Crush

Candy-HeartsRather 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…

The Crush?

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…

Cat xxxx

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Drama drama drama

So often I think the key to living life with BPD is to just untangle (or avoid) as many messes as possible. If I avoid so-and-so, if I don’t talk to what’s-his-face, if I move and change jobs and ignore my family, etc. etc. THEN I’ll never turn into crazy BPD person. How many times have you had the “I’ll change my name and move to another country and re-create myself” fantasy? How about the one where you go live in a cabin in the woods and commit to being a full-on hermit? They’re some of my favourite fantasies when I just feel like my life is too fucked up to fix and I can’t face it anymore.

The truth is that life just is a bit of a mess and it always will be. If it’s not, chances are you’re not really living. When I think back to times that everything has gone as smoothly as I could possibly make it go, they were really boring times. Really boring. No deep relationships. Lots of boring work of some kind or another. No important responsibilities or goals or happiness or despair. Just smooth going. Those times pretty much fell under “subsisting” rather than living. 

I know it’s obvious that the “cure” for BPD is to learn how to face these tangles in life, not avoid them. But I at least want the control of choosing when I’m going to come across a tangle, and of course I don’t even have that option.

Right now I really do my best to avoid “drama” – I mean unnecessary crap that involves gossip or fights or whatever. But regardless, some stuff comes up that just makes me feel about 14 years old and want to shut out everyone all over again rather than be dragged into the messiness that is normal life.

One of my closest female friends has had a torch for this guy for several years. As of this week, he has declared a bit of a torch for yours truly (?!).  Now this is just classic. Welcome to my life. I try to get on my own two feet, have therapy, be okay, hold down a job and whatnot, and interpersonal stuff just flies up in my face being like, “ha HA, you thought you outgrew it, didn’t you??” 

a) I am terrified because I actually sort of kind of think I like this guy back and I swore I’d never date anyone again after my disaster relationship five years ago (gahhhhh but he is so sweet and cute, you don’t even know *becomes giggly child about this*). b) I am terrified of losing this friend or hurting her; I really care about her and her friendship and I don’t think I can handle being rejected by her over this guy. c) This whole stupid roommate situation is STILL ongoing, which means I’m living at my parents’ place (!?) and feel like an out-of-control, unstable teenager already.

So. Messy. So. Frustrating.

What do you guys think? Do you try to avoid drama as a rule, or do you embrace it and find that you grow through these experiences?

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Cat xxxxx

 

If you’re going to read one post I write, please let it be this one

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.

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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