borderline personality disorder abandonment
abandonment, rejection
relationship break-up
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Borderline Personality Disorder and Abandonment

On and Off Relationship

To tell you the truth, I think that dealing with a break-up, whether of a great relationship or a terrible one, is extremely difficult for someone with borderline personality disorder. Personally, I believe the difficulty is biological as much as psychological (more nature than nurture), though of course everybody has their own situation.

Nearly two months ago, a relationship that's been on-again off-again for six years became off. Again.  It's heartbreaking to me, because I've never been the side that wanted to end things. We've had two major break-ups prior to this, so I've certainly had some practice, and yet I find myself in exactly the same cognitive and emotional situation I was in both of the other times. 

I read somewhere recently that, for the Borderline person, breakups are sort of backwards. You take your average human being, break up with them, and they'll be terribly hurt at first; they'll grieve and gradually, over time, begin to feel better. But with a Borderline person, you break up with them and they'll seem to be fine, but will get worse with time. I find that to be the most frightening fact of life for me, right now. 

And, for me (I recognized this in your letter, I think), the problem isn't grief, so much - it's a nearly indescribable sinking into an alternate perception of what's happening to me, of what I believe about him and myself. One hour I can be fine, and the next I may sink into this dysphoric hole and everything I believe can change. The desperation I feel at those times has led, in the past, to some terrible decisions that had consequences I still haven't come to grips with. I am not myself at those times. They may last from a low of about 1 to a high of about 48 hours. When they hit I usually become absolutely desperate to contact him. When they leave I am shaky and afraid of myself. As time goes by I begin to cycle in and out of this state - the last time we broke up, it truly became hourly. It was the most devastating time in my life (it was also around eight months after we broke up).


Beware this cycle - don't sell it short. It is imperative that you talk to your therapist completely openly about how you feel when it hits. Try telling your therapist (make sure this is someone you really trust) exactly what went through your mind and your heart the last time it hit - write it down and read it back to him/her, if you can. It will help to diffuse the next episode. And then refocus on your strengths and on what didn't work for you in the relationship. And - this may be very important - never try to tell yourself that this is the last episode, or that you're done grieving the end of this. If you stay aware of and accept the fact that you grieve differently that a non-BPD'er, you can stay better prepared to use tried and true things like meditation, deep breathing and distraction techniques (I'll include a list of Dialectical Behavior Therapy techniques at the end of this letter).

I had the roughest day yet, today. I feel awful because I've continued (once again) to contact him even though he doesn't want me to - I don't even bother calling, since he won't answer the phone if he knows it's me - I just show up at his door. The last time we broke up, I hijacked his email account. The time before that I continued contacting him for 8 months after we broke up. I am a nightmare of a person to break up with. I don't understand why he got back together with me the other two times, assume that if I just improve myself and keep contacting him this time he'll get back together with me again, and am terrified - TERRIFIED - that this time, it really is over. I feel lost and bereft; I miss him terribly. And I feel angry, too. James never bothered coming to me and telling me it was over. I just had to figure it out for myself - mostly by playing this drawn out game of twenty questions.

Unlike traditional grief, there isn't much of anything out there for the Borderline person who's going through a breakup. However, there is an excellent book called "The Journey From Abandonment To Healing", by Susan Anderson, that I highly recommend.

PS - Here are the skills from my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills Diary Card:

1. Wise Mind
2. Observe: just notice
3. Describe: put words on
4. Nonjudgmental stance
5. One-mindfully: in the moment
6. Effectiveness: focus on what works
7. Objective effectiveness: DEAR MAN
8. Relationship effectiveness: GIVE
9. Self-respect effectiveness: FAST
10. Reduce vulnerability: PLEASE
11. Build MASTERY
12. Build positive experiences
13. Opposite-to-emotion action
14. Distract
15. Self-soothe
16. Improve the moment
17. Pros and cons
18. Radical acceptance

Anonymous Person with Borderline Personality Disorder

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Related Books

The Journey from Abandonment to Healing 

Black Swan: The Twelve Lessons of Abandonment Recovery

New Hope for People with "BPD"