Thursday, March 1, 2012

I never saw it coming! Vanishing Act: Part 2


What does any of this have to do with Nons having some part of this Borderline crazy? Triggers. That’s what. Or just those day to day things that most people would mention but the Borderline frets about in silent simmering fury and frustration. Just because you’re not aware that you’ve done something, doesn’t mean you didn’t do it. And unfortunately, because someone with BPD may continually not speak up, you may do these things over and over without realizing that you’re doing something that is hurting them.

For Example: When I was 17 a guy I knew tried to rape me. He was unsuccessful but he put in a damn good effort. I’d known him for years prior and every time I saw him he’d always say “Hey kid, how’s it going?” or “Hi there kiddo”.  Any time anyone calls me ‘kid’ I automatically think of this man that tried to rape me.  Sometimes people in my daily life will say “Let’s go kid” or something like that. Harmless, non offensive, but still triggering for me. Usually I tell people not to call me ‘kid’. Sometimes though, like if I’m in a professional setting, I don’t, because I don’t want to have to explain why this bothers me. I think it’s understandable that I wouldn’t want to share an experience like this but it also leaves the Non believing that it doesn’t bother me and leaves open the potential that they can, and probably will, call me ‘kid’ again. And therefore, trigger me again.  Is it the Nons fault that they don’t know that this is a trigger for me? No, of course not. Is the Non still triggering these traumatic memories and feelings? Yes. Yes, they are.

I havea lot of triggers. I have a lot of things that cause me frustration, upset, and anger. Humans in general aren’t as considerate as they’d like to think. There’s a lot of opportunity for small slights. There’s a lot of opportunity for doing things that don’t bother you one bit, but may come across as inconsiderate to someone else. This is really pretty normal. And a normal person would usually speak up and say, “Hey buddy, would you mind leaving the seat down after you use the toilet?” for example, without worrying that there would be repercussions. A Borderline, however, always thinks about the potential repercussions. Remember how I talked about ruminations and hypersensitivity? When you’re hypersensitive to how another person might feel, and ruminate on dozens of different ways a comment could be taken, the potential for disastrous repercussions becomes a very real possibility. So logically (for us), it’s better to just not say anything and not risk offending anyone and therefore not having to suffer the consequences.

Right. Hah. Sure. Because the problem stops there. < ---- Sarcasm.

This is where that ‘unexpected vanishing’ comes in. You’ve been with your Borderline for a long time, everything seems wonderful. Sure there’s some moodiness and maybe the occasional push-pull but nothing unmanageable. Unbeknownst to you, you’ve unintentionally been triggering problem areas in this person’s life. Or just doing things that get under their skin. When someone pokes you in an annoying spot for long enough, it begins to grate your nerves raw. Resentment begins to build. It’s small at first and ignorable. But over time, these things keep happening and that resentment turns to frustration. You should know! Can’t you see that this thing that you do makes my smile strain? Can’t you see that every time you do a particular thing, and then ask me if I’m ok, there’s a pattern there? You’re not paying attention! I want you to care enough to figure this out! But how can you do this if I don’t say something? But there’s all these reasons I shouldn’t.  Back and forth. The hurt slowly builds to anger. Until we just can’t take it anymore. Our tolerance hits a boiling point and unexpectedly pops. All that anger, frustration, and upset, that had been triggered over a long period of time, that you had no clue about, finally surfaces in one gloriously unexpected explosion. 

It appears that this perfect relationship has suddenly been devalued. You’ve been unexpectedly split into some demon of a significant other and you have no idea why. This is a problem in the perception of the Non, and the communication of the Borderline.  It’s not that it just happened suddenly, at the drop of a dime, because we had one random mood swing. It’s because these things have been building up over a period of time, but unlike how normal people behave, the problems haven’t been expressed. Without expressing them, they can’t be addressed. They can’t be worked through. They can’t be released. They can’t be healed. We can’t move on. Instead, we hold onto each incident with a death grip, pushing it down, and compacting it under all of the things that eventually pile up upon it. When we can’t communicate, we just get more frustrated! Instead of protecting ourselves, we’re perpetuating our own problems.

