A Day in the Life: Navigating Relationships as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder
As I watch the back of my friend disappear into her house, the familiar claw of panic at being alone grips at my chest. My heart is being squeezed into a syrup-like liquid, and my throat is being strangled by an invisible hand. Struggling to get my body to listen to me and put the car in reverse, I hear the familiar “chirp” from my phone that indicates I have a new message awaiting my inquisitive eyes. Prying my hand off the steering wheel, I sneak a quick, but illegal glance at my phone as I’m racing back home. It’s a text from my friend! I have to check this and make sure that she doesn’t hate me and never wants to see me again. I don’t know what I would do if that were the case.
Having a moment of clarity during this cascade of thoughts, I wonder if I am having a borderline personality disorder (BPD) episode or if I am being rational. As I conclude that I am being both logical and rational, I ponder checking my phone and decide the doing that wouldn’t hurt anybody and that I should do it.
With trembling hands, I unlock my phone, open my texting app, and read what she sent me, “I had so much fun today! We HAVE to get together again sometime soon!!”
Just reading that quick text makes my blood run cold. Does she really think that I don’t know she is lying? She hates me and this is the proof. I know she is just texting me like this to make me feel better about how she will eventually drop me out of her life completely. Suddenly, as if coming out of a daze, I notice how my face is dripping with tears and my nose is filled with salty snot. Chucking my phone down on the passenger seat, I hear a crash as it falls to the floor. Then almost as suddenly as I noticed I was crying, I go numb. My body feels foreign, and alien and my emotions are nowhere to be seen.
Luckily, I am used to this happening to me and am able to make it home safely. Parking my car in the detached garage, I catch a glimpse of somebody in my rearview mirror. Not recognizing who they are and not knowing their intentions, my emotions start to return, and my chest is clutched by my overwhelming panic again. Sure, this panic has a different source than my earlier panic, but it still feels like an elephant is trying to murder me by sitting on my body. Swinging around in my seat to catch the perpetrator in action, I am struck with a lightning bolt of realization that the stranger is actually me.
Swearing at myself and my “crazy” brain, I seize my backpack and mope up the path to my house as fast as my legs let me. As soon as I get inside, I let the white-knuckled grip loosen on my bag and let it tumble to the ground in the middle of my food and dirty dish covered kitchen. Suddenly recalling what started this failure of my emotions, I yanked my previously thrown phone out of my pocket with so much force it almost flew out of my hand. After running up the slippery stairs and diving under the covers on my grimy bed, I unlock my phone and read that terribly mean text again. I’m about to send my best friend in the world a text telling her that I never want to see her again and how I know that she hates me, when I begrudgingly decide to try a dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skill before possibly ruining my life. When I first started DBT, I thought it was stupid and only for other people, but as I have been in more and more of these merciless DBT groups, it has started to actually help me.
As I make the agonizing walk to the bathroom to take a cold shower, I pull up my favorite playlist to listen to on Spotify while I’m showering. It’s called “Work Drive Tunes” because that is what I made it for, but in reality, I listen to it all the time. It’s full of music with lots of loud drumming and screaming singers, but it always makes me feel better and more in control of myself. Singing and screaming along to these songs while feeling my body be hit with the frigid water, I can feel the tension mix with the water flowing around my body and going down the drain.
As I step out of the slippery shower, I reach for my mistreated phone. Opening my text messaging app, I start to type out a reply “OMG I had so much fun also! When are you free next because we need to hang out again soon!!!”
Putting on the clean clothes I set out for myself, I think about how I almost ruined my relationship with my best friend due to my BPD. During this, I feel the almost daily occurrence of shame eating me alive. My brain and heart are almost completely devoured when I remembered to try a DBT skill. Piloting my numb body back towards my bed, I pull up a random and mindless game on my phone to distract myself from my distress. Curling up under my blankets, I thought about how I will have BPD for the rest of my life, but I proved to myself and others today that I can cope with the emotions and actions it causes.
Getty image by klebercordeiro