you never giving up and continuing to seek answers and I am glad you have some now and I hope it sits right, sounds like it makes more sense now 💚

    1. No apology needed. 💛 Your words of support mean so much! This is scary stuff putting this out there. And, it is one way of processing and understanding what is happening to me. Step-by-step….. 🌼💛🌼

  4. Cathy says:

    I’ve always adored you and your energy. Reading this gave me hope for my 20 year old daughter who has been suffering for years with BPD. I’m giving this to her to read so she can maybe not feel so hopeless!! Hugs Steph and if you need an ear I’m here!! Xoxoxo

    1. I’m processing this….as this validates my decision to be so public with my journey. As you can imagine, the very nature of BPD makes it hard to reach out to people….and thank you so much for this, Cathy….. hope truly is a gift….. 🌼💛🌼💛

  5. mama says:

    Stephanie, sounds like you have found a knowledgeable and compatible guide for your journey. We are hopeful that your personal goals will be fulfilled. Also anything that will help you get more clarity on misconceptions, stigmas, and anything else will be a bonus. Never doubt you are loved and we ( mama & DV ) are always near by. 💖💖

    1. Thank you, mama. 🌼💛🌼💛

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