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

This is what it feels like, looking back

This is what it feels like looking back – on love (‘love’) through the lens of borderline personality disorder…

Like the only air in the room came from between your lips.

Like every cell in my body had hands that were reaching for yours.

Like nothing would be okay until I knew we were breathing our final breaths together – only then would I know that you cared enough.

No love without death.

The darkest of fantasies, played out in the daylight. Ugly from every angle but one.

How could I have called it love? Or was it? Maybe I was right to use the word. Though now, all it reeks of is obsession. Desperation. Fear. Breathless and dark and smothering.

It felt like I could take all the blows life could lay on me – as long as it was you giving them to me.

He hit me and it felt like a kiss.

man-in-the-darkness-green

And now.

What a load of fucking bullshit.

 

He hit me and it felt like… he hit me.

And the darkness didn’t make it real. It just made it dark.

And the love/hate didn’t make it romantic. It made it exhausting.

And the games didn’t make it fun. They made it petty and cheap.

And our whole culture keeps buying into it. Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and mars.

 

Love does not hurt. Love does not scar.

Love feels like the rock beneath your bare feet.

Like the roots of the lone tree still standing after the storm.

Like spring’s buds reaching for sunshine after an endless winter.

Light that may be covered but never goes out. Not really.

Love builds and stretches towards the sky, ever higher.

 

That’s love. And you and I never had it. Thank you for showing me what I need and what I don’t.

La-Gabbia-785x549

Fighting love (and losing badly)

Very little grows on jagged rock.

Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.

You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different.

Surrender.

-Rumi

I know chances are that I don’t even have to say/explain this if you’re reading it, but BPD has pretty much made me very anti-love for the majority of my life. As in I hated relationships, hated affection, hated intimacy, hate hate hate it. All of it smacked way too much of all kinds of things that frightened the hell out of me, from trusting and relying on someone, to experiencing actual happiness or warmth.

Again, this would probably seem so bizarre to most non-borderlines, and yet I’m assuming its totally “normal” and intuitive behaviour for you if you’re bothering to read this. Anything wonderful, especially love, can be snatched away so easily, lost so quickly for the borderline, that to have those things is to be in constant state of terror about when the good feelings will disappear and the darkness will flood back in, stronger and darker than ever.

But in line with my recent post on actively working to capture and internalize good memories (since we’ve certainly got no problem internalizing the opposite), I wanted to go out on a limb here and describe something that I hope brings even a little bit of good to someone else’s day, the way it brought a smile to mine.

The new relationship I’ve started has moved fast – too fast (a part of me would argue) – and its really scary. I try to slow it down, reign it in, keep the brakes on, but in reality I am just more and more blown away each day by how wonderful this guy is. It’s crazy how much I want this to work – not just “work” in a BPD way (read: you play the hero, I play the victim, and you save/care for me every minute of your life), but really work in a full-on adult relationship kind of way, which would be totally new territory for me.

Recently, a subject came up between us that really triggered me. My instinct was just to get out of the conversation. I started to get upset, which for me, means I started to dissociate and “leave” the scene even before I managed to mumble that I was actually leaving the scene. But he told me to stay and held my hand and just kept saying the kinds of things that I couldn’t believe someone without advanced therapy training would EVER think to say. Things like: you’re so strong; you can change this; you’re not alone; you’re here now and I won’t let anything bad happen to you. Without pushing at all for more information he made me feel understood. Without playing the parental or hero role he made me feel cared for. Without any professional training he made me feel better in my worst moments than any mental healthcare professional has.

Then he said there was something he wanted to show me and he went and got a small, flawless black beach pebble to give me. In disbelief I heard him start to explain how he kept it on his dresser where he could look at it as a reminder to stay focused entirely on the detail of the moment, and not drown in worry or regret. It was mindfulness from someone who (to the best of my knowledge) had never heard of “mindfulness,” didn’t know anything about the years of therapy I’d had in the concept, couldn’t imagine how much what they were saying resonated with me. Even more astonishingly, this is someone I would have seen as thoroughly “normal” while I was firmly in the “crazy” camp. Funny the lines our minds draw, and how false and misleading they can be. When I told him I would have seen him as the last person who needed to work at staying mindful or positive, he said, “I think I work a lot harder at it than you think I do.” Huh.

There are people out there who are going to understand. They’re not perfect, and my BPD really really wants them to discount them for that. But they do exist. Kind of terrifying. And kind of amazing.

Although I remain extremely cautious about jumping into this whole love thing headfirst, I am willing to step into the water. I’m hoping with everything I have that it turns out to be as good as I think it will be.

wildflowers

 

Cat xxxx

EDIT: To anyone reading this now (over three years since I wrote it), I just thought I’d include a note to say that this man and I have now been married nearly 8 months. For real. I’m not going to lie and say everything is ‘happily ever after’ all the time, because it’s not. We’ve had (and continue to have) a few difficulties, and a lot of them have to do with my BPD-esque background/ingrained behaviours, but… a lot of them don’t. I might be the only newlywed who feels excited when we have a stupid fight, because guess what? THEY DON’T END WITH ME WANTING TO DIE. We may fight, we may say hurtful things, but then we say that we’re hurt, and we apologize and make up. AND IT’S WORKING. When I look back on some of these posts, I realize why I feel so excited about those “dumb fight” moments. They are proof that I have changed. A lot. In a way that makes me feel happy and strong and hopeful (not fake, empty or “different” like I once feared). And if I can change THAT much, trust me—anyone can. ❤