Would I have BPD on a desert island?

An interesting hypothetical question that I used to ask myself all the time. Except I didn’t know what BPD was, so I’d ask it with respect to specific component/symptoms instead.

Ask yourself that question now (or if you don’t have BPD, ask a relevant version).

Would you still have an eating disorder if you lived entirely alone on a on a desert island? Would you still cut yourself on a desert island? Would you really be unable to get out of bed (or your coconut fibre hammock or whatever) on a desert island?

Your answer may be different from mine. For me the answer that came from within me was always the same: a half-hearted “I… don’t think so?”

I took this answer to mean that my mental illness was superficial and fake. That it was created, by me, for attention. That it had everything to do with other people and random circumstances and performance-related reasons, and very little to do with my actual brain/soul/self.

That was one way of looking at it. And, as was usual for me back then, it was an extremely self-critical and disparaging way of looking at it.

In a way, my old self was right: I probably would not exhibit many symptoms if I lived alone on a desert island. Why? Because so much of BPD is about interpersonal relationships. Triggers often come from how people treat us, what they say, etc.  That doesn’t mean I’d be happy living in total isolation (another situation I often mistakenly fantasized about), but I probably wouldn’t be triggered either. No real joy and no real misery.

And isn’t that the whole reason we put ourselves on (real or metaphorical) desert islands? To say “I’m done opening my heart to people” is to try and live on just such an island. The convincing fallacy is that without the highs, there are no lows. Unfortunately, life has a very effective way of making you feel its inevitable lows, regardless of what you’ve planned out — and once you’re cut off, there’s no one to help you with them. Womp womp. “No real highs and plenty of real lows” is the more accurate description of isolating yourself from other people.

But to say I wouldn’t have BPD on a desert island is only partly true. I probably wouldn’t self-harm, but I know I’d still feel sad, depressed, and maybe even suicidal at times.

The cool thing is, I now see the use of this scenario: I can use the desert-island question to determine, very clearly and quickly, when I need to feel something (an inner emotion) and when I need to say something (an outward action). It’s remarkably useful for someone who, once a wave of emotion hits, can’t always figure out what she wants or needs.

For instance, if I’m so angry that I’m about to leave the house, drive off, turn off my phone and leave a loved one wondering where the hell I am, I can (hopefully) take a pause and ask myself: Would I still be about to do this if I was dropped on a desert island right now? If the answer is no, then I know that what I’m doing is, in fact, about communicating my hurt to someone, and I need to say/do something — that is, I know that I need to draw my focus outwards, away from my own emotion and towards effective communication with others.

Conversely, when I’m on the brink of crying over something someone’s said, I ask myself the same question, and the answer is almost always yes — yes, I would still want to break down sobbing alone on a desert island. That’s how I know that I need to feel something, experience something and draw my focus inwards instead of outwards.

I don’t mean to oversimplify: obviously, there’s a lot more to it than this, and it’s far from easy for me to step back, ask myself this question, then calmly answer it and react appropriately. But you know me: I’ll take any and every helpful tool I can get when it comes to handling my emotions, and I’ve found this rather odd mind set to be a pretty insightful one at times. I hope it can help someone else too.

Cat xxxx

 

Make Peace with Your Unlived Life

A somewhat airy-fairy title for an article from the Harvard Business Review, which is why it caught my eye as I was plodding through my usual work (i.e., providing source information for boring-ass business article after boring-ass business article).

Of course, it was mostly in relation to career stuff (it is HBR, after all), but I soon found myself engrossed in this piece, identifying more and more with the author’s thoughts on the many identities we try out (mentally or physically/actually) throughout our lives.

As I’ve written about many times, BPD and identity issues are inseparable. And the further I move away from the throes of living in the midst of this disorder, the more interested I am in finding out how it happened, and how it relates to “the real me.” When did my BPD start? Why? How can I prevent it taking over my identity (my “inner theatre” as this article calls it) ever again? How can I avoid contributing to BPD in myself or in anyone else?

