recovery posts

BPD A-Z: FAVOURITE PERSON

April 27, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

ebony-nash-bpd-favourite-person-borderline-personality-disorder

Did you ever have that crush in high school, where the person became the focal point of your entire hormone-fuelled universe? Where there was just never enough room to adequately profess your love for them on your notebook? Where the days when you didn’t hear them call out for the morning register became instantly flat and pointless to you?

That time old teenage crush is a bit like the phenomena of the ‘favourite person’ in BPD. They become everything; a walking manifestation of your mental lifeblood: your happiness balances precariously on how they feel and, most importantly, how they feel about you.

With the above analogy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that FPs are only romantic in nature, but this isn’t the case. For those with BPD – who struggle to create healthy attachments after generally chaotic upbringings – these hallowed loves can arise from any guise of relationship: therapists, friends, teachers, coffee shop baristas – you name it, FP doesn’t discriminate.

On the surface, this seems quite harmless for all parties involved – what’s the harm in a bit more love in the world? However, the emphasis has to be placed on quite how much of an impact said FPs can have on the mental (and often, consequentially) physical wellbeing of their BPD counterparts.

Often, we can come across as obsessive. Our FPs become living, breathing drugs to us and simply being in their presence is enough to sustain a high. Given our tendency to be quite amiable and fun to be around at first, we usually gel seamlessly with our new connection and begin spending a lot of time with them. Friendships and relationships bloom and, more often than not, this period is blissful for all parties involved.

This harmony lasts until the FP does something that knocks them from the pedestal they didn’t even know they’d been elevated to. Sadly, this doesn’t have to be a significant slight – nor does the FP have to have done something intentionally to upset the person with BPD – it could be as simple as cancelling plans, or not replying quickly enough to a text. In a bad period, these slights can begin sounding deafening abandonment alarm bells for the BPD sufferer, that only they can hear.

Once something ticks off this highly sensitive alarm system, it’s often a slippery slope to friendship/relationship doom. Our fear of abandonment can still preside in what – to a ‘normal person’ – would be perceived as the healthiest, most loving pairing, but those with BPD are so hardwired to expect the worst that we’ll sometimes create it ourselves.

One of three things happens at this point in the FP relationship. Some people with Borderline will lay it on very heavily in a bid to stay as close to the person as possible, hoping to make them stay. Inevitably, the person receiving this barrage of attention and neediness can begin to feel smothered and may back off. The killer here is that this then just perpetuates the BPD fear of ‘everyone leaves’, even though it was technically by their own hand due to this debilitating fear.

Alternatively, the sufferer may attempt to distance themselves as a defence mechanism, presenting as cold and distant seemingly out of nowhere. At this point – whilst the FP may be feeling confused and even hurt – the person with BPD is struggling intensely and may begin exhibiting self-destructive behaviours. This is often – subconsciously – done in a misguided attempt at conveying their fear and dysregulation to the FP after backing off; hoping they’ll pull them back in.

Where romantic relationships are concerned, this can develop into something called ‘triangulation’, where the person with BPD keeps an old flame on a back-burner in case the new person leaves them. It isn’t done from a place of greed or a desire to cheat; purely as a desperate means of ensuring they don’t end up facing their biggest fear of being alone.

Naturally, this all adds up to a veritable shitshow when it comes to holding down any friendships or relationships, when a person is still in the throes of untreated BPD. With the help of DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy: a course of talking treatment in which the patient learns how to reconfigure the flawed or non-existent coping strategies they have formed in childhood), this can be improved and many with the disorder form healthy, long-lasting connections.

Interpersonal relationships have been one of the biggest struggles within my diagnosis and I’ve done a lot of things in the past that I’m ashamed of; hurting people in a frantic attempt to avoid being hurt myself. Now I’m on the path to recovery, I try to be as mindful and self-aware as possible when it comes to how I react with, and to other people.

One of the most effective strategies I’ve implemented is spending more time exploring my own hobbies and strengths – this blog included – where in the past I’d have wasted hours trawling my (then) partner’s social media, or wondering who they were with if they didn’t reply to a text in a set amount of time.

Think more “if shit happens, it’s going to happen”: you can’t control what people do, you can only control what you do. If you’re being a paranoid partner who’s negative and picky – often without any legitimate reasoning – you’re only going to encourage your FP to want to spend their time elsewhere.

Having ended up alone in the past – almost always by my own doing – and realising that I’ve always bounced back eventually, has been an influential learning curve for me. I’ve seen rock bottom, lived it several times, but I’m still here and arguably, stronger than ever.

These days, the aim is to take the energy I wasted on looking for any clue – real or imagined – to suggest that my FP is going to fulfil my warped belief that nobody is to be trusted, and to plough that into bettering myself. The goal is to become someone that I’m proud to be, and someone that my partner is proud to love.

If you feel affected by anything discussed in this post, or know someone exhibiting similar symptoms with their mental health, feel free to follow and contact me on Twitter @Ebzo. Please bear in mind that I am not a professional and any advice given will be taken solely from my own experiences and research (I am also still very much a BPD sufferer too, as much as I may be high functioning!).

