“…you are exactly my brand of heroin.”
–Edward Cullen, Twilight
When you have BPD it is inevitable that at some point you will become addicted to another person. It sounds ridiculous I’m sure, but it’s true. They can affect you so deeply, and seem to be your perfect match in every way. The more time you spend with this person, the more addicted you become. It can become so intense that when you’re separated from them, even for a short amount of time, it causes physical pain. Depression can set in and a sort of withdraw takes place. Nothing feels right until you are with them again. If you have never had an addiction, even if just coffee, and you don’t have BPD, you will never truly understand what I’m saying. It’s being in love, but the deepest (almost dysfunctional) type of love you could ever imagine. It’s beyond lust, yearning, and needing. It constantly feels like you’ll break into a million pieces. When you are with them, you’ll break apart from the happiness. When they are gone, you’ll break apart from the pain. But always you want more. It doesn’t matter if other relationships suffer, or that you may blow off work/school/responsibilities just so you can spend a little more time with them. Love is our drug of choice. For people with BPD, everything we do, everything we look for, comes down to love. So when we find it (or think we’ve found it) we become obsessed. We think of the person constantly. Not a moment goes by where they aren’t on your mind. You would gladly be smothered to death if they were the one smothering you. It’s a drug. It’s stronger than cocaine, pain pills and heroin combined.
I get that this may sound like the beginning stages of stalking behavior. And who knows, maybe a lot of stalkers have BPD. I don’t know. I personally have never stalked anyone, regardless of how strongly they have affected me. I’ve thought about it, but never acted on it. Well… maybe a little on social media, but I think just about everyone over the age of 20 has stalked someone on social media! Be it an ex, best friend, ex boss, whatever. I am not making light of stalking. There was a guy who stalked me for almost a year and it was truly frightening. I still suffer from PTSD because of it. Thankfully this was before Facebook, Twitter and all the rest were around.
So back to our drug of choice. Love. Everyone craves it, everyone needs it. It is essential to human survival. Why though, do people with BPD need it so much more than typical people? Is it purely our heightened emotional state? Is it because most Borderlines have had some sort of trauma in our lives where love either wasn’t given or was given in harmful ways? I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that when we feel love this strongly it’s often referred to as idealization. You place this person on a pedestal so high that you’d think it impossible for them to ever come down. You adore every look they give you, you would kill to have them smile at you, you cherish every touch and embrace. And you are completely and utterly terrified it will be ripped away from you at any moment. You become so in tune with them that you often know what they are feeling before they know it themselves. But then it begins to shift. Every bad mood, or even just boredom, seems to be directed at you. Or so you think. (As you progress in treatment, if you’re in treatment, you will learn that this is rarely the case.) The doubts become more and more insistent. You don’t stop to think that they aren’t calling because they are sick, busy at work, or their phone is lost under the sofa. No, they aren’t calling YOU. They hate you, you get on their nerves, they’re mad at you, sick of you. You re-read every text and email, go over every single conversation you’ve ever had. Searching for what you did wrong. The pain becomes more and more intense. You start to lose your identity, and you just know they are going to leave you alone, just like everyone does. It’s here that devaluation steps in. Another survival mechanism in the BPD arsenal. This person you loved above all else, they aren’t so great! That pedestal that was higher than the heavens themselves? It starts to crumble. Tiny pieces at first. Small chips of stone here and there. Then they call or text or show up. Wait!!! They aren’t so bad! And you NEED them, remember? So you patch up the pedestal, ignoring or not seeing the cracks that are starting to form. But then they say that they can’t hang out, or cancel an arranged afternoon at the last second. What?! They suck, you hate them. Why would they do this to you? Don’t they realize what you’ve sacrificed for them?! The honest answer (most of the time, especially for Quiet Borderlines) is no. No, they don’t realize how much time and energy you’ve put into the relationship. I’m not talking about just romantic relationships either. This can happen with friendships, family relationships, even workplace relationships. It does tend to be strongest with romantic relationships and close friendships however.
Thus the “swinging” continues. Getting faster and stronger at every pass. The timing between idealization and devaluation becomes shorter in duration. Sound exhausting? It is, believe me. This is a particularly hard time for someone with BPD. We are consumed with this rollercoaster of emotions. Just like an addict who is nearing the point of rock bottom, we want this person in our life so badly we can’t let go. At the same time, wanting them gone, never to see them again. For me personally, silently begging them to go away and to take all my memories of them when they go. The process of devaluation can become pretty ugly. The stronger the love, the stronger the hate. A lot of times the person you are involved with has no idea that this war is being waged. You snap at them, disappear on them, avoid them, say horrid things to them. If it’s a romantic relationship you may even cheat on them. In my experience, looking back, I wanted them to feel my pain, even if it was just a fraction of what I felt. There’s a song lyric that comes to mind: “Without you I’m nothing. Without you, I’m nothing at all.” – Placebo. That’s exactly how I feel whether I’m in the process of idealization or devaluation. It fits both. I actually plan on doing a post about songs that are about BPD. While I’m not positive, I am pretty sure that Brian Molko, the lead singer of Placebo, has BPD himself. If he doesn’t then he is very close to someone who does.
Anyways, if you are in a relationship with someone who has BPD, I’m not saying that how they handle idealization/devaluation is okay. I do however urge you to communicate with them in an honest and sincere manner. If you need to cancel with them, give an explanation and as much notice as possible. Also try to reschedule if at all possible. If you know you are going to be in work meetings all day, shoot them a text giving them a head’s up beforehand, and if your relationship is close enough, contact them afterwards. If you are living together, and you are going to be home late, let them know and let them know when they can expect you. You do not need to cater to someone with BPD, nor do you need to walk on eggshells around them, but a little extra communication goes a long way. Please understand that we ourselves often don’t know why we feel the way we do. It can confuse us and scare us, giving rise to inappropriate reactions. Since many of us have had traumatic pasts it’s a part of our makeup to self preserve. We may not always go about it in the correct way, but it always comes from the same place; love.