A Box Full of Darkness: Growing Up in the Shadow of BPD

Someone I loved once gave me
A box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
That this, too, was a gift.
-Mary Oliver

I can’t remember now how I ran across this poem by Mary Oliver. I saved it, because the box-full-of-darkness metaphor seemed genius. As time went by, its relevance to my experience became clearer. The poem eventually served as an epigraph for my book Missing: Coming to Terms with a Borderline Mother.

First, here’s what I won’t be saying about these lines. I won’t say that all dark boxes become gifts. The loss of a child or debilitating pain or one’s own mental illness? Starvation? Violence? Are these gifts, or can they become gifts? It feels presumptuous to say so. I can speak only to my own experience, and a largely blessed and lucky experience it has been.
Continue Reading


Stop Blaming Stigma: Take Responsibility for Yourself

Stigma: A set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something (Merriam-Webster).

Let’s get the full disclosure out of the way first: I have bipolar disorder (type II, leans far more toward the depressive side than the manic) and borderline personality disorder (would take too long to explain; look it up if you like). I have been on disability for four years because of a nine-month depressive episode for which I received nine months of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). It pretty much destroyed my brain. I no longer have a short-term memory of which to speak.

I can’t function in a lot of ways like I used to. I work part-time, for a psychologist who understands my many limitations and helps me work around them. But I could never go back to what I used to do in any aspect of life and expect to handle it like a normal adult.
Continue Reading


Moving on from Dysfunctional Relationships

Not so long ago, I joined a Facebook group for abuse survivors, in hopes of finding support and encouragement. While I was encouraged and supported in the best way an anonymous person on the Internet could be, I felt there was too much reliance on the word “narcissist.” As I tried to find intelligent solace in reading members' posts, I discovered many people playing the martyr. (I had observed that behavior in my own mother). Many of these people seeking and offering advice probably suffered from some mental or personality disorder as well.

I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I have also been told I have low self-esteem. Despite my plethora of issues, I am still able to see myself and others through a clear lens.

Continue Reading

Anxiety and Panic

Surprise Diagnoses

When I was diagnosed with PTSD at the beginning of the year, it came as a surprise to me. I’d gone to this psychologist for a potential BPD diagnosis. I walked out with not only that, but four years' worth of PTSD as well.

It was surprising because in these four years I’d not once thought about this disorder; it never even occurred to me. But as I thought about it, letting it sink in, things started making sense. And since the diagnosis, I’ve had to think about what happened. Because I really didn’t deal with it; I'm still having trouble figuring out where to go from here.
Continue Reading

Borderline Personality

Always Recovering, Never Recovered

"Always recovering, never recovered." A simple sentence that can be a harsh reminder. That's not to say your efforts or how far you've gotten were for naught, but to keep getting back up when you do fall.

I've learned over the years, of course, that it's extremely important to know you are not alone. Others are struggling and surviving alongside you and it's nothing to be ashamed of.

Continue Reading

Borderline Personality


“Who is going to step up?”

How many of us recall this trite saying from our gruff high school coach? We winced every time he muttered these well-worn proverbs. But the Ol’ Ball Coach was right -- just in a different context.

As diehard fans, our attention is misplaced. We can dissect a player’s batting average against left-handed relievers during Tuesday day games. We can analyze a shooting guard’s player efficiency rating against the woebegone Sacramento Kings. We can recite the contractual language for a third-string quarterback. But if we deign to discuss sports and mental health, screamin’ Stan from the South Bronx swallows his microphone.
Continue Reading

Borderline Personality

Borderline Personality Disorder: Facts vs. Myths

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious psychiatric condition marked by a pattern of unstable and stormy relationships, an unformed sense of identity, chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom, unstable moods, and poor impulsive control in areas such as spending, eating, sex, and substance use.

Fear surrounding real or imagined abandonment from loved ones is a profound concern for people with BPD and often is what underlies their destructive behaviors. Some people with BPD will go to dangerous lengths to avoid this fear, for example, by becoming suicidal or engaging in self-mutilation.
Continue Reading


World Mental Health Day 2015: We Belong Together

I’m a big fan of the singer/pianist Gavin DeGraw. As a writer, I tend toward musicians who write compelling lyrics, and he does that and puts compelling melodies with them.

World Suicide Prevention Day was about a month ago. About a month before that, I spent some time in a psych hospital, trying to recover from a mixed episode. That’s a special piece of bipolar hell where you’re manic (bouncing off the ceiling) and depressed, often suicidal, at the same time. I maxed out two credit cards -- overspending is a hallmark of mania -- and yet told the ER doctor that while driving to the hospital, I kept thinking about opening the door and playing in traffic on Highway 52. Time between checking in at the admissions desk and getting a security escort to a bed on the mood disorders unit? Two and a half hours, shortest ever.

Continue Reading

Borderline Personality

Identifying Borderline Personality Disorder in a Friend or Loved One

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of the most misunderstood, wrongly-diagnosed mental illnesses. It affects an estimated 14 million Americans, or 5.9 percent of all adults. That means more people suffer from BPD than Alzheimer’s. One out of five psychiatric hospital patients has BPD, as do 10 percent of people in outpatient mental health treatment centers.

Despite all of this, BPD is rarely discussed in public forums. This is in part due to the fact that very few people know what it is or how to identify it.
Continue Reading


My Mental Health Journey in Surviving Cancer

I live with bipolar disorder, OCD, and migraines, and have recovered from complex PTSD, an eating disorder, and other difficult illnesses. I've survived homelessness, domestic violence, and other traumas. Still, when my doctor gave me a cancer diagnosis last winter, it was the hardest shock yet.

First I had to wait a few weeks to see my oncologists and get a treatment plan: six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. The wait was gloomy, filled with dread and fear. I told only close family, not wanting to spread bad news.
Continue Reading

Borderline Personality

7 Myths about Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and other mental illness is highly stigmatized, overlooked and looked down upon by society. BPD is characterized by poorly regulated emotional responses to events or feelings, possible urges to self-harm or commit suicide, and unstable relationships with others.

Here are 7 popular myths about borderline personality disorder:

1. Only women or mostly women have BPD.

This myth is a particularly harmful because it can work toward preventing an accurate diagnosis of BPD in men, as well as stigmatizing women and mental illnesses. While BPD is more common in women it is also fairly common in men.
Continue Reading