Because of all these fears though, often we don’t even know how to ask for help. Even when we really do want it. How do you initiate a conversation about what concerns you, if you’ve always been afraid of doing this? Or if you’ve always been told that have no right to talk about something? It’s foreign territory that we don’t know how to navigate. We literally don’t know how to seek help for certain things. We need help, learning to ask for help!

I’m not going to pretend that having any kind of relationship with a Borderline is going to be easy. It’s often not. Depending on the relationship it can be extraordinarily difficult. The relationship I had with my parents, and my siblings was much, much more volatile than almost any of my romantic relationships (other than the abusive ones – but I’m not responsible for the abusive actions of those others).  Especially when I was younger, getting me to talk about anything was like pulling teeth out of a rabid mutant bear-shark hybrid. Take a minute to digest that image. Ok. I’ve never been good at communicating my needs and concerns.  

Never? Well, crap. How hopeless is this situation? It seems inevitable that all Borderline relationships are doomed! I disagree. So how do you overcome these problems?   It will take a little more vigilance and probably a lot of patience, but it’s not necessarily a one way course set towards disaster.

Communication is really important. This doesn’t mean hounding someone every time they say ‘they’re fine’. That would annoy the best of anyone. But it does mean keeping your eyes open, and watching for signs that something isn’t right. A strained smile, a deeper forced breathe, pursed lips, wringing hands, tense shoulders… body language is incredibly telling. Pay attention. Be gentle, be approachable, and pre-emptively cultivate trust in communication. Reassurance is really important to a Borderline. It’s important that we know that you will be willing to work with us on a problem, without walking out on us. Sometimes you might get angry, sometimes we might get angry, but if we believe that you’ll stay with us while we work it out, it’ll be easier for us to believe that we can talk to you about things that are a problem. When you notice a sign that something might be wrong, say, “It seems like something is bothering you. Can you tell me about it? I’d like to know what’s going on with you. Maybe there’s something we can do to fix it together. Your feelings are important to me and it’s important to me that your needs are being met too.” Maybe not quite so clinical, but in a way that conveys that it’s safe to discuss what is going on. Borderlines, we need to know our triggers. When we learn what they are, we need to communicate them so they aren't set off.
Being safe. Often we don’t feel this. I’m not sure I’ll ever know what it is to truly feel safe with another person. Not emotionally anyways. I’ll never know unless I try. I won’t be able to try if the other person isn’t willing to work with me though.

Two people, two ways. It takes both to work on a relationship. Don’t wait until it’s too late to turn back before trying to fix something that isn’t too broken to repair.

Alright, so that was for the longer relationships when your Borderline just disappears seemingly out of nowhere. What about the one's you've known for a shorter time? Why do they disappear? Why will I see a Borderline a lot and then it seems they drop off the face of the earth? Well now, I guess there's just more to this story now isn't there.


  1. "Especially when I was younger, getting me to talk about anything was like pulling teeth out of a rabid mutant bear-shark hybrid."

    This is simply an awesome description. I'm going to have to think about this, but I'm not certain what my triggers are. My wife, well, she has a few and I'm careful not to set them off. But you're right, communication is the key. Now if only I didn't suck at that...

    1. I wish I had any skill with MSPaint (I'm a traditional artist) so I could make the rabid mutant bear-shark hybrid. ::sigh::

      Some people's triggers aren't as obvious. I'm told they heal over time if the situation that caused them is dealt with in a healthy way. That you don't have ones that are obvious to you is probably a really good thing. Mine are in my face.

  2. A reassurance. What a tricky bastard that is. I always feel like I'm being a needy brat when I constantly seek reassurance that 'he' loves me. I feel like I'm quoting the Shirelle's single "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"
    Oh wait, I am.

    1. I know I'm the same way. I hate asking for reassurance. I hate the thought of appearing needy or clingy. So I don't ask for it ever. I think it's ok to ask for it sometimes though, when you really do need it. Try to find a balance.

