Those of us with BPD have unstable patterns in relationships. Until I started therapy, this fact didn’t even appear on my radar. I was living it, but not consciously aware of these patterns. It was only when I started therapy that it was brought to my awareness. I see it play out in my relationship with my psychologist as well.
One of the criteria for BPD in the DSM IV is:
(2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
This is also known as “splitting”, and is a common defense mechanism for those with BPD. In one article I read, the author referred to us as being emotionally 2 or 3 years old, with a lack of object constancy. Object constancy usually develops between the ages of 2 and 3, and is a normal developmental stage in early childhood that those of us with BPD haven’t quite mastered. What is object constancy? Out of the Fog puts it this way:
An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.
You can read more about this on their website.
This is how this looks for me:
I become so attached (obsessively so) to anyone who shows me an ounce of care. They become my whole world. Then, it starts. One little word, one small action, and I feel it all crumble down around me. The feeling that I’m being abandoned or rejected is all consuming. If I don’t hear from someone for a while, I start believing the worst. No longer are they this perfect hero, but now just another person who has rejected me, or is going to abandon me. So I withdraw and push them away. After all, it’s better to pull away myself than have them walk away.
I adore my therapist, and after almost 5 months she still has that place on the pedestal of my mind. But there have been occasions where I’ve found myself withdrawing. Wanting to push her away. She refers to it as “push-pull”. If I don’t hear from her for a time, I get extremely distressed, and I find myself trying to erase any trace of her from my mind. Anger. Pain. But never hate. A few minutes or hours later though, she pops back into my mind, and I long for that connection to her again. It’s extremely frustrating.
I wrote this letter to my therapist last night. I wasn’t going to even send it to her, but I feel it perfectly represents all I’ve written about in this post. So I’m publishing it here.
I don’t mean to be a burden. I don’t mean to doubt you, your words, or your reassurances.
For the past two days I haven’t been able to get the idea out of my head that maybe you’re angry with me. That maybe I did something wrong. Knowing that I can’t ask you that question. Thinking that if I contact you and ask you that question that I so desperately want the answer to, that you’ll get angry and put up more boundaries. Thinking that I’ll have to wait to see whether I hear from you, or if you show up, to know whether my fear is just another projection.
I don’t want to be like this. It’s hard for me. Excruciating would be a more accurate description of the anguish I feel. It’s like having a knife twisted, pushed and pulled into my heart and stomach, over and over again. It stops for a little while, only to start up again when something triggers the abandonment fears. I don’t mean to constantly want and demand your attention. I hate it as much as I fear you do.
You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re doing everything right, and more. It’s me. My mind can’t quite grasp that when you send me an email, or text message one day, that it’s equally valid a few days later. That you haven’t changed your mind. That you still care. I’m trying hard to change that. You should know though that I hold onto those kind gestures, and look at them, reading them again whenever I’m missing you. They keep me going. They keep me strong.
I’m sorry for being too much. Even though in my own world and life, I never feel like I’m enough.
How do I tell you that you’re my life line, when I’m terrified that revealing that will make you pull away from me… Fearing that I’m too dependent? Would it be okay if I told you that if it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I’d be here writing this letter? I don’t think I ever told you this…That first day I came to see you…I had decided that if our meeting didn’t go well, and I thought you couldn’t help me, that I was going to end my life. That you were my last attempt at staying alive. The others made me feel hopeless, that I couldn’t be helped. That I couldn’t be saved. Perhaps that’s why I’m so attached to you. Why I feel this bond with you. You saved my life that day. You saved my life a few weeks ago. You save me when I’m unable to save myself.
Thank you for all you do. Thank you for caring for this woman who’s still a little girl inside, working on growing up and soaring. Becoming the woman I can be.