That’s why my skin began to prickle and my stomach tensed as I realized that I was essentially reading a how-to manual for creating BPD—one that I had experienced first hand:

Donald Winnicott elaborated on the idea of the “true self” and “false self.” He explained that beginning in infancy, all of us, in response to perceived threats to our well-being, develop a defensive structure that may evolve into a “false self.” He suggests that if our basic needs are not acknowledged—not mirrored back to us by our parents—we may presume they are unimportant. Complying with our parents’ desires, we may repress our own desires, not actualizing what we really like to do. We may believe that non-compliance endangers our role in the family. In addition, we may internalize our parents’ dreams of self-glorification through our achievements. But this acquiescence to the wishes of others is an emotional lie. It comes at the price of suppressing our own needs. In our efforts to please others, we hide and deny our “true self,” which in turn leads to self-estrangement. If that’s the case, the “false self” will get the upper hand. It becomes a defensive armor to keep the “true self” at bay and hidden.

Of course I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a more succinct and accurate account of how my own BPD developed. To this day,  I struggle tremendously with the notion of my parents’ expectations, and the idea of how horrified and ashamed they would be to see “the real me” (that is, to know everything about me and how fallible I really am).

Part of me (a logical part) knows that’s probably not true: my parents will always love me, and they’d be the first to say that all they want is for me to be happy. But it’s hard to shake those defensive structures that we developed as kids, no matter how unnecessary or unjustified they might’ve been (and I’m not saying mine WERE unjustified… I do think that my parents’ actions and behaviours spoke louder than their words ever could in terms of creating a need for defenses; saying “I love you no matter what” once or twice doesn’t negative hundreds of instances that implied strong disapproval).

But I don’t want to blame my parents, because lord knows we all do enough of that already in the mental health realm! And anyway, my parents raised three other kids without BPD, so it’s obviously not fair to say they’re the “cause” of my BPD. Rather, I want to know why some people can take disapproval, punishment, even trauma, and turn it into something totally unlike BPD, while others can’t take much of anything without developing this (or a similar disorder). Is it chemical? Circumstantial? Will we ever know?

Part two of my attraction to this article has to do with the “making peace” part—not only with one’s “shadow self” or the parts we don’t show the world, but also with all the chances that we never realize, the choices to the left when we always took the right. This sense of loss, and the desire to accept that loss, is huge in my life right now. I’m not sure it necessarily has to do with BPD (I feel like it does), but every time I’ve made a big decision in my life, I go through a period of intense grieving (usually totally internal/mental) for whatever I didn’t choose. Given that I’ve probably just made the biggest decision of my life this past year (getting married), I probably should have expected this deluge of feels and (in a way) regrets, but, whaddyaknow, I didn’t. :/

I realize that this post is kind of scattered and nonsensical, so please excuse my sharing it; I kind of see it as a true reflection of the sense of identity that I have right now: muddled, messy, and not very convincing—really more questions than answers—but also, the best that I can offer at the moment. ❤

Cat xxxx

When is BPD “Cured”?

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I’ve written before about being “cured”, and when I looked back to find the post where I mentioned that, I was shocked to realize it was (almost) a whopping two years ago. !!!

It seems a bit naive to use that word at all. In the two-year period since that post, I’ve achieved a lot of things that make me feel cured (I no longer self-harm, I’m not in therapy or on any medication, and I’ve even managed to form a healthy romantic bond and get married <note: this bizarre fact needs to be the subject of its own post (or several) one day), but I would no longer use the word “cured” for any mental illness tbh – and maybe not for any illness at all.

It’s an odd thing to say – cured – because it implies that you are exactly the same as you were before an illness/event affected you. But we’re never really the same. Not after cancer, or schizophrenia, or surgery, or any other massively dynamic shift in our bodies and/or souls. Things have changed on a cellular level, and sometimes the very building blocks that make up our entire worldview seem to have undergone alchemical transformations.

I love the comic above by Hannah Hillam, because it illustrates what I’m saying perfectly (and so much more succinctly). BPD will never be out of the picture entirely for me. And in that sense, I don’t think I’ll ever be cured. Instead, it will probably just always be there, in the background, affecting my choices with low-level input and threatening to engulf me if I don’t keep it in check. I’m (oddly?) okay with that. When you compare the two panels, I guess it makes sense why I’d feel okay with that.

