Emoblog/2017/12/10/not quite borderline

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The subject of borderline personality disorder (BoPD) came up, in relation to some of what I've been discussing here (feelings of emptiness, isolation, and so on). I don't think that's quite what I have, but there are some interesting points of overlap. The results have been pretty devastating, generally.

Objective Analysis

On the one hand, there are some strong resemblances. On the other, there are some sharp contrasts.

BoPD Me
unstable relationships with other people unstable relationships with other people - not really? I have a hard time being emotionally stable for them, but I've never abandoned a friend or turned on them, and I'll go to great lengths to maintain existing friendships and to leave the door open for further communication when a relationship has fallen apart
unstable sense of self unstable sense of self - sort of? I don't know who I am, but on the other hand I've always had a strong sense of justice, and of what interests me. What is "self"?
unstable emotions unstable emotions - a bit... one minute I'll feel confident in my connection with someone, euphoric even... and the next I'll be paranoid that I've done something to drive them off
may feel emotions with greater ease, depth and for a longer time than others do may feel emotions with greater ease, depth and for a longer time than others do - pretty much yes
Splitting ("black-and-white" thinking) Splitting ("black-and-white" thinking) - no
Impulsivity and impulsive or dangerous behaviours Impulsivity and impulsive or dangerous behaviours - no; I tend to be a worrier, and live in the future
a feeling of emptiness a feeling of emptiness - hell yes
self-harm self-harm - I've certainly been there (not recently); during the Jenny era I would hit my head against hard things, and afterwards I had a brief cutting phase
extreme fear of abandonment extreme fear of abandonment - see "unstable emotions"
Symptoms may be brought on by seemingly normal events Symptoms may be brought on by seemingly normal events - I have to think about this... I've definitely been triggered into spirals of depression by feelings of rejection just because someone didn't react in a way I understood, and the only way I could understand it was to see it as distancing or rejecting
often engage in idealization and devaluation of others, alternating between high positive regard for people and great disappointment in them often engage in idealization and devaluation of others - maybe a little on the idealization side, though I think I'm always willing to see flaws in the people I feel drawn to... but I'm loyal to a fault, really, and tend to resist advice that I should discard that loyalty even when it seems clearly justified. It's only on a rational level that I'll admit I'm being used or manipulated; I don't feel it. I tend to blame myself for any negative impacts a relationship has on me.

What I'm dealing with seems related to BoPD, then, but clearly isn't the same thing.

It's nonetheless a thing; there's a very clear set of attributes which mark me as different from most people, and even from most people in the various emo-cognitive subclasses I fall into (autistic spectrum, ADD, transgender, CPTSD). Reiterating and expanding the points above:

  • extreme loyalty - not of the "this person can do no wrong" sort, but more a complete willingness to forgive, to assume the best intentions (to see them as an extension of myself? or myself as an extension of them?)
  • wish for intense emotional intimacy - like I need to fill in a missing part of me with someone else's presence
  • tend to feel unlovable - something wrong or broken about me means that others don't find it fulfilling to interact with me; over the long term, I don't fill other people, I only drain them
  • fear of abandonment - fear of being rejected, of pleasantness or affection turning to hostility (because it happened several times)
  • feeling of emptiness, purposelessness
    • "emptiness": there's very little inner motivation, no way to make myself happy; every serious effort I make is because I have to[1]
    • "purposelessness": I know what I think I should be doing, but don't feel like it really matters to anyone

Subjective Effects

All of this tends to throw me emotionally out of synch with other people – not just people in general, but even specifically with the people I felt closest to, identify with the most, and feel are the most like me. It has basically made it impossible for me to have a really fulfilling relationship of any kind, because the best I can do is suppress those insecurities, try to follow the other person's cues as to how they'd like me to be around them, and get whatever amount of positive feeling I can by keeping things positive and functional.

