I’m Not Manipulative, I Just Have BPD

“Incidents, words and actions that the logical part of my brain would dismiss, twist themselves around my mind in a death grip, refusing to let go until I lash out against other people or myself.”

Words by Malvika Padin

“You always want everything your way”, a phrase that I’ve been on the receiving end of too many times to count. It’s meant to be a throw away statement said as a way to end an argument - a statement spoken in a moment of heat – glares abound, voices raised. Regardless, it stings. 

I’ve always enjoyed having control over my own life, of the decisions I make, of everything to do with my own mind and self. Then, before I could really comprehend it, that control seemed to slip away from me. It started as circumstantial depression as I had physical health issues, the grandmother who brought me up was losing her battle against Alzheimer’s, and my academic future was in shambles. It was no surprise that a mind swirling with uncertainties was a mind of unrest. 

I assumed the storm of terrible thoughts about myself, others, and hoped that the anxieties enveloping my existence would fade when other tangible aspects of my life settled. My physical health improved, my path to a career in journalism seemed in sight, and although my beloved grandmother passed, it was peaceful; unexpectedly motivating me to do well in life. 

So I waited, hoping that the the cloud of darkness in my mind would calm, but no such thing happened. Time passed; things went from bad to worse. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). 

BPD is a mental illness that is characterised by high levels of emotional distress and anger, among other things. Suddenly, the thoughts in my mind gained a stronger voice which said that I was worthless and that everyone would leave me at some point. Control of my mind, of who I was - who I still am - no longer remained in my hands. 

One of the symptoms of BPD is the development of intense or unstable relationships. I meet someone, we connect and then my mind tells me they don’t like me. A fight or flight impulse bursts forth, and before I know it I am arguing, threatening and crying. Then comes the phrase, “You always want everything your way”, usually accompanied by descriptive words such as manipulative, sensitive and emotional. 

It would be dishonest to say that these words don’t describe me. Incidents, words and actions that the logical part of my brain would dismiss, twist themselves around my mind in a death grip, refusing to let go until I lash out against other people or myself. These bursts of uncontrollable emotions manifest as threats to cut ties until someone does what I want, to harm myself if they leave, before suddenly (and confusingly) demanding them to leave, yet when they do I am unable to cope with my ups and downs, it only leaves me feeling even worse. 

These bursts of uncontrollable emotions manifest as threats to cut ties until someone does what I want, to harm myself if they leave, before suddenly (and confusingly) demanding them to leave, yet when they do I am unable to cope with my ups and downs, it only leaves me feeling even worse. 

I will not defend myself and say that my actions and the way I act is right. But does this mean I’m a bad person? Is every action, that my mind sees as self-preservation, a flaw and a reflection of who I am? Or is it just my illness? 

Symptoms of physical ailments are visible and therefore understood, but the invisible symptoms of mental illness get mistaken for a character flaw. Doing my final year dissertation on a topic very close to my heart, youth suicide prevention, brought to the fore front that I’m not the only person faced with misunderstood descriptions. 

When I was ill with IBS in the past, I was treated with care and love. Now that I’m sick, struggling with something seen only by my eyes, and heard my own ears, I’m met with exasperation and accusations of being fundamentally flawed. 

Yes, I’m flawed. Yes, I manipulate to keep the ones I love – the ones my mind whispers will abandon me - close. I make no excuses for the way I behave when my BDP takes hold of me, it is hurtful, and not the way I should be treating anyone. 

The one thing I ask is this; while I relentlessly work on gaining control of myself, is it so difficult to let me “have my way” and stay? It is a simple inconvenience for you, but for me it is a small victory against my BPD that makes me want to keep going, to keep believing that my mind is wrong – I won’t be alone. 

I’m not manipulative, I’m not bad. I just have BPD and I’m fighting it so don’t let me do it alone.