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What Happened When My Boss Became My 'Favorite Person'

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

One of the biggest problems my borderline personality disorder (BPD) causes me is having a “Favorite Person,” or FP for short. Over the past year I’ve lost two FPs, who both started as work colleagues, became friends, then FPs, left work and then left me as I became too reliant on them. I keep finding people I feel are going to save me. It’s like they are all I need, like my life is complete as long as they are constantly giving me attention. The problems come because of course no one can give you constant attention. It’s like a baby needing constant attention from its parents. It doesn’t work when you are an adult. But as someone with BPD, I seem to be unable to validate myself and feel like I am totally worthless unless someone is validating me. I have it with all my friends and my wife to an extent, but it’s worse with an FP. My life starts to revolve around them.

Each time I think I have learned something and I won’t let it happen again, but I seem to be powerless to stop it. At the moment I am struggling to “unfavorite” (this is a word I just made up, but it seems to fit here) my boss.

Michelle (I’ve changed her name) has been my boss for a year and five months. I’ve always found her supportive and always wanted to impress her, to an extent. But over the past couple of months, with no other current FP, it’s gotten worse and my feelings for her have got stronger. I say “feelings,” but I am not attracted to her. To some extent having an FP is like having a crush, but there is no sexual element here for me, and there hasn’t been with most of my FPs. However, I do feel like I love her, in the same way I have loved all my FPs.

When I have an FP, I feel there needs to be three things. First, the person has to be sympathetic and understanding. Second, I have to feel like they get me. Third, we need to have emotional things in common. I felt all three with my boss. I knew from things she had said before that we had a few things in common in terms of obsessive behavior and feeling guilty about things.

She was good with my mental illnesses from the start. BPD and OCD both affect me at work and she couldn’t have been more supportive. I always felt like she had my back. At first she encouraged me to talk about things that were bothering me personally. Soon after she started in the job, I had a bit of a breakdown and she took me into a room and told me she thought I needed some time off. At that point it was mostly the OCD that was the problem. Things were busy at work but she seemed genuinely to care about me and say they would cope because she thought time off work was what I needed.

I was off work for five weeks and only talked to her once during that time, when I went in to take in my sick note from the doctor. We didn’t talk much then. When I went back we had a meeting but she was very business-like and just talked about work. I found that for a while, every time I mentioned any kind of non-work-related problem, she would say “I think you need to talk to your therapist about that.” There was an exception, when someone I was attracted to at work was leaving and I was finding it hard. I told her I had a personal issue and she encouraged me to talk about it, so I told her. And she couldn’t have been more supportive, saying I could take the day off when my colleague was leaving, or could go home early. She sent me a message on the day to see how I was. But usually, she shut down any conversation about anything personal. Because of that, I had a fairly normal relationship with her. I liked her, respected her, got on well with her, but as a manager, nothing more.

So what changed? Well, over the past couple of months we seemed to grow closer. In my last appraisal, she talked about wanting to help me with my OCD issue with emails at work. Soon after that we chatted over Skype and I mentioned my therapist had said my BPD was affecting the situation too. My boss told me that she had been reading up about BPD and she could see that. I was really touched that she had done that — she told me she wanted to help me. Unfortunately, that’s when the trouble started. I could feel myself getting too attached to her. I knew I needed to try and back off, but I didn’t know how to. I told a friend at work and then had to stop telling her how I felt because she hinted that if it got worse, she might tell my boss. I know it was because she cared about me, and had seen me have problems with FPs before, but the idea of her knowing terrified me. I was worried that she would move me to another team.

Around this time I was actually going through a good period. I didn’t like feeling good, but that’s a story for another time. My manager’s close friend at work was leaving at the same time and we both went to his leaving drinks. I worked extra time earlier in the week just so I could go at 4 p.m., which is when my boss leaves. When we were there, I kept wanting her attention and was pleased when she moved over to my table. I went to leave at 6 p.m. and suddenly she said “I think I’ll go too.” As she was a close friend of the guy leaving, I thought she would have stayed longer, so I was a bit surprised. As soon as we got outside she said, “I thought I’d better leave now before I got too upset,” then she got a bit tearful. I felt like she needed to talk to someone and chose me because she knew I get upset by people leaving. Someone had asked her less than an hour before if she was upset about her friend leaving, and she had said, “I’m a lot less upset than I expected to be!” So obviously she was just opening up to me and putting on an act for everyone else. I gave her a hug and she said she appreciated it. Then she asked how I was, and it wasn’t like a manager, it was like we were best friends or something, like she really cared. I told her I was fine but that I didn’t like feeling fine. She said she had read about that when she researched BPD, and that it must be hard. When we said goodbye that day, I felt even more obsessed and I knew I was in trouble.

I told another friend about the situation and she said it sounded like my boss had overstepped a boundary. I think she was right, but I don’t blame my manager. With most people it would have been fine, but I am not most people. As with my FPs before her, I started to withdraw from other people. I wanted her attention all the time. I wanted her to solve all my problems, and I felt like I didn’t need anyone else. I was like a child looking for validation from a parent. When I started to feel bad again, she was the only person I confided in. There had been some changes announced at work, and they panicked me. She encouraged me to talk about my concerns in a catch-up we had and I cried, and she said, “I don’t like it when you’re upset.” I also told her I feel like I could never leave this job as I didn’t want to go somewhere where no one cares about me. She said there will always be people who cared, and specifically said she wasn’t here before but was now, and that she cared.

