BPD

BPD series: a case study

“Vanilla, please tell me. You’ve been sitting next to me, crying for 2.5 hours straight. What is going on?”

Gotta hand it to ICB. My go-to gal, Allie, is out of town. Yesterday, I needed a safe space to feel seen and accepted. ICB was my substitute. Unphased, he played video games as I curled up next to him on the couch and cried and cried and cried and cried until my skin on my nose gave way to red sand paper. 3 times ICB asked me what was going on, 3 times I couldn’t find my words.

So here we go.


Remember Applefriend? Dude whose innocent remark catapulted me headlong into the brutal depression that had me end up on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist. Long-time reader of my blog, familiar with my BPD struggles, confidante. To answer the question most of y’all are too polite to ask, no, there isn’t and never was anything between us. Strictly platonic, guy is married with 2 kids. For all I know, he prefers cats over dogs. Life has thrown a lot at him, but he maintains a deep positivity in all things. He firmly believes in his agency.

On Friday, we were talking about a situation (Situation X) I am living through that I am finding very upsetting. I’ve spoken to him at length about it, often sounding like a broken record. As is happens, Situation X triggers many of my insecurities about people’s perception of me, my worth and my value, yup, you guessed it, it has been the cause of much paranoia and cognitive distortion. Add to that my general collapse of identity since my Borderline diagnosis, Situation X has been a source of a lot of confusion and heartburn to me over the past weeks. On Friday, Applefriend took it upon himself to try coach me, because, he tells me, BPD is highly coachable. Only problem? I do not particularly want to be coached at the moment. I want to feel supported. To be heard. To be reassured that I am NOT living moments of paranoia and cognitive distortion, and gentle suggestions when it sounds like I might be. I am a broken record, it is true, but suck it up buttercup. I need my friends to just be there for me. To Applefriend, being there for me meant a serious attempt at psychoanalysing me. Trying to understand why Situation X upset me SOOOOOOOOO much. Why I was stuck in the past SOOOOOOOOO much. Why I couldn’t move on. Why I had no goals. Why I didn’t believe in myself. Why I kept blaming BPD. “Vanilla, you have such a victim complex, you can’t keep blaming BPD for these aspects about you.”

Actually, yes I can. I spent my WHOLE DAMN LIFE not knowing what I have, thinking there is something bizarre about me that if I just tried harder would somehow make everything right. Its been 5 months since I have a legit explanation about why I am the way I am, why I react so damn much, why I am so sensitive, why I seemingly always push away through my behaviors those who matter the most. It all makes sense now. I have an explanation, finally, thou shalt not strip me of it. An explanation is not an excuse. But 5 months, after struggling with something for 33.5 years, isn’t much. I might have the explanation, I definitely don’t have the solution yet. Back off, give me time to figure this out. And FFS, don’t try fix me. I am not some pet project.

At some point, on Friday, I stopped answering Applefriend’s texts. I’d hit my annoyance threshold, didn’t want to pick a fight over his clumsy but well meaning efforts to snap me out of my month-long episode/depression. Applefriend called me 40 minutes later, freaking out. How could I go radio silent in a convo about how bad I am doing, when I’ve previously said that I have an exit strategy. He was worried! I found it cute, and funny. Tried explaining that I am not suicidal. At all. I just have a more pronounced awareness of my exit strategy than I do when things are all shiny and rosy. Applefriend didn’t find it cute or funny. He was mad that I’d caused him to worry.

On Monday night, Applefriend texted me, wanting an update on how some of the developments of Situation X were going. I’ll save y’all the play by play, and give you an executive summary instead.

7:30pm – Vanilla gives factual update and expresses sadness and grief/shame at the developing Situation X.

7:32pm – AF begins offering advice. “Every situation is only an opportunity”

7:33pm to 7:42pm – Vanilla tries to justify why she is entitled to feel what she feels in light of the developments of Situation X.

Cue the catalyst to the situation going very very very sideways.

7:50pm – AF writes “… But I do think you need to be extremely aware of your own influences and how you impacted Situation X. Don’t pretend you were a victim in this, otherwise you’ll never become better”

7:51pm to 8:01pm – Vanilla tries to explain that her awareness of her contribution in no way diminishes her capacity for being very very upset about the outcome. “I don’t want advice. I want the space to be upset.”

At this point I am crying so hard I call up ICB to ask if I can show up chez lui for cuddles and acceptance. From 8:11pm – 8:23pm, the dead end gets deader.

AF: Oh boy. How to engage your enthusiasm without fully supporting your approach… There’s a balance Vanilla. It’s not one or the other or you’re fully vindicated or they are. It’s in the middle.

Vanilla: AF, I am not asking for that. You asked me how my day went. You told me I was wrong to be emotional about the update that occurred.

AF: Ok.

Vanilla: And when I explained why I am so emotional right now, bc I am going through this and it makes me feel a certain way…

AF: Fine, its fine.

Vanilla: You try to get me to understand how I am partially responsible for the situation.

AF: I’ll stop offering.

Vanilla: But it’s not offering. It’s telling me I am wrong to feel how I feel. I wasn’t asking for you to endorse me. I was explaining why I am upset and how I feel. And you basically told me I was wrong to feel how I feel. Where I am wrong is if I act on it. But that isn’t what I was doing. I was explaining why I feel all this negative shit.

