Borderline Personality Disorder – slate and self-image

There is a lot of information out there about BPD (also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder – EUPD) these days in terms of its causes, symptoms, treatment and prognosis; far too much to talk about in a single blog post.  So, for today, I wanted to write about the criteria for diagnosing BPD.  To summarise, in my own words, they are:


  1. A pathological fear of abandonment.
  2. Intense and unstable interpersonal relationships.
  3. Unstable self-image.
  4. Impulsive and reckless behaviour.
  5. Suicidal ideation.
  6. Intense and rapid changes in mood.
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  8. Intense and difficult to control anger.
  9. Dissociative identity disorder symptoms.


In order to be diagnosed with BPD, you must meet at least 5 of these criteria.  To a greater or lesser extent, I meet 7 of them.  I don’t take part in impulsive or reckless behaviour (quite the reverse) and I don’t particularly get angry, or have problems controlling my temper (let’s all be grateful for that, shall we?).  I’ve already talked about suicidal ideation in a previous post, so today I thought I would write about number 3 on the list – unstable self-image.

A classic manifestation of an unstable self-image might be someone regularly changing their clothes, appearance and beliefs in order to fit in with whoever they are around.  A chameleon, if you will.  This is not me.  I have a strong sense of who I am and what I believe in.  I don’t fold to social pressure. I can stand up to people.  I don’t worry about what people think of me (which is not to say that I don’t value the opinions of those close to me).  But somewhere, something has got broken.  It is a rather more subtle and hard-to-explain feeling, but none-the-less, it is very disturbing for me.  The best summary I can come up with is that I lack a linear narrative of myself through my life.  A load of hippy crap, no?  I think so.  But it also happens to be true.

“Slate is a metamorphic rock. It is derived from shale or mudstone that has experienced intense heat or pressure beneath the earth’s surface. Slate is made up of parallel foliated plates. This gives it the ability to break smoothly and evenly along its cleavage.” (Clark, 2017).


In other words, slate can be quite hard, but it is brittle.  It will fracture.  If you hit it, layers of it will flake away.  That seems to be what happens to me.  Each time I experience a traumatic life event, a layer, a version of me gets left behind.  I have to reinvent myself every time.  Those previous versions of me are not me.  I cannot relate to them or feel any connection to them.  They do not belong to me.  There are so many ghost-versions of me walking around still.  I find them in the strangest places – places I have lived, places I visited as a child, the places I have worked, the places I associate with those I have loved.  And I feel sad when I remember. Sad for the part of me that is lost.  I wonder how many more layers I can lose.  Like a photocopier low on toner, will each version of me be a little more faded, until I disappear entirely? I’m crying while I write this, but I don’t know why.  It’s only a metaphor; I know it’s not real and it doesn’t really matter.  But for some reason, it makes me inexpressibly sad.  I find myself wondering if there is a way to regather those versions and unite them – the world is getting cluttered.

The reason this is pertinent this week, is that I bumped into an old ghost on Monday.  On Monday I ticked off #5 – go back to work.  So yeah, back to teaching (I work in an FE college).  It was okay.  Really.  I got through the day.  I saw colleagues (who are also friends).  I did my work.  I didn’t cry. I ate lunch.  I maybe even enjoyed parts of it.  It was hard though.  Walking through those big, sliding doors, I saw another version of myself coming out.  The version who was happy.  A good teacher. Worthwhile. She had purpose, things to look forward to, enough sarcasm to drown a BTEC class.  I liked her.  I envied her.  And then she was gone.  I miss her.


Clark, S. (2017). The Characteristics of Slate. [online] eHow UK. Available at: [Accessed 30 Mar. 20

2 thoughts on “Borderline Personality Disorder – slate and self-image

Add yours

  1. Karl Marx had an interesting idea in saying that conflict only occurs when the means for its resolution is present, maybe there is some value in considering the idea of a fixed identity and whether that is congruent with the nature of reality regarding how you manage the process of transformation. You say that you have a strong sense of who you are, yet no sense of a narrative through your life, with a feeling of sadness and grief at the loss of the previous versions of yourself that you are reminded of when you meet the ghosts.

    When I look in the mirror, I do not recognise the person that is there. I am not the young man of twenty years ago and of course the reason for that is that in reality I do not have the same body. The cells in my large intestine are replaced every four days, red blood cells every few weeks, white cells every year etc etc. This is natural, so maybe the idea of a static identity is as false as the idea of a static body?

    As a scientist you will recognise that the ancient religious writings are not scientific in method, as this did not exist until the enlightenment, however I think that insight can be had from these thoughts on existence. In Buddhism, the term anatta refers to the doctrine of “non-self”, that there is no unchanging, permanent self or soul in living beings. Similarly in Confucian thought we exist only in relation to others as we are all part of the same, hence different ideas on Western concepts of autonomy and identity where the end goal of the self is to attain authentic and durable happiness.

    Classically the story of Christ represented the death of the self and its re-birth (with quite a lot of suffering), mythically this represents the natural order of things that eastern thought too thinks of as an ever changing personality. Yet “God is Dead, and we have killed him” from a rationalist perspective, so what replaces that?
    The 20th century is full of examples of totalitarian solutions that yet again revealed the dark side of mans inhumanity.

    From an existentialist perspective life is a mess, we have no right to expect logic or order. Life is suffering, as we all know it must tragically end. It is also absurd, yet events are neither good nor bad, they just happen. From this viewpoint all meaning comes from reality, and is in-congruent with the rationality that you seek. Sartre saw problems with rationality, calling it a form of “bad faith”, an attempt by the self to impose structure on a world of phenomena that is fundamentally irrational and random. According to Sartre, rationality and other forms of bad faith hinder people from finding meaning in freedom. To try to suppress their feelings of anxiety and dread, people confine themselves within everyday experience, thereby relinquishing their freedom.

    Ying yang represents the duality of existence, so from this perspective we could square the logical conflict that you describe. You have an identity and an existence that is manifest in your body and thoughts that are permanent, yet at the the same time you do not as your body and thoughts are constantly changing and impermanent. They are separate, yet they are each other at the same time.

    As Nietzsche said, “if you start looking into the abyss, the abyss will start looking into you”, with perhaps catastrophic results. So why not embrace and celebrate the ever changing life that you have and try and find some meaning?

    P.S. I think that the process of this blog reveals an authenticity that rejects determinism and embraces freedom.


  2. Hi there,

    I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to reply to this and that we haven’t had the opportunity to discuss it in person (although I fear my brain might melt when we do!!). I guess my lack of response is because you are talking about areas I know very little about and therefore I cannot easily comment without a great deal of thought (and possibly extensive background reading). The main thing I have taken away from what you have written is that change (both external and internal) is constant and inevitable. The mystery that remains to me is why, therefore, I find myself so unable to accept or indeed embrace this – there is not intrinsic reason why it should be painful or negative and yet that is how I perceive it. I will let you know if I manage to figure that conundrum out!


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