Every now and then I decide that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me. I don’t have clinical depression, and I most certainly don’t have borderline personality disorder. But then I read something that resonates so strongly with me that I almost stop breathing. Like this:
‘I, like many other people with Borderline Personality Disorder, have an interesting ability to “read” people. My therapist has clarified that this skill is actually a learned survival skill. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we unconsciously realized that if we can look a person over, sum up what they are all about, and interact with them accordingly, we would be safe. Our needs would get met………………I spent all of my time reading and responding to people in a way that I believed would cause them to accept and like me, but I never really developed my own unique sense of me. I’d see glimpses of it, but if I thought I had an opinion about something, then engaged in a conversation with someone whose acceptance, love, or approval I desired, and their opinion was different from mine, I instantly adopted their point of view. The interesting thing is that I didn’t even mind. It was as if it didn’t matter.’**
Mind blown, utterly and completely. I could have written that, but it’s something that I’ve only come to understand very recently. I’ve talked about college
before, about how I always felt awkward, like I was taking up too much space, how I struggled to fit in, how lonely I was. But looking back, how could it possibly have been any other way? I had no anchor. I didn’t know anyone well enough, or see anyone regularly enough, to be able to ‘read’ them, understand them, and so I had no clue how to behave. None. And the people I did know, however loosely, were all from different classes and didn’t know each other, so were all very different. How many people was I trying to be?
If I look back further, it gets a bit hazy because I have almost no memories of school. And I’m not talking about primary school here, when I was much younger and it would be fairly reasonable not to remember, but secondary (for non Irish readers, we’re in secondary school from age 12 to 17). I don’t remember my first day of school. I don’t remember sitting my junior cert. I’m not entirely sure I remember sitting my leaving. I have brief snatches alright – I had a small group of close friends, girls I’m lucky enough to still count as friends. But they weren’t in all my classes, and when I hit senior cycle I was with a completely different group of people. When I think of school, I’m not sure I remember particular incidents, but rather feelings, and perhaps not surprisingly, they’re the same feelings I remember from college – anxiety, fear of being alone, fear of not fitting in, not being good enough, interesting enough etc etc etc. But mostly fear and anxiety. And fear. And anxiety.
BPD is a bitch, an utter bitch. It’s given me some useful gifts, and made me who I am today, but my god has it come at a high price.