AF: Misunderstanding. All good.

This is the point where I should have stopped. It was clearly a well meaning attempt at a conversation gone sideways, no harm intended. I needed to walk away. Instead, from 8:23pm to 8:43pm, I wrote another 361 words to AF’s 123 rehashing the same thing damn thing. At 8:45pm, I showed up at ICB’s. Crying. Took off my coat. Crying. 8:46pm. Please note that we have now been hammering away at this dead end conversation for 76 minutes.

AF: You’re being too emotional. Like it matters.

Vanilla: It matters to me. I gave everything and it wasn’t enough.

AF: Look, you don’t get it. It’s fine. I get the wanting like what you did was valuable.

Vanilla; It’s the only thing I care about.

AF: But reality is… it’s irrelevant. It changes nothing for the future.

Vanilla: Ok. So let me be upset about THAT. It’s like my whole understanding of my life got ripped out from under me.

AF: You need to focus your attention and energy on the future.

Vanilla: I don’t care about the future.

AF: Why?

Vanilla: I need time to recover from all that’s happened.

AF: Lol, Jesus Vanilla. Ok. But I don’t agree.

Vanilla: That’s nice. More telling me how wrong I am.

AF: Lol. Look.

Vanilla: I get you think you are somehow being helpful. But you are just invalidating me even more. And it’s confusing because you claim to be on my side.

AF: Do you what you want, feel how you need to feel, but don’t ask me to be a pawn. It’s frustrating and I feel culpable.

Vanilla: I am not!!! You asked me how my day went. And then proceeded to tell me how everything I feel is wrong. I didn’t ask you to be anything.

AF: I did and you offered what you said like I would just be an autobot.

Vanilla: AF, If I can’t share my reality with you, I won’t.

AF: Reality???

Vanilla: This is my reality. My feelings are my reality.

AF: WTF. Look, you live in my reality. We share the same one.

Vanilla: No we don’t. When you ask me how I feel, I am gonna share how I feel. I don’t want fixing. I am not asking you to be anything.

AF: Sorry, you’re being crazy right now.

Vanilla: You thinking I am asking you to be a pawn is all on you.

AF: Trust me, this isn’t normal.

Vanilla: And you telling me I am crazy is definitely not helpful.

AF: You need to take a step back. And go to sleep. And talk tomorrow.

Vanilla: You need to explain how any of this was helpful.

AF: Tomorrow, you’ll re read and understand.

Vanilla: What did you hope to accomplish by asking me how it went if you wanted to then explain to me how I am wrong?

AF: Honestly, I am super supportive, always. But you aren’t being rational right now. Seriously. It’s not me. Go sleep and re read it tomorrow. If you disagree tomorrow, fine. Then I’m a horrible person.

Vanilla: No. I’m just saying you invalidated my feelings. And I don’t understand why you would ask me about them if it was just to say how I was incorrect to feel them. I didn’t say you were horrible. And I still don’t see how you feel I could ask you to be a pawn when I wasn’t asking anything. But now I am left with shame, more confusion, and someone telling me I am crazy and irrational for trying to explain why this convo went sideways.

AF: Vanilla, honestly, you’re being way too literal. I’m telling you, your answers from my perspective are why I think you’re not on the right element. Just take a step back, nothing I’ve said was anything but supportive. It’s not a constructive conversation. It’s me offering opinions and being attacked for being someone with an opinion regardless of why. Your normal self wouldn’t say those things. This isn’t healthy right now. So my suggestion is you ignore all of this for now, when you’re ready, engage me.

Vanilla: (thumbs up emoji)

9:15pm. Conversation over. I felt as dazed and confused as the time I got an ass-whooping in boxing so bad Coach had to throw the other boxer out of the ring, bc I was helpless against the ropes, hands down, crying as my opponent pummeled me. How did I get here? Why does AppleFriend sound almost verbatim like Hickster in the midst of our most vicious fights? Did I just have my first big noticeable meltdown with someone other than Hickster or ICB? But how tho? I just wanted to be allowed to express how I feel. Why was that so wrong? Why did I need fixing? Why do I have to justify that my feelings are legit? Am I crazy? I’ve never been called crazy by anyone other than Hickster before, when he is in a rage and trying to wound me. I don’t think Applefriend was making a cheap shot. Rereading it, it sounds like he genuinely believes I lost my grip on reality – my border moved mighty close to that border line – during that convo. Did it? Why can’t I tell? Am I really so out of touch about my impact on people, that they feel the need to let me know my behaviour is irrational, crazy, not normal?


Am I crazy?


At midnight, I began telling my story to ICB. Still crying, as he patted my head, murmuring “There there, no, you aren’t crazy, you just feel things too hard. No, you are not crazy. You can get through this. You will learn to let things go. Not crazy.”

At 12:45, still crying, I left ICB, the poor boy was dead tired and had a big day ahead of him.

At 2am, I fell asleep. Still crying.


I’ve spent the day in a fog, stunned by the conversation. Unable to answer the question:

Am I crazy?

