Rather 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…
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…