I’m borderline, bipolar, and autistic.
You’d think that between those three, there wouldn’t be any common ground. There is, oddly enough, a lot of shared symptoms and triggers- but that’s not my point. The commonality I want to talk about today isn’t what happens in my brain, it’s what happens in other people’s brains.
The most common phrase I hear is, “But you don’t look…”
But you don’t look autistic.
But you don’t look bipolar.
But you don’t look borderline.
The question I always want to ask in return is, “Well, what did you expect me to look like?”
I’ve had people think that I’m too smart to be autistic, too kind to be borderline, and altogether too human (I know, right?) to be bipolar. I’m expected to be completely socially inept, or emotionally manipulative, or downright violent.
These are signs of social stigma, not of who or what I am.
Autism is a spectrum. It varies wildly from person to person, and even then, from situation to situation. Personally, I feel like an alien much of the time, because unspoken rules go right over my head. I’ve had to learn most of them, and I’m still finding many that I don’t know about.
Moving house with another human? How the hell do you navigate that?
Most of my noticeable autistic traits are more to do with sensory differences. I find great pleasure in simple things like fur and water. I struggle immensely with loud crowds, because I can’t differentiate between noises. Sometimes it hurts, and I’ll cry.
I have never been violent.
Borderline personality disorder is a tougher one.
I’ve had many, many people- too many, really- tell me that when they first met me, they kept their distance. Apparently I surprised them by not being a cruel, aggressive, emotional wreck of a person.
Borderline has a terrible reputation for extreme and vicious mood swings, irrational overreaction, and manipulation taken to sociopathic levels.
What it actually is, is a rawness of emotion. We feel everything very intensely, and yes, there are a few of us who explode and take this pain straight to the perceived source: you. The main aspects of BPD are intense fears of abandonment, problems with self-identity, and suicidal ideation.
NOT, as most people have come to think of it, bunny-boiling serial killer women or sad-eyed Winona Ryder having adventures with a psychopath.
I am not an external borderline. I used to be, long before medication and therapy, but much of my borderline traits are and have always been internalised. Rather than hurt other people, I am more inclined to hurt myself- and I haven’t self harmed in a very long time.
I have never been violent.
Extended periods of mania and depression.
Why does bipolar have such a negative reputation?
You know what I do when I have manic episodes? I spend a lot of money, and then I clean the house at five am. Really, manic me is amazing. Last time I was manic, I studied basic chemistry for three days straight. The only thing I harm when I’m manic is my bank account.
When depressed, I’m just… Well, depressed. Everyone knows the basics of depression.
I’m running out of steam here, but that’s because my brain has been playing with words all day and needs a break. I’ll cut to the chase in a moment.
The point I’m trying to make is maybe I don’t look mental because you don’t know what that looks like. We are just people. We aren’t more dangerous, more hurtful, more self-involved than any other person. If anything, we’re more likely to hurt ourselves.
Apparently yesterday was Bipolar Day, and I figure that something needs to be said. Maybe the reason I don’t look the way you expect is because you’re looking for something that’s not there.
I’m tired of being told I don’t look autistic/borderline/bipolar.
Because I do. This is what it looks like.
Just a person, just like you.