Love Through the Eyes of Borderline Personality Disorder

I’ve only been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) for a couple of years now, but I’ve known that the way I see love is very different than most for quite a while. Love and feelings are something I’ve struggled with since childhood. I feel everything strongly, give completely, love extremely. When I say I love someone, I have strong feelings. I often admire them, respect them, enjoy spending time with them and see them as so much more than I see myself. I’d risk and even sacrifice myself for the people I love and their happiness. I’d do anything, move Heaven and Earth if needed, to help out the people I love. To me, that’s what love is: unconditional companionship, care and admiration. It’s that feeling of uncontrollable smiles when you see those people happy, or indescribable pain and sadness when you see them cry. It isn’t physical attraction or sexual interest: that’s lust and completely different to me. It isn’t just blood — love knows no boundaries.
I am learning these are common struggles for people with my history and diagnosis. I think these difficulties are why I struggle with boundaries and often do or say things that don’t make sense to most people in relation to my friendships and relationships. These struggles also lead to negative responses like jealousy, rage, disappointment, rejection and heartache. I wanted to share what love looks like for me.

I love extremely

People may say I got to extreme lengths to show my love. I crave physical touch, so I hug often. I desire validation and dedication, so I frequently say, “I love you” when talking to those I love. I give gifts for anything and nothing. I will message or call my friends almost daily just to let them know I care or to check on them. Some might say I smother, and some get uncomfortable when they mistake my version of love for something else (like romantic interest). I just feel with such intensity that I sometimes cannot control my feelings or keep them inside. I also don’t understand boundaries or ambiguity, so sometimes I mistake the gestures or actions of others for love and end up caring much more for someone than they care about me.

I love unconditionally

Another part of my love deals with being ignorant of flaws. I fear abandonment and failure, so often I am willing to look past what others may consider to be unhealthy or undesirable behaviors or habits. I find myself willingly accepting giving more than I get, taking mistreatment or abuse and just letting others walk all over me. The benefit of this is that I always feel empathy and can forgive, but the negative is I have low self-worth and sometimes don’t even see there is an issue with the friendship.

I love through jealousy

Because I love with such intensity, I often find myself getting jealous. I become upset or angry when I see a picture of some of my friends on social media hanging out without even asking me or I question when I see my husband has a text message from a female co-worker. I may express this jealousy outwardly to the people I love with aggression or sadness. Usually this outward expression of jealousy serves two main purposes: to try to “prove my love” to the person and to try to manipulate the person into giving me attention.

I love through heartache

Unfortunately, a common problem for me is that I find myself in a position where relationships and/or friendships become broken and end quite frequently. I struggle to let go, I try to live in the past and I spend lots of time being heartbroken over the loss of a friendship. I’ll continue to listen to songs that remind me of the person, look at pictures of them and even sometimes try to contact them even after the friendship has ended. Even through the pain, I still love the person and can’t stop. Some may say this helps in some way, but often it leaves me hurt as I watch people move on in life without me, sometimes it leads to damaging things even further because I don’t understand boundaries or confusing signals.

I am learning through my therapy that there are flaws in my view and understanding of love. I am not saying this rationalizes or justifies my actions, but it does help me make sense of my feelings. I’m learning how to regulate my emotions, maintain healthier relationships with defined boundaries and live in the present moment. I’m hoping with time that I can continue to be passionate and love, but avoid undesirable traits that cause the instability and heartache. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To love and be loved without pain or suffering?

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Bedlam, BPD and Me

It’s easy for people with Borderline Personality Disorder to feel like they are the victims of a very cruel curse. This personality disorder is often characterized by an intense fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, and impulsive behavior that ultimately drives people away. BPD makes me lash out, allowing some of the cruelest things to tumble from my mouth, and believe me, there are only so many times loved ones will forgive a lack of control. This is what it’s like to live with this horrific disorder which many uneducated on the subject suspect is “all in our minds”.

It is hard to offer a simple medical definition of BPD, but I’ve heard it brilliantly summed up as chronic irrationality. Think severe mood swings, impulsivity, instability, and a whole lot of explosive anger.

