When Borderline Personality Disorder Is a Game of Tug of War


Push and pull. It’s like the classic children’s game tug of war; a rope being pulled in both directions and at any time it could go one way or another. Unfortunately it’s not a game — it’s my illness. BPD…borderline personality disorder. The words themselves fill your mind with uncertainty. Visualize standing at a border somewhere with one foot on either side, knowing that at the drop of a dime you could be pulled either way.

Attachment. The need to have it… incessant. The need to keep it afar innate. Something that seems to come so naturally to others yet feels unattainable. There are no 50 shades of grey. It is black and white. You either form an attachment or you don’t. You are either behind our walls or on the outside. There is no middle ground.

Abandonment. The fear of it as intense as being set on fire. Whether consciously or not, we pull people in because we don’t want to be alone and with the next breath we  push you away. We try to leave you before you can leave us. It is the only control we feel we have, and somehow we’ve convinced ourselves it will hurt less this way. We so desperately need to feel attached to someone who loves and cares for us, yet the fear of losing them, in itself, is the thing that stops us from obtaining it.

Triggers. They range from sights and scents to noises and words. Subconsciously or otherwise, they pull us back to a place where we feel unsafe. Those emotions flood us like a tidal wave, our minds full of anxiety and fear, our bodies suddenly tense. Rationally we know at that exact moment we are safe, but our mind is no longer in the present moment. It has regressed to a time of trauma, hurt and pain. Our reactions can be extreme and inappropriate, sometimes echoing our destructive patterns of the past.

Relationships. I have difficulty maintaining them, whether you are family, friends or co-workers. We love you, we need you, we pull you close and hold on tight, and with the snap of the fingers, we hate you, we don’t need you and we push you away. We might delete your emails and texts. We might block you on social media. We react in a way you can not comprehend, simply because you do not have this illness. The fingers snap again and we are back to loving you and needing you.

BPD is an invisible illness. We do not choose this any more than someone chooses to become physically ill. I lash out when I shouldn’t. I react unsuitably to situations or comments that would not affect you. Sometimes I know why, other times the reason is still trapped in the darkness of my mind, not yet ready to come into the light. I’ll pull you in like I’m reeling in a fish from the river, and in an instant I’ll push you away, casting an empty line back into the water. I walk on eggshells. I’m so eager to please you and earn your acceptance because that is what my childhood taught me.

Our illness did not come out of the blue. I did not just wake up one day suddenly full of anxiety, pain and emptiness. This has built up over years or perhaps decades, and is a result of one or numerous traumatic incidents that occurred in my childhood. I coped the best I knew how at the time, and whether there is a physical scar or not, the emotional wounds that were inflicted during my developmental years have left me with a battle to fight. I struggle to quiet the voice in my head that replays the negative thoughts that were ingrained in me.

The best thing you can do for us is to remain. Simply put, don’t leave. We hope you will at least be at the same park, while we are riding the roller coaster that is BPD.

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Borderline Personality Disorder

4 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Didn’t Have the Right Mental Illness Diagnosis

I always new I was a little different. A little more emotional than most people. But I didn’t start seeking help for my depression until I was 22 years old. At first it just started with various medications prescribed by my doctor. Finally I decided I needed more help, so I made an appointment with [...]

Why I’m Not Ashamed of Identifying as ‘Mentally Ill’

I’ve heard lots of people say I shouldn’t make my mental illness part of my personality, or let it define me. That I should focus on other things. Even more often I see people frustrated with my insistence on labels. “You’re more than the diagnosis,” or “one word can’t define you,” or my favorite “why [...]

To Someone Just Diagnosed With Borderline Personality Disorder

To someone who was just diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, I’ve been there. Hell, I am there, and I know there are about seven billion different emotions happening that may seem impossible to sort out. These three letters just hit you like a brick wall. I’m here to tell you this feeling you have right [...]

99 Lessons From My Recovery Journey

1. My passion for mental health. 2. Mental illness doesn’t define us. 3. Self-reliance. 4. It’s OK to not be OK. 5. There are no good or bad emotions, but there are good and bad ways of expressing emotions. 6. Resiliency. 7. Self-compassion is a priority. 8. Self-awareness is key. 9. Coping skills that best work [...]