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My 'Drug' of Choice as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

Drugs come in many shapes, sizes and forms, and substance abuse is one of the ways individuals with borderline personality disorder can cope with their torturous symptoms. But what do you do if your “drug” isn’t a drug? I am not an addict to drugs, but to people. For me, it works in the same exact way. I have been describing my habit of needing people to my therapist by referencing it to drug use, and she couldn’t agree more. I go through the same stages of drug use, but in a different way.

I feel incredibly empty, so I look for a way to relieve that feeling. My therapist is my “favorite person,” making her my drug, so only seeing her once a week isn’t easy. After I see her, I feel on top of the world and so elated. I’m excited and full of energy. I’ve never felt better. This is my “high.” I leave her office and can’t stop smiling. My heart feels full for once. I’ve never felt more alive.

Unfortunately, this “high” never lasts long. Within hours I am back to a low. I begin craving more attention from my favorite person. I try to tell myself “no” and restrain myself from contacting her. My brain panics, it needs attention in the worst way. It feels like it is screaming to have its perceived needs met. The more I try to not give in, the more I become anxious and irritated. It feels like I cannot breathe. I need to see my favorite person again. My brain throws itself into a crisis to give me a reason to reach out to her. I engage in self-harm to attempt to soothe my mind that is just begging for attention. The craving intensifies, and soon enough I can’t help it. If I go too long without that kind of attention, I go into “withdrawals” and start sobbing and panicking.

Then I relapse. I do whatever it takes to get that “high.” I show up at the clinic with a crisis. I contact my therapist. I want more and more. Soon, even her attention for a full hour isn’t enough to satisfy me. It’s like I become tolerant to it. I crave more attention to function. Luckily, she has strict boundaries that prevent me from really getting what I want. She knows this isn’t healthy for me. I know she can’t really give me what I’m looking for. She tells me to just say, “No,” but it isn’t that simple. I can’t seem to stop. I’m told to use my coping skills, but my mind focuses on what it really wants.

Borderline personality disorder causes me to constantly need reassurance, validation and attention from others. This is because I cannot seem to provide that for myself. I look to others to give me those things. I’m labeled an “attention-seeker,” but I’m just empty and looking for something to make me feel whole again. I don’t have a sense of identity and being addicted to a person fulfills that role. This is the only way I know to get my needs met and ease the emotional pain I feel from loneliness. I’m still learning to get rid of this “addiction,” but I know it’s possible.

Photo by Thien Dang on Unsplash