Fighting love (and losing badly)

Very little grows on jagged rock.

Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.

You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different.

Surrender.

-Rumi

I know chances are that I don’t even have to say/explain this if you’re reading it, but BPD has pretty much made me very anti-love for the majority of my life. As in I hated relationships, hated affection, hated intimacy, hate hate hate it. All of it smacked way too much of all kinds of things that frightened the hell out of me, from trusting and relying on someone, to experiencing actual happiness or warmth.

Again, this would probably seem so bizarre to most non-borderlines, and yet I’m assuming its totally “normal” and intuitive behaviour for you if you’re bothering to read this. Anything wonderful, especially love, can be snatched away so easily, lost so quickly for the borderline, that to have those things is to be in constant state of terror about when the good feelings will disappear and the darkness will flood back in, stronger and darker than ever.

But in line with my recent post on actively working to capture and internalize good memories (since we’ve certainly got no problem internalizing the opposite), I wanted to go out on a limb here and describe something that I hope brings even a little bit of good to someone else’s day, the way it brought a smile to mine.

The new relationship I’ve started has moved fast – too fast (a part of me would argue) – and its really scary. I try to slow it down, reign it in, keep the brakes on, but in reality I am just more and more blown away each day by how wonderful this guy is. It’s crazy how much I want this to work – not just “work” in a BPD way (read: you play the hero, I play the victim, and you save/care for me every minute of your life), but really work in a full-on adult relationship kind of way, which would be totally new territory for me.

Recently, a subject came up between us that really triggered me. My instinct was just to get out of the conversation. I started to get upset, which for me, means I started to dissociate and “leave” the scene even before I managed to mumble that I was actually leaving the scene. But he told me to stay and held my hand and just kept saying the kinds of things that I couldn’t believe someone without advanced therapy training would EVER think to say. Things like: you’re so strong; you can change this; you’re not alone; you’re here now and I won’t let anything bad happen to you. Without pushing at all for more information he made me feel understood. Without playing the parental or hero role he made me feel cared for. Without any professional training he made me feel better in my worst moments than any mental healthcare professional has.

Then he said there was something he wanted to show me and he went and got a small, flawless black beach pebble to give me. In disbelief I heard him start to explain how he kept it on his dresser where he could look at it as a reminder to stay focused entirely on the detail of the moment, and not drown in worry or regret. It was mindfulness from someone who (to the best of my knowledge) had never heard of “mindfulness,” didn’t know anything about the years of therapy I’d had in the concept, couldn’t imagine how much what they were saying resonated with me. Even more astonishingly, this is someone I would have seen as thoroughly “normal” while I was firmly in the “crazy” camp. Funny the lines our minds draw, and how false and misleading they can be. When I told him I would have seen him as the last person who needed to work at staying mindful or positive, he said, “I think I work a lot harder at it than you think I do.” Huh.

There are people out there who are going to understand. They’re not perfect, and my BPD really really wants them to discount them for that. But they do exist. Kind of terrifying. And kind of amazing.

Although I remain extremely cautious about jumping into this whole love thing headfirst, I am willing to step into the water. I’m hoping with everything I have that it turns out to be as good as I think it will be.

wildflowers

 

Cat xxxx

EDIT: To anyone reading this now (over three years since I wrote it), I just thought I’d include a note to say that this man and I have now been married nearly 8 months. For real. I’m not going to lie and say everything is ‘happily ever after’ all the time, because it’s not. We’ve had (and continue to have) a few difficulties, and a lot of them have to do with my BPD-esque background/ingrained behaviours, but… a lot of them don’t. I might be the only newlywed who feels excited when we have a stupid fight, because guess what? THEY DON’T END WITH ME WANTING TO DIE. We may fight, we may say hurtful things, but then we say that we’re hurt, and we apologize and make up. AND IT’S WORKING. When I look back on some of these posts, I realize why I feel so excited about those “dumb fight” moments. They are proof that I have changed. A lot. In a way that makes me feel happy and strong and hopeful (not fake, empty or “different” like I once feared). And if I can change THAT much, trust me—anyone can. ❤

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7 thoughts on “Fighting love (and losing badly)

  1. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 I don’t think I’ve felt this happy for someone (other than my children) in a long time 🙂 Smileys gallore. He sounds awesome, and to say I’m wishing you both the best is a massive massive understatement. I’m definitely smiling – and all of it for you. xxx

    • Aw thank you so much, Life in a Bind! (I like that you are known by many names to me now – mysterious! haha). I know, he’s pretty amazing, I am usually aware of the terror of “I don’t deserve this” and “Eventually this will end and hurt so much” but they have a lot less power now than they would have in the past, I’m happy to say. We must find a time to chat soon amidst all our blogging! 🙂 xxxxx