People with BPD may project symptoms that seem similar to other personality disorders, it is often confused with bipolar, depression, schizophrenia or anxiety disorders:

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning. These experiences often result in impulsive actions and unstable relationships. A person with BPD may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last from only a few hours to days.

BPD sufferers may experience extreme mood swings and can display uncertainty about who they are. As a result, their interests and feelings about any recent event can change rapidly.

According to NIMH, symptoms include:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often swinging from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
  • Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
  • Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
  • Having stress-related paranoid thoughts
  • Having severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality.

Ordinary events may trigger these symptoms. For example persons with BPD may feel angry and distressed over minor separations, such as vacations, trips, or sudden changes of plans, from people to whom they feel close. Research shows that people with this disorder may see anger in an emotionally neutral face and have a stronger reaction to words with negative meanings than people who do not have the disorder.

I personally think it’s this erratic oscillation that makes BPD so hard to communicate, particularly to those who are close. Because on the surface, it looks like I’m just being ornery. Like all mental illness, it’s best treated with patience and empathy, unfortunately, like depression or hypomania, it places the onus on people who are not necessarily in a position to help or understand, no matter how much they may care for you. In a relationship, BPD can leave both parties feeling isolated, angry and misunderstood.

Borderline Personality Disorder sends you into spirals of self-doubt and hatred. It makes you feel like a tangled slinky, forever bumping inelegantly down a flight of stairs. You know something within you is twisted, and even once you’re told what, you are left wondering why and more importantly HOW to deal with it.

Just living or being around someone with this personality disorder can be extremely difficult and exhausting. It especially brings out my mean streak, something that both terrifies and shocks me. I’ve always had an eloquently devilish way with words, particularly profane ones, and BPD is like I have Terminator vision that highlights the chinks in EVERYONES armor, unlike my mania, which tends to make me charismatic and for the most part, a pleasure to be around. A BPD ‘turn’ or ‘moment’ morphs me into the meanest, most evil, crudest version of myself.

Due to the impulsiveness associated with people who suffer from BPD, they tend to change jobs frequently and also abruptly cut ties to people with whom they are extremely close. We sufferers have intense and sudden mood changes, and we have severe difficulty regulating our emotions. Unintentionally, we tend to blame others when we make a mistake, which makes it seem to the ones that we care about the most that we are being manipulative and cruel.

BPD can make life feel unbearable most days. Ones “good days” seem so few and far between. I call it a mirage illness, as it makes you feel like someone with no fingerprints. No face. No identity. Onlookers may be tricked into viewing you as boldly transformative, in reality, you are someone with absolute zero sense of self.

It is very hard for those with BPD to have successful and healthy relationships and stable confidence levels. Our version of ‘logical thinking’ is more often than not, overthinking. We have a very hard time distinguishing between real issues or imaginary issues. BPD is considered to be one of the more serious mental disorders, as it causes a great deal of suffering and has one of the highest risks for suicide of all mental health patients.

This is a lifelong battle that over the last couple of years I have prepared myself to fight.

I will never be cured of BPD, but I believe my disorder does not own me. This is my life, and I know it can be beautiful.

From the inside.

Deb, The Long Goodbye

This is a photo of myself and my BFF, Deb, taken a little over five years ago.

That night as we sat sipping our beers, listening to some great music and shaking our tail feathers and laughing until we cried because we are both people watchers and HUGE smart asses and boy did we have a plethora of drunk assholes and desperate whores to make fun of that particular evening.

Who would have EVER fathomed just a few short years later, I would be watching her die.

As Deb becomes sicker and sicker with her terminal cancer, I always pull out this picture to remind myself how quickly your entire life can change. Practically in the blink of an eye.

My dearest Debbie,

I’ll be by your side until we kick this cancers ass, or I will gently hold you as you transition into another journey, but make no mistake, I’ll be there until the sweet bitter end if it comes to that. I’ll never let go!! I love you Deb♥️