The weight of the world

Do you ever feel like all the pain in the world is yours, and yours alone, to bear? 

Besides rage/anger issues, I would say the strongest hold BPD has on me is my addiction to suffering. I don’t know what else to call it. It’s an addiction in the sense that I can’t picture life without it, I don’t know who or what I would be without the portion of pain I keep hanging onto, and I don’t know the first thing about getting rid of it. I don’t even think it can be ‘gotten rid of.’

It’s as if the grief of every parent who has lost a child is deep in your gut; the broken heart of every desolate lover flooding your chest; the pain of every tortured lab animal pulling your nerves to breaking; the shame and self-hatred of every rapist and abuser eating its way out of your stomach. 

I think of Moses and the Egyptians, luring them into the ocean to drown as God closed it behind them. I often feel like a tiny spot has been cleared of water for me in the midst of the Pacific; the agony of existence in this world is the ocean all around me. I can feel the damp, cool threat of the water, hear the rush of it, know that at some point, it will crash down and swallow me without a trace.

I used to wonder if everyone felt that way. Was I the only one that couldn’t handle it?

My therapist says (there’s a blog title right there…) that people with BPD have a poor sense of self and no boundaries, so the walls that should be there to protect us from others’ suffering are not. We take on the burdens, the worries, the pain, the memories, the traumas of other human beings the way other people pick up style tips. 

I’m not sure I buy that. I’m sure that I do have boundary issues and my mental/emotional walls need to be better defined. But I can’t help but weep for griefs that are not my own – even though sometimes they are all tangled up with mine, almost as if it’s only “okay” for me to cry for myself as a side note to someone else’s pain.

Long ago I stopped crying for the pain. It’s only within the last year or so that I could start again. It feels like trying to empty said ocean with a teaspoon. I don’t really know how to feel about the truth that I know in my gut: Life is pain. There’s no exorcising it, no releasing it for good, no total healing, no ultimate catharsis, no leaving it behind. Not really. Our choices are to live with it or to not live. That choice is a lot to bear sometimes.

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BPD: A Snapshot (and a moment of gratitude)

So much of the essence of borderline personality disorder is about duality, especially when things are at their lowest – their “most BPDish.” The blackness of depression and the white of blinding rage become the only two emotional options that seem to exist. I oscillate between equally miserable but totally opposite feelings: one moment a long-forgotten shipwreck, watching life and light go by miles above – rotting, disappearing under fathoms of cold, dark silence; one moment a baited animal in a crushing crowd of oblivious onlookers – everything too bright, too loud, too much, too painful, and everyone laughing themselves sick.

Everyone but me.

It is the phrase that has defined my consciousness for about 20 years. Everyone but me has something – I have nothing. Everyone but me has a chance at happiness – I never will. Everyone but me can make real friends – I can’t. Everyone but me does not to feel like this – I do. Does it sound too self-pitying to be believed? It kind of is. Welcome to being a borderline. Realizing (and usually fully agreeing) that no one should have to put up with the annoying, self-absorbed, angry, bitter, evil, manipulative *insert umpteen other negative adjectives* inner you – the real you. 

Obviously those are not logical or factual, those statements. Obviously any numbnut can immediately point out that you only feel that they are “real” (a dismissive slap in and of itself, isn’t it?), and that in reality, many people can relate to what you are going through, and that you’re a good person (whatever that means), and there are all kinds of help out there, and the feelings will pass if you distract yourself and blah blah blah blah…. 
 
About there is where I have to really struggle not to just sink back below the waves. Numb. Away from anger, pain, fear, frantic distress, endless despair, and all the other things I no longer know how to separate from the very core of who I am. It hits me in a wave of exhaustion and I feel like a nauseating adolescent for even thinking it but it keeps proving to be true: I just can’t make anyone understand. 
 
I can’t convey it. I have tried, and I’m trying even now, but I have never had it be worth it that I did try. On the contrary, the risk is that trying to explain, to make that connection with someone, is, for me, a borderline suicidal tendency: I can’t handle the emotional equivalent of a paper cut, but I essentially hand over my raw innards and a cleaver every time I look to someone for help or comfort or understanding – particularly with all of this
 

And then I can’t help but laugh at the irony of our absurd predicament. They destroy me with a weapon they have never asked for – one they wield without even knowing it, gouging and grinding me to bits just by standing there, bewildered, not knowing what to say or how to help. How fucked up is that? How utterly ridiculous is that?

That was how I felt until about six months ago. That was how I always felt inside, until I came across the term: borderline personality disorder. And then one by one, the pieces started to fall into place. It feels like most of them are still very much out of place, but even getting a few key ones in there – an explanation, a specific treatment plan, a label that unites me with other people who feel exactly like this – is a big deal. I take so much comfort from the fact that I am not as alone as I always thought. 

Even if I had only come across one blog, one single person – even if we never met or interacted – who could describe exactly what my life has felt like, it would have broken my heart with hope. Because it would mean that in no uncertain terms, I have been wrong: I am not the only person that feels like this. And who knows what else I’ve been wrong about in the process?

It’s an odd thing to feel so hopeful about, but I can’t tell you how much of an impact that realization has had on me as I’ve read blog after blog, article after article, comment after comment written by people who clearly do understand.

Thank you seems really inadequate; however, they’re only words we really have for the sentiment. So thank you, to everyone who takes the time to write about their BPD experiences, and, of course to read or comment on mine. 

-Cat Earnshaw xx 

 

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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.