Living as a Jewish Woman with Borderline Personality Disorder

It started when I was maybe 3 or 4 years old. My anger was uncontrollable. I needed constant attention and assurance that I was okay, that things would be okay. I’ve been in therapy since I was 6. My concerned parents even sent me to an art therapist (under the guise of private art lessons) in order to get me to go. I actually loved it. Sometimes I wouldn’t even work on art — the therapist and I would go to McDonalds and talk over fries. I should have guessed something was up, but I really liked the fries.

In 2017, I was 34 and leaving San Francisco after the end of an emotionally abusive relationship. He was brilliant and quirky, and I felt loved. In turn, he adored all the attention I gave him. But it was a messy, passionate, highly toxic love affair, and when it was over, I felt more broken than ever. 

I found solace in the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend while I packed the last five years of my life into boxes. Rebecca Bunch, the main character in CXG, was like me! She was Jewish, making a big move, had a messy love life, complicated friendships, was obsessive, super impulsive, the list went on. She went to therapy! She lied and ran schemes! After a particularly bad unemployment stretch, my ex-boyfriend told me I couldn’t live with him anymore unless I found a stable job and kept it. I was terrified. I needed him. I also needed a home. This was San Francisco, real estate is no joke. After a few weeks apart, I lied and told him I’d found a job and proceeded to go to my fake job, every day, until I finally found a real one. Then I had to make up a reason about why I was switching jobs. It was hard to keep track of it all, but I did.

On the third season of CXG, Rebecca finally gets a mental health diagnosis, solidifying our connection once and for all: She, like me, had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). 

I first got diagnosed with BPD a little over three years ago. I had previously been diagnosed with OCD and ADHD, which are more common. I had already been on many different medications to see what worked, a trying process for anyone to go through. I saw a new therapist my mother recommended who practiced Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), skills to change your mood when things get tough. I had never heard of it and I only knew about BPD because my cousin was diagnosed with it. My cousin is a challenging person, and I didn’t want to be compared to her. 

But I soon learned BPD manifests in many different ways. After telling my story to the therapist between tears, I received my diagnosis (cue the CXG song, “A Diagnosis”). I learned more about the disorder, including that the risk of suicide was high. But BPD can be cured, or at least managed, with DBT. I was determined to do well. 

But life isn’t actually an upbeat musical, and after finding out what was “wrong” with me, I quickly became discouraged. My parents suggested I move back home with them in NYC. I was heartbroken, humiliated, and had no idea what to do next. I had never been able to hold a job for longer than a year, and I was exhausted from trying. My resume was a random list of things I didn’t even want to do anymore. Journalist, sales assistant, travel agent, customer service representative. I wasn’t a team player, had issues with authority, and my anger kept getting the best of me when I had a problem with something or someone at work. After a month at a fashion company, I received four pages of complaints about my performance. I knew I needed to work for myself. 

I began to piece my new life together as best I could. I put an entire apartment’s worth of my belongings into a storage unit back in San Francisco and took my parents up on their offer to stay with them on the Upper West Side. A few months later, my sister announced her first pregnancy. That exciting news combined with the dread of moving somewhere new again helped me to imagine a permanent life for myself in NYC. 

I found a new therapist, I moved out of my parents’ apartment, and I found a DBT group to join, where I met others who understood the struggles I face. Between all my moves and emotional drama, I lost a lot of friends and had to work on making new ones. My work life isn’t perfect by any means and money is tight, but I do background acting in shows (including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel! Twelve hours go by pretty quickly when you get to stare at Rachel Brosnahan). 

Over the past two years, I’ve worked hard to rebuild my relationships with my two younger siblings, who also live in New York City. Every six weeks my brother and I get together. We catch up over dinner, just the two of us. My sister has a 1-year-old whom I love more than anything. Watching him grow has been my greatest joy and has brought my sister and I closer together. 

But I’ll be honest: all my relationships are still really difficult. There are times when I get upset, feel left out, or rejected, times when I say something I don’t mean to. I cry and feel like I’ll be alone forever. Dating is hard for every single person in New York. Add being Jewish and 36 years old with a mental health disorder, and it gets worse. When do I tell someone that I have BPD? My disorder wants me to overshare on the first date, which doesn’t typically work out well. My ex-boyfriend once told me that when I was “fixed,” we could try getting back together. Cringe. 

I try to live a life of hope and possibility. I’m trying to start a podcast. I have traveled a ton on my own — I recently came back from Poland and Croatia. I am capable of so many things I never thought I’d be capable of. I’m very involved in my Jewish community in Astoria. I have told certain people there about my BPD, and I have found trust and support. I’ve met others who also deal with mental health struggles. Many still don’t know this about me, and I do wonder what they’ll think. But I need to start being my full, authentic self.

I’m not generally an unhappy person. Yes, there are days I can’t get out of bed. I’m afraid of getting left behind while everyone I know moves forward. 

But I’m grateful for my family’s support. I try to remind myself that everyone has their own timeline, and mine looks just the way it’s supposed to.

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