Bunny Boiler: Surviving Borderline Personality Disorder and Finding a Self to Love

BUNNY BOILER is a memoir about the perils and possibilities of living with BPD. Its raw and candid chapters chronicle my decades-long struggle to survive its torments and its stigma and, at last, to accept help and thrive with dedicated treatment.

Despite affecting around 5 million people in the US and being on the rise, BPD is one of the most misunderstood and feared mental disorders. It tends to result in instability in personal relationships, repeated suicide attempts, wild efforts to prevent abandonment, and self-destructive, risk-taking behaviors like substance abuse and gambling. The borderline woman is stereotyped as hypersexual and obsessive, in part due to the character of Alex in Fatal Attraction and other media portrayals.

In real life, we are not Hollywood’s bunny boilers; in fact, many of us were abused as children, and we remain at above-average risk to be victims of domestic abuse in adulthood. However, these media representations make it harder for us to access proven treatment strategies because many clinicians are afraid to work with borderline patients. Barriers to treatment can have deadly consequences. Approximately ten percent of people with BPD end up dying by suicide, and the disorder shaves an average of twenty years off the lifespans of the rest. When I was in my 20s, my psychiatrists were so concerned about other doctors’ potential stigma that they refused to give me the diagnosis or treat my BPD, which left it free to swell until it nearly consumed my life.

Drawing on my background in literature scholarship and up-to-the-minute research on BPD, I consider how the borderline woman must contend with her inner chaos as well as her cultural depictions, the biases of medical authorities, and the traps of the criminal-justice system. I probe the underfunding and blind spots in research on the disorder, such as the relationship between BPD and menopause, BPD in trans and nonbinary people, and the connections among BPD, adverse childhood experiences, and autoimmune disorders. I also profile the diverse and spirited BPD community, full of generous advocates trying to help others.

BUNNY BOILER proves that it is possible for someone with BPD to suffer childhood abuse, mistreatment within the health system, and suicide attempts yet still find joy in middle age and mental well-being through compassion. The book presents exciting news about researchers who are combating BPD stigma within the clinical and research community, virtual support groups and online mindfulness courses, and promising newer therapies like Good Psychiatric Management, EMDR, ketamine infusions, and Internal Family Systems to add to established treatments like dialectical behavior therapy, mentalization-based therapy, and schema therapy.

At its heart, BUNNY BOILER is a story of not only a devastating mental illness, but hope, resilience, and resistance against a society quick to damn anyone who expresses extreme pain or excessive emotions. It is also a reminder to those with BPD that they deserve care, and they are not alone.

Copyright © Cynthia Gralla, 2024