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BPD series: understanding the role of dance in my life

I went dancing on Saturday. For the first time in 5 weeks. Before that? I’d only gone dancing a handful of times this summer as work was ramping up.

The last time I went to Teacher‘s dance school was in July. I miss it so much it hurts. But what with work, I just can’t handle the late nights (class ends at 9:30pm on Wednesdays, and then there is a social till midnight). I am either in bed by 11pm, or else I am working till 1am. I started dancing only on weekends, when I could sleep in. But then, as work really stretched me to the limits, physically and emotionally, I started skipping those too: on Friday nights, I wanted to be completely alone with my PJs, wine and my teddies. On Saturdays, I’d find something, anything else to do rather than expose myself to the vulnerability required to dance. I was too tired to be brave.

But I see videos of Teacher dancing. Occasionally he and ppl on his team check in on me. I see them with their big smiles, full up of joy, and it makes my heart ache. I miss it so.

And so, I went dancing on Saturday.

I was nervous. I was nervous that I would be rusty, have forgotten how to move my body, be stiff and an unpleasant experience for my partners. I wouldn’t be enough.

Dance has been both a blessing and a curse. There is incredible growth and courage required to learn to accept and enjoy one’s body in space. I think it is something we all struggle with. I am grateful for all these difficult lessons and with each one learned, for the additional freedom to be myself. But since dance requires everyone to face their insecurities, it fosters insecurities. As far as I can tell, this is not unique to kizomba. Ballet – Black Swan. Ballroom dancing – Strictly Ballroom. I am not sure if dance draws the unstable drama queens with raging insecurities, or if it wears people down into such caricatures, or both. In my case, it has brought my underlying insecurities to the forefront, such that I can no longer deny their existence. Life was simpler before, but I suppose coming to terms with these insecurities is a good thing.

I am not enough. Familiar refrain.

Just like that, I understand now why dance has been such a love/hate relationship. It has triggered many of the same emotional responses as Hickster, the ICB Instagram snafu, and my disagreement with my boss. Often, so often, dance makes me realize my failures, and the I am not enough echo in my head grows so deafening, I can’t hear the music and have no awareness of my partner. There have been countless nights that I’ve gone home in tears (remember this dancefloor meltdown in Dubai?), miserable from the micro rejections from my partners.

Additionally, I now realize that much of my strained relationship (exhibit A and exhibit B and exhibit C) with Teacher’s dance squad, my former teammates, was caused by my BPD, and my long history of unstable interpersonal relationships. Yet another case of splitting.

Ricocheting like a pinball from one extreme to the other often characterizes other aspects of the borderline’s life. (…) To some, these oscillations may seem like pure whimsy, or the height of fickleness, or even a way to rationalize a “fear of failure.” But other issues may animate this behavior. The fear of failure is certainly real, of course, but with failure might come rejection, which is even more frightening. For Patty, the lure of succeeding on her hockey team is also the lure of belonging, of being accepted by her teammates, coaches, and classmates; if she fails, she may be exiled by those from whom she most wants acceptance.

Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D. and Hal Straus,

Sometimes I Act Crazy – Living with Borderline Personality Disorder

How I wanted to belong. To have a squad that had my back, that would tell me I was enough. I wanted so very badly to have a 2nd family that accepted me as I was. Dance is like boxing – you can’t fake or hide your weaknesses, they are on display for all to see. I assumed that my flaws would be met with kindness and sympathy.

Naive.

My dance squad’s purpose was not to pander to Vanilla’s crippling insecurities and fear of abandonment. My dance squad’s purpose was to produce an army of good dancers. To produce good dancers means to point out weaknesses and failures and say, “fix this”. I understand that now. It makes sense. It isn’t mean. It just is a bald statement of fact – a weakness. But I processed it as a relentless flood of Bad Vanilla, Vanilla is not good enough, Vanilla can’t keep up, Vanilla is in the way, FFS why is Vanilla still talking, enough about Vanilla, oh there goes Vanilla crying AGAIN, why can’t she just suck it up like the rest of us. And from there… my survival instincts kicked in, and I fought back uncharmingly. The less charming I became, the more abrupt the list of “fix this” became, till I quit. I who yearned for acceptance and belonging inflicted exile and ostracization upon myself.

It makes me sad that I associate such unpleasant memories about a dance I love so much. I have no doubt that the team’s memories of my time with them are not flattering either. As I am slowly realizing, when I split, I turn into a paranoid, obstinate, miserable, angry individual that exhausts everyone around me.

It makes me really sad that I came so close to destroying something I love so much.

But…

That’s the thing about dance. There are moments, the length of a song or two, where everything falls into place. The music, my connection to my partner, and suddenly, I am free – fully myself, fully in the moment, fully alive. The voices in my head are silenced.

It feels like peace.

Those moments of peace, few as they may be, are worth it.

I missed dancing. So much.

#thisiswhyIdance

BPD series: professional consequences

I had an”episode” this week. At work.

