This is my seventh post in a nine part blog series on criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD). In this post I am looking at the seventh point of criteria:
“Chronic feelings of emptiness”
This symptom reveals the emotionally contradictory nature of BPD. You feel too much, you don’t feel at all. You become overwhelmed with burning, blistering emotion, and then you burn out. And sometimes it feels like you’re feeling both everything and nothing at once. It doesn’t make sense, but it does feel like that. You try to unearth the emotion underneath and realise there’s nothing there at all.
For me, I feel like the numbness comes in waves but as I’ve got older, these phases last longer and longer. You go from the racing highs and lows of intense emotions, to what can feel like nothing at all. And although the emptiness feels lonely, feels miserable, it feels safer than the uncontrollable emotions that dictate my life otherwise. In many ways, it feels like the emptiness is protecting me. It’s the anaesthetic to the pain. The major issue with this is that just because there’s no pain doesn’t mean there’s no damage. If you put your hand on a stove it doesn’t matter whether you feel the pain or not, the skin is still going to burn through.
Chronic emptiness is feeling like I’m sat outside of my own life. That none of my actions matter. That I’m in some weird dream-like half-life and I’m unable to truly connect to the other people around me.
Chronic emptiness is knowing that I don’t want to be alive, but feeling completely absent of fear. In this sense, it can be more dangerous for me to feel nothing at all.
Chronic emptiness is being so scared that my emotions aren’t working and that they’ll never work again that I try to shock it back in my system in dangerous ways. Sometimes this works.
Chronic emptiness is feeling permanently claustrophobic inside my own head. Like I’ll never escape.
Luckily I’ve found that there are ways of dealing with feeling permanently numb. Forcing myself to socialise, spending time with family and friends. The adrenaline rush of running and going to the gym. Remembering times where I did feel happy. Having things to look forward to. This aspect of BPD is incredibly difficult to live with, but it’s not impossible.