When Borderline Personality Disorder Makes It Impossible to Take Rejection
“Thanks for sending us your story. Unfortunately, we have decided not to accept it.”
“Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish it.”
“Unfortunately, we’re going to pass.”
“Unfortunately, your story wasn’t chosen.”
Unfortunately, unfortunately, unfortunately…
They say the word “unfortunately” like some external force has caused them to reject my stories. Like it wasn’t in their power. But they are the ones who have crushed my dreams again and again. They may as well have said, “Unfortunately, we hated your story.”
“Unfortunately, you’re a terrible writer.”
“Unfortunately, we’ve been sent stories way better than yours.”
“Unfortunately, no one will ever publish your stories.”
I am a writer. I’ve had non-fiction work published in several places. I know I can write non-fiction because magazines and websites have liked some of my pieces enough to publish them. That is validation for me. I am proud of the articles and personal accounts I’ve had published. But it’s not enough.
When I was a child, I wanted to be a writer — a writer of fiction. I wanted to write short stories and novels and have them published. I read a lot of fiction and I wanted to be like those writers. A year ago, I started sending my stories out for the first time. But since then, all I’ve received are rejections. I subscribe to a tracking website and my acceptance rate is 0%. Every time I get an email from one of the places I’ve submitted to, it’s one that begins with “unfortunately.”
I’m losing faith in myself. It took me ages to work up the courage to start sending my stories out for publication. The first time I shared a story at my workplace writing group, I thought everyone else’s stories were much better and I almost cried. But over time, I received positive feedback and my confidence improved.
I started to think maybe I was a good writer. I took a writing course with a published writer as the tutor and she said I was a good writer. But I don’t believe that anymore. I can’t be good because everyone is rejecting me. The constant rejections are eating away at my confidence and destroying my self-esteem. Everyone hurts me so much, which causes periods of self-hatred and mental self-harm. I tell myself I’m useless and talentless, and I will never amount to anything. As I write, a voice in my head continually says, “This is rubbish. No one will want to publish it. Why are you even bothering?” I’m on the verge of giving up.
My friends tell me that I should write for myself and if I get published, it’s just a bonus. But as someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I need that external validation. I don’t feel I can keep doing something I’m no good at. People with BPD often crave validation. All my life I’ve felt like I’m worthless unless I have a partner who loves me. Unless I have friends who care about me. Unless I have a job that I’m good at. Unless I’m a good enough writer to get published.
People also keep saying, “Every writer gets rejected. Just look at J.K. Rowling!” I know people say that to try and make me feel better, but it actually makes me feel worse.
I’m sure there are more people who never make it, who spend their whole lives trying but never get published. The thought of that is almost too much to bear. I feel so ashamed that despite so much practice and money spent on courses, I might still be no good. Other people say getting published is about luck. It’s not. It’s about talent and it seems that I have none.
Why else are other people getting acceptances and all I get are rejections? If I was a good writer, surely one of them would have said yes by now. I don’t mind rejections, as long as I also get some acceptances. If just one publication accepted a story I wrote, I would feel that it’s all worthwhile — that I’m a good writer. And then the rejections wouldn’t hurt quite as much.
I want so badly to receive an email saying, “We loved your story and would be honored to publish it in our magazine.” I want it so much it hurts. Even reading stories from other writers now fills me with jealousy that they are so much better than me because they got published.
I had one story shortlisted in two places and received good feedback. You would think this would spur me on, make me feel that I do have talent. But I don’t feel like that. Instead, I feel like I’m just destined to never be quite good enough. If I was any good, I wouldn’t have just been shortlisted, I would have been published.
If I didn’t have BPD, maybe this wouldn’t matter so much. Maybe I could shrug and say, “Oh well, one day I’ll make it. I’ll keep trying because I know I am a good writer.” But I do have BPD and I can’t validate myself that way. I’m feeling worthless right now, and I believe I’ll keep feeling this way unless I get a story published.
People say, “If you don’t try, you certainly won’t get anywhere.” That’s true, but I also wouldn’t receive rejections.
I wish I had an easier hobby. I wish I didn’t want to be a writer. You need thick skin to keep going despite the stream of rejections, and I don’t have that. I’m emotionally fragile and I want to give up. I want to never have to read another “unfortunately” email. But I like writing. I’m not sure I can stop. I owe it to myself to keep trying for publication. I just hope I don’t manage to completely destroy my self-esteem in the process.
Can you relate? Let Katie know in the comments below.
Getty Images: MariaDubova