BPD A-Z: DISSOCIATION

March 20, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

Can I start this post by clearing up that neither dissociation (nor its dastardly cousins derealisation and depersonalisation) are exclusive to Borderline Personality Disorder. Dissociation is actually commonly attributed to Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which I was diagnosed with at the time I first started experiencing it; long before BPD was mentioned to me. But as misery likes company: BPD loves a co-morbidity.

Dissociation could be likened – baring in mind that I have never actually ‘dropped acid’ personally – to daydreaming on acid (or really strong tranquillisers). It essentially refers to the experience of zoning out; which can be as ‘harmless’ as just completely losing track of conversations and feeling like an ignorant arsehole accidentally, to extremes of blacking out for periods of hours to days at a time. During this time, you’ll have no recollection of what you’ve done, which is terrifying (believe me!).

My first experiences with dissociation and – in turn – derealisation, mark one of the earliest occurrences that made me realise I wanted to be vocal about my mental health and to hopefully help others someday.

When I was around 17, my anxiety started mutating into scary guises that I’d formerly never dealt with. Depression and anorexia had been my main bag – the latter of which I was in recovery for and undoubtedly exposed to heightened anxiety as a result of which. Depression I could reconcile with; it was familiar and comfortable in its gloominess, but this new-found anxiety really knocked me for six.

I started feeling very detached from everything around me, looking too far inwardly until the warped rhetoric that my brain was spewing became louder than my rational mind. Holding conversations became incredibly difficult as they brought with them a bizarre new feeling that something just wasn’t right; something more intense than general social anxiety.

Reality felt floaty and unlinear, with sunny days in particular making me feel ‘unreal’, or like I was in a dream.

This kept seeping into more and more of my thoughts, until the only times I didn’t feel ‘unreal’ were when I was distracted by sex, drinking, or watching ASMR relaxation videos (my partner at the time didn’t complain, unsurprisingly).

One day, I hit something of a breaking point after being in the kitchen with my ex-partner and my mum whilst they were having a conversation. I watched their mouths move and could almost tell what they were saying, but I felt lightyears away from the room and I just couldn’t understand them. It felt like I was on another planet, trapped in the terrifying recesses of my brain, no longer properly present.

At that point, I was convinced I’d gone insane and that my brain was irreparably broken, so decided I had no choice but to kill myself. Thankfully, my active suicidality only kicked in 7 years later, but I sat on the bathroom floor bawling my eyes out in secret, desperately looking for answers on my phone.

I tried to research it without scaring myself further; paralysed with fear at the prospect of telling someone lest they locked me up.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you exactly which video it was today, but I happened upon a YouTube clip where someone was describing their experiences with anxiety and how sometimes – in bad periods – they sometimes feel ‘unreal’, or disconnected. I cried my eyes out with relief.

I wasn’t broken. I didn’t have to die – I was just severely anxious and experiencing what I then discovered was dissociation and derealisation.

And guess what? From that realisation, the severity and frequency at which I experienced those symptoms waned significantly. So, for goodness sakes guys: let’s keep sharing our stories, no matter how uncomfortable or scary (and oftentimes, even embarrassing) it can be. That YouTuber may have saved my life.

BPD A-Z: CAUSES

March 18, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

By this post, you’re probably all too aware that BPD is a raging little shit with little rhyme nor reason, but you may be wondering: where the hell does it come from? Is it a genetic disorder; a chemical imbalance? Is it environmentally fuelled? Are we just oversensitive aliens, unequipped for the trials and tribulations of everyday life?

As tends to be the case with all things Borderline Personality Disorder related, this is technically still unclear, due to current lack of research and the many guises that the illness takes.

One of the most prevalent cited causes for BPD are the abandonment issues we discussed in the first part of this blog series. Whether real or perceived, feelings of neglect and invalidation in formative childhood years correlate with a diagnosis later in life. This is dubbed as ‘childhood trauma’ in most writings, but doesn’t have to have been as drastic as such wording suggests.

Another recurring trait in those with BPD is perfectionism. As to whether this is the result of the ‘fear of abandonment’ – forming an obsession with getting everything right – has yet to be proven.

Personally, I relate very much to the above – I’d describe myself as a ‘faulty perfectionist/fraught overachiever’ (or ‘tortured genius’ if I’m pissed and think I’m being funny…). School was always a way I could prove my worth – something that arguably isn’t at the forefront of your average 10-year-old’s mind, but in the aftermath of my parents’ messy divorce, it was a means of control which was mine alone. The question is, which came first: the perfectionism or the predisposition for developing BPD?

In recent years, studies have begun to reveal an array of potential causes that relate to our grey matter. There have actually been findings that have shown certain parts of the brain within afflicted individuals are oftentimes either a different size, or operate at a different rate to those of ‘neurotypical’ subjects.

A tendency of the illness to be passed down has started emerging, with many sufferers finding a familial link; often a parent who exhibits many of the key traits who may not have been officially diagnosed. Whether that is an environmental effect or purely hereditary has also yet to be found.

