First of all, the good news: I don’t have Borderline Personality Disorder.
A very high-up Medical “fellow” (who was a small, black African woman – go figure?) told me I didn’t have it after interviewing me for an hour at the Hospital last week. I’m more than happy to take her word for it 🙂
It’s a miracle! I’m cured! I’m sane!
Secondly, I wanted to write about the parts of “borderline personality disorder” I could really connect with…those are the parts where a person goes completely nuts when they feel they’re being rejected or abandoned.
I think back on the times where I’ve lost my mind and my actions have been those of a crazy woman. In all those times, the common factor was that someone I loved deeply was ending the relationship with me abruptly or making a change in their lives that I wasn’t going to be part of – or saying “no” to something I desperately felt I wanted/had to have. I was unprepared for it, felt I had no closure on it and what really strikes me – now that I can look back in hindsight – is that I felt simply saying “I’m not ready for this – please talk with me about it” was not going to be enough.
So I researched over-reactions to rejection. I looked up articles and news stories and watched a vast array of Youtube videos from people who have been in similar situations and have reacted in similar “psycho” ways; for instance –
A girl had a best friend who decided to hang out with a more popular group of girls at High school. She obviously felt abandoned and left out. So she wrote “Don’t leave me. I need you” in her own blood and sent it to her friend.
I was shocked to the core to read it.
Others have threatened suicide when someone wants to leave them.
I can’t say I’ve done that…but I understand the feeling of intense emotion and panic – and feeling the need to do or threaten something equally intense to get that person’s attention.
Once I completely lost my sh*t and went bananas at my poor cousin. Let’s call her “Joyce”. We were both 20/21 years old. Joyce had flown in from the NT to stay with me and my family – and hopefully start a new life here in Perth. It was wonderful having her here – my best friend and cousin in one – and now, almost like a sister I could live with. At the time though, I was dating a very nasty guy and was strongly under his influence. He said I should push Joyce to get an apartment with me – that way, he and I could spend as much time together as we liked “without anyone judging us”. Oh Lord. Sigh. Anyway, I was hell bent on getting an apartment. I was obsessed. And I needed Joyce’s help.
I asked, she (very understandably) said she wasn’t ready. She gently said she couldn’t.
I panicked. I was so intent on getting a place with my cousin that I lost sight of all reason and sense…I was so focused on getting what I wanted, that all I could think was that I HAD to have an apartment with Joyce – OR ELSE. It’s scary to not be in control of yourself. It’s frightening to feel so obsessed. It’s not pleasant and it’s so powerful, it takes over you.
I don’t remember what I did next in the room that I shared with Joyce…but the feeling of shame that rises up in me when I think about it makes me feel it was something very, very bad indeed. I “lost time” and the next thing I know, Joyce is outside getting into a taxi. She’s crying hard and looks as if she’s seen a ghost – pale and badly shaken.
What did I do to my cousin?
“YOU’RE NOT LEAVING!!!” I remember screaming.
I remember the panic – someone I love is leaving me. I have to stop this.
I leaned into the cab driver’s window.
“You can’t let her leave”
Puzzled, he looked back at my cousin who was furiously shaking her head “Please – can we go?” she pleaded with him.
“You can’t let her leave!” I repeated, adding in a panicked voice “She’s mentally ill. She doesn’t know what she’s doing! Don’t go! Don’t leave me!”
Oh Joyce. I’m so sorry.
Thankfully for her – the cab driver took her side and backed the taxi away. In my mind’s eye, I can still see it leaving up my street – the back of the taxi getting smaller and smaller – and me screaming my head off in the driveway. I was inconsolable. I was a mad woman.
I’m so ashamed to remember this. To know I have behaved in such a way.
Another time, a boy I was madly in love with wanted to break up with me.
I wanted to break up with him, too – the ‘long distance’ thing wasn’t working and a few other guys had shown a lot of interest in me – I wanted to find out my options. I was boy crazy, God bless me. The minute Matt wanted to break up with me, though – I suddenly had to have him. I had to keep him. I couldn’t live without him. If it had been me breaking up with him, I’m sure I would have handled it quite well. It would have been my decision. Because suddenly it was his, I felt as if the floor had disappeared from me. He was leaving me? What?!?