Just to be out of the situation on the left is incredible; I hope I never take that freedom for granted (even though sometimes, I can already see myself doing exactly that). I remember – vaguely and in the way we can never truly remember acute pain – what it felt like to want to die. Every moment was agony and every breath taken grudgingly, wishing it could just stop. Trapped in my head with something cruel and hateful, something that criticized everything about me in screaming tones that I couldn’t block out even as I pressed my hands over my ears and literally begged it to be silent. Unable to stop the images that flashed through my mind, images of my own suicide and too many horrible things to mention – things that convinced me further that I was fucked up and would be better off dead.

As I sit here writing this, I shudder to remember that place, that feeling. But I’m not foolish enough to think it’s a place I have left behind forever. The door to that world is still there in the hallway of my mind, closed but not barred. I can walk past it – I often do – and make the choice not to go in there. But I remember what it was like to feel unable to choose, to be trapped in there and unaware that there was even a way out.

The other reason I’m not in a hurry to use the word “cured” is because I also think that it can lead to a false sense of security. Once we feel (or are labelled) “better,” it’s very easy to veer back towards the same habits that may have caused us problems in the first place. The stage I’m at now is one of hyper vigilance in this respect. I don’t read the news if at all possible (especially now…). If someone says something hateful, mean, triggering, even callous or careless, I leave the room or pointedly change the subject. I let myself get upset or cry, no matter how small the hurt, processing what happened and validating it. I rarely watch movies or TV without reading detailed synopses and reviews online, so I can avoid upsetting content. I eat with my health in mind, take certain supplements for brain health every day, and try not to have more than one alcoholic drink at a time (and even one is rare).

But most most most importantly, I check in with myself constantly; I invest a LOT of time and energy into making sure I never get to the point of depressed, and hopeless, waiting for somebody to say or do something to make it better – because this, to me, was the trademark sentiment of BPD, the mind frame, in a nutshell, that kept me feeling victimized and codependent, caught in borderline cycles of abandonment and anger. If I’m feeling like no one is meeting my needs, I go above and beyond to meet my own needs that day – and I try to do that with as little bitterness/animosity as I can towards the people that I believe have “let me down” (by not meeting said needs… I’m not great at that part yet, but I’m slowly getting better).

Does this sound selfish and self-absorbed? Like I refuse to listen to the plights of refugees and just buy myself cupcakes and manicures instead? I don’t mean it to, but even if it does sound that way… frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I know what I’m capable of and what I’m not capable of at this particular moment. And I no longer feel much of a need to justify myself or wallow in guilt when I know it only makes me useless and sick. I donate to causes I believe in, I help in ways that I can, and I look forward to the day when I can devote myself even more to the nitty-gritty of remedying the world’s endless pile of horrific injustices. For now, it’s enough to be getting better. It’s enough to be as close to “cured” as I may ever be.

Cat xxxx

p.s. a very loving shoutout and hug to anyone still reading, in spite of my patchy record of posting over these last couple years! xo

 

 

What I Wanted to Say

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It could be the title of my ongoing autobiography. There are so many things that I’ve wanted to say to people and never did. Some of them are hurtful, or defensive, or damning. They are about being “right” and (self)righteous. But I don’t find it too hard to let go of those ones anymore. I think it’s probably for the best that they go unsaid (at least, unsaid to those people.)

What I truly regret not saying are the unspoken words of love, forgiveness, admiration, and truth. Why should it be hard to say those? I’m not sure – but I find myself totally incapable of speaking them.

Every time I get together with a friend of mine (the word “friend” feels really, really inadequate here) – every single fucking time – I psyche myself up. I tell myself that this will be the time. I set the scene so that it’s just the two of us, so that we aren’t in public (because I know it’s going to get hella emotional), so that we won’t be disturbed. And every time, I leave our get-togethers kicking myself because I can’t say these things.

