I have Borderline Personality Disorder.
There, I said it. But what exactly does that mean? I used to think it meant that I could call myself a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, one who exists for the exclusive purpose of showing a broody, soulful man, how to live life to the fullest. A girl whose free spirit injected adventure into the lives of those around her, who took the seriousness of the world away. Sometimes I still do…
But, that is only sometimes. When I’m not MPDG, I’m BPD Nightmare. I am impulsive, reckless, needy, sad, I push people away, I beg them not to leave, I feel I deserve to be hated, but know I need to be loved. I become so riddled with anxiety that I shake until I’m sick, all because of imagined abandonment that terrifies me, which I end up inducing anyway; I am a living contradiction.
This is where I came unstuck with the MPDG. Once my BPD made itself known, I could no longer claim to be a 500 Days of Summer OR an Elizabethtown, and you know what? I’m not even sure I want to anymore. What I did start questioning though, is where my reflection came in terms of relatable characters. Now that I’d had to relinquish the Pixie, the ray of sunshine embodiment I had tried so hard to live up to was gone, in it’s place a raging storm that is every bit as beautiful, albeit with its difficulties.
Negative Traits of BPD: Emotional Instability / Fear of Abandonment / Unstable Relationships / Unstable Self Image / Impulsivity
Positive Traits of BPD: Empathetic / Intuitive / Compassionate / Creative / Curious / Loving
As far as fictional representations of BPD go, I have 2 that I adore; Faith Lehane (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Clementine Kruczynski (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).
Faith, in my opinion, is a classic case of BPD. She splits (fails to culminate positive and negative) so intensely that she can only be entirely good or entirely bad. She is reckless in her behaviour and has a desperate need to feel wanted. Faith has a hard time with self forgiveness, believing herself to be inherently evil after making a mistake, which sets her on her personal downward spiral. Eventually Faith is able to reconcile with herself, but only after an attempt at getting Angel to end her life. Instead, he offers to help Faith and sets about saving her from herself. Further down the line, Faith is sought out when Angel reverts to his vampire demon self. Refusing to put him down she exclaims ‘Angel’s the only one in my life who’s never given up on me. There’s no way I’m giving up on him’. It’s this part of Faith that resonated with me the most. She spent so long believing she was bad that it looked as though there was no way out for her. Instead, Faith is shown compassion, stability and love from Angel (the inherent things every Borderline needs) and through this she was able to function as a balanced human being, and get back to who she really was.
Clementine isn’t as dark as Faith, and that can be put down to subject matter. However, what also strikes me as different is the fact that Clem is self aware. She knows there’s something up. She can be noted for telling Joel that soon he’ll find something wrong with her, or she will get bored and leave (again with the splitting). Her unstable self-image is portrayed through her changing hair colour, and she is particularly neurotic. My favourite quote from Clem is as follows, and it perfectly sums up how it feels to live with frustration when you are so aware that you’re ‘different’ –
“I’m not a concept. I want you to just keep that in your head. Too many guys think I’m a concept or I complete them or I’m going to make them alive. But, I’m just a fucked-up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind. Don’t assign me yours”.
There seems to be a trend in the media to paint BPD’s as absolutely unhinged when its simply not the case. Sometimes we can appear to be, but this is down to the near on impossibility of us being able to regulate our emotions sufficiently. What you’re actually seeing is someone struggling to communicate internal pain in a way that makes any sense, who ends up getting so frustrated at their own inadequacy that everything turns to shit around them. My brain effectively shuts down. Everything is intense, whether I’m sad or happy I can guarantee that I’m not expressing it in a ‘normal’ way. Faith and Clem are my favourite and most relatable BPD characters because they are written in a way that shows all aspects of them. BPD isn’t just doom and gloom and mental breakdowns, it’s being so amazed by a sunset that you start crying, or crying so hard that you laugh. It’s wanting to make the people you love so happy that you’ll spend hours making tiny worry dolls from toothpicks and cotton, no matter how many times you end up pricking your finger on the needle you’ve used to thread. It’s being you worst, your best, and everything in between, and realising that actually, you’re far too complex to be a concept, and you were never meant to be just a Manic Pixie Dream Girl anyway.