The Many Faces Of Emptiness

One of the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder according to the DSM-IV is:

“chronic feelings of emptiness”

“Yes, I get that. But how does it feel?” A friend asked me the other day.

Good question. How does it feel? Can it even be felt? Doesn’t the very definition suggest “blankness”?

Yet, it can most certainly be “felt” in a sense.

Most people will experience a feeling of emptiness during their lives. But for those of us who experience it almost daily, it’s difficult to explain. It comes in many forms. It’s like asking someone who has had a heart attack how it felt. Sure, they can describe it and we “get it”, but in a limited way, and only as far as our imaginations allow. As we all know, imagination isn’t the most accurate of things.

I’ve always loved this Egyptian proverb, which I believe can also be used in this instance:

What reveals itself to me ceases to be mysterious for me alone: if I unveil it to anyone else, he hears mere words which betray the living sense: Profanation, but never revelation.

The Mirriam Webster dictionary defines “empty” and “emptiness” as follows:

“Containing nothing”, “empty space”
“Having no real purpose or value”
“The quality or state of being empty”

A few synonyms: black hole, blankness, vacancy, void, hollowness, nothingness, depletion, desolateness.

Dictionary definitions aside, here is how I personally experience this emptiness:

I can sense all the emotions inside myself, but am unable to reach them. To fully connect with them. To experience and “feel” them. As though there’s a layer of glass between the feeling and my conscious awareness (if I can call it that – my vocabulary is somewhat limited) , as this photo suggests:

journeyhealingbpd

It can also feel as though I have nothing inside of me. Just a large black hole. Nothing to give. Nothing can enter either. Like a glass of water that got knocked over, spilling the liquid everywhere, then picked up and placed back on the counter, devoid of it’s contents.

Possibly the best way I have ever been able to describe it, is through a bit of writing I did a few years back while experiencing this emptiness:

Shadow

I see her in my dreams…

She is but a lifeless form, a shadow, wandering aimlessly through this world.

No longer do her eyes behold the wonders of the world, the beauty of a sunrise. No longer does the cool breeze tickle her skin, nor the raindrops sting her face. The sounds filling the air are no longer music to her ears.

Never seeing, never tasting, never feeling…

Never having existed at all.

Not everyone experiences things the exact same way. How do you experience the state of emptiness?

Refreshing The Soul

The threat of gale force winds looms
Ocean waves rising higher and higher
Rain battering against the windows
The glass doors shaking and rattling

Safe inside. But my soul is asleep.

Stepping out of the warmth and safety.

I stand in the rain, letting it pour over me. Oh so refreshing. Cleansing.

The wind now forcing me to hold onto the railing. It got worse so quick. Fear spreading through me. I used to be afraid of the wind. But then, the fear turns into exhilaration.

Ice cold. Shivering.

I stand there until I can’t feel my body anymore. Numb on the outside.

But deep down inside I feel alive again.

rain

The Age Game

My ex and I had this ‘game’.

Depending on how I was acting, she would assign an age to me. The oldest I got to was 60. The wise old lady. But that was always accompanied a few hours later or earlier by a downgrade to any age between 2-16 years old.

Well, today I was the toddler throwing a tantrum. So, I guess that makes me 2 or 3 years old. Take your pick.

They say a symptom of BPD is impulsive behaviour. Does posting something in the heat of an intense emotional meltdown count as being impulsive? What about sending your therapist an email while in that same emotional state? I did both. And once the storm had passed, I was left feeling like a complete idiot. Again. Why do I keep doing this to myself?

I had a therapy session today, and for the first time since we started seeing one another I just wasn’t feeling the connection. Something was off. In hindsight, I was feeling very exposed and vulnerable. I also felt a wall at times. One I had most probably constructed in my own mind.

Near the end of our session, I turned the conversation to a personal matter. And obviously I was approaching a boundary. Naturally, my therapist wouldn’t give me the information I wanted. Then, the whole one-sided relationship feeling washed over me. I might have pushed a little, knowing that boundary would be there. But pushing anyway. Wanting, needing to feel ‘special’. But of course, I’m not.

After the meltdown, but still in ‘danger zone’ I decided to take a drive down to the beach. I needed to get rid of all the energy coursing through my body, and get my mind to shut up. I chose the healthier and safer option of release, which I can hear my therapist say I should be proud of. So I’ll go with that.

ocean - Copy

There was no one else around. I walked, concentrating on listening to the sound of the waves breaking, the feel of the sand beneath my feet, the smells and sounds in the air. Things got calm. I felt utterly alone. Yet I basked in this sense of solitude. Just me and nature. I didn’t need anyone. I didn’t want anyone. Sitting on the soft, white sand, my mind started wandering.

I came to the conclusion that yes, I actually do need people in my life. We all do. And I already have a wonderful support group of two.

