This post is part of the Coping with… series, in which I will share my experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder. Whether you also have BPD or you struggle with depression, anxiety, and stress, I hope this series will be helpful to you.
I’ve come a long way since my last post in this series. A lot of things have changed since then; I have changed. Yet a lot remains the same — I am still coping with the single life. Every day is a struggle, every day is a toss-up. I never know when I’ll wake up and there will be shackles around my ankles, making each small task harder by tenfold. When I am alone, I rarely taste happiness. There are moments of satisfaction, pride, joy, but they are fleeting. I monitor myself like a terminal patient hooked up to a dozen machines. When my mood dips, I force myself to take a step back from the Internet or cook a nice meal or curl up in bed. I’m good at taking care of myself these days. Unfortunately, I feel like all those little comforts — the bag of Lindt truffles, the bundle of organic cotton yarn, the freshly done laundry — only keep my nose above water. The rest of me is always flailing, always fighting not to drown.
My problem is not that I can’t be single; my problem is that I can’t be alone. Part of that is because I am an extreme extrovert. I feel better around people, I draw energy from others, and simply knowing that I will see another human being in an hour can get me through the next 59 minutes. The other part of that is BPD. I recently told my therapist that, when I’m alone, I feel invisible. When in my own presence, I am an amorphous blob of cells and needs. A blob that has a lot of needs, in fact. And my job is to take care of those needs, constantly, repeatedly, indefinitely. It’s exhausting sometimes. I am so disconnected from that blob that I don’t have sympathy for it; sometimes, I pity it for its endless and futile need to be alive.
When I’m with other people, I feel great. Well, at least with the right kind of people. The kind of people who reflect back to me who I am, and suddenly it’s like the blob becomes a fully formed human being. A human who is fun, smart, attractive. In those moments, I see myself clearly and I like what I see. Yesterday, I had one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I woke up late, hit the gym (hey, I managed to go solo!), had a nice brunch at Northside with good friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and then drove out to Pinckney with other awesome friends to desecrate the Potawatomi Trail with our typical jokes of the bathroom variety. The trails were framed by trees in full fall glory and the air was perfectly crisp. After hiking, we drove out to Hell, Michigan for the obligatory tourist selfie. Then, we returned to Ann Arbor and shared an authentic Chinese meal family-style. Honestly, that was the closest thing I’ve had to a family meal in a very long time. Finally, we capped off the night at a local bar. This time, I did not end up lying in the middle of the street. Baby steps, right?
But days like that inevitably end. I can’t always be with my friends; I shouldn’t always be with them. I am well aware of the fact that I should be able to see myself without having to look through the filter of someone else’s eyes. I wish I could feel like the person I know objectively I am. I wish I could believe that I am intelligent, strong, kind without the voice in my head telling me I am fake, weak, selfish. I wish I could congratulate myself for working hard without the accompanying echo: not hard enough. I wish my pride for own my achievements would linger, instead of evaporate instantly, leaving behind a trail of smoke spelling: “what is the point?” I wish I could see myself the way other people see me without needing them to remind me.
What I know is this: my wishes will come true. Not today, not tomorrow, and not in the near future perhaps, but someday they will be my reality. I also know that — with each excruciating minute I spend with this blob of mine instead of chasing ephemeral highs, making people I don’t love fall in love with me, sealing my heart against every emotion of 22 years past — I am one step closer to that reality. For my journey, the old adage rings true: no pain, no gain.
Before I turn around and continue on my way, I’d like to take a moment to thank all the people in my life who keep me sane. To the Alaskan, thank you for calling me every week and sharing your life with me, despite our three-hour time difference and the fact we’ve never met. To my high school buddy, thank you for messaging me and confessing that you also have BPD, even though the last time I saw you we were trying to destroy ourselves together. To my best friend, thank you for sticking with me — that is all. To my “oldest” friend, thank you for joining my one-person knitting club and throwing an insult my way when I need it the most. To my mom, thank you for always trying to be the best parent you can be. To all of you, thank you for being the rest stops when there is an infinite stretch of highway in front of me. Thank you for reading.