Nick is Founder and Facilitator at SHARE, a Mayo based support group for adults survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
I came across one of those quotes that fly around Facebook. It read “Some days you’ll feel sad without knowing why. Like you lost something very precious but forgot what it was, or like you miss someone you’ve never met” Whether intended or not, this is a very accurate description of my underlying feeling of having BPD, except that it is not “some days”, rather every living breathing moment. It is this feeling of intense desperation combined with such a deep gut wrenching yearning for this something that although you don’t have any idea what it is, you believe it will make you a whole person; it will make sense of who you are; It will breathe life into you and give you a name, give you an identity. Every moment of your life is fuelled by this aching sadness as you look for that something; that meaning; that thing you cannot name. With the realisation that it or they never existed you desperately try to ignore, try to bury the yearning deep down so far that you can no longer hear the voice telling you that all this is a result of chemical imbalance in the brain or childhood trauma. With that voice comes complete and utter despair. You know that this sadness will always exist without it ever becoming bearable. You are continuously pulled apart by the conflict between the sadness of the loss and the knowledge that the thing or person you miss more than anything in the world, does not exist.
Just sit with that for a moment. Imagine that the one person in your life that you really love and hold dear suddenly disappears without warning. Imagine the gut wrenching feeling when you call out their name and they don’t answer. The place where you spoke to them less than a few minutes ago is now empty. It is if they have completely vanished. Then try and imagine the feeling as you frantically search for them, calling their name, tearing apart every room in the house, running down every street. Then those first few hours of intense sickening panic, confusion, anguish, worry and fear turn into days, months, years. You are unable to think of anything other than where the person has gone or what has happened to them. You are unable to feel anything other than intense sadness. It comes and goes like waves but it is always there. It can turn into epic storms where the emotions, the thoughts intensify to a frightening, nightmarish level which dominates and controls your behaviour and determines who you become during those few days that the storm rages. Therapists have told me that it is not “someone” but rather “me” that I have lost and am searching for. That it stems from the feeling of emptiness that so many of us with BPD know combined with my own personal childhood traumas.
Even when the storm dies down it is still there, that sadness that sense of loss, eating away at you like a cancer. The emotional pain becomes unbearable not necessarily because of its intensity, but because there is no relief from it. It is always there. Those of us with BPD find it difficult to the point of being unable to reach out, to trust anyone with our pain. We feel so ashamed so worthless. When we do reach out, we are unable to regulate our emotions towards that person. Instead we enmesh ourselves with that person who does respond. We form an intense emotional attachment that can quickly turn to disdain for that person and back again. It is not as many believe narcissistic or controlling behaviour; we just ‘don’t know’ how to be in a balanced healthy relationship with another where clear boundaries are set and respected.
Today I took my desperate yearning to therapy. This was my 6th session with this particular therapist and we are both still finding our way around the relationship. I could sense the frustration in her as she tried to understand this particular aspect of BPD. Tell someone that you have a yearning but you don’t know what and they either stare blankly at you or say “Chocolate perhaps?” My therapist asked me to explain what it felt like; where in my body I felt it. I could locate it in the pit of my stomach and even put the colour yellow to it, but as I went deeper and deeper into that yellow maelstrom, the realisation that it could never be satisfied quickly returned as did the blackness of despair.
I have had this yearning since my late teens. It is very much part of the BPD condition. I have no idea how to satisfy it or turn it off. It is painful and sickening beyond words. When it is at its worst I can be paralysed in a thick yellow fog that I cannot explain or find a way out of. Maybe one day I will log on to Facebook and there will be another quote, “The reason you feel like this is because……”.