The most frustrating part about it? I feel like I’m enacting my parents’ flaws/problems – I feel like I can’t say the simple things that are kind or loving because they couldn’t say those things to me (I forgive them for that, but I’ve never said THAT to them either :/). Against all my therapy and progress and self-awareness, there is STILL a really really deep-seated/childhood-based aversion to love and the expression of it. It’s so fucking exasperating. 😦

Here’s what I should have said last night, when John (not his real name) and I got together for the 1,000th time since my massive breakdown, and here’s what I will say one day (and yes I could cop out and send this as a letter but to me it would show a lot more growth if I could (ever) say these things out loud.)….

John:

You know when something’s really wrong – some flaw in your happiness, some wound or old scar in your heart – and it’s so deep that you feel it in your body as soon as you wake up, but it takes your conscious brain a few minutes to remember what it is?

For me, that feeling, that wound, will always be the memory of the way that I treated you over the years of our friendship.

It’s not often that you meet someone who feels destined to be in your life. It’s not often that you have so much in common – from your interests to your backgrounds to your personalities to your thoughts and behaviours – that you click as well as we always have. It’s even rarer that you think “Huh. Suddenly and almost immediately, I love this person like my brother, like myself, like my own flesh and blood.” So many of my happiest memories are of you and me, having fun together the way only two bosom friends (to quote Anne of Green Gables) can. Maybe things would have been easier and simpler if we just loved each other in a “normal” heterosexual type of way. But I don’t think we ever did or will.

Part of what made it so easy to thrust you into the role of my caretaker, saviour and other half (not that this excuses it) was the fact that you do feel like my other half in so many ways. Part of me feels like you know everything I’m about to say – even what I’m saying right now – without me having to say it. But I don’t want that to be a reason to leave these things unsaid. They need to be said.

Words have never been less adequate than when I say that I am so sorry for all of the things I said and did while I was falling apart for all those years. If I could do something – anything – to make it so none of that ever happened, I would. I feel like I could buy you a mansion or give you my firstborn kid as an organ donor or something and it still wouldn’t even come close to repaying you. I owe you everything, and one of the worst thoughts I can have now is remembering that for years – years that must have been fucking hell for you – I did my absolute best to hurt, maim and ruin you in response to all your help and love and self-sacrifice.

I know that you and I belong together the way that family do. I could pretend to hate one of my siblings or give up on them, but the possibility that they might be unhappy somewhere in the world would make me miserable inside, and mean that my happiness was not complete. In the same way, it doesn’t matter if we didn’t see each other or speak for years; I can’t really be okay unless I know that you’re okay. I could get famous and rich, and win a Nobel prize and have a perfect marriage and six healthy happy kids, and still be like, “but is John happy with his life?”

All the things that should have hit me about 5 years ago finally sank in when I stopped living at the farm. It is not an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for you, and you are the strongest, the bravest, and best person I know. I know some of these things might sound weird coming from someone who got married a couple weeks ago, but as I’m learning, love is a complicated and many-faceted thing (profound, I know…), and there’s so much to go around in so many different ways.

I could say a lot more, but rather than ramble on, I wanted to confine myself to asking for your forgiveness, and telling you how much you always have meant and always will mean to me.

Love always and forever,

Cat

 

Letting go of perfect

Hello from the distant realm of IRL!

I could give all kinds of explanations as to why it’s taken me so bloody long to post on this blog (my significant other has a horrendous and all-consuming immune disease that was mistreated for months, we’ve had about five close family members get extremely ill or die in the last six months, work has been insane as I attempt to establish my own business, and oh yeah, I’M GETTING MARRIED?!), but the fact is…

I can’t stand not being perfect.

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That’s the bald truth behind my lack of posts lately.

But wait… what sense does that make? When I’ve been at my lowest, my “least perfect,” I’ve posted lots in the past. And I certainly do not identify as a “perfect” person… most of the time, I couldn’t feel farther from that.

I’m not entirely sure that I understand it either. All I know is, the “better” I get mentally, the stronger and stronger the voice is that reminds me of my never-ending quest for perfection.

