Thursday, March 7, 2013

Asking for Comfort with BPD

I don’t know about you but one of the things I’m very bad at is asking to be comforted.  I don’t know if it’s just a product of my BPD or being raised in a society that says it’s not okay to show “weakness”, but I suspect it’s both. I’m very bad at asking for help. Asking for help is tantamount to admitting failure. Letting someone know that I’m feeling a little vulnerable or that I just need someone to lean on a little bit… it makes me feel like somehow I’m being too needy. Like I’ll instantly be perceived as being too high maintenance. Needing too much. Asking too much.

Showing vulnerability is scary. Even if it’s something perfectly justified and natural to want comfort for.

Instead what I find myself doing is pulling away from everyone. I lock myself in my room and don’t let anyone see that I’m struggling. Compounding the problem. Making it worse. What I need, is exactly the opposite of what I allow myself to have. 

And it is all me. Because at this point with the friends I have now, especially with my family, everyone in my life is more than willing to give me a shoulder to lean on if I let myself ask for it.

Often I’ve noticed we tend to fall into the mindset of, “Well if they love me they should know that I need to be comforted.” And when they don’t, our minds spin out and run away with themselves convincing us that our loved ones don’t really love us the way that they might actually love us.

This is something that I’ve noticed a lot from Zoe and my ex-friend Riot (both BPD). They fall into the ‘shoulds’ A LOT. Instead of actually expressing what it is they need, they have an automatic assumption that the people in their lives should just know. And the longer that those people don’t notice, the angrier and more hurt they become. Until it ends in a puddle of tears and/or trauma.

There there are the times when we know it's utterly unreasonable, but we still feel hurt and the inner shame just piles on. 

Mind reading is a skillset I think many of us subconsciously desire in our partners. It’s a skillset that is UTTERLY unreasonable. I think where this comes from is a desire to have someone that is as hyper vigilant to the concerns of everyone else, as we often are when we’re in our caregiver mode.  

Part of the problem with this though, at least for me, is that I very rarely show on the outside, what I’m feeling on the inside… which is counterintuitive to that desire to have those around us notice that we have a need that may need attention. We need a certain thing, want people to pick up on it, but what we allow ourselves to show people makes it utterly impossible for them discern what it is we need. We are the ultimate in inconsistent messages.

I don’t want people to feel obligated to help. I want them to /want/ to help. Ironically, the people close to me usually do, but they don’t actually know. What I need to work on, what many of us need to work on, is conveying accurately what it is we’re feeling, and what we need. This is so much easier to say than do though.

There’s one other “should” that gets in my way. It’s the self-should, or should not… “I shouldn’t feel this way.” This is usually a product of a lifetime of being invalidated and told that how we feel is wrong or inappropriate. Being shamed for feeling the way that we feel. Feeling shame because of how we feel. There’s so much to overcome from our own negative self-outlook, a lifetime of negative input, and a lifetime of deeply ingrained defense mechanisms designed to protect us from being vulnerable… that learning how to express even the smallest, most seemingly inane desire for human comfort, is anathema at times.

One of the things that I think is so misunderstood about us… is that it’s assumed that small things are just small things. It’s assumed that because something doesn’t seem like a big deal, naturally it is easy to get over. Except it’s not. Many of us have grown up being told the exact opposite in fact. Small things, can trigger a multitude of deeply held beliefs or traumas that set off an avalanche of anxiety and emotional fallout. Seemingly small things are often the needle that broke that camels back when it comes to triggering our bigger responses.

In that respect, we tend to worry about everything. At least I do. I worry that if I show that vulnerability for a moment (and inevitably I do), that it will negate all of the strength I’ve shown previously. This is that black and white thinking I find myself falling into at the time. It’s very difficult to hold onto the other side when the feelings of the moment take hold. And once I do, the comfort I feel when I receive the attention I do need, I simultaneously feel a deep sense of embarrassment or shame.

It’s difficult. I’m 32 years old and I’ve just begun this idea that it’s okay for me to feel how I feel and that it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to let other people be there for you. While it’s okay to feel embarrassment and shame because those are valid feelings, it’s also good for me to recognize that this is a product of my personal dysfunction. No one that cares about me sees my need for human comfort as anything to be embarrassed about. This is a product of my overcompensation and counter dependence…. A product of my desire to be close, but fear of allowing anyone to actually be close.

