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What 'Splitting' in Borderline Personality Disorder Feels Like

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“Hey, not everything is in black and white,” “you’re too sensitive” and “it’s not the end of the world,” are phrases too familiar to her. She remembers hearing them directed at her while growing up and she keeps hearing them now. Those words translate themselves in her mind as her over-reacting to situations. It seems to her, though, that it is they who take things too lightly. How people keep their calm with someone when they are angry at them is beyond her comprehension.

She has a flaw, a problem, a malfunction. She’s not exactly sure what to call it, but she cannot place relationships on a spectrum, people either are or aren’t. They fit into categories and it bothers and confuses her when things aren’t clear. There is no gray area; there is a serious incapacity to objectively judge the person as a whole, but instead as only what they represent to her in that moment.

When everything is OK with someone, she will be loving and kind and astoundingly handy for whatever she can help with. But if she even perceives a rejection, she will find everything she can possibly consider wrong with that person. Though her words are angry, harsh and disrespectful, it is truly the saddest attempt to lick her wounds, to lower that person so she don’t feel so bad, so defective, so worthless. A perceived rejection can be anything from an unanswered message, the lack of a hello or an interruption.

The feelings that come from these extremes are extreme themselves and she often cannot handle them and explodes. Of course, she is ashamed and remorseful afterwards. Those feelings make her angry at herself. She is disappointed in herself for reacting and for not being able to see things differently in those moments.

She is painfully aware of how difficult it must be for the people surrounding her. The phrase “walking on eggshells” is accurate for those who relate to her.

While it is clear that in those moments she is the aggressor and others are victims, she detests being like this, and whenever she has suicidal thoughts they stem from not wanting to hurt others anymore. She feels toxic. The guilt she feels for vilifying people she loves immensely hurts. She cannot comfort herself for her actions because she becomes someone she dislikes.

“Splitting” isn’t limited to relationships. If something is not going according to her plans then everything is wrong. She is constantly re-evaluating herself and changing goals and working very hard and obsessively towards something, only to be disappointed because she won’t tolerate even the most inevitable mistakes from herself.

She lives a life of extremes, of really high ups and really low downs, of all or nothing, of black and white. Her life is a fast rollercoaster of climbs and freefalls, and in the middle she just braces herself for what will come. With such a lack of stability, she has no basis for prediction, nothing concrete to fall back on. She may feel and think one way and then, just as if her whole perception of the world stood on the click of a switch, everything suddenly changes. The ups, the downs and the aftermath of both are continuously exhausting. No wonder it’s close to impossible for her to maintain a stable sense of identity.

The stigma of people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) trying to manipulate others with outbursts and certain behaviors is terribly wrong. You manipulate someone to gain something from them, however they end up losing so much! She has lost relationships, she has damaged good moments, she has hurt others: but you need to know, she has hurt herself so much more! She cannot look back at her past without feeling horribly guilty.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new BPD Safe Zone group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Join the BPD Safe Zone -- a safe and nonjudgmental space for anyone living with borderline personality disorder to talk openly about their experiences. Click to join the BPD Safe Zone.

When she feels something, she is really feeling it. The fact that her mood changes quickly and “things pass” doesn’t mean she was manipulating. When she feels something, it is very real in the moment. There are no options other than the ones in her head in the moment. She cannot see a middle point between extremes, so while she is alternating scenarios in her mind, her actions seem to be interpreted as manipulation, as crying wolf. But she’s not; in the moment there is a wolf. He just disappears and keeps going back.

Getty image by agsandrew

Originally published: September 14, 2020
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