The term “borderline” was first employed more than sixty years ago to describe patients who were on the border between psychotic and neurotic but could not be adequately classified as either. Unlike psychotic patients who were chronically divorced from reality, and neurotic patients, who responded more consistently to close relationships and psychotherapy, borderline patients functioned somewhere in between. Borderlines sometimes wandered into the wild terrain of psychosis, doctors observed, but usually remained for only a brief time. On the other hand, borderlines exhibited several superficial neurotic characteristics, but these comparatively healthier defense mechanisms collapsed under stress.

Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D. and Hal Straus,

Sometimes I Act Crazy – Living with Borderline Personality Disorder

It’s been real stressful time lately. My unexpected promotion came at the worst time: budget season and the year end audit. In my immediate team, 6 out of 8 are new to our responsibilities and/or the company. Add to that a FUBAR situation that happened on my very first day in position and took 8 weeks and 100 hours to resolve semi satisfactorily… it’s been a lot. Too much.

I’ve been working on average 70-75 hours a week since the last week of August. That’s a new record. Around this time last year, when the workload hit a sustained 60hr work-week, I lost my fight against my shadow and snapped into the worst and scariest depression of my life, one so problematic I eventually got put on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist, and that is how I found myself learning that I have borderline personality disorder. I’ve been wary of pushing myself too far and finding myself right back in that same pit of misery. The volatility of my emotions has increased, but I seemed to be keeping it together. Until.

A relatively minor issue during month-end caused me to lose my temper. I said some shit that no manager should say publicly and boom! I now have a well-deserved HR issue. Talking to my boss later that week, we had a heart-to-heart about some of the issues facing the department. I was very emotional, but I’d thought through my arguments, and had a concise list of identified problems + proposed feasible solutions + timeline, ranked in priority. I knew WHAT was wrong. What I didn’t know was whether my proposed solutions would be accepted nor my ability to sustain any longer the crushing workload and pressure. My boss told me we’d resume discussions the following week (last week), and I hung up the conversation feeling somewhat heard and almost hopeful that with his support, things would change and get better.

The borderline tends either either to idealize or denigrate features of the external world and imposes this kind of blank-or-white perception on his relationships. These perceptual extremes roll like marbles along a constantly tilting tabletop, first to one side, then the other, but never coming to rest, never balancing in the middle. This “polar perception” utilized by borderlines in relationships is called splitting, a coping mechanism that is normally expressed among eighteen-to-thirty-six-month-old infants and toddlers. Because babies at this age do not easily tolerate ambivalence or ambiguity, they split the world into all-good and all-bad compartments. When the mothering figure satisfies the child’s basic needs, she is seen as all-good. When she frustrates these needs or is unavailable, the child transforms her into an all-bad persona. Only as the child develops can he integrate these opposing perceptions. Eventually he learns that someone he loves and admires can still disappoint or frustrate without transforming him or her into a hero or villain. Heroes can be accepted with flaws. Villains can be perceived as having some worthwhile qualities.

The borderline, however, remains stuck in this childlike blank-and-white topography because it protects her from the anxiety that accompanies attempts to reconcile contradictory feelings.

Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D. and Hal Straus,

Sometimes I Act Crazy – Living with Borderline Personality Disorder

I got into an email scuffle with my boss Saturday morning. I’d gone about something in an unorthodox manner, he didn’t particularly like the surprise, he reacted categorically.

His email hit me like a ton of bricks. I read it at the gym, right after warmup. I found Coach sitting on a bench, fell down beside him sobbing hysterically. My teammates stared in shocked silence as I drew lung shattering breaths, my endless tears making a puddle on the floor, Coach patting my back as he would a wounded dog. For 5 minutes I cried, unable to form words to explain the cause of my breakdown. Eventually I managed to explain that my boss had sent an email that upset me. More silence. One of my teammates chirped, “Well Vanilla, usually when you cry at the gym it’s because of a boy and some disaster dating story, so at least this is something different?” #outofthemouthoffriends

Just like that, my boss morphed into the Wicked He-Witch of the West. I texted CSD angry rants, endless streams of angry commentary about the status of our department, the hopelessness of it, how I hated my job. I felt betrayed by every level of the company. CSD was fairly pragmatic about it on Saturday. By Sunday, I was still angry typing, he was patient but bored.

On Monday, I met with my boss. It didn’t go well. I cried and yelled in his office for over an hour. He even left for part of it to go to a previously scheduled 30 minute meeting, leaving me to calm down. I didn’t. We resumed when he got back. Highlights include him instructing me to go do something, and my response of, “I won’t do it, you can’t make me”. I don’t remember much, other than telling him he thought I was a monkey, and his shocked denial. I do remember the anguish that consumed me, and the despair. My angry rants to CSD continued throughout the day. Monday night, CSD was fed up, and told me that if this is how I really felt, I should just quit, because I was destroying team morale and my health.

By Wednesday, I noticed that my angry typing endless rants to CSD were very similar to my disfunctional behaviour with Hickster. Pause. CSD ain’t Hickster. CSD ain’t even the authority figure representing the company doing me wrong, yet I was attacking him through my texts. Crying uncontrollably? Check. Staying stuck, replaying similar scenes over and over? Check. Paranoid slant to everything I said? Check. Unable to think of anything else because the pain was too consuming? Check.

5 days into my BPD episode, I finally became aware I was experiencing a bad case of splitting and cognitive distortion. With that awareness, I could explore what was really going on.