I started to worry she might leave and I would have to have a different manager. The idea terrified me. One day she mentioned in a message to me a promotion she’d had to do for the company. Initially I saw the word “promotion,” thought she was saying she had got a promotion and would be leaving, and I panicked, until I read it again and realized she wasn’t saying that. I did confide in her that I was worrying she might leave. She told me she was sorry I was worrying about it, and that I should talk to my therapist about it. She also said she couldn’t promise she would never leave. I knew that, and wouldn’t have expected her to. Anyway, even if she had, I wouldn’t have believed her, I would have kept doubting it.

When I started to feel worse, I had to go home early one day and she was very sympathetic. The next day, I was Skyping her about a meeting and she asked how I was feeling. I told her I felt worthless and she gave me lots of sympathy, saying she was worried about me. It felt good to have her attention. She didn’t send me any messages the next day, but I passed her in the corridor in the afternoon. She smiled at me and said “How are you? I haven’t spoken to you today.” I said I was OK and then I went and cried in the bathroom.

She had put a catch-up in the calendar for the next day. When I first got the invite I panicked, worrying I was going to be told off or fired. Then I decided she just wanted to see how I was. But the night before I suddenly got this idea in my head, what if she’s leaving? And then I cried. I tried to reassure myself she was just worried about me, so it when it came to our catch-up early the next morning, I wasn’t too worried. And then she spoke. 

I remember the beginning of it very clearly. She said, “The reason I’ve made this meeting is that I made you a promise.” Initially I thought maybe she meant she would say she had promised to tell me if she was worried about my mental health, or something like that. Then she said, “I promised to give you warning.” As soon as she said that, I knew she was trying to tell me that she was leaving. I remember putting my head in my hands and starting to cry. The rest of the conversation is a bit of a blur. I can recall parts of it. She told me it wasn’t being generally announced until Monday (it was now Thursday) and that she had thought carefully about when to tell me — she wanted me to have time before it was announced, but not too much time that I had to keep it to myself for too long. She asked me not to tell anyone else at work until it was announced. I kept crying and she kept saying, “I knew this would happen”, apologizing and saying how bad she felt. She reassured me that she wasn’t leaving because of me. She told me she would leave the room any time I needed her to and that she had booked it for an hour in case I needed time. She told me I could go home if I needed to. She also asked what specifically I was worried about. I told her, “Sometimes I feel like you’re the only one who cares about me.” She tried to reassure me that wasn’t true. I cried some more, and then she started crying. She said she was flattered and didn’t think that anyone else would miss her.

After a while she asked if I wanted her to go, and I said yes. She left, and I cried my eyes out in that room. I went back to my desk after a bit and tried to work, but it was hard. I Skyped her and told her that I had gotten dependent on her. Saying that changed everything. She said in that case it was probably for the best, and that she had worried it might happen. Sometimes I wish I had never said anything. But deep down I know it needed to be said. Otherwise we may have carried on as we had been, and she may have kept in touch with me because she felt guilty, and although I wish that could happen, I know it’s not good for my health.

I went home that day, and called in sick the next day. It was a very long weekend, as usually I’d talk to my friends at work if anything like this happened, but I wasn’t allowed to. My manager had been so good to me, and I didn’t want to go behind her back and start telling people what had happened before it was announced that she was leaving.

On the Monday I went back to work and she Skyped me to say it was going to be announced that day and could I not let on that I already knew. She did say she hoped I was OK, and I started to say I wasn’t, but after a brief conversation, she said she wasn’t the best person to have this conversation with.

I had lunch with the friend at work I mentioned earlier, after it was announced. I cried when I told her. I could eventually tell her how obsessed I had got with my boss, how she was my FP. My friend apologized as she said she should have noticed what was happening, she knew I had pulled away from her and in the past that’s happened when I’ve had a new FP and it’s always ended badly. She said she was a bit cross with my manager for letting it get like this, saying that if she had read up on BPD, she should have realized that she shouldn’t have gotten so involved in my problems. It did help talking to her. I also met with my manager’s boss, who used to be my manager, and explained the situation to him, and he was supportive.

I thought I was getting used to the idea, and I was trying to focus on work and be professional. I almost begged her one day to keep in touch with me after she left, but she just told me to talk to my therapist. I thought we could be friends — I don’t know if it’s changed because of what I told her, or whether I was just kidding myself and it was never in the cards. It hurt, but I felt I was coming to terms with it. But recently it’s gotten worse again. I’ve had to take some days off sick lately because of my mental health. It hurts to be around my boss, sometimes I can barely stand to see her or be in the same room as her. Every meeting with her is like torture. But at the same time, every time I get a reminder of her leaving, I panic and wish it wasn’t happening. I sit at work feeling worthless and miserable and I’m finding it hard to be there. As I said before, I don’t have romantic feelings for her. However, the best way I can explain this is that it’s like we were dating, and she dumped me, and I have to be around her all day knowing she no longer loves me. It sounds dramatic, but that’s how it feels to me. I felt like she cared, and now she doesn’t, and so that means I’m useless and pathetic and would be better off dead.

As I write this, I’ve come home sick from work again. I really hope I can start to process this and move on. It’s not fair to her for me to be like this, and I don’t want it to end on a bad note. I’m planning to make her a cake, and give her a card. I want it to be a positive ending and I want her to have good memories of me. She leaves in three weeks. I’m dreading the day, but I also hope it will actually be a good thing in the long-run, and that whoever my next manager is, I will be able to establish the proper boundaries with, as I can’t go through this again. I try to think how I could have stopped this from happening, but I am so prone to having an FP that I can’t really see how I could have stopped it. I’ve told a few people I am relatively close to to warn me if I start to talk about my problems with them regularly. I will try not to let myself have an FP again, but I know that I need intensive therapy to change things for good. 

Getty Images photo via fizkes

Originally published: September 21, 2018
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