Love or Obsession

Not a bad day at all.
Very productive day at work. Even though my mind kept flitting around. I’d start a design project, look back at the clock and it would be an hour later, my mind lost in day dreams and fantasy (you don’t want to know. Or maybe you do).
The night is winding down, or should be, and my energy is ramping up. 2 hours of sleep last night. Too little sleep. Too much energy. Too many thoughts. Too much to say. up, Up, UP. Everything moves too slow. Can’t keep up with how my brain bounces back and forth. 
I think I finally tossed my therapist for a whirl tonight. She asked me about Friend and how I was dealing since I stopped talking to him. I’m fine. I freaked the hell out the night I released my thoughts to him and told him to stop contacting me. I woke up the next day, and everything was different. I felt practically nothing. For the next few days I didn’t look at my phone, didn’t turn on my instant messenger, didn’t worry, had no anxiety at all about not speaking to him. I felt almost at peace. By Friday I’d turned my IM back on but other than a few hours of mild anxiety knotting in my stomach for fear he’d IM me, I was fine. Though in all honesty I turned it on so he’d see me and remember me and know that it was my choice to not speak to him. Miss that, fucker.
Which apparently he did.
Finally started speaking to him again. I feel nothing. It’s familiar, but I have no hopeful anticipation. No missed longing. He told me flat out he still desires me the last time we spoke, but I made my choice and now I feel nothing in that regard. My therapist says she’s not questioning it. It’s pretty obvious I’ve dissociated from the entire thing, but in a way that is almost contented. Hey, it’s a defense mechanism, let it get defensive. As long as it works.
It’s so weird. I’ve been insane, emotionally wracked and destroyed. For months. I make a decision… and it’s done. Like breaking a spell.
This made me giggle
It makes me question: Do I fall in love? Or do I fall into obsession? 
My emotions are so extreme, so volatile. I can’t stop thinking about things, creating scenerios, paths that actions could take, how I want things to be, how they should be…. Convince myself that I’ll never be happy unless I have exactly that…. Until I no longer want it.
I think the uncertainty is the most maddening. With no clear decision, there is no clear way to be, to act, to identify. Lost in the confusion the madness takes hold and spins me down an endless spiral of depression and anxiety. In making a decision, I can regain my composure and sense of self.
It took me all of two days {less really} to remember that I don’t need him, or anyone else, to hold my hand and walk with me through this life.
It took me weeks, months (this after years), to remember that I would be fine without Evil-ex*** and I lived with him. I know my feelings for him were tragic but I was beside myself with fear and anxiety that I would be without him. My life was consumed with him and everything we did was entangled. More so that I would have to face him and not be with him. Until I remembered what life was like without him. Fun, easy, comfortable, not filled with tension and horrible, but it took some time. Maybe not much, a couple weeks, but there was a period of adjustment.
I was starting to feel this way with Friend, this fear of not having him. I finally forced myself away and as soon as I made the decision, it stopped. The craze, the madness, the rumination, the obsession. Gone. That there was no transition period, no getting used to this new state, no time of adjustment, and now no feeling… it’s disconcerting.
Do I understand myself at all? If I shut down and turn off like this, were the things I felt before even real?
I have no personal attachments now. In a romantic/sexual sense. I’m calm. It’s not until I get involved, emotionally, with someone that it drives me crazy. I should take note of that.
My therapist was utterly thrown. I could see it in her eyes and the way she wavered. Especially when I actually said I wasn’t sure if I knew the difference between love and obsession. Sometimes I think she’s too positive. She wants the best for me, but maybe at the expense of seeing me as I really am. I haven’t been seeing her that long though. I’m just starting to really open up in ways she hasn’t seen yet.
She thinks now that I’m in therapy I’ll be able to make better choices into the future. That I’ll be able to learn from this. See the things I want, not settle for the things that I don’t. Choose the ones that are better for me. I told her I’ve seen these things before and yet… I still make shitty decisions. I still make the same mistakes. I want to see what I want to see, but it’s only a mirage. I need to be able to see what is actually there and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to.
I’m a little drunk currently, but I want to remember to look more into love vs. obsession later. 
*** Of course, he finally broke down and begged me to come back, which I did like a fool. Obsession goes both ways. 

Conceptions of Borderline Personality Disorder: Intense unstable relationships

As I was just discussing Gunderson’s work I will continue with another of his conceptions of BPD. It’s not necessarily new information, but it’s succinct and gets right to the heart of borderline behavior and thoughts.
Gunderson, a psychoanalyst, is respected by researchers in many diverse areas of psychology and psychiatry. His focus tends to be on the differential diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, and Cauwels gives Gunderson’s criteria in order of their importance:
  • Intense unstable relationships in which the borderline always ends up getting hurt. Gunderson admits that this symptom is somewhat general, but considers it so central to BPD that he says he would hesitate to diagnose a patient as BPD without its presence.
  • Repetitive self-destructive behavior, often designed to prompt rescue.
  • Chronic fear of abandonment and panic when forced to be alone.
  • Distorted thoughts/perceptions, particularly in terms of relationships and interactions with others.
  • Hypersensitivity, meaning an unusual sensitivity to nonverbal communication. Gunderson notes that this can be confused with distortion if practitioners are not careful (somewhat similar to Herman’s statement that, while survivors of intense long-term trauma may have unrealistic notions of the power realities of the situation they were in, their notions are likely to be closer to reality than the therapist might think).
  • Impulsive behaviors that often embarrass the borderline later.
  • Poor social adaptation: in a way, borderlines tend not to know or understand the rules regarding performance in job and academic settings.