NO ONE LEAVES ME. No one.
So again, I went NUTS.
This was before the days of internet, so my scary, obsessive behaviour was confined to letters in the post.
Of which I sent…hundreds.
I can’t believe I did that.
The 3rd and last time I can remember “going psycho” was when I moved from Gove to Darwin to be with Matt. We’d made up, he’d somehow excused my insane behaviour and asked me to move to be near him so we could start over.
I was in University and changed all my units so I could attend University closer to Matt.
The things we do when we’re in love, huh?
But the night before University…I was scared.
How would I know where my classes were?
Would I make new friends? What if no one liked me?
OMG I’ve moved thousands of miles for this guy – I’ve left everyone I know including my family behind in Gove and I’m all alone in this strange place…and about to start Uni. Omg. I’m so lost right now.
I was living in a ‘girl’s home’ provided by the Church Matt went to – and mostly by his parents – so the girls I was ‘rooming with’ were not familiar to me. They were not friends.
A normal person would have:
– NOT moved in the first place. OMG. What a huge decision to make based on my emotions.
– Moved but put in place a support network to get through the ‘new’ situations they would face
– Think carefully and rationally about a new Uni, understand that it’s scary, accept it and get a good night’s sleep – ready to face a new day and the challenges it would hold
– talk to someone they loved about the fear of new University classes/new friends/new places
I went into the kitchen and picked out the biggest, sharpest knife I could.
This was the middle of the night.
I called out to the 2 other girls in the house.
They came running out of their rooms in their pjs.
Stunned, they both stopped in their tracks when they saw me – wielding a knife in their living room.
In my mind, I just wanted to say “I’m scared, you guys – scared of a new University and all the challenges it holds”
I didn’t know how to say it. I hoped the big-ass knife would speak for me. That’s how unwell I was. That was my mental and physical panic at facing something I felt ill-equipped to deal with. I didn’t know what I was going to do with the knife. I just wanted the girls to see it. To see me with it…and to help me.
I so desperately wanted some help.
What happened next, I don’t know.
Again, I’ve blacked out and missed time.
Thankfully, much, much later that year when I hesitantly asked my parents about it – I heard that I didn’t hurt anyone. Just myself.
I ‘woke up’ 3 days after “the knife incident” in Darwin’s general hospital – in their psych ward.
My Dad paid for an ’emergency’ plane ticket. I spent 3 months in a Private Hospital’s psych ward back in Perth.
I don’t remember much about that stay in hospital – even as long as it was. I just remember being so lost, so broken, so frightened and so very alone.
I remember I used all my money – and borrowed money from friends and family – to call Matt.
Ideally, I wanted the conversation to go like this:
Me: Matt, I’m really, really sorry – I have no idea what I was thinking. Please forgive me and please take me back.
Matt: I love you and I’m so worried about you. I want to help you. You’re not alone.
What actually happened:
(the 1st phone call)
Me: Matt, I’m s-
Matt: *sigh* hey, I’m really busy. I gotta go. Don’t call again, ok?
Me: But Matt, I –
Because I didn’t get to say what I wanted and I felt that Matt had dropped me – literally that he was holding me and had dropped me without a second thought, I felt a part in my mind just break off. Like a dry leaf. It just…withered away.
Along with my sanity (what was left of it) and any grasp on reality I had.
I was obsessed, then. I called back. Matt answered. “Hey. Don’t call, I can’t do this with you”
I rang again. It went to voicemail.
So I left a message.
I called again.
I think I rang Matt’s family phone about 50-100 times a day. Obsessed with explaining my behaviour when I didn’t even know what I’d done and obsessed with “getting Matt back” when he’d long ago left me.
I rang so many times his parents pleaded with me to stop.
They changed their number.
I went mad.
I pushed everyone that cared about me away. I was so scary to myself and so lost and confused and obsessed that I didn’t know what to do or how to be.
And you know what? I’ve never felt so alone in my whole life.
