Throughout the majority of my high school career, I was holistically and deeply consumed by the experience of my first love. Everything was new to me, and the world of dating was unfounded territory that I had only previously dangled a foot into before quickly retreating – and when it first began, it was absolutely thrilling. The honeymoon phase was not only lengthy, totalling to around a year and a half of I love you’s and no, you hang up first!’s, but it was also hugely beneficial to my previously bruised mental health. Ever since I was young, I had troubles with depression and anxiety that prohibited me from living a fulfilling life, but this newfound relationship gave me a solid foundation on which to build my self-worth; I had someone else’s constant validation, which I so, so desperately needed. Of course, this came crumbling down the moment we began experiencing issues. Small issues, yes, but they seemed like the entire world to me; she would forget to text me in the morning, and I would convince myself that she hated me. We would get into a small argument, and my anger would be so real and palpable that momentarily, it would consume me– but then an hour later she would tell me that she loved me, and I would melt back into contentment.
The relationship that I had built myself around was dissolving, and with it, my psyche. At the time, I knew this was not normal.
My constant craving for reinforcement was insatiable, and it began dragging us down bit by bit until the damage was irreversible and we eventually broke up. Three months later, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and things finally made sense to me. So that’s why I acted like that.
People with BPD are practically only capable of feeling the most intense varieties of feelings, going to the furthest extreme of every emotional spectrum, no matter if the situation calls for a strong reaction. Someone could ask you to move out of their way on the train, and you would fixate on the tone of their voice and on their exact verbiage until you convince yourself that not only did that the stranger wish you were dead, but everyone wishes you were dead, and you should, too. Other symptoms include unpredictable actions, harmful behaviour, ever-changing goals and opinions, and my personal favourite, massive amounts of oversharing. As you can imagine, this can be absolutely exhausting when applied to interpersonal relationships; elevated mood states can drop to depressive episodes within literally seconds.
In the span of an hour, you can go from feeling deeply in love and sure of where you stand with your partner to begging for an ounce of validation, reading in-between the lines of their text messages for some sign that they secretly hate you.
And then, of course, you feel immense guilt for subjecting your partner to your irrational behaviour, and a cycle of apologies begins. And then you worry that you’re being manipulative. And then you feel as though you’re overcompensating. And then, and then, and then… it can feel endless, sometimes.
Arguably more importantly, the stress of balancing a relationship with emotional imbalances can be, to say the least, tiring. Borderline Personality Disorder can be comorbid with dozens of other mental illnesses, including eating disorders, addiction, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and tons others; in fact, fifty to eighty percent of those with Borderline self-harm. So trying to place yourself on the path to healing is a huge burden on its own, and adding any ounce of a love life to that can send your entire life into a tailspin the moment things get rocky. As well, the uncertainty that comes with a budding relationship can often trigger existing or underlying comorbidities.
For those currently or hoping to be involved with someone who has BPD, there is no instruction manual, unfortunately. If there was, things would be about a hundred times simpler. Trust us. Borderline is one of the most complicated, multi-faceted mental illnesses and there is not a single easy way to approach it — but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Research and attempt to understand what your partner is going through, and make steps to learn what the best and most helpful things to do are when they are experiencing the worst of symptoms. And for those currently playing the field with Borderline,
your need for validation is not a weakness. It is not a deterrent to your personality — you’ve got a million wonderful things to offer.
There are people out there who are not only capable, but uber-willing to hold your hand on your path to achieving health and success. Focusing on your own mental wellbeing and the needs that go along with it will always be the top priority.