All I know is that in the moment I feel awkward and kind of ashamed. Figuring out how to acknowledge these feelings as valid, but also work past them and express how I feel in order to achieve a more functional relationship with myself and with my friends and family… it’s a lot. This is also where I think a lot of that limited reparenting that Therapist does comes in very helpful. At this point I feel safe enough expressing when I need things (not from her, but in general) and she’s capable of helping me see what is perfectly acceptable and when I’m being too hard on myself.

Cuz really, sometimes all I really need is a hug or to not sit in the living room alone. I had “Be Independent” ingrained into my psyche really hard.  Learning that asking for comfort or companionship does not equal no longer being independent, is not such a straightforward path for me. I’ve noticed that people tend to assume that things can and are straightforward in therapy. People/Love Ones get frustrated that things don’t go quickly enough or that issues aren’t being addressed directly… there’s a reason for that. That reason is because things are not the straightforward thing that people assume they are. Everyone has different experiences and different methods of healing. Figuring out what works for us, developing a relationship with ourselves and with the people that are willing to help us (loved ones, therapists, psychiatrists, etc.) is a path in and of itself.

Asking for help, asking for comfort, it’s a big thing for me. It helps that I have people that are aware of my struggles. It helps to ask for the small things and see how people respond. Still to this day though, I’m not really sure how to ask people to just come over and hang out without simultaneously making all kinds of crazy food or special treats to feel like I’m giving back, literally, for the comfort I find in the presence of my friends. I always feel like I have to provide something, give something, make it worth their time and energy, to spend time with me. Cognitively I can guarantee that my friends think this is nuts. I have a quick, witty, sometimes raunchy sense of humor; I’m extremely knowledgeable in conversation, I’m happy to just sit and listen when they need to talk and vent…. I know how to be a friend, but I’m not so certain when it comes to allowing other people to be my friend, just my friend. I still have that voice in the back of my mind that says that me, for myself, isn’t good enough and I need to provide something to compensate for my shortcomings as a fully functional human being.

These are my cats both trying to squeeze onto my lap.
They love me more than I can stand some days, haha. 
So to ask for company AND someone to listen, or to ask for company AND someone to curl up against… it feels like I’m taking AND taking without giving back… even though I’ve had friends and family tell me that that it’s not actually taking, because I’m providing them company and comfort at the same time as I’m receiving it. It’s such a foreign concept to me though. It doesn’t seem like something that should be such a struggle, but it is. Something so seemingly small. Something I see come so naturally for all these other people… I struggle with. Comfort.

Giving comfort is easy. I like being able to provide that for people. I feel bad for receiving it. Though to receive is a part of the process of giving. I know how good I feel sometimes when I’m able to give something to the people I care about. It’s not unreasonable to believe that maybe, just maybe, other people find a sense of joy in doing the same for others, even me.

To give is a gift. To allow yourself to receive, is also a gift. 


  1. I just wanted to thank you for your well written and informative posts. I have a close friend who is realizing she has BPD and I care a lot for her. We started developing feelings for each other last year but we didn't realize what she was going through, and I think I ended up hurting her because its so hard for her to talk about her emotions or needs. It was just so overwhelming to deal with the seemingly random outbursts of rage, love, need, distance, indifference, and passion. Since then I have been trying to read up on all the latest materials and books and it wasn't until your blog that I finally started to really understand what she is going through. I don't want to give up on our friendship and I am trying to figure out how I can change/grow myself so that I be there for her. Lately, It was really confusing at first why she would be really intimate with me even when pursuing other people then she'd tell me she wasn't interested but after reading some of your posts I am starting to understand what is going on. I wish you the best of luck in your life and I cannot thank you enough for your valuable insight. Do you have any recommendations on good authors/books/movies/anything that I could learn so that I can be there for her in the way she needs?

