Black Holes and Revelations*

Simulated view of a black hole in front of the...


As a borderline (or someone who knows one), how often do the ‘black holes’ come along for you? How long do they last?


When I say black holes, I mean the kinds of situations that everyone can immediately call to mind if they are/know a BPDer. I don’t have to define them because you know what I’m talking about, but I’ll try in case anyone does not have a huge catalogue of them on file in his/her mind.


The black holes of BPD are the lows of chronic depression, the frenzy of withdrawal, the ache of isolation, and the boiling hatred and rage that precipitate all serious violence committed by human beings. To fall into one is to lose all sight and memory of what it is like to be happy – or even to live tolerably inside your own skin and skull. Existence feels crushing, infuriating, pointless. Every effort to help only inflames every negative thought and emotion at war inside you. Nothing is good enough and anyone who tries to come close must be savagely and instantly pushed away, at any cost, for reasons that you don’t even understand.¬†When the screaming and vitriol do exactly what you’d expect they’d do – i.e. drive everyone away – the borderline can sit back and stew over everything they were already upset about, but with the added pain of abandonment and the knowledge that they were right: no one can help and no one cares enough to try.


Sound crazy? Then you’re probably reading the wrong blog.


For me, reading a description of typical BPD rage for the first time was terrifying because it made so much damn sense. It resonated in ways that made me feel cold all over. I feel like that all the time, I thought.


In fact, the real truth of it is (I’m trying to be as honest as possible in this blog since I have a long and destructive association between my BPD and mandatory shame/dishonesty about it): I’m feeling like that right now. I am right smack in the middle of a black hole – but the difference is, this time, I’m searching for a revelation.


How did it start? When did it escalate and why? How is it similar to ones I’ve had in the past?


These are questions I ask myself every time I feel like this but I never feel closer to treating the cause, even if I do come closer to identifying it (perhaps?).


It started as many of mine do: I felt disappointed. Disappointment, for me, is a massive trigger, and I’m certainly not alone in that among BPDers. Why? Because when you feel disappointed, you acknowledge that you did not get something you were expecting. In other words, you acknowledge (or maybe you don’t, but a part of you knows anyway) that your expectation was a vulnerability, a spoken or unspoken request that made you open to rejection. That rejection in a state of vulnerability – and I cannot stress how small or misunderstood the “rejection” can be and how large a BPDer can make it – exemplifies everything that lies at the terrified heart of borderline personality disorder: abandonment, exposure, betrayal of trust.


Almost everyone with BPD has one particular instance in their mind of their ultimate betrayal, the ultimate rejection that “made us” the way we are more than any other. Among all the instances that we gather and hoard and chew on, there is usually one primary figure looming in the middle. For me, the memory is of the only person I ever really loved rejecting me when I was most scared and vulnerable. He completely misread my fear and desperation, mostly because I was no good at expressing them, but also because he was a Grade-A ass-hat, as I got to realize at that inopportune moment.


Result: my BPD/inability to express certain feelings meant that my need for comfort (the vulnerability part) turned into a traumatic emotional eruption (the rejection part) that I still struggle to come to terms with.


Classic, right?


In this way, the black holes of BPD are seemingly inescapable. They get bigger and deeper each time you return – easier and easier to fall into. You tell yourself you’ll simply avoid the edges – in other words, reject all vulnerability so nothing can reject you. But part of you knows that as long as you’re a living and breathing human being, you’ll never be able to do that. Not completely. Even the worst numbness or emotional lock-down breaks eventually, as I can confirm. I worked so hard for years and years to steel the soft parts of me – the vulnerable parts that I taught myself to loathe – that I no longer had to work at it: it simply became natural. Now I have to deal with that hardness, that resistance, on top of the pain that it (usually) covers. It’s exhausting and, I’ll admit it here, totally ineffectual.


No matter how hard I wish it, those parts of me are not dead and they never will be. All they are is incredibly dangerous because I’ve starved and beaten them until they are constantly fighting to escape and run wild.


One of my icons is Johnny Cash, and every time I hit a black hole, I think of his heart-rending cover of the Nick Lowe song, ‘The Beast in Me’:


The beast in me
Is caged by frail and fragile bars
Restless by day
And by night rants and rages at the stars
God help the beast in me.


I don’t feel unique in being able to relate to it, but I don’t feel comforted by any sense of community about it either. The very nature of that beast is that it is a solitary creature and not even the shared experience of it brings any positivity, any knowledge, understanding, insight or connection with others.


Or does it?


I don’t know right now.


I dragged myself out of bed, unshowered, pyjama’d and gross, to write this – to do something. That’s more than has resulted from most of my black holes. But it hardly counts as any kind of revelation?


-Cat Earnshaw


*No copyright infringement intended, Muse.