I was 40 when I got diagnosed with 'traits' of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Why 'traits'? Although I have several recognisable symptoms including emotional instability, intense fear of abandonment and difficulty with interpersonal relationships, I do not (any longer and for many years) self-harm and engage in suicidal behaviour. I've also managed to lead a fairly successful life in terms of education and career. I am considered 'low-risk', but this doesn't mean that living with my form of BPD is without risk.
Since diagnosis people that know about my BPD have asked me the same three questions. Perhaps they will be familiar to you.
Why seek diagnosis so late in life?
Several reasons; the era I matured in, misdiagnosis and self-stigma for example. There's such a stigma attached to BPD that even those of us who have it would rather it was anything but! It took me two years to pluck up the courage to seek diagnosis. I'd gained enough self-awareness by my mid-30s to recognise that what I had wasn't anxiety/depression. My low moods weren't sustained enough; my 'highs' so intense that others would notice and pass comment. I felt confused about my identity and spent a lot of time asking myself questions. Why couldn't I maintain a 'baseline' mood? Why did I hurt so much whenever I was criticised or rejected? Why were my personal relationships so difficult?
Then a friend got diagnosed with BPD. I did some research to improve my understanding. As I read I thought to myself 'this is me... this is also me... so is this!' I felt this 'light' go on in my head. Eventually I revisited my GP, who referred me for further assessment.
How is having a label useful?
Having a 'label' I can identify with has helped me manage my condition. I've met others with BPD and made some great friends. I have a starting point from which to find helpful tools. The DBT course I currently attend helps; it's shown me that during my life I've already learnt some of the healthier coping mechanisms. Having this validation has reassured me of my ability to cope.
Will you get better?
There is no cure for BPD. Lots of literature says that symptoms lessen by 40, often misinterpreted by non-sufferers as 'you will get better by 40'. Not true. I can't ever completely stop the daily rollercoaster my mind rides. Research says much of this is biological; my brain literally reacts differently to emotional triggers (especially negative ones!) So I try to learn mechanisms to manage those reactions. One thing I've learned is never to give up, even if at that moment I feel like my world is falling apart. I'm nothing if not tenacious, and I think this stubborn streak has actually helped me cope at times.
There's so much more I could write about here, however I just wanted to tell my story and let others know they're not alone. And I hope some of what I've written resonates with others.
A Moodscope member.