  3. you better keep blogging on a regular schedule

    ... or else

    1. ::smiles:: I'm trying haha

    2. or else I'll have nothing to read once or twice per week

  4. Haven, it seems borderlines have two patterns: 1) leave suddenly, altogether, final, game the hell over and 2) leave and come back constantly. What do you see as underlying this difference? With my borderline, it's #2 and I like to think its cause she is attached and can't/ doesn't want to leave. The first time though, I thought and reacted like it was #1 bcs the experience was so emotional and in my world it meant game over. Not to her. Now I see her pattern as her way to regulate her feelings. Close, closer, love....BAM you are bad, bad, bad to reduce the feelings to a manageable place. Then repeat. Just asking to see if you have thoughts at all. I have looked and looked at what I can do other than ride her waves but am always open. I do not want her to feel suffocated....or abandoned. --chicadina

    1. I agree, these do seem to be the overarching patterns with BPD. I have certainly been encompassed by both at varying times.

      I think some of it has to do with whether a person with BPD is more prone to Acting In or Acting Out. When I was younger I Acted Out much more often and had less control over my impulsive behaviors. As I got older I worked to gain more control over myself, so now I have almost completely flipped to only Acting In (which is not necessarily any better and not actually healthy either), so instead of acting on my impulsive inclinations I hold them in and let them bottle up until they pop.

      Whether it's displayed as either the first or the second there's always that push-pull going on. In the first case the push-pull is silent. It's what I've gone through with Friend and Tech Boy most recently. I get upset, push away, but it's an internal process and I withhold my impulsive inclination to act on it. Things will be going great, until something happens, then they'll be terrible, horrible, and bad, but I don't say anything. I just hold it all in, storing it up.

      It's almost better to have many episodes of expressed push-pull because you can actually deal with problems as they blow up and there's a chance to get back together or work things out. When you hold everything in until it's too late to deal with, then there's no going back and things are just done.

      A lot of it comes from fear. Fear of being vulnerable, fear of rejection, fear that you will not love them the way that that they love you. So when they become closer, realize they are creeping into a more vulnerable place, they rail against the vulnerability to keep themselves safe. It doesn't though. It still hurts like hell, which is why someone with BPD will pull back and return to the person they care about. Maybe I should turn this into a post because I can certainly write more about it.

    2. What about non's? I have read so many of your articles and it really makes me understand the head of BPDs. I'm pretty sure my boyfriend is BPD but I didn't KNOW it until after he devalued me and possibly discarded me too. We shall see how that pans out. I thought he was a non and so my approach made things worse.

      But in this post, and many others, I read how the non is supposed to threat their BPD partner. When is there reciprocity? How much abuse should the non take? Is there no accountability?

  5. First I want to share with you, Haven, that this blog you've created is one of the best things since sliced bread. I lived with a BPD girlfriend for over 7 years nearly getting married until I lost my own sense of self and self worth and left abruptly for 6 months before coming back. Even then, it wasn't until my therapist recently asked if she had been diagnosed as BPD and subsequently started reading helpful information from people like you did things start to make sense in my life again.

    This article reminded me how much I have actually needed to work on myself intensely over this last year just as much as my partner needs to work on herself. Unfortunately I don't think she still fully understands what is going on with her, at least that is my impression.

    It's been challenging to find ways to address issues without letting on that I think she lies somewhere on the personality/anxiety/mood spectrum.

    Interestingly reading blogs like yours has helped me to feel closer to her as I can empathize with what is going on for her. It has made it easier for me to do things like match her states then regulate myself as well as understand most of this is really not about me. I can better understand her triggers and be mindfull of not repeating them though it's hard. I can especially set clearer boundaries and stand to them.

    Unfortunately, not knowing or even having any prior experience to even be aware any of this for the first 6 years of pour relationship has caused a lot of damage between us. She is very high functioning and even getting a second masters in a psychology this time to be a therapist so it was hard not to think she was the one who knew what was going on and not think I was always the broken one with huge problems.

    It's hard not going down the "if only path" as our relationship is most likely ending. It's frustrating because I finally have a greater empathy and understand many of the ways I could make things work better. Unfortunately, I myself, have done too much damage and understand if she can't go back either.

    I'm currently experiencing great relief for myself, great empathy for her and great sadness about our relationship. I wish I could tell her all this without it seeming like I'm accusing her or blaming her.


  6. I find this to be a great post as well.
    I'm glad to have found this blog
    It helped me understand more and empathize better


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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