So why then, if I knew I had someone I really need in my life, did I just realize that I’d been trying to push her away? To distance myself from her? Is it because she’s going on holiday? But I’ve gone two weeks between sessions before. Besides, she needs the break. She deserves more than a week actually. It’s not like she’s leaving forever. Or is it the fear that our application for more sessions would be rejected and it would be longer than just a couple of weeks before we could resume our work together?

Is it because she’s getting too close? I’ve let her in on so many secrets already. She knows too much. No one can know so much about me and still choose to stay. Yes, she said she’s committed, but I thought the same about other people in the past, and they ended up leaving. Maybe I’m trying to see how far I can push. Maybe it’s easier to do the rejecting than being rejected.

Or perhaps, with my recent revelation in another post about the way I feel for her, did I subconsciously create the drama at the end of our session on purpose to find a reason to hate her?

I don’t have the answer. I won’t pretend to understand. Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe it’s something else entirely.

As is the usual case with me, while I was trying to push her away, I was also panicking at other times that she would leave. I don’t want to lose her. I want her close. See, there’s that walking contradiction thing again. I’m still feeling a little insecure, but I need to deal with it.

I can now understand why some professionals don’t want to work with us. But I think it’s their loss… Because I’m sure once we’ve gone through the healing process and arrived on the other side, it’s the biggest compliment to the therapist who chose to commit.

The saying goes “one day at a time”. But that feels overwhelming sometimes, so I’ve broken it down even further. One hour at a time. Like a baby learning to walk. Little steps at a time. Slowly. We can do this.

Now to work myself up to my actual age.

Art Of Feeling

I recently came across some powerful and beautiful digital artwork by an artist who calls herself DestinyBlue, and decided to share some of my favourites.

These images represent my own feelings so well. I’ll name the images as the artist has, and the images will link to the page you can find on her official website. There you can read what inspired her to draw it. Her stories. I’ll then add my own interpretation… What each image represents to me.

7c55a7c7d7ee50c780586055aa2af505-d3jsaql
Paint your Wings

Having negative feelings towards myself… Seeing myself as bad, dirty and evil, I sometimes feel the need to prove to others that I’m a pure and good person. An angel, if you will. Maybe I try to convince myself of that too. There’s also a longing to go back to a time before ‘the fall’, as I call it. To regain innocence. To start over. Or to have never existed at all.

mute_by_destinyblue-d4j7x4s
Mute

We’ve all had moments like these. Feeling terrible, but smiling and pretending the sun is shining. This image perfectly represents the story of my life. Wanting help, wanting someone to notice the real ‘me’ beyond the smile. Being ignored or yelled at when trying to express feelings. Eventually learning to keep it locked away instead. Unable to express the emotions I was drowning in.

last_piece_by_destinyblue-d4v1ohr
Last Piece

When I read DestinyBlue’s description of this piece I was pleasantly surprised by her words in the second paragraph. Years ago I had written something that said the same thing, just in a different way. Her intention for this was for it to be a positive representation. But, as we all know, everyone interprets things differently. To me, I see it as the puzzle that is me. Trying to fit pieces of myself together, without really knowing who ‘me’ is. Sometimes it feels as though a piece fits, only to find later on that it actually doesn’t, and ruins the rest of the image. A constant searching and re-building.

sew_closed_my_soul_by_destinyblue-d53i95b
Sew Closed my Soul

I’m pretty sure there’s never been anyone who’s never had their heart broken in some way. After each loss in my own life, I’ve felt the need to stitch up  my heart. Two motivations: 1) Close the wound, stop the bleeding 2) Don’t let love in anymore. But who can resist love? Connection? It seems to just happen. And when you least expect it. It’s like an obsession. It is an obsession. It’s perfect. Until it’s not. But in the end, every little bit of love is worth it.

imprint_by_destinyblue-d6w7ti8
Imprint

The previous image and this one make up a set for me. Every person I’ve ever met has left an imprint on me, whether positive or negative. Whether a healing presence, or destructive force, they’re all still a part of my soul. Right now, this image represents someone specific… Someone who is currently a powerful presence in my life and heart. My therapist. She’s left a great imprint on me… A case of transference perhaps? I don’t know if that matters anyway. Along with this connection I feel towards her, comes a familiar overwhelming fear. Abandonment. Rejection. She’s reassured me before that she’s committed to this process with me, but I fear that now that she knows me better, that might change. That she’ll decide I’m just not worth the trouble after all.

This is my favourite image, and perfectly shows how a person may leave, but their mark on us never disappears.

all_wrong_by_destinyblue-d9texd4
All Wrong

Disconnection. Between her feelings and her body. A sense of watching the emotions, the brokenness from a distance, yet it still being a part of her. This is something I have struggled to explain properly even during my therapy sessions. It seems words aren’t sufficient to convey the exact meaning, as I can’t describe it here either. A concept in my mind that I can’t quite express. It’s frustrating. This last image and even the title that the artist has given it, represents where I find myself at this very moment.


There are a few more of these that I connected with, but decided to only share these few.

You can find the rest of her exquisite work at: http://destinyblue.deviantart.com/