Navigating relationships and intimacy with borderline personality disorder.
I often feel “empty.”
My emotions shift very quickly, and I often experience extreme sadness, anger, and anxiety. I’m constantly afraid that the people I care about the most will abandon or leave me.
I would describe most of my romantic relationships as intense yet unstable — the way I feel about the people in my life can dramatically change from one moment to the next, and I don’t always understand why. When I’m feeling insecure in a relationship, I tend to lash out or make impulsive gestures in hopes of keeping the other person close to me.
These are just a few ways borderline personality disorder has manifested within my relationships throughout my life.
Although I’m only nineteen, I consider myself an intimacy aficionado. I have been in quite a few romantic relationships — some long, some short, some unrequited, some not — and I would say the only common denominator in my love life has been my personality disorder. I read a Vice article once that referred to women as wonderful torturers of ourselves. Although loving comes easy for me — trust, stability, assurance, and security certainly do not.
What is borderline personality disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that revolves around an intense fear of abandonment and instability and impacts the way you feel about yourself, others, your relationships with others, and everything in between.
The cause(s) of BPD can be linked to genetics and hereditary predisposition, brain abnormalities, and trauma, although this is not an exhaustive list. Typically, you must display five or more of a long list of criterium to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. These symptoms may include identity disturbance, frantic efforts to avoid abandonment (both real or imagined), instability, and intense interpersonal relationships, suicidal behavior, and chronic feelings of emptiness, among others.
Loving while Borderline…
My fear of abandonment has forced me to require more reassurance than the average person. Even with adequate reassurance from a partner, trust can be frail.
I’m constantly anticipating that my partner will leave me or that they feel differently, which has often pushed loved ones away. My feelings of inadequacy took a toll on them and our relationship. I cannot always explain why I so vividly imagine loved ones leaving me and acting in my worst interest.
My impulsive behavior and unstable sense of self has put me in situations where I have felt obligated to be promiscuous and hypersexual in order to obtain love and care. Hypersexuality as a result of my personality disorder has also led people to take advantage of me — and blame myself for it in the same breath.
I still sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between love, lust, and impulse. On the opposite side of the spectrum, sometimes I have total aversion towards sex. I can feel sexually repressed due to trauma, trust issues, unstable self image, and acute feelings of shame. This physical repulsion has also been a site of complication in more than one of my relationships.
Ultimately, each day and each partner is the luck of the draw in terms of how I will be feeling and what irrationality my brain will orchestrate.
Living while Borderline…
Dialectical behavior therapy [DBT] has been one avenue of treatments that has helped in equipping myself with skills to manage my emotions, self soothe, and navigate relationships.
DBT is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that works to promote a balance in thinking — a way to see seemingly opposite perspectives at the same time. I think of it as understanding that the glass is both half empty and half full. Although mindfulness has always seemed pin-headed to me, allowing myself to feel, use strengthening statements, and understand that things don’t have to be black or white, but can rather just be, has been benevolent in my self discovery and relationships.
Note that I say I live with borderline personality disorder rather than suffer from it.
I have decided to no longer pathologize who I am and the way I am, even if I am sometimes not too sure of either of those things. Being borderline has often made me susceptible to self stigmatization; I’ve believed that I’m manipulative, dangerous, and unable to be in healthy, loving relationships. But this is not necessarily true. If anything, being borderline has offered me ways to be intuitive, compassionate, and empathetic.
My inner turmoil has granted me the privilege of being able to relate to others through lived experience. My heightened sensitivity allows me to be hyper-aware of the emotions of those around me. My intuition allows me to understand and navigate situations that may be unfamiliar.
In terms of intimacy, being borderline has come with a self awareness toolkit that has taught me what I need in relationships in order to have them be both healthy and mutually fulfilling for me and a partner: Reassurance. Patience. Compassion. Understanding. Mutuality. Flexibility. Boundaries.
For more information on borderline personality disorder, click here.