How Borderline Personality Disorder Makes a Breakup Feel Like the End of the World
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
“You were the happiest kid,” my mom commented as we flipped through the pages of my fourth-grade diary. There was no doubt about that. Every entry was full of musings only a carefree child could have. But the cheerful anecdotes about playground politics, crushes and secret handshakes turned into emotional ramblings about the sudden betrayal by my friends. I wrote extensively about how they had started to ignore me, gossip behind my back and exclude me from our usual shenanigans. My stomach tightened when I saw the words “I WISH I WAS DEAD” sprawled across an entire page.
I remember writing that. It was the last day of school, and the most popular girl in the fourth grade – the girl I considered to be my best friend – sent a cohort from our so-called clique over to tell me none of them ever liked me. I remember staring across the room at my leopard-clad “bestie” as her messenger explained they pretended to be my friend for two years. She said I was a loser, and I just wasn’t cool enough to be their friend.
Losing a friend is heartbreaking, but to my 10-year-old self, it felt like the end of the world. I was consumed with overwhelming despair and anger. I began experiencing suicidal ideation and lost all of my confidence and sense of self. The extreme emotional response I had to my friends’ betrayal was unusual, but my parents assumed I overreacted so strongly because I was simply a very sensitive child. Unbeknownst to us, I was actually exhibiting early signs of borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Ever since that day, I have struggled with traits of BPD, including an intense fear of abandonment, attachment issues, highly changeable moods, black and white thinking, impulsive behavior and a lack of self-esteem. It wasn’t until this year, however, that I was actually diagnosed with BPD after it almost destroyed me in the fallout of my first breakup.
When I started dating my ex, I immediately became attached to him. Wayyy too attached. I shamelessly loved him with every fiber of my being because, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel alone. I didn’t feel empty. But throughout the relationship I lived in a chronic sense of fear he would leave me and I’d be alone once again.
And he did.
The first time he tried to break up with me, he didn’t respond when I asked him if he loved me. I was confused and heartbroken because I remembered him telling me I was the “love of his life” just the week before. The next morning, he sent an apologetic text claiming he did love me and wanted us to stay together. I was elated yet doubtful he truly meant it. The thought drove me “crazy,” and I asked him repeatedly to be honest about his feelings for me. I begged him not to lead me on if he didn’t feel the same anymore because I wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of pain again. He assured me he felt the same way and nothing was wrong, but a month later, I found myself in the passenger seat of his car, crying as he ended our relationship for good. I asked him one last time, “Tell me the truth and don’t lie to me. Do you love me?” And even then, he said yes.
Imagine how heartbreak feels. Now multiply that by 100. That’s how I felt after being rejected by the person I loved so dearly, left without an explanation for the reason I was even rejected.
Before I continue, I just want to make it clear that my purpose is not to criticize or bad-mouth my ex. The goal of this article is purely to explain the troubling circumstances that triggered my extreme emotional reactivity.
At first, I blamed myself for the breakup. I internalized what he did to me and became consumed with irrational thoughts. I pushed him away because of my mood swings. I expected too much from him out of the relationship. He probably didn’t like it when I called him out on the things he did that upset me. He wants a girl who’s “normal.” I didn’t give him enough. He got bored of me. I’m not pretty enough. Fun enough. I’m just not good enough.
I was devastated and confused, so I texted him over and over again after the breakup, asking for his reasoning. But he got fed up with my nagging and ended up blocking my number without giving me an answer. That was another crushing blow because it made me feel like I was a “crazy ex-girlfriend” who kept harassing him. A week later, I got a call from my ex. He finally shared his reason for the breakup – he didn’t love me.
He promised me for a month that he still felt the same way. He told me when we were breaking up that he still loved me. My heart was already smashed to pieces, but his call smashed those pieces into even tinier ones. What did I do wrong? What’s wrong with me? My emotions became too much to handle, and I began lashing out.
Similar to my fourth-grade diary entries, I posted troubling rants on a fake Instagram account as a way to channel my rage and grief over his rejection. I wrote about killing myself. I couldn’t see that my behavior, due to my BPD, was making things worse for myself and would only backfire on me. I knew on some level that my rants on my “finsta,” as well as my novel-length messages to friends, would only push more people away. That fear encouraged me to lash out even more, creating a vicious cycle of self-destruction. I was ashamed of the things I was saying and doing, but it felt like I had no control over my body or mind. I was delusional, hoping my emotional confessions would somehow be passed on to him and make him feel guilty and sorry for me. Let’s just say it did the complete opposite. But I wasn’t able to stop and think rationally about the rash decisions I was making, because I was completely dissociated. I wasn’t myself.
Unfortunately, my downward spiral did end up getting me in trouble. Friends I thought I could trust twisted my words and made false accusations about me. They told my ex, as well as his parents, I did things I never actually did. In response, he and his friends “retaliated” because I “threw the first punch.” One of his friends called me petty. Another sent me a message saying I was “f****d up and “should kill myself.” And most upsettingly, one made sure I knew that my ex had gone to meet up with a Tinder hookup.
After all that, I finally snapped. I lost the boy I loved, his friends became hostile towards me, my friends betrayed me by spreading misinformation, and everyone thought I was “crazy” (at least that’s what I thought). I was hurt that people actually believed the things I was accused of doing. How could my ex, who knew me better than anyone else, believe I was capable of doing those things? Didn’t he know I would never intentionally hurt someone I cared about? I felt like my reputation was ruined. I looked like the bad guy.
“Everyone hates me. Everyone thinks I’m ‘crazy.’ I am ‘crazy.’ I ruined everything. I can never be happy again. No one will ever love me. I am worthless.” I convinced myself all those things were true, and in the moment of overwhelming emotion and hopelessness, I made a suicide attempt.
“Don’t you care about anybody?” a paramedic asked as she wrapped a blood pressure cuff around my arm. That’s the last thing I can remember before slipping into a medication-induced blackout. I was too sedated at that point to respond to the paramedic, but I wanted to tell her I do care about people; in fact, I care too much about other people, and that is exactly why I ended up in the back of that ambulance. I just thought no one cared about me.
My time at the psychiatric hospital following the attempt was actually a turning point for me. It was a necessary wake-up call. I finally got the help I desperately needed. I began to realize I wasn’t “the crazy one,” nor was I the bad guy. I just happened to get embroiled in a complicated, messy situation I didn’t deserve to be in. I deserved to live. I deserved to be happy. I deserved to be with someone who treated me with love and respect. I knew it wasn’t healthy to pine over such a troubled, toxic individual, or to torment myself with questions why he didn’t love me or why he did what he did. If you ever cared about someone, you would never treat them with such disrespect and cruelty. Instead of wasting my thoughts on someone who couldn’t care less about me, I wanted to focus on the people who really do care and who will always be there for me.
I’m still struggling to get over everything that’s happened, but I am doing better. It takes time, therapy, the right medication and a lot of hard work. So to those with BPD going through a breakup that feels like the end of the world: you aren’t “crazy,” you’re not alone and you will get through it.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Thinkstock photo via TuelekZa