I am not enough and I have no value/am worthless are the two narratives my brain feeds me constantly. As soon as I wake up, while I shower and get ready for work. While I sip my coffee. As I work on a tax problem or coach my junior. As I’m doing sit ups at the gym. In my dreams. It is the worst possible Christmas music playing endlessly in the background that I really wish I could turn off, but can’t. Year round. It wears me down, and the fight to not succumb to it’s hypnotic rhythm is exhausting. Periodically, that relentless soundtrack pushes me into a depression, and when that happens those thoughts become so loud in my head, so painful, I crave release from the anguish. That’s the danger zone.

So anything or anyone that seems to confirm that I am not enough to love; I am not worthy of time; I am not valuable enough to be taken care of; that makes me go crazy. It feels like an attack on my ability to survive. Every day I remind myself that my brain is lying to me, it isn’t true that I am not enough and worthless. But when faced with what appears to be proof that my brain is right?? Well then. Why bother fighting my brain? I should just give up. No point in survival.

That is why Hickster + ICB’s mundane Instagram oopsies + my boss at work all trigger the same emotional response. That is why my reaction always appears overly dramatic. It IS overly dramatic, if all that is at play is a misunderstanding about social media or a relatively small argument at work. But that isn’t the case. What is at play is my brain that will eventually wear me down to nothingness, like so many before me.

There also be anatomical correlates with splitting: the brain is divided into right and left hemispheres, which are connected by a midline structure called the corpus callosum. Nerves connecting the two sides of the brain intersect at this structure. Further, it has been demonstrated that the two hemispheres serve somewhat different functions. Emotions, particularly negative emotions, are associated more with the right hemisphere. Logical cognitions and positive emotions may predominate on the left side of the brain. Under ideal circumstances, both hemispheres balance each other. However, when a stroke or other neurological injury occurs in one hemisphere, an asymmetry between emotional expression and self-control often develops. Perhaps stress in the borderline disrupts the laying down of the brain cable that connects and balances the two hemispheres. If so, it is possible that negative experiences are shuttled to the right hemisphere, where they are quarantined. Positive perceptions may be billeted on the left. The usual communication channels between hemispheres remain underdeveloped. In this model, it is proposed that stress disrupts normal brain development, especially the connections between the two parts of the brain, resulting literally in a partitioned brain.

(…) In any event, borderline splitting may indeed be the result of literally perceiving the world with two disconnected brains.

Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D. and Hal Straus,

Sometimes I Act Crazy – Living with Borderline Personality Disorder

You know what I am paid for? My brain.

You know what I am not paid for? Two disconnected brains that don’t work together the way they are supposed to.

By Thursday and Friday, I felt myself relatively free from the grips of splitting. My boss is back to being the kind man I’ve long admired. Except he doesn’t know that for 5 days I wasn’t dealing with him, I was dealing with a distorted split version of him. He doesn’t know I am back on the healthy side of that border. All he knows that I am the grown-ass woman who shouted and cried accusations at him. Thank goodness I happen to be really smart. It must be so disorienting for him to be left with a rational acceptance of my analysis but an emotional rejection of it because of the paranoid slant that poisoned our discussions.

I see my team tiptoe around my office, always hesitant to address me, because they don’t know if they will be faced with Regular Quirky Vanilla or Angry Harridan Vanilla.

I am dismayed at the very real mess I’ve caused. BPD or not, that is not ok, as a manager.

This is a problem.

BPD series: dealing with shame

Without justifying or condemning ourselves, we do the courageous work of opening to suffering. This can be the pain that comes when we put up barriers or the pain of opening our heart to our own sorrow or that of another being. We learn as much about doing this from our failures as we do from our successes. In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience – our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

Pema Chödrön, The Places that Scare You

I was working late at the office, a day like any other lately, when my bestie Allie FaceTimed me with her little baby Willie. They blew bubbles and kisses at me together,”we love you Auntie Vanilla and we are proud of you. You got this!!” My heart. I hung up, goofy smile on my face. My phone rang again, another FaceTime call. Laughing, I picked up, “Yes, Allie, what is Willie up to now?” Except it wasn’t Allie. It was Hickster, video calling me on Whatsapp.


Months. It had been months since I’d cut my losses and blocked him. Months of mourning the absence of someone who’d made me feel more alive than I’ve ever been. Months of trying to understand and accept that love is not enough. He made me feel fully whole and fully broken at the same time.

Months.


I might have blocked Hickster on all our usual platforms for communication (his number, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram), I’d forgotten that since I was in his contacts, he could use Whatsapp. My stunned brain couldn’t connect to my fingers to end the call. I sat in silence looking at a 2 dimensional small rectangle of a face that once meant the world to me.

“Vanilla, please. Hear me out. I want to apologize.”

He apologized for the relatively mundane trigger of our last fight. He apologized for the trigger of the fight before. He apologized for the trigger of the fight before that. As I tried to cut him off, and let him know it was ok, we didn’t need to revisit the past, he could just drop it, Hickster insisted, “No, Vanilla. I need to say this, and you need to hear it. I am sorry.”