I think it’s kind of like: when I’m a mess, I’m a big mess. I can let go of the fantasy about being perfect, because it’s so obvious that I’m not. I let myself give up and cry and freak out and accomplish next-to-nothing, because I don’t have any choice.

However, when I’m doing “okay,” it’s a totally different story.

Once I’m “okay,” then I’m also “normal” (these are all terms I use in my own mind, mostly subconsciously) and I have zero excuses to be less than perfect. Keep in mind that my job (editor) really doesn’t lend itself to combatting this type of obsessive thinking!

(Bear with me… this is really annoying and almost stream-of-consciousness, I know… that’s because I’m forcing myself to write this WITHOUT GOING BACK AND EDITING. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. No joke.)

I’ve struggled with severe procrastination all my life. Only recently (like four or five years ago) did I learn about the general pysch theory behind procrastinating. It basically goes, “If I don’t give something my full efforts, my full attention, or even a proper chance, then I don’t have to feel bad when it’s not perfect — because I didn’t really try.”

Something about that hit home, especially in relation to my BPD. (GAH I ADMIT IT: I SPELLED THAT BDP BUT I HAD TO FIX IT, YOU GUYS… this is what I’m talking about!)

How many times have I told myself some version of that same sentiment? If I don’t fully admit that I’m in love and 100% committed to this relationship, then I don’t have to feel bad when it falls apart. If I throw this essay out there at 3 a.m., then I don’t have to be upset with an 80% instead of 100. If I don’t really act like myself, then I won’t get hurt — because I’m never truly exposed to be hurt in the first place.

BPD and procrastination share a core aspect: they both depend on a whole lot of deception and bullshit to protect something very very painful and very very vulnerable.

Admitting this — admitting that I have this core of pain and vulnerability — is not something I did once and never have to do again. I’m realizing that it’s something I have to remind myself of over and over and over again. Every day, in fact. Because otherwise I fall right back into the thought pattern that made me so miserable in the first place: “I’m not enough, but if I can just try hard enough, be enough to make everyone I ever meet happy and totally enamoured with what a wonderful, brilliant, kind, talented, hilarious, perfect person I am… then I WILL feel like enough at last.”

On the one hand, I’m deeply grateful that the past five-six months have been the single longest period I’ve ever gone without suffering a deep depression since I was about 10 years old. On the other hand, I’m no longer proud of myself for that fact. It’s not enough to get through the day and make a little money and make someone else smile. It’s starting to creep into my mind that I’m fat (I’m not), unsuccessful (I’m not), self-centred (I hope I’m not), and light years behind where I “should be” in life. I should get up every day and work out for a couple hours. I should then go to my job I love and make thousands of dollars a day at. I should eat organic produce and healthy fats all day and crave nothing else. I should volunteer at a couple local charities in the evening, then visit with every one of my friends and family so that I don’t feel guilty for not caring about their lives. Finally, I should work on my groundbreaking novel for a few hours, finish the day with some art, reading, and other suitably edifying hobbies, and then get eight hours of sleep. How hard is it to just have a day like that?

I’m delusional. I get it. You don’t know how many posts I’ve drafted for this blog over the past four months or so. But none seemed funny/insightful/relatable enough to be worth posting. I’d end up deleting every single one.

So here goes. Unedited and utterly imperfect, this is my new style of blogging — and hopefully, eventually, my new style of living. I’m not going to agonize over each post for hours, then tell myself I don’t have time to blog at all.

(FUCK, okay I could not resist doing a Command+F for ‘really’ — one of my most overused words — and there are 500 of them… sorry, guys… really sorry :P)

-Cat xxxxx

 

 

 

Crash and burn, get up and try again

Find-Your-Fight

It could kind of be my motto over the past five years or so, and probably applies to a lot of people with BPD.

The founder of the mental health site, Lost All Hope, writes about the pressure that people can feel, once they’ve told their “I survived” stories, to not relapse, to not disappoint anyone reading it who may be looking to you as any kind of proof that it is possible to beat these pernicious illnesses.

