Updated: Oct 17, 2022
If you have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), your definition of success may revolve more around happiness than the general desire for wealth and social status. Even though it is difficult to have a successful career while having BPD symptoms since it interferes with your ability to perform your job and fit in with your coworkers, there is still hope.
In this article, we'll discuss what success is for someone with BPD, their challenging career path, and the success story of someone with BPD.
What is success for someone with BPD?
Success is a complex concept. Success might not mean the same thing to you as it does to me. Most people will think about money and social status when we discuss success, which is completely reasonable. However, for some others, and especially people with BPD, this is often not the case. They desire something more than just money and fame, which is meaning, peace with oneself, and feeling content.
My idol, Byron Bernstein, is an example of this. Byron had money, fame, and everything in between. But he was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which he struggled with almost his entire life. Even though he had more people reaching out to him every day than some of us will have in our entire lives, he often felt lonely. And he was wealthy enough to live a life of leisure, but he still felt empty and desired something meaningful. All he wanted in life was to be happy and help others along the way. Unfortunately, Byron isn't with us anymore, but his positive influence still is.
In my eyes, Byron was a successful person, but not just because of his wealth and social status. He positively impacted thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people by creating something meaningful online and by being a friend when many of us needed it the most. However, considering that being content with oneself and doing something meaningful are factors of success, would someone consider themselves successful if they are unable to find inner peace and meaning as byron did?
The difficult career path of someone with BPD
It's normal to feel concerned about how having Borderline personality disorder (BPD) may affect your life, particularly in terms of your career. Most of us want to be successful or create something meaningful in this world. Because when we bring value to our society, it gives us a sense of purpose in our lives. But unfortunately, the symptoms of BPD may interfere with your success and may leave you on an endless search for meaning.
It may be difficult to settle on a certain career path because your self-image, ambitions, and even your likes and dislikes may change frequently. This unstable sense of self could hurt your career since you might quit early and miss out on promotions or other career opportunities.
You may begin to work at what you consider to be your dream job until one day, something doesn't pan out the way you like, or you get a bad review from a superior. Rather than viewing this as something you can change and go through, you feel utterly discouraged and stop thinking that this is the career for you. This is due to splitting, a BPD symptom that views people and situations as either all-good or all-bad.
Intense emotional pain is common on a daily basis, as are feelings of emptiness, desperation, anger, hopelessness, and loneliness. The mood of someone with BPD fluctuates a lot, making it difficult to stay stable enough to hold a job. They may frequently find themselves in conflict with co-workers, bosses, or teachers. And when they have no outlet for their symptoms, lashing out or burnout is likely to happen.
BPD symptoms can also make it difficult to concentrate, resulting in poor overall productivity. For example, frequent dissociation might make it difficult for you to complete your tasks on time.
So, it seems like all the odds are stacked against someone with BPD to have a good career. But when you look closely at their intense emotions, you'll find qualities that not many people have. They're deep thinkers, intuitive feelers, and can be the most empathic leaders and visionaries. With this skill set, they can transform their deep emotions into something creative and meaningful. Many BPD sufferers flourish when given a chance to express their creativity. Careers such as editors, musicians, producers, photographers, technical writers, authors, painters, filmmakers, graphic and fashion designers, etc., are all careers well suited for an emotional and creative individual. So, in the end, their not-so-endless search for meaning may come from having a creative profession.
A Success story from someone with BPD
Adrianna Rangel is an example of someone who, despite all symptoms, persevered and used the challenges of BPD to create something meaningful.
She grew up in Orange County, California. Has a Bachelor's degree in English and Philosophy and a Master's degree in Legal Studies. For her career, she advocates for those who cannot tell their stories. At the same time, she still struggles with BPD symptoms every day, like chronic emptiness, self-destructive and dangerous impulsivity, perpetual paranoia, and extreme hyper-vigilance that reinforces her fear of abandonment.
When she was six years old, her mother delivered another child and gave her up for adoption. While there were many problems with the closed adoption, her career choices stemmed from that experience. Since she was six years old, she wanted to be a lawyer. She never questioned her fundamental career goals, despite her shift in self and lack of identity. She pondered the specific job but never the industry.
People with BPD often think in black and white. Something either is or isn’t. This is probably why she never changed her mind about the industry. With the law, something is either right or wrong. With the law, something is either a lie or the truth (even though everything may still be up for interpretation). The law, contracts, procedures, manuals, and policies form an invisible box that either adheres to it or not, and this creates a certain sense of safety. And this safety is fundamentally everything someone with BPD desires.
Someone with BPD has very rigid thinking, and this can cause a lot of havoc, but Adrianna was able to use it to, ultimately, succeed. Symptoms like hyper fixation, dichotomous thinking, obsessive thoughts, the need for perfectionism, making everyone rely on her so people can’t leave or do anything without her, and constantly working have made her successful. However, like Byron, that definitely comes with a cost. Her symptoms may be a significant reason that everything worked out the way it did, but it also perpetuates her fears.
Her obsessive thoughts and hyper fixation caused self-isolation, increased her fear of abandonment, and made regulating her emotions even more difficult. Because she gets so consumed in what she is doing (usually research or a hobby), it’s all or nothing for her, which pushes people away. This obsession or cycle of splitting between interests and thoughts reinforces her assumption and expectation of abandonment and failure.
''Behind every behavior or reaction, there is an emotion, and even if it doesn’t make sense to you, that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do - at that moment - for that person. Because people with BPD are made out to be the “crazy” patients, it’s my job to raise awareness as an advocate and someone who can speak up. It’s my job to ensure that someone sees and understands that we aren’t broken and just need reassurance and help. It’s my job to ensure at least one person doesn’t feel crazy because someone else can’t understand. It’s my job to make sure at least one person doesn’t feel alone.'' - Adrianna Rangel
Book of Thoughts
With love for research and philosophy combined with the daily struggle with BPD symptoms, Adrianna Rangel is now an author.
Book of Thoughts is a compilation of poems and journal entries about a young girl’s experience living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and other mental illnesses. It includes 300+ pages of poetry, journal entries, and artwork. There are many philosophical stream-of-consciousness entries displayed in the book. And there are poems that you can read backwards or that have a hidden meaning with bolded words to keep it interesting. The poetry or entries are not written with the forethought of them being published. All of it is written in moments of overwhelming emotions.
Even though she has a solid career in front of her, it doesn't stop her from turning BPD's struggles into something meaningful.
If you are interested in the book, you can click this link. You get 15% off everything with the code 'MentalCurve' (I don't earn commission from sales).