One of the books that I was most excited to read in this year’s Mental Health Book Bingo was Girl in Need of a Tourniquet by Merri Lisa Johnson. She talks about her experiences as a queer woman with Borderline Personality Disorder – I think you can see why I was so interested in reading it!
An honest and compelling memoir, Girl in Need of a Tourniquet is Merri Lisa Johnson s account of her borderline personality disorder and how it has affected her life and relationships. Johnson describes the feeling of “bleeding out” unable to tell where she stopped and where her partner began. A self-confessed “psycho girlfriend,” she was influenced by many emotional factors from her past. She recalls her path through a dysfunctional, destructive relationship, while recounting the experiences that brought her to her breaking point. In recognizing her struggle with borderline personality disorder, Johnson is ultimately able to seek help, embarking on a soul-searching healing process. It’s a path that is painful, difficult, and at times heart-wrenching, but ultimately makes her more able to love and coexist in healthy relationships.”
I’ve talked before about the lack of books about BPD, and especially the lack of scary books (i.e. books with madness or terror in the title). So I was very excited to see this memoir – can’t remember where I found it, I’m afraid.
The memoir is pretty free-form. Lisa talks about her childhood and in particular the rocky relationship with her mother. But most of the book is focused on her whirlwind relationship with Emily, a colleague’s wife. I found this pretty fascinating, because a lot of BPD has to do with your relationships with other people, and in particular I’ve found, your romantic relationships. It was really cathartic for me to read about a f/f relationship as dysfunctional as theirs, because I experienced something like that too.
Another aspect of the book that I really liked was that she quotes a lot of research about BPD. She explains that as soon as she was diagnosed, she went looking for books:
I make up for being borderline by reading fat books with hard words. I want to understand everything about borderline personality disorder. I want to be the best borderline personality ever. I want to be AMAZING.
And this is what I did too! I felt super represented at this point. A lot of the book takes research by psychiatrists about BPD, and kind-of shows how these experiences feel. I loved that, and it made me want to tackle some of those more research-heavy books and learn more about my condition.
One thing I do have to say about this memoir is that it is kind-of weirdly written. On a formatting level, there’s a lot of strange indenting which got annoying to read. She also bounces from idea to idea, and emotion to emotion with each line she writes. This so totally describes what BPD is like, but it doesn’t make for an easy reading experience.
As someone with this mental health condition, I thought it was brilliant. I screenshot so many different pages because they so accurately depicted how my emotions work. I think that I would recommend this to people who have a specific interest in BPD like I do. For just general interest in mental health, I would perhaps recommend a different memoir. HOWEVER. For me, it was very interesting.