Earlier this year, she revealed she suffers from borderline personality disorder.
Amber Portwood gained fame in 2009 for her starring role in season one of MTV’s Teen Mom. Earlier this year, she revealed she suffers from borderline personality disorder—a pattern of instability in moods, behavior, and self-image that often results in impulsive actions and unstable relationships, in addition to the diagnoses of anxiety and bipolar disorder she received around the age of 18.
My whole life I’ve always been a bit chunky, but I was never really “big.” But after I had my daughter Leah, in November of 2008, that changed. While I was pregnant with her, I got up to 180 pounds.
I lost some of it afterward, but I still weighed in at around 160 pounds. At 5 feet 2 inches, that’s a lot. For a while, I blamed it on baby weight. But after a year I couldn’t really say that anymore.
At 160 pounds I just felt like I wasn’t me. I’m a person who really likes fashion, and it’s hard to find cute clothes at that size. It really took a toll on me. It’s depressing being bigger and not feeling comfortable in your body. (That’s actually the inspiration for launching my online boutique, Be Forever Haute—I want women to feel like they can look cute no matter their size.)
Around the summer of 2015, I started trying to lose weight in a healthy way. When I was pregnant, I worked with a nutritionist because I had gestational diabetes, so I followed the diet she gave me again. I stopped eating all carbs and sugar. I didn’t focus on my portions like she suggested, though. I can eat a freaking 10-pound bowl of salad and not gain weight!
Instead, I ate a lot of veggies and meat and drank a lot of water. And I had one cheat meal every single week to keep me on track. After about two months, I bought an elliptical and started using it a couple of times a week at home to build muscle tone and maintain my weight loss.
It worked: After about five months, I’d lost a total of 40 pounds. I was down to 130 pounds. It was great. I felt like I had really accomplished something. I had more energy and I felt healthy. I could finally fit into cute clothes. And I really felt comfortable being me.
Then, wham. A few months after I lost all the weight, I became so depressed that Matt (my fiancé) had to get me out of bed. After seeing my current psychiatrist for a couple of months, he diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder. It felt tragic to find out there was something else besides anxiety and bipolar disorder.
When I got the diagnosis, I wanted to keep it a secret. While everyone knew about my other diagnosis—I’ve had anxiety since I was a kid, for as long as I can remember—I guess it was tragic to think I had another mental disorder. The only person I told at first was Matt.
He went into the office with me. My psychiatrist told Matt the borderline personality disorder was the reason why I couldn’t get out of bed, and that we needed to add a mood stabilizer to my prescriptions.
He told us that I’ll be on meds for pretty much the rest of life. I started balling. But Matt was like, “I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this.” It really helped to have the psychiatrist explain to Matt why I was the way I was, because Matt didn’t understand.
He just thought I didn’t want to do anything with him or that he was doing something wrong. Of course that wasn’t the case. People often think it’s their fault, so it was really important that the doctor explain to him what was going on with me and how he could help.
My doctor had to be careful in choosing my medications because I’m an ex-addict. Finally, we found the right ones. I’m not going to share the exact medications I’m on, but it’s nothing that I can be addicted to. My psychiatrist watches me like a hawk—if he thinks for a second that I’m overusing, he will cut me off.
But that hasn’t happened yet. I also find that the meds really do help. I feel amazing and normal. It’s really great just to be normal and healthy.
When I was just on bipolar meds, I had cravings, but I didn’t gain weight. But adding the mood stabilizer gave me cravings like crazy. I remember taking my new meds the first month after my borderline personality disorder diagnosis, I was craving food like I was pregnant—it was insane.
I was looking at Matt at midnight saying, "I really want Taco Bell right now." You also get very tired, and it can be hard to find the motivation to go to the gym.
All of a sudden, I started gaining weight fast. In all, I gained about 30 pounds. It was so shocking. I worked so hard to lose weight and I gained it back.
At the time, I felt like getting healthy the first time was for nothing. But I kept up with the meds because I’d rather feel normal than be skinny. I feel healthy on my prescription, and I’m going to do what I have to do to stay healthy.
After a few months of giving into my cravings, I was finally like, “Okay—I need to get myself in check.” I'd gained back almost all of the weight I had lost, and there was no way I was going back to where I started.
At first I tried to restart a no-carb, no-sugar diet. But I realized there was no way that was going to work for rest of my life. I love mac and cheese! So I had to figure out a way of living my life that’s healthier. Instead of cutting out those foods completely, I just focus on eating healthy, fresh foods and watching my portion sizes.
In the past couple of months, I’ve slowly lost 10 pounds. Matt and I are getting married in October, which is putting extra pressure on, but I’m using that as motivation.
I’m also going to the gym three times a week with Matt. I was intimidated by all the guys at first! But then I discovered the cardio machines. I’ll do the standup bikes or the elliptical for 30 minutes. I like to sweat and feel my heart rate go up. It feels like I’m contributing to my weight loss.
When I get tired, I’ll dance to my music for a little extra motivation. I also just signed up for jiu jitsu, which I’m starting this week. I did it a lot a few years back and gained muscle and definition. Now I’m making Matt do it with me. I think it will be a great stress reliever. I’m also putting Leah in karate because I want her to be active, too.
I’m still aiming to lose more weight because I just want to be healthy—not super skinny. I’m hoping that in the next five months I’ll reach my goal weight and finally feel healthy and happy with myself.
There are many medications prescribed for mental disorders that can make you gain weight, so it can be hard to stay healthy. For women who are suffering from mental health issues, I want them to know that other people are going through the same thing, and you don’t have to do this alone.