Sometimes I need to be alone. Sometimes the rest of the world is too much for me to deal with. Hell, sometimes just one other person is too much for me to deal with. I need everything to just go away.
Isn’t this a contradiction in the Borderline personality? Aren’t Borderlines supposed to need a ton of attention 24/7 and fall apart if they’re forced to be alone?
I’d say that’s an exaggeration of the condition. Yes, it tends to be true that Borderlines need attention and hate to be alone. It’s not that simple though, because people aren’t that simple. Especially when you are dealing with someone with a volatile range of quickly changing moods, what they need in each moment is also going to change. I know that’s not incredibly reassuring. This is why communication of needs is so important.
For as much as I hate to be alone sometimes, there are even more times that I do need to be alone. I think I’m a little different here than many Borderlines. People with BPD often come across as needy and rather clingy when they’re not pushing away. However, for me, I have never been able to do this. I can’t stand the idea of being seen as clingy so I force myself to suppress the need to ask for constant attention, regardless of how I feel sometimes. That said, there are plenty of times where I really do not want attention.
For instance, in large groups of people that I know I often feel like an outsider. I’m different and constantly see myself off to the side, even if I’m engaged in conversation. I don’t quite fit so I feel alone. Surrounded by people, yet alone. Being with other people creates a cognitive dissonance between the reality of the situation and the feeling of the situation. It stresses me out and often makes me depersonalize and begin to feel like I’m floating outside of my own head. It’s not pleasant. I prefer to actually be alone, because then at least the feeling of being alone makes sense. Sometimes better to be alone and lonely, than with someone and lonely, because at least that makes sense emotionally. It’s logically consistent.
I also have body dysmorphic issues. Never underestimate the power of a poor body image and low self-esteem. Some days I don’t want other people to look at me. I don’t even want to look at me. I’ll put on baggy clothes, refuse to look in the mirror, and hope that I feel better tomorrow. I see and scrutinize every perceived “flaw” and because it’s glaringly obvious to me, I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be glaringly obvious to someone else. What’s more is, when I look in the mirror these flaws are amplified. They’re exaggerated in my mind and I actually see it this way. My body perception is distorted. I may look beautiful or just fine to someone else, but I am quite literally not seeing the same person they are. Showing flaws means I’m not perfect, and if I’m not perfect why the hell would someone want me around? I’m actually making a lot of progress here. I still have my days where I can’t face people, but I’m able to force myself to go out even though I’m not “perfect” and I even manage to enjoy myself. I can look in the mirror and realize I still have some work I want to do, but also appreciate my positive features. I think this is a great step. It’s not all perfect (white) or one flaw means everything is ruined and I’m hideously flawed (black). I’m starting to see the grey areas in my self-perception. This is probably the first time in 18 years that I’m starting to be able to do this. I know gaining a couple pounds or ‘feeling fat’ may seem like a silly reason not to see someone, but I promise you, it’s not just an excuse.
Probably the biggest reason I want to be alone is that I’m aware that my mood is unpleasant and I don’t want other people to see me like this. I’m often depressed, angry, frustrated, and irritable. who the hell wants to be around someone like this? When my mood is swinging in this direction my temper is extremely short and I’m likely to lose control of my very sharp tongue. I’m quick to make harsh and cutting comments that hurt people’s feelings. It’s a great way to piss people off and drive them away. Which is exactly what I do not want to do. When I was younger I wouldn’t care. I’d want company and what anyone else wants be damned. If they’re really my friends they’ll put up with it. If they’re really my friends then they’ll let me be how I want to be. However, at the time I didn’t think of the fact that, if I was really their friend I wouldn’t want to take out my temper on the people around me. I wouldn’t want to upset them. I just didn’t think this way. It took some reprogramming to get there. Other people have rights too. It’s not always about me.
Not to mention, it would ruin the pleasant image I purposely and meticulously cultivate. I constantly feel a need to ‘hide my crazy’. Always. The picture that most people have of me is a very in control, quirky, but competent individual. And really, I am. On the outside. Internally though I’m often a seething mess of emotion. Letting other people see that, or letting them know it exists, I believe would drive them away. I hide anything unpleasant so the impression they have of me, is one that they want to keep around. I can't internalize the concept that other people may understand or accept that I am not perfect, I have emotions like others (ok, moreso) and it's ok to show this to people.
See a pattern here? I do.
And then of course, sometimes it’s just practical. Yes, Borderlines can acknowledge practical needs. We’re not running around with our mind in a frenzy every single moment of every single day. Sometimes, even if we’d prefer company, it’s necessary to go to the grocery, or clean the house, or run a metric butt ton of errands and it’s not feasible to get everything done if we feel like we have to entertain someone else at the same time.
Sometimes I feel guilty having company as well. For as much of a socially theatrical person as I can be (think themed parties, costumed events, masquerades, wild venues, and street performance – not personal drama queen issues) I also have a big homebody streak. I like to have nights where I curl up in my pajamas, reading a book with my cat curled up in my lap. Or as has been the case lately, spending hours on my computer trying to complete my latest Quest (Hush, I’m a gamer). I don’t need to go out every single Friday night and often I’ll opt to stay in and avoid the social scene. I would actually love to have someone else over to keep me company, but I feel silly having company and then ignoring them as I do my quiet time stuff. This is one of the reasons I appreciate living with Roommate. She’s around a lot, but it’s pretty typical for her to be in her room doing her own thing. I feel her presence but there’s no pressure to talk or entertain. I can do what I want to do and not be alone.
I think the final thing is, bottom line: It’s safer to be isolated. The more time you spend with someone, the closer they become to you. The more intimate your connection becomes. This is dangerous. Because as we all know, the closer someone gets to you, the higher the risk becomes that they can hurt you. People that we have no emotional attachment to can come and go and it makes no difference. When you let someone into your life, they learn who you are, share your secrets, this gives them leverage and ammunition and the control over the extent of the attachment begins to slip for your grasp. It’s a risk that is absolutely worth taking for the right person, however, as you may have notice, finding those “right” people isn’t exactly easy. Often I err on the side of extreme caution and don’t let anyone close at all. That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do, but it feels safer.
Our disorder becomes intensified in interpersonal relationships. People drive me crazy. (Yay for massively inaccurate oversimplifications.) I can’t stand to be alone, for long stretches anyways, but if it’s a choice between feeling crazy and feeling lonely; the lesser of the two evils is often to feel lonely.
It's funny, even on days I desire to be alone, it can create anything from an intense anxiety to a low level dread in me. Not always, but usually. It's a struggle. It's hard to completely fill up the emptiness and the room in my mind for ruminations if I'm by myself. Often it comes down to a fight between what I know to be good for me and what I know I need. Reconciling the two isn't as easy as it should be.