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Why I Count On Others to Tell Me Who I Am as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Like many other people who have borderline personality disorder (BPD), I struggle with knowing who I am and what that person looks like. I often struggle to describe myself to others, and the few ways I do are usually negative and very self-critical. Inside my head all I see is this complex web, yarn just wadded up into a messy ball that I can’t seem to untangle. I constantly worry if I’m making the right choices, I research new careers or advanced degrees on and off and I always feel like I’m behind the curve or too late to the party of what life should look like. All I see is the ball of yarn, but can’t even begin to imagine what that ball could become.

So, I surround myself with people and ask them to tell me who I am, what I should do, where I should go. Every person in my life is like another strand of yarn that becomes woven into the giant ball… I need every strand I can get. A couple of my friends have made jokes over the years about how indecisive I am, how I run everything by them before taking action myself. I always try to laugh it off, but inside I know why I do this. I do it because they know me better than I know myself. I don’t know myself, I don’t trust myself, I hate the version of myself I see. I hate that all I see is a giant mess of yarn where everyone else sees beautiful things the yarn can create. Without having people in my life, I wouldn’t get the validation and feedback, the praise and advice, the love and respect I lack the ability to give myself.

I joke that many of my struggles are that giant ball of yarn all wrapped together, but it’s actually very true. I feel empty and out of touch with myself, so I surround myself with people who bring me up and make me feel full. Then I fear these people will abandon me, so I do and say things out of desperation to pull people closer. Often, though, these desperate measures leave people feeling suffocated or trapped and I become frustrated and angry… and then the person leaves anyway. Losing just one person in my life (a friend asking for space or a student dropping my class) makes me feel empty and worthless. I need every single stand of yarn to stay with me so I am complete.

Now that I am aware of this connection, I can work towards change, towards breaking apart the ball of yarn or weaving it into something new and different. I don’t know what the yarn will look like when it’s finished yet, but I do know I have to pick an end to start pulling out of the ball. My dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills group recently started talking about the Buddhist loving kindness meditation, and that in order to send loving kindness to others you must first start with yourself. I think the key to finding peace, to breaking the fear of abandonment, is to first accept and love myself. This won’t be easy, but I’ve got to try… as my husband always says, “Who dares wins.”

Getty Images photo via francescoch

Originally published: February 22, 2018
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