I Feel Alone in My Borderline Personality Disorder, but I’m Scared to Reach Out
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
A couple of months ago, I finished a long-term group therapy program I’d been in for two years. When I left the group, I felt good. I was ready to leave and get on with my life. I wrote about how much better I was feeling after therapy, about all the positive things it had taught me. I told people how much therapy had helped me. In my follow-up appointment a month after my leaving date, the therapist remarked on how stable I seemed. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that I was totally “cured;” I knew I’d have dark days again, but I thought the worst was behind me.
The therapists told me it was normal to have a dip after leaving therapy. I
joined a temporary “moving on” group where other people who had recently left spoke of struggling after they’d finished their therapy. I kept waiting for it to hit me, but when it didn’t, I thought maybe I had escaped it. People spoke about a loss of structure, and I thought maybe my new routine — continuing to work four days a week, and devoting the other day to writing — had insulated me against this loss. I looked forward to the rest of my life, a life without therapy. I met up with friends, and felt more normal than I had done in years.
Then, one day in early December, the slump came. My plans with friends had dried up, whereas people I worked with all talked about how busy their social lives were. Working from home, with my wife out working in an office, meant I spent every day alone. I’d recently moved to a new team at work, in which only three of us work in the UK, the rest are in the US. Making new friends at work had been difficult even before that, with now more or less permanent homeworking due to COVID-19, it became even more difficult with a global team.
I started to struggle, feeling really alone. I felt like no one liked me, that no
one cared. My self-harm urges and suicidal thoughts came back with a vengeance. When I had to complete some questions for my moving on group about how to replicate in “normal life” the things that therapy gave me, I began to feel despondent. How could I replicate the support structure I had in group therapy? I realized I couldn’t. I could only think of one friend who I could talk to about my struggles, in addition to my wife. When I thought about it, I realized only one person had even asked how I was after finishing therapy, and she was really just an acquaintance, not even a friend. None of my friends or family (apart from my wife) had bothered to ask how I was. I wrote down for the moving on group session I could contact the mental health first aider at work, or the befriender’s network that was recently set up. Yet, when I thought about contacting any of these people, I hit a block in my head.
One of the biggest things I was hoping therapy would help me with was my need for attention, my compulsion to always tell people about how I was feeling because it made me feel cared for. About five years ago or so, this was particularly bad. I’d get really attached to people, bombarding them with text messages about how bad I felt. I wasn’t purposely trying to manipulate them, but subconsciously, I just wanted people to feel sorry for me, to show they cared, because I was incapable of caring about myself. I hated myself, and I needed someone to prove I was a worthwhile person. This always led to the other person’s own mental health declining, to me thinking I couldn’t live without them and clinging to them, to them ending the friendship, and me sinking into a deep depression. On one occasion I did something to hurt myself after the breakdown of one of these codependent friendships, hoping the person might find out and feel bad and come back to me.
After an episode of spilling my guts to someone, I’d always feel really ashamed. “They must think I’m pathetic. They must hate me. Why do I keep doing this?” I’d think, and I’d resolve never to do it again, to keep everything to myself in the future. Yet before too long, I’d be at it again, bombarding someone with text messages about how bad I felt. The shame I felt afterward wasn’t enough to counteract the overwhelming urge to have someone care about me. I was addicted to people’s attention.
Therapy has definitely helped with the compulsion to tell everyone when I am feeling bad, and I am grateful for that. Yet, the shame is still there, and is maybe even worse than it was. When I started to feel bad again, I realized I felt unable to tell anyone. The thought of reaching out to anyone, even a mental health first aider, made me feel sick with shame. I’m so ashamed of the person I used to be, the person who “used” friends to make herself feel better, and I’m terrified of going back to those behaviors. I did eventually tell the one friend who understands, and she was very nice to me, but even then, every time I got a message from her, I’d struggle to read it. I’d feel sick thinking she might be getting tired of me, that she might end the friendship. I’m terrified of driving her away. I did reach out to the befriender’s network at work, and had a chat with someone, but I felt so ashamed afterward that I resolved never to do it again. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to keep my feelings to myself.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling really bad. I asked the friend I
was able to talk to if we could have a chat over Christmas, and she said she was too busy. I emailed a colleague who had recently left the company and
promised to keep in touch, and she didn’t reply. I texted a couple of friends to ask how they were and they replied, but they didn’t ask how I was.
I always thought that when I got better, after therapy, I’d be more popular. Now everyone else seems to be socializing all the time, and I feel like I have
nothing. I now feel like it wasn’t just my illnesses driving people away — it was just me. I’m just not a popular person. It’s been this way ever since I was
young. I honestly think hardly anyone would notice or care if I wasn’t here.
There was a work social event over video just before Christmas, and I got so drunk that I blacked out. That scared me, as I used to do that years ago and had thought those days were behind me. But I think I felt so starved of social interaction, so lonely, so obsessed with wanting people to like me, that I went way over the top.
When I was incapable of keeping things to myself, I longed to be one of those people about whom other people said, “I had no idea they were struggling. They never said anything.” Now I am one of those people, and my God it feels lonely. I still have the fantasies about seriously hurting myself and people feeling guilty when they realize they should have cared more. But the idea of telling anyone how bad I feel fills me with horror. I’m even writing this under a false name because I don’t want anyone I know to read it and link it to me.
I’ve gone from thinking people will only like me if I’m sick, to thinking people won’t like me if I’m sick, that they’ll back off, that I’ll lose all my friends. Every time someone ignores me, or says something negative about me, even if intended as a joke, it hits me right in my heart, but I don’t react. I’m pretending to be OK, while hoping someone will notice I’m not and force me to talk about it.
Thinking about it, I guess this could be related to the black-and-white thinking typical of borderline personality disorder (BPD). I shared everything in the past, and now I feel like I can’t share anything. It’s all or nothing. There’s no in between.
If I start to feel good again, I’ll be fine. It’s when I have down periods I realize I still have a long way to go. I don’t know how to get over this shame, and I feel like I have no one to talk to about it. I can only hope by making plans to meet up with friends, which I’ve been trying to do for the coming weeks, it will pull me out of this bleak period and these bad periods will be few and far between.
Unsplash image by Riccardo Mion