Borderline personality disorder triggers turmoil and rage
For as long as she can remember, 26-year-old Tannis Jackson has found herself routinely slipping into fits of rage. After one particularly bad day at work, she became so infuriated she made her own head bleed.
“I remember being so angry I pulled out two fistfuls of hair and smashed my head against the wall,” Jackson tells the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “There was no other way to express how I felt.”
Jackson (who requested anonymity), who works in a health-care field in the Interior, didn’t know why she couldn’t control her everyday emotions. She just knew that the most minor conflict would aggravate her delicate state of mind, leading to explosive outbursts. Imagine a cup of water filled to the rim: when everything is going smoothly, the water stays still and calm. But any slight disruption, such as a disagreement, has an effect like a tsunami, making the water churn and spill over, with devastating consequences.
“I wasn’t able to cope with anything,” she explains. “I would have temper tantrums, and I would take things out on myself. If I had a bad day at work, I figured everything was my fault. Every day was a struggle.”
Four years ago, Jackson was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. BPD—as misunderstood by the public as it is missed altogether by many doctors—is a serious mental illness marked by severe instability in moods, relationships, and behaviour.
Jackson had never even heard of BPD when her psychiatrist told her that was what was causing her relentless torment. But she couldn’t deny that the telltale signs—including intense but stormy attachments and extreme emotional reactions—described her perfectly.
Although not as well known as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, BPD is more common, affecting about two percent of adults, mostly young women, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.