Intense. Unstable. Relationships. In which the borderline always ends up getting hurt. Why am I repeating this? Because it’s true. The inability to regulate emotional control does not allow for a borderline to maintain emotional safeguards. Whether the issues that arise are due to the other person or internal (or external) conflict brought about by someone with BPD, it is all felt internally, as an emotional attack. With no way to shield from {self} inflicted damage, no protective emotional layer, it’s nearly impossible for someone with BPD to escape unscathed from a relationship. Any amount of change, fear of abandonment, or even perceived excessive closeness can disrupt the fragile stability that a borderline holds to. This can cause an almost simultaneous fight, flight and fear response. When emotions run so intensely there is an inner conflict of needing to protect oneself and needing to be protected. Wanting someone close, and needing space in order to not get hurt. Especially after several relationships of always getting hurt and expectations that this will continue. When someone gets too close the need to run away, push away, pull back to preserve the tenuous sense of self is increasingly strong. To not let someone close enough to hurt them again, is even stronger. In order to do this someone with BPD may lash out, pick a fight, or any number of ways to fend off a suffocating closeness – to fight free.  If not immediately, soon after, these feelings are replaced with fear, panic at the thought of being alone. The need to regain what could be lost forever if it is not won back right away. Emotional displays, promises, intense affection, apologies, anything to regain what a borderline fears to lose may be done to regain an emotional stability. It’s difficult for someone without BPD to understand this intense clash of emotions, and even more difficult to deal with at times. Someone who doesn’t understand what is going on is likely to respond in kind to whatever action is being taken. Someone with BPD, in the moments of panic, cannot always internalize their own role in what is happening. They can only feel what is being directed at them compounded on top of their already unstable emotions. Even if the non-BPD person tries to do the opposite; be kind, understanding, it may also be met with conflicting emotions. A borderline will feel even more smothered, increasing the need to run, making him/her feel even more misunderstood because what they need is not being recognized. The rub though, is that someone with BPD doesn’t always recognize what it is that they need. They only feel that someone/thing is wrong or too much or detrimental or out of their reach without knowing how to rationally work to fix this.  The result is an intensely fluxuating relationship of needing to be close and safe and needing to preserve a sense of self… to be safe.

I wasn’t originally going to discuss each of these criteria on their own, but while writing this I realize I  have too many thoughts on many of these points so I’ll make this a multi-part series.

Perpetual first impressions


No calm acceptance. The feeling of dread never goes away.

I can be friends with someone for so long, years, but there’s never a quiet comfort. At least not one that lasts. Moments sure. Hours, sometimes. Something always creeps back. Doubt. Fear.

Always feel like I’m intruding into someone else’s life. Never sure if I’m wanted. Never quite sure if our relationship has changed or stayed the same. Reading too much into the subtle variations of each encounter. Everyone has off days, everyone has behaviors that change a bit, vary from mood or stress or some extraneous factor. For me, it feels like these things happen as a direct result of something I did or as a reaction to me. Did I say something wrong? Did I do something offensive? Is he mad? Does she not want to be as close to me now? These things probably did not happen as a result of something I did (or didn’t do), but I feel like it has, fear it. There’s never a constant, steady feeling of acceptance. Everything is dependent on the last meeting, the moment before. There’s a constant second guessing of Self. When so many things can go wrong, be taken wrong, how can you be secure that people don’t see each instance the way you do. But they don’t. At least, I don’t think they do. Friend told me I was a little more ‘verbally assertive’ the other night. I’d had a few too many drinks and had let down my usual filters. I asked him if that was a polite way of saying I was a bitch? He didn’t respond b/c I think he took it as a rhetorical question but now I worry that I won’t be invited over, that his wife will make things more difficult for me. Forget all the things I’ve ever done for them (watched their daughter when she was in the hospital, cleaned their house, made countless meals and desserts for them, etc.).  It all feels dependent on that one thing.

Like a perpetual first impression.

I’ve been best friends with Friend for almost a year, known him for years longer, and I can’t hold onto the belief that our relationship is stable. That it’s as strong or as close as it used to be. Even though aspects of it are changing, I can’t imagine that it doesn’t mean things will be less meaningful.  We were talking about ‘middle ground’ friends, having friendships with people that aren’t close confidants, but not held at arm’s length either. The whole time I was wondering if he still held me as a close confidant, wanting reassurance of this, and fearing that new middle ground friends would detract from our friendship.  I didn’t ask for this reassurance, this validation of the closeness of our friendship, mostly because I realize how incredibly annoying it is for people to constantly repeat this. Especially when he does randomly remind me that I’m his closest or dearest friend. I want it though.  More reassurance. Validation to calm inner voice for another few minutes. There’s no quiet slip into comfortable familiarity.

