This is my second post in a nine part blog series on the criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD). In this post I am looking at the second point of criteria:
‘A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterised by alternating between extremes of idealisation and devaluation’
This post therefore links quite closely with my previous post on abandonment and attachment issues. Although there might be some overlap with what I have already written about, I hope that this post will be insightful in its own right.
What the DSM describes as ‘alternating between extremes of idealisation and devaluation’ is what is commonly known in the world of BPD as ‘splitting’. Splitting between being obsessed and thinking the world of someone, to the complete opposite. And up until recently, this was the only way that I could see people. My view of other people, and indeed the world around me (because for me and many others, splitting extends beyond relationships with other people. In fact, one of my biggest problems is that I am constantly ‘splitting’ between a dizzying, dazzling passion for life and the miserable of feeling like I need to die) was rigidly fixed between two extremes. It felt like I was never able to be close to someone without having a complete inability to judge them objectively.
I think that a major thing with having BPD is you are unstable, and because you are unstable, you search for stability in others. You just want to feel safe, and when someone you are very close to is confusing because (as all human beings are) they are a mix of good and bad, you constantly feel drawn to one or the other because damn it, you just want something, someone to be a certainty.
My first experiences of splitting were as young as the later years of primary school, although I can’t be sure that this didn’t happen to some extent before this. As I spoke about in my previous post, I didn’t have many friends, so when I did have one, it was Amazing. I felt like a friendship with another person (holy sh*t I am not evil, someone wants to hang out with me!) sent me into an exhilarating high. They were my best friend and the best person ever and I could sing their praises all day long. This kid could be walking all over me and blatantly dismissing me when someone ‘cooler’ was around and not only would I not care, but I wouldn’t even process it. This person would be Magic, and their time and attention and friendship would make me Magic.
And then just like that, something would snap. It would feel like a wake up call. I would go from being talkative, funny and genuinely uplifting to being miserable, mean, suspicious. From the age of 10 to 15 I experienced splitting over various ‘best friends’ and each time it happened it would be more extreme. I would suddenly turn cold and cut the connection off, just like that. I always felt like they had turned against me, that they hated me, that they were talking about me to other people, when in fact these things only happened once I acted on these thoughts. During one of the worst ‘fall outs’, the devaluation branched onto being delusional. I genuinely believed that my closest friend was trying to poison me. Turns out, I poisoned myself by continuously feeding into disordered thoughts.
This has always been much, much worse in relationships. The highs would be amazing, breath-taking, but the lows drove me lower than I’ve ever been. He’s going to hurt me. He’s going to strangle me in my sleep. I don’t trust him. His friends want to hurt me. His family hates me. This is a joke to him. Please don’t touch me. He’s going to touch me. Get away from me. Leave me alone. And every single time, it comes down to this.
Perhaps certain events in my life have led to this mentality. These days I don’t tend to ‘split’ on people, but I also don’t let people get close to me. I’m not as sentimental as I used to be. I don’t concentrate my energies on one person and one person only, and I know myself well enough to know when it’s time to take some Time Out from someone rather than confront them with the same old bullsh*t of my mental illness.
I also know what it’s like to be ‘split’ on. I have plenty of close friends who also have borderline personality disorder. I try to be rational, I try to be forgiving, because I know that others are trying just as hard as me to process these intense feelings and not ruin every single remaining relationship they have left. I hope others can be as forgiving to me when I have been cold or distant for what appears to be no reason. I know how hard it is to be close to people.
The worst part about this symptom of borderline personality disorder is the fear that you’re always going to be alone. Because being close to someone who has enormous difficulty controlling the way that they see other people, controlling poisonous thoughts who tell them that other people are evil or are going to hurt them Like They Always Do is bloody difficult. People get sick of your sh*t and they leave.
The reality is though, that this can be managed and you can have great relationships with other people. I am lucky enough to have family and friends who I can trust to talk to about my fears, and who will be patient with me. Who know that being close to me can be a pain in the ass, but that ultimately it’s worth it because when I am well, I am someone who would do literally anything for the people who I love. And anyone who appreciates the latter but can’t cope with me when I am difficult and deluded doesn’t deserve me at all.