Living with Borderline Personality Disorder: One Student’s Story


Imagine it’s 9:10 am, during the middle of second period. The teacher has just asked you to present and, against your better judgement, you politely step up to the front of the classroom. Your heart beat speeds up, but you think nothing of it. Once you start speaking, you look down and notice your hands are trembling. The walls seem to be moving, closing in on where you stand.

Your heartbeat has now moved up to your ears. Your classmates’ voices reduce to dull murmurs and you suddenly find yourself unable to breathe. In reality, it’s only been about 20 seconds, yet you feel as though you’ve been still for an eternity. You stand there, helpless, struggling in silence as you wait for the panic attack to subside.

“I couldn’t go to two of my classes because I was so anxious,” explained 16 year old Sariah Moustaffa, a junior at Francis Lewis High School. “I just decided it was best that I just didn’t come.”

As a student with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Moustaffa feels obligated to disclose her mental state with her teachers, as it frequently affects her academic performance.

“My A-game may not be what everyone else’s A-game is,” Moustaffa stated. “and I feel like that’s something not a lot of people understand.”

For many individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder, experiences like this are daily occurrences. BPD, at its core, is a mental health disorder in which emotions are unstable and uncontrollable. Intense moods may last anywhere from hours to days, influencing both behavior and relationships. Although there is no known cure, medical treatment is available upon diagnosis. Currently, Borderline Personality Disorder affects about 1.4% of adults and between 3-14% of teenagers.

Friends of those diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder can feel overwhelmed. They are put into a position where they must learn to adapt to the circumstances and needs of the individual with BPD.

“Loving someone with a mental illness like BPD, especially BPD, is very difficult to deal with because you expect the good days and bad days,” said Lia Kalinkos, a friend of Moustaffa. “You prioritize them into your life differently than a regular friend because there’s also that aspect of having to nurture or care for someone like that.”

Understanding the disorder and being aware of the person’s limits is key in developing and maintaining a relationship with someone diagnosed with BPD.

“Go easy on them,” urged junior Amiya Lamisha, another friend of Moustaffa. “Be patient and just see signals for their different moods because everyone handles it differently so you have to adapt to that.”

Like friends, parents of children with Borderline Personality Disorder experience a range of conflicting emotions. Some parents blame themselves, while others place the blame entirely on their diagnosed child. Whatever the case may be, communication between the parent and mentally ill child is imperative.

A lot of times parents feel as though they’re not good parents if they have their child go to counseling or therapy,” guidance counselor Mr. Brown said. “Don’t be afraid to get your child help. Talk to your child about what your child needs.”

Guidance counselors at Francis Lewis implement an open-door policy, as no appointment is needed to walk in and speak with them. There are also two social workers available during school hours.

“Each situation is different. Everything is not always, when it comes to mental health, it’s not always black and white,” Mr. Brown added. “The only thing that is black and white is making sure that the student’s safety is number one and making sure that they’re not going to harm themselves.”

Moustaffa is currently the Vice President of No Place For Hate and a loyal member of three other clubs. She takes pride in “knowing the simple things” such as the janitor’s name. Moustaffa hopes to study at Cobleskill and later become a Wildlife Rehabilitator.

“I cannot let my diagnosis become me,” Moustaffa added. “If I let my diagnosis become all I am, that’s all I’ll ever be.”