In 2004, when I was sixteen, after Nate and I had our it’s-different-this-time breakup, I convinced myself I was crazy. I went to see a psychologist. She told me I had Borderline Personality Disorder.
A few weeks later I was happy because I had a new boyfriend, so she told me I was all better.
Instead of telling this super intelligent free counselor with all her degrees and whatnot that teenage girls feel happy when they start dating someone new, I simply stopped seeing her.
Ironically, that boyfriend ended up being a total jerk and the relationship lasted all of three weeks.
She was obviously not equipped to handle my mayhem.
I did, however, latch on to the (probably unofficial, possibly wrong) diagnosis. My mom got every available piece of information on Borderline Personality Disorder, including not only pamphlets and articles but books and movies with affected characters. Over the next few months we repeatedly read I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me and Borderlines: A Memoir; and frequently watched Gia and Girl, Interrupted. (Among others, those were just our favorites.)
I identified with every Borderline character in each story, real or fictional. I went through the checklist in I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me. Not only did the title aptly describe my exact mindset, but I also had:
- A shaky sense of identity,
2. Sudden violent outbursts,
3. Over-sensitivity to real or imagined rejection,
4. Brief, turbulent love affairs (the three-week jerk boyfriend, anyone?),
5. Frequent periods of intense depression,
6. Drug abuse,
7. Self-destructive tendencies, and of course
8. An irrational fear of abandonment.
Of course, as any mental-health hypochondriac would, I probably convinced myself I fit the description more than I did. I was still a teenager, after all, and we all know teenagers are pretty nuts even when they’re completely normal.
Or it could have been my “shaky sense of identity” causing me to grasp on to any explanation I could get.
But it did make sense. Supposedly, according to the questionable psychologist, my parents’ divorce when I was not-quite-two caused my fear of abandonment. Every time I went from one parent to the other my non-developed baby brain perceived only the part about one handing me over, not the other snatching me up. Every time they switched I thought they were fighting to get rid of me as opposed to the reality that they were fighting over me.
This “symptom” of my (maybe imagined) personality disorder has become such a staple in my life that to this day I practically introduce myself as “Backstreet-Boys-lover, getting-wet-hater, abandonment-fearer Tempest Rose.”
Every single one of my relationships quickly turned from “I love you, but we’re both independent,” to “I hate you, don’t leave me.”
(I often find myself wishing the book was better so I could tell people it’s my life’s manuscript.)
So I went through the next several years like a crazy person, even crazier than before I had been “diagnosed”. The “I have a mental health disorder” excuse only worked on my parents for the first few months, but it was enough to continuously justify my actions to myself.