Twenty years ago I was 14 and suicidal. Twenty years ago perms were in their heyday. Dark & Lovely is my brand—cheap and titled for a black, black girl. I wake up for school, stare into the mirror brushing my teeth, then style my hair five “different” ways with Jam, Ecostyle gel, and Cream of Nature moisturizer. (My Isht is glistening). I check the line of mirrors in the dining room for an overview, and then head back to the bathroom for more adjustments. I add a ridiculous amount of makeup to my clear skin. I’m trying to add contour. The faces in my beloved magazines — Essence, Glamour, and Seventeen — contour. I’m 14 and the last thing on my mind is trusting my own power, my own beauty. Instead of telling the mag models kick rocks, I’m just a little girl, I buy their ad products and make them role models.
So it’s 1994 in Miami—hairdo capital of the American ghetto—and defusing new growth is more important to me than keeping up in my honors classes. My mom works two jobs (always assume two full-time jobs for us). I don’t realize the term for my existence is latchkey kid, but my mom, Toni-anne’s mantra y’all grown, is almost a direct translation. What it means is I find something to eat in the fridge when I get home from school and I better do my homework and clean the house before talking on the phone. I better do this and my older sister, Tanesha, better look after me when she gets in. I call this law and care instead of love and care. The tender part of tender, love, and care is me. Am I too tender for a family of strong, black women?
Well, I’m not just tender or sensitive; I’m moody, disorganized, obsessive, standoffish, and attention-seeking (at the same damn time). Something is terribly wrong with how I process emotions. I’m always yelling or crying. I’m lonely in crowds and daydreaming about ways to die when I’m alone. I’m 14, 15, 16…. The unstable patterns of behavior continue. If I were this way all the time then maybe I’m just a little-girl b!tch. Maybe I like being a drama princess. But people like me, a lot. I’m smart, funny, and very outgoing. I’m down with all the high school cliques: White, Asian, Latino, Black, cool, athletic, and counter culture. What the f**k? Actually, what’s happening is very serious, but it’s unrecognizable by everyone in my life. For one, there’s no TV commercial about borderline black girls. And as far as folks are concerned, I got an attitude problem.
In reality, I have a personality problem, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I was diagnosed this year after many years of treatment for depression and anxiety, including taking medication and signing a No-Harm Contract, and I am here to share my heartbreaking, funny journey to mental health.
Next time: My dad is caught stealing in a department store while I’m with him and has the nerve to wonder why I cried all the way home.
Confessions of a Borderline B!tch is an open, honest, and humorous column about living with Borderline Personality Disorder.