45 minutes. It was a real apology. Not a “I’m sorry but” apology. No “yes I did this but you did that too” bullshit. He covered the big betrayals. The micro-betrayals. Specific moments where he made me feel inadequate. The accusations, the disregard. He described with precision and sadness the impact it had had on me. It was painful to listen to and hard to watch a proud man struggle to push the words of his shameful behavior out of his mouth. “I did all that. Me. I did that to someone who loved me. I broke something beautiful and I have to live with that knowledge every day. I am sorry.” 

I thanked him for the apology. Hung up. Cried for 2 hours.


I woke up different. The gaping wound I’d been carrying for all of 2018 felt slightly scarred over. One of the hardest parts of the deterioration of my relationship with Hickster was the cruel switch that happened almost overnight when I went from being his love to being nothing. It was like a denial of my existence in his life. I know I matter, I know I mattered to him, I know I brought goodness into his life, how can he pretend it never happened? I am so worthless, even the memories of me can be forgotten? Reconciling my reality of what we’d shared with his behavior made me almost insane. During those months, I gained a whole lot of understanding of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. And now, unexpectedly, I had confirmation that not only I mattered, but that his behaviour had been intentional, born not of a revulsion for my worthlessness but of his own brokenness.

The world had titled, somewhat.


A week later, Hickster texted me an innocuous comment, a feeler to see if I would be open to the idea of cautiously settling those few items which we’d never settled. I felt the bubble of panic rise inside of me. I can’t do this, I won’t manage, I can’t face any more pain, followed by the dread of another meltdown at work, I can’t afford that right now, I need to concentrate, I have too much on my plate, I can’t do this, I can’t, I can’t…

And just like that I was back in the grips of this other me. The endless texting, pages and pages and pages of lamentations, and pleas and regrets. Hickster initially reacted abruptly, but as my texting continued, uncontrolled, as I cried hysterically in my office, it shifted to bald responses: “Vanilla, I can’t read your think” followed by “Chill Vanilla. Chill. It’s ok. We’ll talk later, when you are better.” I cried and cried, used an entire box of Kleenexes, still typing. Silence. I kept typing, using scrap paper to blow my nose, because I couldn’t leave my office and show my coworkers my wrecked face. Typed some more. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I can’t do this, please don’t be mad, ok? Please. I’m sorry, I don’t understand this either. I know I’ve annoyed you and I’m crying and crying. I’m sorry Hickster, for real I don’t know how to control this. I don’t think this can work out, I’m just too fucked up. I want to try keep my shit together, to close out our shit on a good note, but I don’t think I can handle interacting with you. I think I’m more fucked up and hurt than I even realized. I hope you believe me; I can’t control this and I hate it as much as you do. I’m sorry.” I continued crying and typing into silence for another HOUR, until it dawned on me that Hickster had just demonstrated the same behaviour he used to when I was very depressed. He had flagged I was “off”. He had tried to keep me calm, and when that failed, stepped back until my emotions burned themselves out. THAT is when I realised I was having one of my BPD meltdowns triggered by my feelings of inadequacy. Almost 75 minutes after Hickster had backed off, I had finally understood what was going on. I felt deep shame.

I left work early, feeling defeated, and mortified.

The next day, around lunch, a text from Hickster. “You ok?” I called him up, started apologizing for my meltdown, for using him as an emotional punching bag, as I had so many times before. That I realized now how much exhaustion I’d caused him, while believing myself to be the only victim in our relationship. He cut me off. “Vanilla. Stop it. When I called you to apologize, I knew what I was getting into. This is who you are. You can’t control it, it just is. I know that now, even though back in the day, I didn’t know what was going on and I reacted very badly. You didn’t know you had this condition. You were doing your best. I know you can’t help these waves, I just gotta ride it out, not engage and wait till you are better and clear-headed. That’s ok. That comes with the territory, and I knew that when I decided I was ready to apologize. Don’t be sorry for who you are. Who you are is who I said sorry to. All of you.”


A few days later my 3-part Instagram meltdown with ICB. One week after that, ICB and I decided to part ways. ICB admitted that he feared the burden of my emotions, that he wouldn’t be able to manage them, long-term.

Who can blame him?


I’ve come to believe Hickster’s purpose in my life was to help me uncover my BPD diagnosis.

My whole life, I’ve known something was painfully off about me. I leave a long trail behind me of broken, confused relationships, filling me with shame. Some times I manage to hide it better, to appear more normal, but I always felt different. Apart. Managing to mostly fit in while being painfully aware of my secret brokenness.

And then came Hickster, like a hurricane, and he pushed all my buttons and overwhelmed me until my brokenness became so obvious and problematic I needed to get help.

I have a name now for what I have. An action plan. Books. Therapy. With hard work I’ll eventually build healthier responses to my brokenness such that I don’t in turn in Hulk Smash those I care for.

Without Hickster, I would never have known what it means to be fully broken and fully whole.

Why not talk about the Instagram meme a 3rd time?

