Borderline personality disorder and relationships are like oil and vinegar; without constant attention to stirring they separate. The rollercoaster of emotions we live on takes us from extreme highs to abysmal lows, with little warning and varying frequencies. We don’t seem to have much of a middle point or grey area when it comes to reacting emotively, and our emotions are so substantial they keep the rational mind at bay. Despite the necessity and desire, it is not easy for us to make or keep relationships whether they are friendships or something more and in most cases we understand the challenges you face trying to maintain relations with us; how could we not? We live them every day.
I was never a loud, boisterous child. I have been insecure since I can first remember and tended to stay on the reserved and quiet side. I wouldn’t say I was the initiator of friendships but I certainly had no lack of them in childhood, and because of playing soccer and being on a team, I had friends through my teenage and college years. During your mid-twenties to early thirties peoples tend to come and go as their lives take different directions and as you age, you tend to be more selective of those who you call friends or start relationships with.
Although I was not properly diagnosed until somewhat recently, the tendencies of my BPD were lurking beneath the surface my entire life and became exacerbated in my thirties. It was then when I first started to notice the intense fear of abandonment and the lengths that I would go to in my relationships to avoid it. I would try so hard, albeit unsuccessfully to mold myself to both meet the needs of and please the people around me, walking delicately on eggshells as to avoid any misstep that may result in them leaving. The mere thought of being deserted would bring me to the brink of a panic attack and incite every negative thought of self-worth that had ever passed through or taken up residence in my mind.
Due to this incessant fear of being left we are consumed by this range of extreme emotions that is often expressed in what may seem like random outbursts, despite our want to contain them. The smallest thing that may be an indication of abandonment we take with the utmost of severity. Something as simple as not having a text answered or not being included in something can send us on an emotional rollercoaster in such a brief period of time. We may go from being fully loving and supportive to emotionally withdrawn in moments due to the scenarios we are creating in our heads, regardless if there is truth to them or not. In our minds we truly believe that this is the beginning of the end; that whatever action or thing which is upsetting us is actually the first step towards you making a separation, or distancing yourself from us.
The ability to set healthy boundaries in relationships is remarkably difficult with a mind that is set in a world of black and white. We are either in a relationship or out and there is very little grey area in between. In a relationship I am passionately loyal and loving, but tend to love too quickly and with a friendship it becomes a case of becoming attached too swiftly. Although easing into things and taking it slow may be what we truly desire, our illness is simply not fond of that premise. Our illness tells us if it is good jump in and when there is a danger or fear of abandonment, close down or jump out as a method of self-protection, and regardless of how hard we try, this emotional fluctuation has become an innate reaction to a long, deep seeded fear.
Contrary to popular belief, people with BPD are not manipulative or attention seeking and our behaviors are in no way meant to hurt anyone, especially our loved ones, and doing so unintentionally fills us with much pain. In most cases we love and care too much, we just don’t have the proper tools to either cope with our emotions or effectively express them. Our illness directs us towards the negative coping mechanisms that have become both comfortable and reliable. Our seemingly unprovoked rants and outbursts to the slightest things are our instant reactions to a perceived danger, whether it’s abandonment or hurt, and despite our contempt for our own behavior, it often takes years to unlearn.
There are days when I still hate feeling like I am a walking open wound, but I am gradually learning to accept this oversensitivity. I thought it was a character flaw to be emotionally raw, but am learning to realize that if you take that away, you remove the very essence of my being. You would take the part of me that is empathetic, creative, loyal and loving. You would strip me of my deep appreciation for the little things in life and the awareness and compassion for the pain of others that has become second nature to me, and although I will continue to work on emotional regulation, I will no longer change the foundation of my very being for anyone.