I wish I could say that I’m truly BPD-free, that I always take my recommended fish oil and vitamin D, eat nothing but organic produce, take daily walks in the fresh air and sunshine, and all the other feel-good clichés that are supposed to keep your mind perfectly controlled, perfectly clean, perfectly happy. The truth is that life sucks sometimes (I know, you’re shocked right now!), and periodically, I still feel like utter shit. As I’ve discovered a few times over the past year, I can still launch into full-on BPD mode with the best of them, hurting those close to me, screaming, throwing things, hating life, hating everyone, and desperate to self-harm.

So make no mistake, I’m not telling anyone that you can beat BPD or depression. On the contrary, I now realize that very, very few people (if any) have ever really “beaten” mental illness. Because unlike a cancer that you can sever, or a bacteria you can nuke, I think BPD is, at best, a lifelong on-again/off-again relationship. I’d love to believe (and I have believed, in the past) that it’s a bit like food poisoning: something you can purge from your system with enough tears, strife, drama, experience, therapy and emotional diarrhea. But with each of my little “stumbles” (can’t really think of a good word for them, but I HATE that one. Oh well, moving on), there is no firmly placing this disorder in my past. There is only painfully consistent and vigilant management.

With that in mind, I’m going to share the things that have harmed and the things that have helped. You may have your own personal list of triggers or succors, but many of these are pretty standard when it comes to causing or circumventing BPD crises.

Helpful

  • Exercise
  • Fish oil
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Determining and asking for what I need
  • Small gestures that show love
  • Real, honest communication with loved ones
  • Laughter
  • Sunshine, fresh air
  • Accomplishing things, managing a to-do list
  • Keeping a clean environment
  • The right medication
  • Showers, baths, manicures, massage, etc. – anything that makes you feel cleaner, happier, more human

 

 

Harmful

  • Sugars/unhealthy and processed carbs
  • Alcohol. I don’t even drink socially anymore because of the emotional hangover that usually comes with even a drink or two.
  • The wrong medication: certain sedatives and anti-depressants come with a risk (ironically?) of exacerbating the problem.
  • Periods of extreme expectations/pressure for things to be perfect: Christmas, birthdays, special events or moments, etc.
  • Dismissing or hiding my own emotions
  • Periods of extreme sadness (obvious)
  • Periods (period). Anyone else find their hormones to be a huge trigger?
  • Feeling isolated, ignored or resentful
  • Rehashing the past – trips down memory lane aren’t great for me right now, no matter how positively they start out.
  • Mess/clutter
  • Threatening self-harm – once it’s out there, there’s literally no way things can go well, and it hangs in the air like a promise that I’ll get worse.

 

No, this doesn’t mean that if I have a donut or let the house get messy, I lose all control and want to die. Nor does it mean that as long as I eat okay and exercise, I’m totally in the clear. But if I do enough of the little positive things, I’ll notice real change. And if I do enough of the little negative things, I know it’s only a matter of time until a blow-out.

 

I may add St. John’s Wort and/or accupunture to that top “helpful” list, but I’ll have to try them first – something I’m likely to do over the next several weeks. With Christmas coming up, the time I devote to self-care is going to be ironclad and fiercely protected. I’m trying really hard not to get my hopes up for a great Christmas, but rather, for a Christmas that doesn’t involve wanting to die at any point. Is that too much to ask for?

xxxx

Crush

Candy-HeartsRather than do a boring explanatory “sorry for the eon between posts” post, I thought I’d save the life updates for another time and get right to a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time in relation to BPD.

Anyone who has (or knows someone with) BPD knows that this disorder is first and foremost a bane of interpersonal relationships. In a way, I know that’s a misleading thing to say, because as I learned through my treatment, BPD actually stems from a singularly terrible intrapersonal relationship (your relationship with yourself). But regardless of its root cause and ultimate healing, BPD usually manifests itself worst and most frequently in our relationships with the ones we love. And for many borderlines, it’s not with ALL the ones we love, it’s only with THE one we love – the boyfriend, wife, best friend, confidant, etc. – our rock, our other half, our anchor in the storm, our everything, our knight/damsel in shining armour, slaying our demons and healing our wounded hearts with perfect and boundless understanding.