That’s the worst thing about losing your mind. You can’t explain it and you can’t talk to anyone about it because when you’re locked in your head and panicking about how to survive…it’s hard to relate to anyone else.
What I do remember about all three “episodes” is that I felt intense fear of being left out, being left behind – being ‘passed over’ for something better. The intense fear of loss and rejection and the intense feelings of powerlessness. The decision to leave was someone else’s – I couldn’t do anything about it. Not without reaching some insane levels, anyway.
That was my belief when I was very, very unwell in those past times. That saying “Hey, I’m hurting” or “Hey, I’m not coping” or “I’m scared” “I need you to just talk me through this because I can’t make sense of it” or even “Pardon?”…
…just wouldn’t be enough.
I was scared that staying calm and reasonable wouldn’t work and that whoever was leaving me wouldn’t have reason enough to turn around and stay.
So I freaked out. I lost my mind.
My thought patterns went to a scary, scary place and I somehow had to suddenly prove – in a very dramatic way – that I was hurt by this new change – or by this person I loved who was rejecting me or leaving me.
Now, I can look back on those times in disbelief that I was once like that. I can shake my head in shock and think “omg Janet…what on EARTH were you thinking?”
And that’s why I’m writing today’s blog.
I’m hoping for 2 things:
1) That if you know someone like me, this will help you to understand why they’ve “wigged out” in the past. I know if you’re reading my blog, you’re someone I love dearly and that you probably have more patience and compassion in your little finger than I do in my whole body…but I want you to have the ‘inside track’ to why people with mental illness might react in similar shocking ways to something completely normal and understandable.
2) That if you suffer from this fear of being rejected or abandoned that this post will reach you and speak to you in a way that will resound with you. I want you to know IT IS ENOUGH to just tell someone how you feel.
IT IS ENOUGH to say “I’m hurt”, “I’m lost”, “I’m afraid/scared”, “I’m worried”, “I don’t know how to handle this…help me”
You don’t have to hurt yourself. You don’t have to kill yourself. You don’t have to write notes in your own blood or draw knives in a stranger’s kitchen. You don’t have to obsessively call a boy that you once dated 50 times a day. You don’t have to threaten or frighten others so that they’ll listen…because people who love you will listen if you just speak to them.
Just talk to them.
I have learnt over the years that what triggers me most is the feeling of hopelessness and the sense of having no closure.
If you struggle with this, too – I want you to know there are other options to losing your sh*t.
We can’t control everything. That just isn’t possible. We can’t FORCE people to love us or stay with us.
But we can control how we behave and it’s okay to be scared. It’s better to say to someone who cares about you – someone you trust “Hey…I’m struggling”
BECAUSE IT WILL BE ENOUGH.
People will leave you. People will break up with you. People will say “no” to you.
This will happen and yes, it will hurt like hell at times.
But tell someone how you feel and what you’re going through – even if you’re confused and scared and not quite sure what’s happening to you – talk to someone you trust about it.
Because if you talk to someone instead of trying to hurt yourself – things at least have a chance to improve. I’ve burnt bridges that I will never cross again and that hurts me every day. I’m thankful Matt and I are friends to this day. I’m thankful it was only a month or so ago that my cousin “Joyce” commented a smiley face on one of my Facebook posts. I was very lucky because these people forgave me and gave me chance after chance. I was not so lucky with others. I live to regret it. I don’t want the same for you.
I want to strongly encourage you that if you learn to talk about rejection and fear – if you learn to SHOUT about it, cry hard over it, write about it, sing about it, paint it, draw it, sketch it, skip it, dance it…cook awesome things, take amazing photos – whatever it takes to get the scary feelings from your head, heart and body out into a safe place…do it, because in doing so – you open up a space for healing and redemption.
There is more space for people to help you, hold you and believe in you if you just calmly ask – than there is if you go nuts.
Don’t be scared it won’t be enough…because I promise you – those who love you will believe you when you ask for help. It will be enough to just say how you feel.
It will be enough for someone to want to stay and talk it out with you if you just ask.
And if they don’t – which will happen at times – then speak about it with someone else in your life who loves you.
I promise you. It will be worth it.
It will be enough.