As an early example, here's something said to me by a once-close friend:
Whenever I'm around you, I feel like I've got a neurotic-mother-hen hanging over me, following me around, making sure I don't trip and fall or disappear. [...] Sometimes I want [your company]; but the minute I walk in the door, you're RIGHT THERE staring me in the face, asking how I am and/or another multitude of such questions. And I can't even back away for a minute to think, and I get flustered, and then you're either sure that you did something wrong[2], or you won't believe me when I say I'm fine.
— SWPSNBSI[3], 1981-10-26

I remember more or less how I felt when she said this – a combination of shock, deep shame, and abandonment. In my mind, I was just being the way I'd want someone else to be for me. I wanted someone who was always "right there" as much as possible. My world felt like a very hostile place, where people could turn on me in a second or use subtle head-games in ways that made me feel terrible, and I desperately needed that sense of having an ally who wouldn't leave me alone unless they had to (e.g. to go to class and so forth).

When I found people with whom I seemed to share a deep level of understanding, I thought they'd feel the same way (not wanting to be apart from a dependable ally), and couldn't emotionally understand it when they didn't want this. Because I couldn't understand it, I felt rejected and inferior (which went into a nice little feedback loop along with the dysphoria).

I hadn't quite figured out that even people I trusted and who specifically said they were my friends didn't have this same need, this same sense of needing a constant ally.

Here's Jenny, saying much the same:
I think the big difference between me and you is that you live only for the existence of others – namely your friends.
Note #113, 1981-11-21

I was apparently sufficiently worried about what I was hearing from both J and SWPSNBSI that Tigger felt compelled to say this in her 2nd letter to me, received just 9 days before what Jenny said above:

YOU ARE NOT FORCING YOURSELF ON ME!! I seem to myself to be so small and sort of scrambling all the time, and you seem (solid sort of?) You seem older, honest, wiser, concise.

I remember forcing myself not to immediately seek interaction with them first thing in the morning. I remember sitting out on the deck a lot (instead of trying to interact with them) – feeling miserable and being accused of moping (not by either of them) at least once.

Whatever I did in order to change this dynamic, however, apparently was too little too late, and they both went away (J irretrievably, and SWPSNBSI understandably keeping a clear distance).

I've managed to maintain three close friendships (including Tigger) since then, over long spans of time[4], but only by denying myself what I wanted most.

At least I can now admit that I want it, instead of trying to suppress it as somehow wrong or ugly. (This has been a recurring theme of transitioning.) I can't expect it even from my best friends – but that doesn't mean they're bad friends, nor does it mean there's something shameful about wanting it.

Conclusions

The silver lining is that I can now look at all this without getting completely lost in that sense of shame and abandonment. If it does send me into a down mood, I can watch it happening without feeling a desperate need to delete myself for being so awful and useless. (I still feel it quite strongly, but it's not absolutely overwhelming the way it once was. I have much more of a sense of my own value now, even if it's still extremely underdeveloped.)

I'm still left with questions, though:

  • Can I ever feel better?
  • Does anyone else feel like this?
  • Even if they do, is it possible to gain a sense of wellbeing from a mutual bond?
    • ...or will we both/all just end up feeling empty together?
    • ...or will we just suck each other dry?

Afterthoughts

Part of me wants to express my gratitude to both of them for being straightforward with me, for at least trying to convey what the problem was, rather than shutting down communication right away. I want to say how much I admire them for having that level of integrity.

Part of me wonders if the fact that I feel this way is more of the same pathology at work. I don't know what's reasonable to think about this. I do still feel grateful that they told me straight out what the problem was. So many other people wouldn't have bothered.

Footnotes

  1. ...in order to have some hope of getting back into a situation where I can have the kind of interaction I crave, and maybe be happy. That said, I'm pretty sure I'm doing all this transition and emo analysis stuff (including the writing) for me – because it holds out the hope of possibly feeling content with myself for the first time ever.
  2. A nitpick: obviously I was doing something wrong, i.e. everything described here – but that doesn't negate her point. I was implicitly demanding a very intense and immediate style of interaction with which she was not at all comfortable.
  3. She Who Probably Should Not Be Specifically Identified
  4. now at 21 years, 28 years, and 16 years respectively