To recap:

  • Oct 11, while I am working late at the office I discover ICB, with his newly created IG profile, had liked a bunch of pictures of a pretty girl on Instagram while he had yet to like any of mine. Cue an epic internalized meltdown. I spend 2 days being upset, but say nothing to ICB.
  • Oct 13, I write part 1 of the Instagram saga. I send it to ICB, still miffed, and tell him he should read it. He does. I have a really odd reaction when I see him at a social gathering at night.
  • Oct 15, having spent the weekend still upset and disoriented by my odd reaction to ICB, I realize I am exhibiting most of the traits of BPD. I write part 2 of the Instagram saga.
  • Oct 16-17, ICB’s reaction (below) to part 2 of the Instagram saga.
  • Oct 19, I write this post. Part 3. I am as confused as y’all as to how this turned into a 3 chapter, 8 day long saga.

ICB dutifully read part 2 of the Instagram saga. I wanted him to understand what he is up against. “Yes, Vanilla, I read it. You find I’ve hurt you that badly. You find I do not treat you well. You believe you are not enough. You don’t find I take care of you. Tell me. Explain. What am I doing that tells you that you are not enough?” I doubled down, explaining that everything depended on one’s perspective. If my expectations were that of a friend, we’d have no problem, he’s a stellar guy. But my expectations of the guy I am dating are different. And if the guy I am dating treats me as a friend, yes, I will conclude that I am not enough to be dated. “So what do you suggest? What should I be doing so you feel better?”

Of course, we were having this convo by text, bc why not use the least suitable form of communication bar the Morse code for this kind of conversation. Of course, we were having this convo while I was at work. And of course, I got pulled into a meeting before I could answer him what he could be doing differently. Of course.

An hour later, back at my desk, check my phone and see 64 notifications of IG likes. SIXTY-FOUR. That is almost 8 screenshots worth of notifications – he’d gone all the way back to September 2017. I imagined ICB, the least phone savvy guy I know, holding his phone and punching away at my Instagram profile using both his thumbs “Oh she didn’t like that I liked that girl’s pics but none of her pics? Oh, she didn’t like that I liked pics all the way back to July 2018? Well, imma like a full YEAR worth of pics. Ha! Take that. Can’t complain now, can she??” I laughed till tears rolled down my cheeks – how dare ICB turn this situation into something so incredibly ridiculous? CSD walked by and asked me why I was laughing so hard. “And this is why I don’t have any social media. Who gives a fuck about Instagram likes?? If my wife pulled a stunt like that on me, I would be so pissed. Do you really feel better now that he has liked all your pics? No you don’t. Why? BECAUSE INSTAGRAM LIKES DON’T MATTER. Sooooo petty. But yeah, pretty fucking hilarious. He sure showed you.”

I woke up the next day, to a late night text from ICB.

I liked the 64 pics on your profile that remind me of the topics that we’ve spoken about. That pic of your mother. The pic of you in Boston all dolled up as a lady. That pic of you in that princess dress asking the mirror who is the fairest of them all. Just as examples. I didn’t do this to make you happy but because I wanted to take my time today to go through your pics and videos. I liked the pics that I sincerely enjoyed that remind me of the woman that you are. You are beautiful. You are smart. You are capable. Have a good day tomorrow.

And suddenly I was ashamed.

ICB might call me his Hulkette, but the thing about the Hulk is that when he Hulk Smashes, he leaves unquantifiable destruction behind him. Every one of my meltdowns and episodes has a cost. It consumes SO MUCH of my energy – I sometimes sleep for 10-12 hours and still wake up exhausted and feeling concussed. It pushes people away, because while they might, if I am lucky, understand that I am at the mercy of these waves of uncontrollable feelings in a reality that is so distorted as to be barely recognizable, the fact remains that I say and do shit that hurts them. They might be understanding but at some point, they too are exhausted and chose their peace over me. And like the Hulk, I find myself alone, and scared of what will happen at any moment. What damage I’ll inflict on myself and those around me at work, with friends, or in this case, on a good kind man.

I gotta disagree with CSD. Instagram likes do matter. They have allowed me to see myself as I appear to others. While the result is mortifying, with a strong dose of grief and sorrow, at least I am aware, and awareness is the first step of change.

Revisiting the Instagram meme through the BPD filter

Writing the Instagram meme post was hard. Untangling the mess of knotted emotions, gaining an understanding of what I was feeling, and why, uncovering the deep well of shame and insecurity was unpleasant. I am happy I got to the crux of my truth, I am proud that I was courageous enough to tell my story, but oye, do I ever have a vulnerability hangover.

ICB was not delighted when he read it. Understandably. It leaves no room for intention. It is a single-view story, mine, in which he is portrayed one-dimensionally. Nor did he appreciate being mentioned in the same post as Beaut or Hickster: while I don’t make it a habit to discuss my previous dating experiences with him, he has read parts of my blog and is not fond of either dude for how they made me feel and the very real complicated baggage I retain from them. It is not flattering company to find himself in. I get that.

ICB did give me an explanation for his behavior that, true to form, exonerates him from any disrespect towards me. Not surprised. I expected the hurt to lessen, but instead, the whole weekend it has been my companion. I had hoped that by putting my hurt into words I would be liberated from its heavy burden. But all that has done is help me understand myself: I am hurt because I have gotten feedback, yet again, that I am not enough to be a person’s priority. I understand myself, yay! But my feelings are still overwhelming.

