For months, I’ve been wondering why I get along so well with people with Borderline Personality Disorder. I have several close friends who have been diagnosed with BPD or exhibit most of the traits, and I really, truly get them. When they describe feelings, symptoms, reactions, I feel them, mostly because I’ve had similar emotions and reactions in the past. I relate, not in an intellectual way, but in the we-share-an-experience way.
I talked about it with my therapist today—I started therapy again, for stress management, you see—and she confirmed my suspicions. I have several borderline traits, she said, but my condition is probably not severe, and in all likelihood not diagnosable. I grew up in a loving family, I was held and soothed as a child. The only reason I can find for this near-disorder is the one month’s separation from my mother immediately after I was born. I was a preemie, you see: in those days, they left you in an incubator, and nobody touched you for weeks. The therapist says this could well be my early-childhood bonding failure, and I have no reason to doubt her.
I did an online test based on ten yes-or-no questions, and I scored 6/10, where 7/10 can get you a diagnosis. Self-destructive behavior? Check! Binge eating is one of the first items on the list. Emotional dysregulation, outbursts? Check—although with lots of effort, I’ve improved that a lot. Self-harm? I won’t go into that, but let’s say, a tiny bit—enough to make “no” a dishonest answer. Anger outbursts? Towards Urban, mostly, yes. Also, towards some friends, back when I was pregnant, because somehow the hormones exacerbated the paranoia that my friends wanted to undermine me (or, to be more accurate, they caused some paranoia. I never exhibited this kind of thinking before that, and I haven’t since). Unstable relationships or lots of fights within relationships? Oh boy, the times I almost left my husband for dumb reasons. The only thing that saved me is that Urban has the inertia of a freight train. He trudges along, seemingly unfazed, and this saved the relationship. Thank God for that.
What else? Ah, the fear of abandonment. This is my “nobody will like me” mantra, which Urban is tired of hearing, and even more tired of refuting. I’ve had this feeling after every meeting with a new-ish friend since forever—since kindergarten, I swear—that now I finally did behave in an inappropriate way, and they finally saw how I truly am, and they won’t like me anymore.
Every. Single. Time. To this day.
It’s getting better, though. I have a lot of friends—my therapist has pointed this out often enough—and time and experience have proven that people actually don’t abandon me, even if I think my behavior or my personality is horrific. It’s an intellectually approachable result, for which I used the scientific method: observation, data gathering, statistics. Still, it’s not as easily accessible from the emotional side, at least not where new friends and new relationships are concerned. And the lack of boundaries… well, I’m able to regulate it, most of the time. It’s hard. I know it scares some people and drives them away, but my friends seem not to mind too much, and readers sometimes find it refreshing. It’s interesting, after all, to gain some insight into another person’s psyche. We are all relieved to see that we are not alone in our struggles, fears, insecurities. Most people hide themselves behind well-crafted facades. I just can’t—and believe me, I’ve tried.
I don’t experience dissociative states, though, and the above symptoms are mostly mild, and some of them have even subsided with the passing of the years. I can even feel the love of my friends these days, at least of old friends, although it is and will always remain a mystery to me why the majority of them rarely, if ever, initiate contact. “I love you,” they say, and yet they never send a message. It’s one of those great enigmas that have no answer, and my psychologist says I should just call them when I want to talk to them, and that’s pretty much that.
One might think finding out that you almost have a serious disorder when you’re nearing forty is jarring and disturbing, but to me, it’s liberating. I finally know why for thirty-five years I’ve felt wonky around others. Why I couldn’t adjust as well as I’d like in elementary school, why by the age of eleven I was convinced that no boy will ever like me, which continued in adult life as I’ll never find a boyfriend, and to this day continues as, if I ever get divorced, I’ll die alone.
(Evidently, I found a boyfriend. Phew! Hopefully, we won’t get a divorce. I mean, we won’t. Just think of the hassle!)
So, where do I go from here? I don’t think this new knowledge helps with the stress management, except as far as it gives me more insight into my condition, and therefore removes some of its general uncertainty.
One consoling feature of being on the verge of borderline disorder—a borderline borderline, if you’ll excuse the pun—is that you get the superpowers (increased empathy, deep insights into feelings and relationships) while still being able to tackle the debilitating symptoms of the disorder, even if that means approaching them from the intellectual side and not from the emotional one. Those superpowers you can use in multiple ways. I use them for writing deep characters in my books, for example, and my friend Chet, who has BPD, does the same thing. When I started reading his first book, I went Woah! I could have written this! He also gets my characters, and I get his. He even likes my deeply flawed and morally grey John character—whom I love—but I can assure you that few other readers do.
Anyway, I can’t change it, or rather, I can change it a little bit, with lots of effort. No point worrying over what you can’t change, as they say. I have to accept it and move on.
I did find a boyfriend, after all. He’s making pizza as we speak.