Upon receiving a diagnosis of BPD, it’s important to reflect upon – ideally through the guidance of therapy – what may have been the cause of its emergence. Once you feel like you have adequately identified this, the next step has to be to learn how to move on from it – something DBT founder Marsha Linehan calls ‘radical acceptance’.

Many of us BPD-ers are highly nostalgic folk, whether for good memories or bad; with a definite tendency to ‘live in the past’ if left untreated. This can manifest in myriad ways; from returning to toxic relationships as they remind you of the inconsistent push/pull of affection in your youth, to living a life poisonously embittered by something someone afflicted upon you in your past.

Of course, this is all entirely relative and I’m not sitting here saying “forgive your abuser and crack on, mate”, I’m saying that all you can do is move forward and stop the past from eating you alive for any longer. You deserve to live – not to exist – but to live and to thrive.

If you relate to the above and would like to discuss/learn more, you can find me harping on about mental health (not exclusively BPD) on Twitter @Ebzo.

BPD A-Z: BREAKUPS

March 14, 2019

(BPD A-Z) is a series aiming to cover an abridged run-through of some of the most characteristic elements of Borderline Personality Disorder, written by a 25-year-old who lives with the mental health condition.

It’s pretty much a given that nobody exactly enjoys a breakup – your heart feels like it’s just fallen out of your arse and life becomes a walking Dido song with no pause button. When you experience a breakup whilst suffering with BPD, however, said heart feels like someone carved it out, ate it for dinner then returned its rotting remains to your chest cavity for a laugh. And that Dido soundtrack turns into Damien Rice wailing along to the tune of your own funeral march.

Does this sound over-the-top? Bloody good, because – unfortunately – that’s essentially the crux of what living with Borderline Personality Disorder is all about.

Rule #1 in the mind of any (dys)functioning BPD sufferer is always: thou shalt never be alone (or thou shalt surely die). We’ll hold onto our codependent sinking ship until the other person inevitably says “sod this” and does a runner with the last remaining life jacket. Then we’re untethered, and life becomes an empty room where the lights have been switched off – where only the person who left you in there holds the fuse to put them back on.

So we pine, beg and – sometimes in desperation – threaten; anything to avoid drowning alone in this dark room (this metaphor is starting to get a tad messy). This is where we so often get painted with the moniker of “manipulative”, as we can go to debasing or often downright dangerous lengths to make the person stay.

Some corkers of my own include sitting in my ex’s porch for no less than eight hours in the winter, waiting for him to get home so we could talk (in my defence, I was 15 and fuelled by the lunacy of teenage hormones and self-starvation); to sending another ex a nude a day when I was 20 for months after we broke up as he moved abroad, in any vain bid for validation.

You will very, very seldom find an untreated Borderline sufferer instigating the end of a relationship, unless one significant caveat is involved: someone else. This isn’t a given for all with the diagnosis – by any means – but something I’ve personally struggled with throughout my fruitless career as a repeatedly unsuccessful long-term girlfriend.

Spurned by this overwhelming fear of being ‘alone’, I’ve been known to make sure I’ve always got someone to fall back on and never had the guts to leave a relationship cold turkey – even if it was abusive – without a safety net in place.

Right now, I’m as single and ‘in control’ of it as I’ve been in as long as I can remember, after spending a year falling between relationships with two guys who ultimately ended up being toxic to my BPD nature. The jury’s out as to whether they’re toxic full-stop, but only time will tell for them.

I’d like to say I’ve ‘Single Ladies’d myself through the entire break-up period, but it actually culminated in my darkest hours to date. Thankfully, after almost three months of self-imposed purgatory (and one hell of a lot of ignored emails to my ex), I’m beginning to light tiny candles towards a future that I’m creating for myself, by myself.

This has mainly been achieved by a) no contact (I can feel the visceral shudder of fellow BPD-ers tremor through as they read this), b) living life as simply and as ‘on auto-pilot’ as possible and, c) temporarily eschewing my other toxic lover: alcohol.

By forcing myself to live as though I’m caring for a friend and not in fact myself, there’s been little time for pining and wallowing. Podcasts, home-cooked meals and ultimately, routine far-removed from that experienced with the ex-partner – these are your new best friends.

It’s early days for me to say I’ll never fall into the “oh god, I’m so alone – love me – love me – love me” headspace again – which, let’s face it: I undoubtedly will. However, the aim is that this time it will be someone entirely new, who won’t take advantage of my unwavering adulation and appoint himself the ‘privilege’ of treating me like an emotional punching bag. It’ll be someone who will have to prove that they actually offer something to the life I’m nurturing for myself, as I won’t be settling out of any dogged avoidance of being alone this time.


Ebony. 25. Manchester.
Marketing Manager who likes to mouth off on here about stuff she cares about. Expect mental health, Borderline Personality Disorder, and reviews - from restaurants, to books, to fashion. Talks to cats more than people, but seemingly has a lot to say.
ebonylaurenn@gmail.com