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Why Borderline Personality Disorder Makes Me Want to Stay Ill

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The fear of abandonment shows itself in many different ways in different people. I hear a lot of people are too afraid to let anyone know they are sick because they worry people will leave them. For me, for the past few years, it’s been the exact opposite. I’ve had the idea that if I wasn’t sick, people would no longer care about me. I thought they were only friends with me because I was sick and they felt sorry for me, and if I got better people would leave me. I have borderline personality disorder (BPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and a minor eating disorder. Once they were all diagnosed, I told as many people as I could, because I wanted their attention. Without it, I felt like I was worthless, that if people weren’t feeling sorry for me it meant they didn’t care about me and would leave me. For months I resisted getting better at all. I was really sick, but I wanted to stay sick and I wanted to get sicker. And the more attention I got from friends, the sicker I wanted to be to keep that attention or get more of it, and the sicker I got. I wanted to lose more weight, self-harm or do other bad things, partly because I was ill, partly because I felt I needed to punish myself for having these thoughts — but also partly because I wanted people to care about me.

My therapist would say to me, “I don’t know if you want to get better,” and I would say, “I don’t, but I want to want to get better.”

Related to this is the fact that I feel jealous of anyone who is ill, and particularly people who seem to be sicker than me. For example, one of my colleagues got hit by a car a couple of years ago and I wished it was me. I wanted the attention. I came to realize I don’t actually want to be ill, it’s just the sympathy that goes alongside it I crave. I had to come off Facebook for a few months when it was really bad, as I had two friends who were really physically sick, one of whom was in hospital and I couldn’t deal with the jealousy I felt when people posted on their walls saying how sorry they were they were ill. It probably sounds really selfish saying all this, but I hate that I feel this way. It makes me feel really bad about myself and want to hurt myself.

I believe this all stems from my childhood. I know my parents love me, but I never really felt that love. They gave me money rather than attention. When I was 2 years old, my brother died of a cot death when he was 3 months old and although I don’t consciously remember it, presumably my parents were grieving and therefore didn’t give me the attention I wanted — the attention I’ve been trying to find it from other people ever since.

Recently my best friend got so tired of me texting her constantly telling her how sick I was that she left me. I don’t blame her. I was incapable of having a normal friendship with her. Every time I spoke to her or texted her or saw her, I had to tell her every little thing I was feeling. She was always really sympathetic and I loved the attention. It made me feel cared for. If she was ever busy and took a while to reply, I would assume she suddenly didn’t care about me. I would sometimes also misinterpret things she said and assume she hated me. I just wanted her to feel sorry for me all the time. Understandably, it got to be too much for her.

After that happened, things got worse. Being abandoned by her made me feel she had just proved how worthless I was and what a bad person I was. I was suicidal, and I immediately told someone because I felt there was no other way to show people how I was feeling and to get them to care about me.

Eventually though, I turned a corner, realizing that staying sick and getting sicker were causing the exact opposite of what I wanted — i.e. people were leaving me. Getting sicker was not making people less likely to leave me, but more likely. I couldn’t go on feeling that bad. I wanted to die, but I have a wife and I knew if I killed myself, it would destroy her. So I decided to put in more effort and do everything I could to get better.

The problem is, the symptom of wanting to be ill has not gone away. I was dismayed when it came back, as I had thought I was over it. I’m definitely better than I was, but still hate that I am a bit better. I still have a desire to be sicker and I am still jealous of people who are ill. I can be having a good day but then I get easily triggered and I start to feel terrible. When we went to visit my friend in the hospital recently, I felt jealous when he talked about being ill. A friend had a seizure and I felt jealous. Another friend has got worse with her mental illnesses and is clearly now sicker than me and I feel jealous about that. Every time she tells me how she is, I wish I was the one getting sicker. It’s ironic because she’s probably envious of me getting better, whereas I’m jealous of her getting sicker.

I know this is part of my BPD and the only way to get over it is to get better, but it’s hard when your brain is telling you people will leave if you get better. Logically I know it’s nonsense, but I still feel it so strongly. I am literally fighting my brain to try and get better.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration.

Originally published: September 13, 2017
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