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The Borderline Personality Disorder Symptom That Makes Me Seem ‘Attention-Seeking’

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I haven’t told many people this, but I spend most of my time awake feeling empty. I lack a sense of purpose, a fulfillment in my daily life, a reason to breathe. It’s a common symptom for many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD): chronic emptiness.

I also despise being alone. Something about the silence and disconnection from other people makes my skin crawl and my chest ache. When I’m alone, it truly feels lonely, dark and, well… empty.

Many of us with BPD receive a bad reputation for being “attention-seeking” and “manipulative.” While, yes, I will admit that seeking attention and clinging to people is a serious struggle for me, I’m finally starting to see the connection between my desire for attention and the chronic emptiness I feel.

I lack the ability to self-validate and self-love, so I look to others to help me feel wanted and important. This neediness becomes draining, and eventually builds frustration and resentment. Yet, somehow, I can’t stop myself.

I’ve spent over a year in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) at this point, and it’s provided many skills to help me regulate my emotional intensity, remain present in the moment and tolerate painful emotions. One thing it has not helped me do, however, is find a way to fill up the emptiness that eats away at me nearly 24 hours a day. I can be actively involved in a project at work and still feel the heaviness on my heart. I can be having the most amazing night out with my best friends yet still feel a void in my chest. I can be eating a delicious meal but still feel a twinge of desolation in the bottom of my stomach.

Like the ebb and flow of the tide, my emptiness constantly comes and goes, forever washing over me when I least expect it, and never when I’m accurately prepared for the storm it creates inside.

My chronic emptiness not only causes me a great deal of pain, but it transforms me into a kind of person I never wanted to be. I hate how it makes me codependent, clingy and completely confused. The emptier I feel, the more my fear of abandonment, self-hatred and emotional dysregulation increases. When I’m completely running on empty, any skillful coping mechanism I could use melts away, and I often find myself dissociating or suicidal as a result.

I’ve read so many books and articles on BPD, and yet I haven’t found a single answer on how to make the chronic feelings of emptiness dissipate or disappear. I’m wondering if there’s even a way to make it all stop and keep myself full, or if it’s one of those things I just have to radically accept is part of my life forevermore.

I’m sure that, just like any other part of life, there’s a bit of truth in everything. I can both find ways to fill the void healthily and also radically accept that, sometimes, I just feel empty because I have BPD. I hope that as I continue my recovery journey toward a life worth living, I can find ways to love myself and feel less empty, even if just for a little while. I may not have the answers, but I do know this: I can’t rely on others to fill my cup forever, because nobody can fill from an empty cup… even the best of friends.

Photo by Alex Ronsdorf on Unsplash

Originally published: July 7, 2019
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