What a Breakup Feels Like When You Live With Borderline Personality Disorder
Breakups are different for everyone. So many mixed emotions, tears and in some cases, relief or calm. Any emotion felt during this time is valid, and it may be different for you each time you experience it.
Breaking up when you have borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be a traumatic experience, upsetting for all parties involved. It’s hard to fully explain just how out of control and broken you can feel during this process unless you are familiar with the intense emotional tug of war that happens with BPD. Sadly, it usually becomes toxic, both for you and the other person, and too often it ends in tears and regrets.
One of the most common traits of BPD is splitting — it sounds painful, and it is. It happens when your feelings towards someone are so strong they engulf you, and fluctuate between “good” and “bad.” There is no in-between, no gray. You start with a passion so intense it takes your breath away and captivates the object of your desire — a love so strong it is impossible not to get caught up in it. We feel so strongly, with every fiber of our being. More than that, it courses through our veins like blood. We fall fast and hard and no matter how much we may try to keep our heads above the surface, we find ourselves drowning.
This “honeymoon period” can border on obsession. You float around in rose-tinted spectacles, led by your passionate heart. You ignore subtle signs that things may not be OK, because you love this person — you ignore the warnings of others because in your eyes, they are flawless. As you can imagine, this can sometimes lead to dangerous situations where a vulnerable person with BPD would be easy to abuse.
And then something happens — a big fight, a disappointment, a horrible shock — and it’s like the rug is pulled from under your feet. It’s not just a sinking feeling for those of us who are emotionally unstable… it is utter devastation. The world quite literally stops turning and you are left floundering in slow motion, unable to think or reach out to anyone, unable to rationalize. Everything you knew was a lie. There is no gray. Your view of perfection has been tainted and now it is a view of disaster.
How long has this person lied to you?
They clearly don’t love you. They never did.
You aren’t worthy of love. You’re so gullible to think this time would be any different.
Before you know it, you’re curled up in the corner sobbing, inconsolable, possibly even suicidal or wishing to hurt or “punish” yourself. Nothing else may have even been said or done, but you cannot rationally see this. You are distracted by your own thoughts, suffocated by your doubts, fears and anxieties, many of which reawaken and bubble up in full force from your past. An intense fear of abandonment is common in those with BPD, and it can honestly feel like your world is falling apart when someone rejects or leaves you. You can’t imagine a future where they are not in it, and you don’t want one without them.
The next stage is anger.
How dare they do this to you?
How dare they have this power?
Of course, the issue at hand may well be minor, but your twisted perception of reality can make it seem like the worst crime in the world. You hate them for making you struggle like this. You hate yourself for letting it all get to you, for believing the “lies,” for being gullible and naive enough to ever think you were capable of being loved. These thoughts are truths in your mind and they stick into your flesh like thorns.
Lastly, there is the debilitating fear as the splitting cycle begins to reset. A noxious mix of angry and confused, half grieving because it’s all gone wrong, overwhelmed with love and yet in physical agony and mental anguish because you can’t possibly see how you will live without them. You drown in the tidal wave of emotions as every wave knocks you off your feet, and then the cycle starts all over again. The calm hits, and it is like nothing happened. You feel nothing but intense love, and forgiveness for their perceived sins, and this sharp U-turn can be frustrating, disturbing and upsetting for the other person. And for you, it can impact your life so badly that you can’t cope. I’ve made attempts on my life before or badly hurt myself following a fairly minor issue with past relations. Not so much due to their actions, which would rationally not warrant such a response, but due to the horrible and distressing thoughts that fill my head during this process.
Perhaps the worst part of this roller coaster is that you can’t get off and you can’t control it, any more than you can control the weather. You appear manipulative to others, they grow suspicious of your sudden changes in opinion and mood. What seems to you like an attempt to reconnect and explain your behavior comes across as sending them on a guilt trip — an inability to understand your extreme reaction often makes the person feel like they are being painted as a “monster” or exceptionally cruel. They aren’t, but having such an intense reaction to their behavior can make a small fight feel like a serious offense.
It’s no wonder some of these people leave. It is painful and distressing for all involved. It can seriously impact your own view of yourself too. You begin to feel afraid you truly are manipulative or toxic, or that maybe it is you who is a monster. This can lead to isolation, and a deep mistrust of people.
There are so many articles online about how to break up with a borderline and how it might affect you. I hope this piece can shed some light on what we go through ourselves, and I hope people may begin to feel compassion for us and maybe have some understanding of the turmoil going on in our brains, rather than simply viewing us as complicated and difficult. We don’t want to hurt or manipulate you. We just want to be supported and loved.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via so_illustrator.