If it seems like I’m slathering on the irony a bit thick, that’s mostly because I am.

Like every personality disorder, BPD is healed from the inside out. Never the outside in. Period. I firmly believe it can be caused and prevented (at least partially) from the outside in. I desperately (emphasis on the DESPERATE part) wanted to believe that it could be treated from the outside in, for years upon wasted years. But I can now finally accept what I couldn’t for the vast majority of my life: it’s up to me to love myself, care for myself, know myself, and save myself.

But does this newfound insight protect me entirely from that hallmark of BPD, the toxic lure of…

The Crush?

No, it does not.

Before I go any further with this post, let me clarify that I am deeply in love with my incredible, thoughtful, patient, affectionate, caring, ridiculously hot boyfriend. I still get that fluttery feeling when he smiles at me, I picture our life together with great happiness, and I’m struck at least once a day by the re-realization of how handsome he is. What I’m talking about in terms of crushes is not a genuine desire to be with anyone other than my partner, although for many (most?) borderlines, I think it often turns into that.

In our endless quest for a person that will complete us, borderlines pounce, with terrifying and painful eagerness, on anything remotely resembling their phantom god. And heaven help the person who ends up on that pedestal. You’ve unwittingly entered a vortex of emotions, where your every sentence, action and yes, even inaction will become the purported cause of another person’s happiness or misery, elation or despair. We’ll think about you constantly, obsess over what your thoughts and opinions might be, find every detail of your life fascinating, and want to be in your presence every minute of every day.

But rest assured, you won’t be in your lofty hot seat forever. That’s because BPD runs in cycles, and you’re just one of them. You’ll only be the Crush until you “fail” in some way. Or maybe it’ll take a few failures. Either way, once you seem anything less than the perfect completion of our being, you’ll be supplanted by the next Crush. The one that truly knows us. The one that really understands and cares – not like you, you horrible monster.

Sometimes the Crush is sexual in nature, but a lot of the time, it’s purely platonic (and, we like to tell ourselves, more legitimate because of that – this person TRULY cares because they help us even without the prospect of sex in return). Sometimes it’s a purely mental obsession, with someone dead or famous or otherwise impossibly distant from us. But the biggest danger, of course, is when a real living breathing person shows up in our life to act out the role. Because then we realise, deep down, that this relationship can only end in flames (like all our other crushes) and it’s going to actually tear our life apart if said person is, for example, a long-term partner/spouse, a co-worker, a boss, etc. etc. Hello, drama, nice to see you again – weird how we keep encountering each other…

Even for recovering borderlines (read: me), the Crush can be one of the hardest things to manage. All it takes is a bad day with your significant other and a kind word from someone else, and you’re back at the mercy of wistful fantasies about how the perfect person would understand, and the perfect person would do this, that and the other thing, etc. etc.

In this way, the Crush is an emotional insurance policy. We don’t have to admit the terrifying reality that we are alone, essentially and permanently, and that we must learn to love and save ourselves. Neither do we have to experience the full pain of failure when yet another person lets us down – there’s always our back-up, our big gun, our true soulmate.

I think many people would argue that there’s no harm in crushing, but I hope I’m making it clear that that couldn’t be further from the truth. When you keep running to crushes, you’re running away from yourself – from the truth of what it takes to get better. When you constantly have the refuge (even the mental refuge) of another person’s embrace, you won’t waste time and energy fixing core problems in your real relationships: that’s too painful, too messy, too imperfect. Better to just hold on to the idea that somewhere, somehow, someone is capable of that perfection. Worst of all, when you have the comparison in your mind of what your Crush would have said, how they would have helped when your other loved ones didn’t, you pit the people who really care about you against a magical, non-existent fantasy that they will never, ever live up to.

I could go on and on about this topic, having an absurd amount of experience in it (unfortunately), but for now, I’ll confine myself to asking: has anyone out there ever had a Crush turn out well? I’m asking because mine is going REALLY well (like, marriage direction) and I’m fucking terrified of screwing it up or sliding back into old habits just when it matters most…

Cat xxxx