Borderline Personality Disorder and the Church: Christians with BPD
Trigger Warning: Christianity in a favorable light, struggles with belief in God, fitting in at church, splitting, BPD symptoms. Read at your own discretion.
This post was written by Brianna Rhodes
You can’t understand me without understanding borderline personality disorder.
I’m still wrestling with feeling like I don’t fit in and that I’m misunderstood. I don’t know anyone who can relate to me on the level I so deeply desire. I know of one other person with BPD, and they’re not even a Christian. I don’t know a single Christian with BPD. Imagine that for a second—countless individuals struggle with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and so on, but rarely are individuals diagnosed with BPD who still pursue the Lord.
I crave a community that I’ll never have–one that truly understands and can relate to me. I have to mourn that. It’s like I have no one with whom I can process the intense feelings and emotions I experience. Yes, I have a counselor, but her role is to help me process my trauma. Obviously, that will help with these emotions/feelings over time, but my counselor can’t make BPD disappear. She can’t make the symptoms I battle daily disappear. She can’t relate to me and understand how much harder it is for someone with BPD to follow the Lord than for someone who doesn’t. I can’t even believe the nice things people say about me. Can you imagine how much harder it is to believe that a God I can’t see loves me and calls me His? It’s nearly impossible.
BPD and Christianity: A Delicate Balance
It’s like BPD and God can’t exist simultaneously inside my head. It’s the black or white thinking. One day, I’m on fire for the Lord, and everything is fine. The next, I’m in a deep, dark pit, trying to crawl my way out and wondering if He’s real. In fact, the change can happen within seconds; it’s exhausting. I’m learning how to see the grey, though. But you can’t tell someone with BPD to “just have faith” or “just pray” or anything like that. Our brain was chemically changed due to trauma. We need real, physical evidence to believe anything. You know the saying, “Actions speak louder than words”? It’s magnified times 100 for people with BPD. We try so hard to believe peoples’ words, but it’s not enough. They must be followed by actions so that we have physical evidence that what they say is true.
Can you imagine how alienating it is to not know one other person who fights the same battles you do? People always say we all fight battles, so we can relate in that way—it’s not the same for someone with BPD. It’s nearly impossible to relate to people who don’t know this diagnosis—who haven’t experienced the mental turmoil that comes with it. You can’t say you know how I feel or what I go through until you’ve experienced borderline personality disorder. You can’t have authority in my life until you’ve taken the time to truly hear me and my experiences. Even then, it’s still difficult because you haven’t lived it.
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You don’t second guess every single thing someone says. You don’t agonize for hours over an interaction you had with someone. You don’t experience physical pain when your emotions get so intense. You don’t panic at the slightest change in tone in the voice of someone you love. You don’t obsess over the fact someone didn’t text you back. You don’t create wild scenarios in your head about people who say they love you, hating you.
You don’t have constant paranoia that people are talking bad about you. You don’t have this crushing fear that you’re not good enough and never will be. You don’t fear abandonment so much that it nearly keeps you from connecting with anyone. You don’t passively think about suicide nearly every day. You don’t have this burning fire that makes you feel you need to self-sabotage/hurt yourself. You don’t have this empty void inside of you that cannot be filled—no matter what we do or who we believe in. It’s a God-sized hole, for sure, but unless He does a miracle and heals us, we continue to fight these battles.
You may experience one or two of those things, maybe even 3, but imagine experiencing them all every single day, 24/7. It never ends. Even our sleep is flooded with nightmares. We get no breaks. So, imagine how hard it is to function in a world where you must represent yourself well and fit into society. Imagine walking into a church where you see people chasing after the Lord wholeheartedly, but you can barely believe God exists, and how you feel about Him changes minute-by-minute—seemingly against your will.
You constantly question if God is real. Why would he allow such horrible things to go through your mind if he is? Yes, satan rules the earth, but God has the power to heal, doesn’t he? I’m tired of fighting these battles. People say they make you stronger, but I’m plenty strong enough for a lifetime.
Unless you take the time to learn about this disorder, people with BPD will continue to feel so isolated and alienated. We are different than the regular population—that’s a fact. There are numbers. There is evidence. We don’t have the same innate skill set that most of the population has. We have to learn things in our adult life that most adults learned as children—if we choose to get healthy. It’s an uphill climb that most people will never understand, and they’re honestly lucky.
I would never wish this disorder on anyone, and I pray that God does a miracle and heals me. I long to know what it’s like to have a “healthy” brain—one that doesn’t fight these minute-by-minute thoughts. One that can handle conflict well. One that doesn’t dwell on the most minor things others don’t even consider. One that experiences emotions within a “normal” range and for a “normal” amount of time. Maybe a better word is reasonable instead of normal. I know there isn’t really a “normal,” but I think you get the point.
Spreading BPD Awareness for ‘BPD Christians’
I also want to point out that I work hard not to let borderline personality disorder define me. Additionally, I am doing well in life right now. I have a job that I love with everything in me and amazing friends. I am living independently and am doing just fine with that. Ultimately, my goal with this post is to educate and bring awareness to BPD that is often hidden and show how there are Christians with borderline personality disorder who are fighting to be heard.
And this is just BPD–I can only imagine the stigma and silence that comes with other, more uncommon mental health disorders such as DID or schizophrenia. If no one speaks up on these issues and the reality behind these mental illnesses, change will not occur.
I don’t know what the next step is for me. I don’t know what to do besides continuing to pray that God will bring healing and understanding. I don’t know how to feel more comfortable in the church setting. I don’t know how to help others understand me and my struggles.
All I know is that it’s a fact that I have borderline personality disorder, and only God can heal me of it. I can put in the work to bring about healing, which I am, but I don’t foresee ever being totally free from all this unless God heals me. Until He does, I will continue to voice my experiences with BPD and pray people will listen.
About the Author
My name is Brianna Rhodes, and I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder roughly two years ago. Since being diagnosed, I’ve been on a journey to spread awareness about BPD and end the silence/stigma surrounding the disorder. Read more from Brianna on her blog here.
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