Mary has suffered for years in her personal relationships and in her private world. Her behaviour, thoughts, and emotions were often described as though she was in the middle of a whirlwind.
When meeting men she would put them on a pedestal, idealizing them to the point where they appeared to reach near sainthood in her eyes. Shortly after, she would seek out their flaws and vulnerabilities and go on the attack. She said it was like “I’m fire or ice, hot and cold, I can lose control at the drop of dime, I say the most terrible things, ripping people to shreds. Once it’s out of my system, I feel a calm return and expect people to carry on as though nothing happened. One partner said I had no idea of the devastation that I left during my rampages”. Her emotional outbursts usually didn’t last long, but for those around her it was described as “walking on eggshells”, never quite knowing what might ignite her fuse. At times she is aware she is sabotaging these relationships but feels uncertain how to change her behaviour.
Mary also described intense fears of abandonment. It could be her partner going on a business trip, out for a hockey game, or leaving for work. She described her experience as “It becomes absolutely terrifying, it’s difficult to put into words. Like I cease to exist or maybe he ceases to exist when he leaves. There is a strange emptiness inside me. I feel empty most of the time, but when someone I care about leaves, emotionally I feel they are gone forever and will never return. I’ve done crazy things to stop people leaving me. I can get really frantic, I’ve threatened to harm myself, tried to instil guilt, been manipulative. It’s like I become a child, abandoned and helpless. Just isolated and alone”.
Whether feeling abandoned or in her own private hell Mary has also engaged in numerous impulsive acts. When boyfriends left for business trips she may go and have affairs. At other times she would abuse drugs or alcohol; engage in out of control spending, bulimia, reckless driving, and the list goes on.
Over the years Mary has also engaged in recurrent suicidal behaviour. Cutting herself, threats of self harm or going to the edge of consuming excessive alcohol and overdoses of pills or drugs. At times this behaviour was used to manipulate others, at other times it was a manifestation of intense loneliness and pain. She has now come to realize that her intent was not to die, but rather the belief that she wanted to things to be different. How she could make this happen was a mystery to her. Stress could bring on the feeling of paranoia. Suspicions would abound and create thoughts that the world was out to get her. There was no love, no loyalty. She felt alone. During these times she could experience a floating sensation, as though she wasn’t really here, didn’t exist. Everything would appear foreign and strange.
The people closest to Mary were confused and devastated by her behaviour. One family member said “It’s like she is saying ‘I hate you, don’t leave me’ or ‘I love you but get out of my life’. Things seem so dramatic, so over the top. We know she is hurting but are getting frustrated with her attempts to self destruct. We are caught in her vortex and feel helpless”.
Mary and her family are not alone. The intensity, impulsivity, and extent of Mary’s behaviour is indicative of someone who has traits of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Unfortunately, the person afflicted with these traits often feels like a leper. Mary said “It’s like the very thing I fear the most, abandonment and the emptiness in my soul, becomes more intense as my behaviour pushes people away from me. I need to understand my emotions and control them, learn to communicate my needs in an unharmful way. I need to find out who I am, what I believe in, and learn to be a part of the world.
The above description of Mary’s life is dramatic and intense. She has experienced the majority of traits that could be classified as borderline. However, in her quiet moments (yes she does have them) there is a warm, compassionate woman. She holds down a responsible job, volunteers, and is an accomplished musician. She would help anyone who needed her assistance. She takes care of two ailing parents.
She needs to learn how to take care of herself and develop the skills to nurture emotional intimacy.
If the above description seems familiar to yourself or someone close to you it may be helpful for you to seek therapy.