Personal relationships have never exactly been my strong suit, I tend to bulldoze good ones, avoid new ones and ignore the worst points of the bad ones. It can be hard, especially when you’re somewhat emotionally unstable and when you tie BPD in with paranoia and anxiety, it really doesn’t help the situation.
To be honest, I never had too much difficulty making friends, I put on this confident persona which has crumbled over the years to reveal the real me, shy, nervous, terrified. When I was younger, I always thought everyone was better than me, I would see the people who seemed happy and popular and noticed that most of them were friendly and outgoing. So that’s what I became, I put on an act of being friendly and outgoing; because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be. It was only as I got older and my depression intensified that my act began to fail somewhat.
Although as a kid, I never had any trouble making friends, I had trouble keeping them and feeling comfortable when with them. I never felt as though I belonged with people, the paranoia kept telling me that they only put up with me because their parents told them to, or for what they might be able to get out of me. Anxiety told me that I was odd, that I didn’t fit in and that everyone was judging me.
I found that I would quickly get bored with friends, not because there was anything wrong with them; they just didn’t live up to my all or nothing/black or white vision of friendship. In my mind, people had to be perfect, that’s just what they were, I was the odd one out in this world of perfect people and I believed strongly that if I was surrounded by perfect people then maybe one day I would be perfect too. So if someone did something or said something or went somewhere that didn’t fit with my vision, it meant they must be like me and if I hung out with people like me, I would become more like me, which was not what I wanted.
I would become obsessed with one person in particular, not stalker like, nothing creepy I swear, I would just spend lots of time with them; invite them to everything and so on. Then, as suddenly as the friendship started, it would stop. It would just dissolve, I’d stop contact, I’d feel lonely, I’d spend all my time on my own, closed off and would be generally irritable, it was all in all a pretty hollow feeling. Sometimes it was because of a something they had done which wasn’t “perfect” but more often than not it would be because I would realise I didn’t deserve them, I would feel more uncomfortable with them, like an impostor, like I ought to be alone and miserable because I was a horrible person.
Even in my teens, I would spend all my time texting, calling or meeting up with one or two particular people, only to find myself feeling more and more miserable, more and more like a vacuum, sucking the goodness out of people and things. I would become distant, stop replying to texts, stop answering calls, until the people gave up, gave up trying, gave up on me, just like I knew they always would.
I guess some part of me was hoping they would refuse to give up, that they would show such selfless loving devotion and I insist on continuing our friendship. I wanted someone to disprove the conclusion I had come to that I wasn’t worth anything, especially not worth fighting for and that, if I pushed people away, they would never love me enough to keep trying, they’d all give up anyway. I hoped that someone would come along and be “the one” who would stay and fight, showing me I was worth it, but no one did.
At school, I spent my days reading in the library, quietly trying my best not to be seen. To begin with, I would participate in class, I enjoyed learning you see, but that attracted attention, from either nice people or the not so nice people who liked to make fun of the fact that I used my brain. So eventually I stopped that. My dissociative disorder got worse and I stopped paying attention, I stopped learning, my grades dropped and that just made me feel more worthless. Panic attacks became normal, as did self-harm and the bullying I received on a regular basis, which was not only verbal attacks, but physical too with sharp objects.
My parents took me out of school which helped somewhat as I’m sure if I had to suffer through four more years of that, I would have killed myself. I wasn’t alone, I had plenty of friends and joined in with lots of home-schooled groups, but it didn’t stop the loneliness.
I started drawing, something I realised I could do during art lessons at school, as I had spent my life running behind my brothers artistic skill, which greatly over shadowed mine. The pictures I drew became darker and darker and still nothing changed. The few people I confided in about my depression eventually got bored or decided I wasn’t worth the trouble. Two guys professed their undying love for me and when I told them what they were in for, explaining what it’s like to be me, they both turned tail and ran.
I didn’t blame them; I would’ve run too if I could. But that and the end of friendships with other people just added to the distorted, vile view I had of myself and ruined me for making any other long standing meaningful relationships. It added to my androphobia (fear of men) telling myself no one would ever want me, that men would only ever see me as an object, not a person. I had panic attacks on a regular basis, usually due to men being too close to me or speaking to me when I didn’t know them.
One time it was early evening but dark due to the winter season and I was walking home from the bus stop. A man stepped out of his car across the road and immediately I was on edge, I kept telling myself “he isn’t interested in you; it’s just coincidence that he got out of his car as you walked past, stop panicking.” Then he called over to me, asking if I needed a lift, it felt like the world stopped. My brain started going a million miles a second, there was no one else around, would people hear me scream, what did he want? What was he going to do to me? I shook my head at him as I didn’t seem able to speak and hurried off. I was aware of him calling after me but I simply turned the corner and ran, I ran for all I was worth, to my front door, struggling to unlock it with my hands shaking so badly. I finally got in, slamming it shut behind me and locking it quickly before collapsing in a panicked heap. It was only after about an hour of shaking and crying and dry retching that I realised he was parked in a taxi spot and probably just wanted to earn his quota. I felt such a fool, but that’s what mental health issues do, they mess you up so much you suspect anyone you come across.
