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What 'Emotional Blackouts' Are Like With My Borderline Personality Disorder

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Here today, gone tomorrow. Out of sight, out of mind. Absence makes the heart grow (less) fonder.

Many people who live with borderline personalist disorder (BPD) know very well the meaning of these phrases. I’d like to share my story so those without BPD can understand us, too.

BPD can involve a lot of emotional “mis-wiring.” I’ve struggled with the absence of “normal” emotional responses for as long as I can remember. For me, it more often than not manifests as a lack of emotion. I know it may sound strange, considering many with BPD are often considered overly sensitive and/or over-emotional. And I am. Yet it’s not like I’m a permanent bomb waiting to explode, or an incessant source of waterworks. Those odd, over-the-top bursts of (often unexpected and uncontrollable) emotion are the culmination of days, weeks, possibly even months of feeling nothing. Absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada.

It’s hard to explain this lack of feeling. I could experience the pits of despair or summits of elation one moment, and then entirely forget the feeling ever existed. I call it an “emotional blackout.” I know, in theory, that in the past I’ve endured pain, sadness, hopelessness, and enjoyed moments of joy, pride, achievement. I’ve gone on fantastic holidays where memories were created and the spirit in me was moved. I’ve loved with all my heart and felt mountains move. I’ve had my heart crushed. But then I’ve forgotten. Everything. It’s like it never happened. And try as I might, I just can’t remember the feeling.

I feel it’s worse when you know you can’t remember. You often know you’re causing those around you pain in some way. And there’s not a thing you can do about it. I’ve learnt to cope by pretending I remember, acting extraordinaire! Loved ones often would like you to multiply their joys and divide their sorrows. But when you can’t feel anything, let alone empathize with them, I’ve found it’s all I can do to just sit there and hope they don’t notice I’m pretending.

I’ve hated myself for it. I wish I could apologize to them for the umpteen times it seemed like I didn’t care. I really want to be there for them. I just cannot practically bring out the correct emotional response (even when I know what it should be).

What worries me is the thought of being in any relationship. I know I’ll likely forget all the good times if I don’t keep reminding myself of them and forcing myself to feel something. Because if I let time pass and remain for too long in the comfort zone of not feeling, even a small, not-so-good incident (something as silly as forgetting to buy something from the grocery store) could instantly propel my loved one straight into the “I hate you” zone. And then it’s a whole lot of effort to start all over again.

A lot of my relationships have been ruined over this. But I’ll keep working at it. Some people understand. Some don’t. Relationships that could stand the test of BPD do. Those that don’t may have at the very least helped both parties become stronger. Yet there is hope. I refuse to give up. I know there’s more to this than meets the eye. And I know there’s hope for all of us with BPD. Our loved ones want to help us and be with us. We just have to work harder to reach there. We will.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: January 10, 2017
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