Living in an emotional wasteland because of my BPD
Almost all my life I lived in an emotional wasteland. By that I mean I had virtually no emotional intimacy with anyone: not my parents, not my sibling, not my husband or my friends or my children. I lived a life of emotional solitary confinement because I never trusted anyone enough to let them get close to me. When anyone tried to get close I would push them away with such force that they would turn and run for the hills and never come back.
It was very lonely to live like this and it was something I desperately wanted to change. The problem was that I didn’t have the faintest idea how to change it. I grew up not being able to trust anyone really. Where this truly came from is, by and large, a mystery to me but I believe it stems from my abandonment as a baby at the age of six months. That was the initial trauma but after I was adopted, I went on to live with an emotionally unavailable father who definitely didn’t like it or appreciate it when I talked back too much. So, it’s easy to see why it was difficult for me to trust people.
The icing on the cake occurred, however, when I was in high school. I had gone to parochial school and made friends with a group of about 8 other girls. We were extremely tight and spent many hours together. I trusted them fine. But when we graduated grade school and went to high school I started to get involved in community theatre. And I met a man and started to date him. Who knows, maybe those two things changed me? I don’t know. All I know is that one day I came to school and we were standing outside waiting to go in and one of them said to me, “We don’t want to be friends with you anymore so move away from us.” I stood there, mouth agape. “Why?” was the only word I could muster. “Because your ego has gotten too big. You’re not fun to be around anymore,” was her terse reply. So, with those words, I became a social pariah. It was as if I ceased to exist. None of them would speak to me or even make eye contact with me when we crossed paths in the hall as we changed classes. It was an utterly devastating experience for me. And that is when I stopped being able to trust females specifically but also people, in general. I retreated into myself and became extremely depressed. I could not talk about it with my mother because i felt utterly humiliated. Six months later I made my first suicide attempt. Because no one recognized that I was depressed I did not receive any treatment for it.
My parents were completely baffled by my suicide attempt. In fact, no one saw it coming. They didn’t know what to do, what to say, how to help me. So, my mother came up with a cover story for me to tell people when I went back to school: that I had been in the hospital because I had two cysts from my ovaries removed surgically so that was what I told people. This only served to compound my shame and make me turn away from people even more. I actually believe that the experience with those girls is what really caused my BPD to manifest itself as a teenager.
These feelings only got worse as I got older because I felt so trapped. I felt trapped by my huge mood swings and my inability to talk about them which caused me to act out. I couldn’t control my feelings and/or moods but I desperately needed a way to “discharge” them so I grew dependant on expressions of rage and crazy behavior. Because I had no effective role models for dealing with anger I could only rage at the world. I had no effective tools for expressing it positively. Most people think of anger as an extremely destructive emotion but it is entirely normal to feel it. What matters is the way you express it. I chose to lash out in frustration and when that wasn’t enough, I would turn it in on myself.
So, all of these things conspired to turn my life into an emotional wasteland. I think most of us who have BPD live this way. Henry David Thoreau wrote about how most people live a life of quiet desperation. I eventually turned to recreational shopping as a way to fill the void in my life because I could not establish emotional intimacy with anyone.
All this changed for me when I started to learn DBT. I began to finally understand where my feelings came from and how to regulate them through distress tolerance. It was a life-changing experience for me.