(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 former sufferer, who has since recovered from BPD & had her diagnosis changed to C-PTSD since the time of writing (updated in 2022).
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.