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What Falling in Love Feels Like When You Live With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Love is a complex emotion that is backed by an equally complex chemical reaction inside the brain. Falling in love is usually something that can be beautiful, exciting and wonderful. Sure, there are always challenges in a relationship, because love itself rarely takes into account things such as chores, bills and day-to-day stressors. Love is work in the long run for even the most well-adjusted and neurotypical person.

For a borderline, love can be a high and a low like nothing else. It can be addictive and devastating if not kept in constant check. When I meet someone I’m instantly attracted to, I want to wrap myself in them. I want to have them close to me so I can feel that surge of chemicals that makes the human brain feel good. It’s as though I’m walking on sunshine, and the world smells of jasmine and joy. I think I can do anything as long as that person is beside me.

Now this can be a great thing, except that when I fall for someone, I fall hard and I fall fast. It’s not a slow stroll from “I find you attractive” to “let’s move in” to “let’s make this forever.” I go from zero to 60 in about 3 seconds. Well.. for the most part. I’ve had my fair share of marriages (three) and I’m a bit gun shy about that ever happening again. But, I do go from thinking someone has a nice smile to sex in an impressively short time, often in the frame of just a couple of hours. I think they are the world of amazing, and usually — usually — I’m just that cute girl they slept with and are done with. Now fortunately that’s about as long as my attention span is, and I’m OK with that. Because the chemical composition of love is at its core, a function of the body.

Then there is the rare occasion where I fall madly, deeply and desperately in love.

Recently I did that. Two months ago I experienced something which has never happened — even for this deeply emotional borderline. The first kiss took me out at the knees, and I experienced a flight response stronger than anything I’d ever felt before.

This gentleman and I had been flirting casually online off and on for a month or so before we met at a social function. He had flown down to Georgia from New York for the function, and I had driven the two hours over from the city I lived in. Neither of us was sure how it was going to go. I was a tummy full of butterflies, and then I saw him and he wrapped me in a hug that pressed pause on everything going on around us.

It was a perfect moment. The afternoon was perfect. Then he kissed me. He kissed me and the entire world went out from under me. He kissed me like I was the air he needed to breath. He looked at me like I was the sun. All I could think was, “Oh… this is what this is supposed to feel like,” and couldn’t stop myself from the free fall into love in that single moment.

For a borderline, this is somewhere between ecstasy and agony. The ecstasy of that rush of feeling a deep connection with someone who not only listens when you give them all the warning labels you come with, but accepts they are there. Accepts the risks involved. The agony is the overwhelming fear that they won’t be able to handle you, and that they will leave. Like so many others have. Like so many others will in the future. So here are the sequence of how this goes with me:

1. Fall in love — gloriously and passionately in love.

2. Hello Anxiety, I see you’ve brought your friend, Stark Terror.

3. Try and talk through it all logically with my bestie.

4. Get through that.

5. Freak out.

6. Still in love.

7. Try and drive him away (it doesn’t work).

8. Freak out.

9. Still in love.

10. Two months later, he’s coming to spend five days with me.

11. Freak out more.

Being in love is a game of Russian Roulette, or is a waiting game. The roulette is the guessing game of what particular aspect of my disorder is going to flare at any given moment, and shatter this fragile, budding relationship. The waiting game is when I am always waiting for him to leave me. To walk away from the hellish reality that is my constant, rapid shifting mood swings and rages.

So far it’s been one surprise after another as he handles the ups and downs with a serenity I didn’t know existed. It both soothes the fears, and cranks up the anxiety at the same time as I try and fit this unexpected change into the barren landscape of my own reality.

Love is one of the most terrifying emotions to experience for me, because it leaves me vulnerable to the person I have fallen in love with. Vulnerable to being hurt in a way that the other people in my life can’t even come close to.

So as I try to negotiate my way around this new minefield, I have to keep reminding myself that a borderline in love is not always a bad thing, and that someone, someday (hopefully this one) will be able to love every piece of me, and that they won’t allow my mental illness to define me.

Someday I might even believe that.

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Originally published: November 14, 2017
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