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.
There are many reasons why being single is so difficult for those of us with BPD and other similar disorders. I think it’s really important to acknowledge why it’s so hard before attempting to get past it. In Plato’s Symposium, he tells this myth to explain romantic relationships. According to him, humans used to be both male and female, therefore whole. But in their contentness, they had no need and began to rival the gods. As punishment, Zeus split all humans into male and female. From then on, they were condemned to wander the earth searching desperately for their other half, imperfect in all the ways they were. This lack of wholeness, or emptiness, is amplified tenfold in people with BPD. Ever since my first real crush at 16, I have believed that I needed someone to complete me. I chased one guy after another because the brief euphoric high I felt when they liked me back, kissed me back, touched me back, made it all worth it. Freshman year, I fell into a religious cult after they convinced me that God was the one who would make me whole.
Months of prayer later, I felt as empty as ever.
When you have BPD, you often forget who you are. One therapist described BPD as such: it’s like you’re always standing in the midst of a hurricane and your likes and dislikes are road signs. They exist, they are there, but whether they are visible entirely depends on the intensity of the storm. When every fundamental thing about you can change at any moment, you end up in a perpetual identity crisis. This not only makes you feel empty, it also makes a romantic partner all the more appealing. Although everyone desires on some level to be known, BPDs need someone to be their baseline, their sanity check, their historian. Correction — they believe they need that person. Because non-BPDs make it so easy. I often relied on my ex-boyfriends to tell me who I was. “When I see you, Rebecca, I see someone who’s terribly naïve and innocent, but badly scarred by life.” “I don’t think you know what you want.” “I make you happy, but you’re never going to be satisfied with me.” The problem with my behavior was that 1) my exes weren’t always right about me and 2) it made for horribly codependent relationships.
The biggest lie that we BPDs tell ourselves every day is that we cannot be alone.
It’s simply not true. Yes, it’s damned hard to be alone. Sometimes, it feels like we don’t exist anymore. Sometimes, it feels like nothing is worth it anymore. Sometimes, it feels like we could die and it wouldn’t even matter. The temptation to chase another forbidden fruit is hard to resist. I’ve been single for all of 21 days (woohoo!), and I really wanna text my hookup buddy. But I know that, at this moment, I’m too fragile to handle a casual relationship. Plus, I’m pretty sure he had feelings for me towards the end and was pissed I started dating someone else. Even though I don’t owe him anything, he’s still human, and he doesn’t deserve for me to bait him back into my life only to ditch him for another dude. Because the truth is that, as cute as hookup buddy is, he’s not someone I really want in my life. Admitting that is much more difficult than you might think.
Yes, all of this is hard, but we can do it. The day we learn to be our own baseline, sanity check, and historian is the day that we begin to feel whole.
Has your mental illness threatened to turn you into a serial monogamist?