Because I think it’s pretty important. Not self-important. Don’t get me wrong. What I’m saying isn’t an opinion I want you to agree with or think of as important. Rather, it’s something that I see at the very core of BPD, and I honestly never realized it until now. So if this can provide any insight to anyone else and save them the hours of research and therapy that I went through to arrive at it, I’d be thrilled.
Great (and not-so-great) expectations.
Expectations. It’s kind of a huge and all-encompassing topic and therefore carries the potential to have me blab on about it for pages and pages and pages so apologies in advance in case this gets out of hand. It represents, to me, the Problem with BPD, the issue that I can’t let go of, can’t get over, can’t navigate and just can’t shake even if I can pretend everything else in my life is zippi-dee-doo-dah fine.
Specifically, the expectations that I have of other people – and, more specifically, just those closest to me.
My expectations are frequently, without a doubt, crazy. They are wrong. They are unrealistic. They are totally insane. But if you have BPD, you know how bloody hard it is to even temporarily ignore them, let alone get rid of them. They are always there, just waiting for someone to get close, and the second they do – WHAM, you are transformed into a raving lunatic because so-and-so clearly doesn’t care because they didn’t do this, and they didn’t say that, and they obviously should have done this and because they didn’t you should kill yourself to show them how heartless they are, etc. etc. etc.
You want to shake yourself, slap yourself, shame yourself for being so embarrassingly whiny, juvenile, needy, clingy, entitled, self-centred, and just plain psychotic.
Anyone thinking, “OH MY GOD, I know, right??”
I hope so, because this is really painful and self-abasing for me to type out so I’d feel better about it if anyone at all could relate. It raises points that have to be raised if I’m ever going to get better, but it also reveals a side of myself that I absolutely loathe. An identity that I have always referred to as ‘Crazy Bitch.’
Crazy Bitch doesn’t come out as long as no one is close to her (which is why, coincidentally, at the times that my life was going the smoothest, I essentially had zero close friends). As long as no one is there to unleash her on, she grumbles away, imprisoned and powerless, but growing increasingly resentful until she gets a chance to really shine. As soon as someone seems like they really do care – she is lightening quick, assuming, demanding, jumping miles ahead, ripping down all boundaries (healthy and otherwise), and all the while building fragile fantasies and sky-high expectations of a long and fulfilling future with this person – who, by the way, will obviously telepathically intuit her every need forever. So as long as it all works like that, she’ll finally get what she wants – hooray!
Except it doesn’t. Ever. Obviously. And then Crazy Bitch is really in her element. Shattered hopes are her forte. She takes over everything else about my personality and makes it about her needs, her wants, her oh-so-delicate feelings. Screaming and raving at the person who has done absolutely nothing wrong, she will usually jump straight to hurting them – verbally, emotionally, physically, whatever – and hurting herself to show them just how horrible they are and how much they are the problem and she is just an innocent, downtrodden victim.
Just writing about Crazy Bitch makes me realize why some people have such a deep-seated hatred towards borderlines after being hurt by them.
It all goes downhill pretty fast from there. And then Crazy Bitch has a new entry in her massive catalogue of “Reasons to Hate Life and Everyone” because yet another expectation wasn’t met. It’s why so many borderlines hide behind extreme cynicism and pessimism: we claim to have no expectations whatsoever of life or people, because both are shitty and you can’t rely on them. But don’t be fooled: our expectations are, in fact, higher than just about anyone else’s, higher than the most naïve of optimists.
Before I’d heard of BPD – i.e. for about 25 years – I really believed Crazy Bitch was the real me, which was pretty devastating, as you can imagine. To be honest, I guess I kind of still do believe it a lot of the time. But at least the seed of truth is there now, even if it hasn’t grown into full belief and realization yet: DBT and therapy have helped me to realize that Crazy Bitch is actually a mask, even though she felt so real all this time. How do I know this?
Because everyone I know or read about who has BPD can relate to what I’m saying. Every single one of us is Crazy Bitch when they’re in full-blown borderline mode.
So what’s more likely: That we are all the exact same person deep down, with the exact same reactions and feeling across the board? Or (more logically) that we’re all exhibiting the exact same symptoms of an illness, and it’s dominating and masking our real personalities underneath?
The root of my despair and depression were the incredibly negative things I’d been telling myself to try and counterbalance my expectations, which I knew were way too high and unrealistic to be normal. No one cares, no one loves me, no one understands. None of those thoughts were not necessarily true. What was true was that no one ever cared, loved, or understood enough. And, as Karen pointed out, that “enough” would keep even the best relationships in my life from ever being anything positive because they were only, for example, 99% supportive or understanding (at best!), and not 100% perfect all the time, so Crazy Bitch demanded that I end them or keep them at a distance.
So the “enough” needs to change. The expectations of what other people should or can do to care for me need to lower significantly. But how?
That’s what my therapist and I are supposedly going to be working on over the next couple months.
Step number one is concrete and relatively easy, so I’d recommend giving it a try. Step one involves making a kit – both real and metaphorical, ideally – to satisfy your own expectations.
Picture the times when everything goes to shit. The times when you’re on the edge of (or even in) a BPD frenzy. What do you need? What do you want? Leave other people out of it for the time being. Don’t fall back on the typical BPD “but I’m helpless when I’m upset” answer: i.e. that you want someone to validate you and take care of you. When you refuse to continue the pattern of putting the blame and expectations on someone else, you realize that what you actually want is simply to feel validated and cared for. So: what can you do to make yourself feel validated and cared for?
This is huge. Like, really huge. If this works, this is going to be a massive hit to the hold BPD has on me. If I can learn to actually turn inwards and take care of myself instead of automatically turning outwards when I start feeling awful, that alone will eliminate the majority of the times when I feel Crazy Bitch is in full control. I feel really hopeful about it – so hopeful that I also feel kind of sick and terrified because of, you know, the whole issue with hope/expectations.
But anyway… What about you guys? Do you have any kind of (real or metaphorical) kit for meeting your own expectations? Any tips?
-Cat Earnshaw xxxx