  2. I’ve been reading through your blog this week (ever since I saw that first post) and it has been so comforting as someone who had a partner with BPD. You have incredible insight, and so much of what you describe is exactly what my ex boyfriend seemed to be experiencing. Truly. Part of me wishes I had known about all this before we started dating. Part of me wishes he had known about BPD and his struggles so I could have better understood what was happening. Part of me wishes that he could radically accept that this IS what is going on for him, and to not fight it with statements like, “BPD resonates with me, and I am told that I may struggle with it, but I don’t believe in mental illnesses and diagnoses.” But I accept that I can not change any of those things. I feel compassion for myself in that there was no way I could have “gotten” all of this from the outset when I had never experienced this sort of thing before. And I feel compassion for him too in being so confused and upset at why he seemed to struggle so with relationships, trust, commitment, intimacy, and believing in people. I understand now. And I forgive. My question to you (and anyone else who struggles with BPD) is this: what do you wish at your core that people had said to you in those moments when you most needed validation, support, and acceptance? In those moments when you felt disappointed, frustrated, hurt etc? Even if now you can look back and see that the other person did nothing “wrong” or didn’t intend to hurt you–what do you wish they had said in those moments to communicate that they got where you were coming from? What can someone say to someone with BPD in those bleakest and darkest moments to really convey that you do understand (at some level, though I get that I can never fully understand what it must feel like), that you support that person, that you want to validate their experience and that you support and care for them, deeply?
    I am having a hard time not beating myself up for “not doing it right” and for making him feel misunderstood at some level. I really tried to convey empathy, and yet I feel like I failed, and it’s killing me because I didn’t want to disappoint him, I didn’t want to be pushed away. I don’t want him to hate himself. He is not at his core a terrible, awful, hurtful person. I can see that. At his core, he is a wonderful, kind, sensitive, thoughtful person with one of the most beautiful and complicated souls I have ever encountered. I can see that under his anger and frustration is deep pain and sadness from a lifetime of feeling invalidated and suffering from emotional hurt/damage. I know this has nothing to do with me. My head knows this, but my heart isn’t totally convinced. I find myself going on long trail runs and sometimes randomly breaking down into tears while halfway up a ridge. I just have to stop, heave, sob, and cry, bent over on the trail like a broken, sad, little girl. And yet, I still care. I have tried to just forget and let go and move on, and I accept that our relationship is over. I do. At some level though, I want to communicate to him that I do get it, now, and I still support him. Regardless of how I fit into the picture. I am a huge believer in unconditional love, albeit with boundaries. That doesn’t mean that I agree with his behavior or that I think I deserved any of that acting out behavior. But I do understand that he was just trying to protect himself in the only way he knew how.

    • Oh hun, I wish I could give you some perfect insight from the BPD perspective but the God’s honest truth is that most of the time, there was nothing – repeat, nothing! – anyone could have said that would have satisfied that insatiable part of me. Anything trying to be positive or give ‘tough love’ would have seemed insensitive beyond belief, anything validating my misery would have seemed like the person was giving up on me ever getting better, anything understanding would have been scary (because hello, intimacy issues) so I would have told myself there was something wrong and it wasn’t understanding enough, etc. etc. I know it’s so crazy. I am so thankful to be out of that mindset (most of the time) where love is the enemy and I’m just surrounded by a self-imposed, impenetrable wall. It sounds like your ex/friend is still trapped there. The heartbreaking part is that he has to take the wall down himself before anyone can truly help. 😦 I’m sorry that’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but the good news is that I’m sure you literally did everything you could, and you are continuing to be an ideal friend to him in this. Hopefully he’ll see it one day. In the meantime, have you thought about talking to a therapist/counsellor about this for your own peace of mind? Those who love borderlines need just as much support as borderlines do. xxxx

  3. Hi Cat, thank you for your reply! I think what you said was precisely what I DID need to hear. Truly. Your reassurance that really, there was nothing else that I could have done/said at the time to have resulted in a different outcome is really comforting. I think one of the hardest aspects about BPD as someone who is experiencing it as the partner from the outside is that the person can use shame and guilt to suggest that “if you had only said this or been more of that, than perhaps things might have gone differently.” So on some level, you blame yourself a little, EVEN when you are a strong, secure, independent person who rationally and intellectually understands that this wasn’t your fault and that you gave it everything you had. It’s so strange to have that dichotomy–to know rationally that you did the right thing to walk away and protect yourself, but to still feel at a heart-level that maybe if you had just done things “right” or been perfect? Which, of course, is impossible. It’s especially tough when everything unraveled so quickly from being just totally awesome, and the person goes from idealizing you to all of a sudden devaluing you for not “understanding them enough.” Yes, I agree with you. I do think he’s still in the mode of looking to the outside, looking to someone else to come in and to complete him–to intuit his every need/feeling without him having to express said needs–and for that person to say exactly the right thing at precisely the right time. His thinking being, once that happens, he will know that it’s true love and that he has found “the one”. He thought of me that way initially and for awhile, but of course, the minute that I didn’t perfectly respond in the right way at the right time, his outlandish expectations were not met, he became disappointed and deflated, he went emotionally numb, and I was pushed away/devalued. I can see that now.
    I really appreciate your reassurance that there really wasn’t much else I could have done in those moments to have changed the trajectory. He’s got to make those changes himself.
    I also agree with you that I should probably talk to a counselor about this as well. I thought I could handle the pain on my own, but it’s tougher than I thought, and it’s hard when other people who haven’t dated BPDs are telling you to “just forget about it, move on, you’re so much better off without him, at least you figured this out now” blah blah blah. Of course! Duh! The rational part of me knows this too. But they can’t relate to the pain/confusion of going from a semi-serious relationship with someone who seemed so great and wonderful and the entire time was pushing for more commitment, to all of a sudden experiencing this strange transformation of the person into a clingy/fearful/desperate character who then abruptly pushes you away and decides that they can’t be YOUR friend because you didn’t do ______ enough for them. It is unlike the pain of any other breakup I’ve ever been through before. I just moved to a new state and I’m establishing myself in a new job, but I do hope to seek out someone soon once I get myself settled here. I can’t reiterate enough how comforting and thoughtful your comments have been. Thank you for being so empathetic! I really needed some empathy.

  4. I relate so much to things in your posts that they make me laugh in a – this really isn’t funny but man I know what you mean – fellow BPD diagnosed woman way.

    • Glad I can provide a laugh! 😀 But seriously, I know what you mean because it’s how I often feel reading about BPD too… like “okay a) this is insane, get out of my head, and b) ouch, kinda hurt right now, I thought I was original *single tear* lol. Thank you for reading and commenting, complexcase xx

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