On top of the general fear of people, both male and female, I always felt as though people only ever wanted the side of me that I showed, confident and happy, never the real person I was. My trust issues escalated, my view of myself plummeted, I was anorexic, bulimic, suicidal and everything just crashed.
It took me a good few years to finally open up to people again and without my therapy and counselling, I’m sure I never would have got this far. Personal relationships are difficult when you struggle to even understand yourself and I can’t say there’s any easy way to learn how, but there is a way, easy or not.
I know it sounds cheesy and dumb but you need to make peace with yourself before you can begin to make peace with others. I had to come to understand that I’m not perfect, nobody is, and I wasn’t going to get anywhere expecting people to be so. I had to stop being so hard on myself, I had to learn that I made mistakes, everyone does, and attacking myself for something I did when I was 6 was not going to help me move on.
I still struggle a lot, to feel comfortable with people and with myself. I struggle being kind to myself and to remember I can’t do things perfectly all the time, or even a lot of the time really, but I could try. You can’t make lasting relationships if you keep telling yourself you don’t deserve them, believe me, I’ve tried.
After many years in therapy and getting help from others I’ve begun to notice things about myself that didn’t realise before, I’m starting to see what triggers panic attacks or self-harm and what situations make things better or worse. Understanding this helps me to avoid problems or ways of thinking that are dangerous and unnecessary. Also, being able to explain this to some family members has helped too, they can see me spiralling down before I can and they help me to come out of my dark little mind, into the light for a bit.
If you’ve struggled with making lasting relationships with friends or even family I strongly suggest choosing one person you feel closest to and explaining to them what you are going through. If this said person decided they want nothing to do with you, then guess what? All you’ve lost is a terrible person. If you have a close family member it may be a good idea to confide in them, I know it’s not always the case but often family members are more forgiving of health issues than friends.
If you are receiving therapy or help from a doctor, try asking them for a few tips on how to break it to them, or how best to explain yourself. Another good idea is taking your chosen person with you to one of your sessions, if you bring up the idea in therapy, more often than not, they’ll think it’s a good idea and will try to fit you in wherever they can to help you out.
Another important fact I’ve learnt VERY recently about relationships is that, just because some people don’t want to spend time with you, it does NOT mean there is something wrong with you. It can mean a lot of things but never that. It can mean the person you thought was your friend, was actually a massive douche. It can mean that maybe they have their own issues and can’t handle helping you at the moment. It could mean they don’t really understand. It could mean (especially in a romantic relationship) that you just weren’t compatible, after all, if you’ve been pretending to be something you’re not, you may both realise that actually, you don’t fit that well.
But whatever the case, it doesn’t mean you are bad or unlovable; it just means you haven’t found the right person yet. My very best friend is a wonderful girl who I only met about 6 years ago give or take, so you just may not have met them yet. In fact, when I met her, we didn’t exactly hit it off, not that there was anything I didn’t like about her, or vice versa, we just didn’t really chat much. It was only about 3 or 4 years ago that we really clicked.
The same for my boyfriend too, I knew him for 4 years before anything developed (mainly because I was in denial for quite a while about my feelings for him but there you go.) and even when things did start to go in that direction, I tried to stop it because I was sure he would leave as soon as he found out I wasn’t as stable as I let on. Funnily enough though, when I explained it all to him and told him literally anything, his only reply was “don’t be silly, I won’t leave you over something like that.” Which, incidentally is the best thing he has ever said to me, it even topped “I love you.”
So you never really know who is going to end up meaning the most to you in the end. My biggest piece of advice for you now, is to be yourself. I know it can be hard, especially if you’re like me and have put on an act from an early age, but this is important. If you want to make lasting relationships with people who will love you the way you deserve, you need to be the person you tell them you are. If you’re selling a car that’s broken but you just paint it all fresh and stick a new number plate on it, you aren’t going to get a satisfied customer are you? It’s the same with yourself, if you want people to care for you, the real you; they need to know who that is.
It may take a while to find the people you fit with, it could take years, it could end up that the person you’ve never liked ends up being your best friend, you don’t really know how these things will turn out.
But as well as showing who you are, find out who they are. Don’t just believe what they show on the surface, dig deep to see if there’s another person hidden under the mask, you never know, they could be like you, scared and hiding. Nowadays 1 in every 4 people suffer from mental health illnesses, so chances are, they’re just as nervous as you.
Be honest, as honest as you can bear to be, because even if everyone you’ve ever known leaves you for showing them your true self, you will find your place somewhere, no matter how long it takes. There are some wonderful people out there in this world, show them how wonderful you are and they’re sure to stick with you to the end.