  2. "It’s the self-should, or should not… “I shouldn’t feel this way.” This is usually a product of a lifetime of being invalidated and told that how we feel is wrong or inappropriate. Being shamed for feeling the way that we feel. Feeling shame because of how we feel. There’s so much to overcome from our own negative self-outlook, a lifetime of negative input, and a lifetime of deeply ingrained defense mechanisms designed to protect us from being vulnerable… that learning how to express even the smallest, most seemingly inane desire for human comfort, is anathema at times"

    Wow..U always seem to hit the nail on the head. Seriously. I have a very narcissistic father and a BPD(queen) mother. & I myself, am a "waif" BP. I am 27yrs old. Just moved back into my parents house bc i pushed my loving, caring, amazing, Husband to the brink & he became addicted to Opiates just to deal with me. So he is now in a sober living house for 6mos which NEEDED to happen bc he became a stranger to me, someone i didnt recognize anymore. He actually became a narcissist(which is basically what ALL addicts become once theyre hooked bc its all about THEM & the DRUG & nothing else matters). My husband and i have been together for 7yrs. & the first 4 were AMAZING(for me at least&he was happy, he worshipped me, idk why but he did). He treated me like a QUEEN, and i treated him like DIRT bc i was subconsciously pushing him away. I had no idea i had BPD or what it was or why i felt the way i did. So instead of figuring that out, i just acted on my emotions and it was BAD. I was always threatening to leave, belittling him, saying i wanted to leave him..etc. Anyway, now I am in the middle of paying my Karmic debt. I had to move my daughter and i back in with my parents since my husband became a drug addict and pawned/sold everything we had. I am left with no vehicle, no house, no nothing. I look back on the way things were and where it all went wrong and i know exactly where it went wrong. I did this and im not just saying that. I really did. I pushed him so far over the edge he had to turn to drugs. He loved me so much and i loved him but couldnt show it. It scaed the hell out of me. Anyway, so now i am living with my parents. The ppl that had a HUGE part in making me this way(not trying to play "victim" but that is the reality of it). & im reliving old childhood wounds and being controlled, criticized and judged by both parents just like when i was a kid. My husband allowed me to be myself..he was the only person who ever TRULY cared about me. I didnt know how it felt to be loved until i met i pushed away the best thing that ever happened to me for pretty much for no reason except the occasional "u should just KNOW" like u talked about in this blog. But i was soo scared to be vulnerable so i just would get mad at him and spin the siutation. I would somehow make it HIS fault i felt the way i did. & now living at my parents house i dont go anywhere, i am constantly wondering if hes thinking about me..if he doesnt call i think he must be cheating. I have cut myself off from the outside world and turned down ppl that have offered to help bc i cant offer them anything in return. My family is completely unsupportive and dont believe in things like "BPD". They dont think its real..its just an "excuse" for me to be the way i am. Yeah...RIGHT. Thats it. They are such small minded, judgemental ppl it sickens me. But i put myself in this position and if i keep being crazy all bc of my insecurities while my husbands getting better theres ZERO chance of getting back my old life and a 2nd chance with him. Living here makes me feel even more out of control bc my parents bring out my low self esteem & insecurities BIG TIME. Anyway thankyou for writing this blog. I wish i knew u in real life and we were U "get" me bc we are one in the same. & when i read your bogs i dont feel so alone. So thanks :)

  3. An amazing blog Haven, so very true, I might point my hubby at this because its so very difficult to explain all this. My shrink used to say I have cognitive dissonance - the way I think & the way I feel are at odds - I must not show weakness etc. I would ask people over & server them a 3 course meal with coffee & homemade choc's.... All so true. I always thank people for being there for me, I don't believe I could be worth enough that they would want to be there, or feel Ive helped them enough to have earned it. Brilliant, Thank you.

  4. I think this is pissibly the best thing I've read yet in helping me to sort of understand what it feels like inside a day in the life of my lady! Thank you so much

  5. I didn't realize someone was writing my thoughts on a blog like this! How are you so ingrained in my head?!

    I'm BPD Dual Diagnosed with Substance Abuse. I have a LOT of people I can reach out to when I need help with my BPD or urges. But I don't. I tell myself that other people do this on their own, why can't I do it on my own? I kick the shit out of myself, compounding my problem that I wanted help for in the first place.

    Just found your blog...wonderful! Will be checking back regularly


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

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