There are still times when I want more beyond our friendship, mostly because I see this as some kind of savior from my turbulence, but I wonder, would it really change anything? I have never had relationships where I didn’t second guess my thoughts and behaviors, didn’t obsess over the multitude of potential meanings from the words and actions of others (with one recent exception but I think I was already so tired of the emotional turmoil she put me through that I couldn’t care anymore).  Or if I didn’t constantly worry, I quickly became bored.

Can I have a comfortable familiarity without losing my interest? Without that hint of fear and anxiety gripping my heart and making me worry about losing someone, would I care as much at all if they left? Once that calm sets in, I no longer need to be there. I begin to look for other avenues of entertainment.

The fear makes me crave it. The comfort makes me tire of it. It’s impossible to just settle in.

A disease called Friendship – Checklist Criteria 1: Abandonment

I will begin my look into the specific criteria listed in the DSM IV that qualify one as having BPD. Once I take a technical look at what it means to be me, I will branch off into the personal, the gritty, the mundane and macabre.

For those not in the know, the DSM IV is the experts guide into madness. It is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Illness. This is what psychiatrists, thereapists, councilors, doctors, etc. reference in order to pinpoint a diagnosis and ultimately, bill your insurance company.

First up on the DSM Checklist for BPD is:

1.) Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.

Abandonment issues. If there’s one thing that makes us sound like clingy, lonely, emo-kids, it’s probably this. Someone never loved us enough not to leave. Did not see us worth the effort to stick it out for. So how do you keep people from leaving? You crawl under their skin until you are so fused with their being there is no longer the chance of escape. False.

At least in my experience, it’s easier to not get too attached in the first place. Becoming too attached is a recipe for hurt, disaster and disappointment.  That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen. Some days it seems inevitable.

If we’re so afraid to be left, why let anyone close at all. No one wants to be alone. Not really. Humans are social creatures, pack animals. They thrive in groups, growing stronger as each contributes to the herd until all the sustenance is used up and they begin to gnaw at the bones of the weak.
Some days the loneliness is palpable. We need to reach out to remember we are part of a whole. Other times it’s almost insidious. Like friendship is a disease that has snuck up and infected you when you least expected it. A friendly word here or there, leadings to general inquiries of well being and before you know it, you’re discussing art, philosophy, the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. You’re attached before you ever saw it coming. One small symptom, then another, and before you know it you have stage four cancer and need weekly chemo just to function.
But now that it’s here, how long til it goes away? Is taken away? When will this disease called ‘friendship’ be ‘cured’?
Boundaries were made to be pushed. If you can act out, act up, push back and yet they stay, isn’t that a testament to how dedicated they are to you? Your friendship? Your relationship? If you don’t test these boundaries how do you know if they’ll hold when it counts?

So you push. You test the fences, looking for weakness, chink in the chains that hold you together until finally one snaps. A tiny break at first. One link loosened in the whole. It inspires a response. Apologies are quickly made. The gap patched, soldered back together. But the break has been made and that point will never be as strong as it initially was. Everything is fine for a while. It’s been proven that you can withstand conflict. All is well in the world. You’re a brat, but a brat that cares.
Until the next time. And the next.

Even small very reasonable seperations can cause anger or fear. Make you question yourself, doubt yourself, make you think you’ve done something wrong. What is it about me that isn’t good enough to spend time with? I understand you need had a last minute meeting but what is it about me that makes me less important that you would break our plans? Don’t even consider large things.  I’m losing the time I would have spent with you, does tha mean I am losing you too? Rage. Hurtful words. Anger is my emotion. Anger at being used because clearly up until this point you have just been using me when you didn’t really think I was good enough to do anything with.

Despair.

Every time the apologies are more profuse, and they’re always sincere. The excuses, reasons, justifications become more frantic. Pleading, desperately hoping they forgive you to prove you worth their love. Please, I didn’t mean for it to sound that way, for it to mean that. I will learn, it will never happen again. Except it does.
Each time the test is a little larger, a little more extreme, until finally the structure is so unsound it collapses under it’s own weight for having the foundations picked apart.
The world crashes down, left alone, in the dark without the light that that relationship shed. The void is consuming. A vow is made to never let someone so close, ever, ever again. Well, with one exception…
It can be that the people chosen truly are uncaring, people not worthwhile that do not care to stick around or aren’t looking for anything beyond a superficial friendship. These people don’t tend to stick around anyway. But the people that you develop a firm belief in, the thought of them leaving is a waking nightmare. Also, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Who’s to say the fence would not have held up forever had you not felt the need to test the foundations? Would they have left if you had not created the circumstances that pushed them being their tolerance? By the time that thought occurs, it’s usually too late to let it go.