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The 4 Words That Fill Me With Loneliness and Longing as a Person With BPD

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As I sit alone on a Friday night, I find myself scrolling mindlessly through Facebook and Instagram. They are all out with the girls. Who? Everyone, but no-one in particular.

Out with the girls.

They are just words — four words, to be exact — but they are four words that can cause a wave of loneliness to wash over me.

I take a deep breath and tell myself to stop. Not again. Not this time. But it’s too late. The tears fill my eyes and the lump in my throat makes its timely appearance. This is what loneliness looks like for me.

I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). I have never been someone who fit into any friendship group. I have always been on the periphery, an afterthought. Throughout my teens and early 20s, I made it my mission to fit in. To conform. Maybe if I just act like them, they will accept me. I longed for a group of friends to be mine. And yet the more I tried, the more I pushed them away. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.

Fast-forward to today. I am 29 years old. I am focussing on building individual, meaningful friendships. And yet, those feelings I had as a teenager are still buried within me. All it takes is a picture posted on social media to trigger an eruption of sadness.

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I see pictures of women spending time together and, just as I did years ago, long to have a group of my own. I long for the support of other women. I long for a “tribe.” And yet, maybe I am longing for something that only exists through an Instagram filter.

For me, like many others, social media is the catalyst for my loneliness. It’s like a drug. I crave it but I know it’s dangerous — it’s damaging me slowly. Like most drugs, I need a hit when I wake up and then I top up regularly throughout the day. I take my final dose before I go to sleep. I am addicted but afraid to go to rehab. Afraid of giving it up. Afraid of missing out.

As I scroll through the feed, I see pictures of friends spending time together. I don’t know them and yet I feel like I do. I see them having coffee. Scroll. Going to the gym. Scroll. Shopping. Scroll. They ooze happiness. With each picture that appears on my phone’s screen, I am filling up the tear jar in my body. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Going on holiday together. Scroll. Christmas nights out. Scroll. I only stop scrolling to wipe the tears that are pouring down my cheeks. My head begins to pound. I get into bed, pull the covers over my head and cry. I am safe here.

I am certain I am not the only one who experiences this. Social media is painting a filtered picture and those of us who are susceptible are being sold an ideal that doesn’t exist. We are subjected to good times and rarely the bad. This is not real life. So, how do we stop it infiltrating our lives and playing with our emotions? Stop using it altogether? No. There are many positives associated with social media. It is a platform to raise awareness. To spread a message. To engage with people across the world. So, let’s use it for good and not evil. We have the power to change the discourse.

Here is what I plan to do:

1. Less screen time. Much less screen time. Wean myself off as going cold turkey just doesn’t work.

2. Turn my phone on ‘airplane mode’ at least an hour before bed.

3. Avoid looking at my phone in the morning when I wake up (unless I am using the Headspace meditation app).

4. Move phone chargers to the hall and away from our relaxing spaces.

5. Turn off the notifications on my phone.

6. Start being honest about my struggles. Use social media to spread the word.

7. Post the good, bad and ugly of life. Show people that behind the filter there is pain and sadness and that is OK.

8. Talk to human beings in person. Make an effort to make new real-life friends.

9. Spend more time with the friends I do have and appreciate them.

10. Create a campaign to encourage young people to reduce screen time (watch this space).

My hope is that by doing the above, I will begin to wean myself off the drug, decrease my anxiety and show people there is life behind the filter.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Originally published: February 2, 2019
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