At a social gathering this weekend, I went out of my way to avoid any one on one contact with ICB. I couldn’t be close to him, I wanted to cry every time he got within a foot of me. Hickster used to trigger that kind of physical reaction. I’d always assumed that my physical manifestation of pain was caused by the epic, sometimes ruthless, asshole behaviour Hickster could casually dish out. He was a Grade A jackass. ICB is not. ICB liked some girl’s very pretty IG pics and has not liked mine. But never, not once, has he ever disrespected me. ICB’s “crime” is a lack of positive behaviour towards me, which is totally different from Hickster’s objectively very negative behaviour towards me. Two very VERY different sets of behaviour but a very comparable degree of hurt. That doesn’t make sense. The gap between my cerebral vs my emotional take on the situation is huge.

I think I’ve shifted into borderline territory.

Out of those 9 traits, 7 very clearly apply to the Instagram meme post.

  • Identity disturbance: unstable self-image or sense of self: If ICB liking another girl’s IG pics can produce an obliterated sense of self in the form of a never ending soundtrack of “I am not enough”, we can agree that my self-image is unstable. Just a tad.
  • Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment: This weekend I spent a few hours helping ICB out on a project (via the safe distance of texting and emailing). Why? to show I was a team player, I was still there, I was a good girl, don’t be mad at me, I am still worthy. Heyo! The same dynamic as with Hickster. Hickster would do something to hurt me, I would overreact dramatically, we’d have a ginormous fight, and before we had even finished patching things up, I was back helping Hickster with stuff he hadn’t even asked me to do. I’m still here. Don’t hate me. I am a good girl, I am helpful. I am valuable. Forgive me. I’m sorry I overreacted. Don’t give up on me.
  • Unstable relationships, alternating between idealisation and devaluation: This one is hard for me to notice as it is happening, bc I always think I am fairly and even empathetically characterizing the person I am dealing with. But I notice my thought patterns about ICB are beginning to sound one dimensional. “HE never makes me feel special, HE isn’t making me a priority, HE isn’t finding ways to show me he cares”… aka he is not doing enough to make me feel cherished and valued. That strident blaming tone is the perfect breeding ground for an unstable relationship.
  • Stress, paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms: I was SO stressed this weekend, I had trouble breathing at the social gathering, while ICB was present. I ended up just ghosting, and taking an Uber home without saying goodbye. I felt my stress levels drop significantly as soon as I was in the car.
  • Inappropriate, intense anger: While I describe my feelings as being hurt, there is anger. Anger at having revealed myself, an exercise I find excruciatingly painful, only to be told, effectively, that I am not priority. I revealed myself, and have been treated carelessly, as having no worth. I described it as wanting to howl away my pain, but especially with Hickster, the impulse – never manifested – was to claw his face. To make him hurt physically as much I did emotionally. My therapist has often told me in the past that sadness and anger are two sides of the same coin, so I wonder if this completely disproportionate reaction to some Instagram likes is not an example of this BPD trait.
  • Emotional instability due to a marked reactivity of mood: I think this one is fairly self evident.

So here I am. With an even deeper awareness of what I am feeling and why. Go me.

But where do I go from here? I can’t help that ICB’s relatively minor action has produced this hurricane of hurt. Those are my feelings. My reaction is to feel he should be doing something differently. He should value me more. He should let me know he cares. He should apologize.

And maybe probably he should.

But this is my life. I refuse to let my happiness depend on some other person’s actions, especially when every person has their own shit going on, so it is very likely that they will not be able to meet my emotional requirements to my very needy satisfaction. That is an unfair burden to place on anyone, especially those I care about.

So I guess the real question is:

Accepting that ICB does not make me feel like I am enough;

Accepting that it isn’t ICB’s job to make me feel enough;

Accepting that until I feel enough, I will have this rage-pain-hurt that consumes me;

How the fuck can I get to a state where I feel and believe that I am enough?!

That time my dating life was an Instagram meme

3 weeks ago, I was chatting with ICB, asking him how his day had been. “Not bad, I went to see a friend. We had a bunch of shit we needed to talk through and clear up. I’m glad we did, we both feel better now”. Oh really? Now, in French, there are feminine and masculine declensions for nouns. Ami and amie are both friendly peeps, but one of them has a penis and the other boobs. Amie is the boob-variety type. So ICB went to see a female friend in order to have some sort of argument. Well then. To my brain, it was a slam dunk: he used to fuck this Amie and this argument was to clear up that they weren’t headed to a relationship. OB-VI. I mean. Come on. Don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Athletico, Beaut and Hickster all shared the same fuckboy dictionary. Amie is synonymous with non-platonic fuck friend. (The “non-platonic fuck” is silent #properpronunciation.) 3 guys, 3 series of devastating surprises, 1 definition.

I didn’t lose my shit on ICB. It was tempting, but instead I did breathing exercises, cried a little bit, did some more breathing exercises, told myself I had no reason not to trust him. Just because he had been fucking her before didn’t mean he was fucking her now. It sounded in fact like this was a talk to really wrap things up, distill any situationship type uncertainties. That was a good thing, the kinda thing I’d come to expect from ICB who’s never disrespected me. I was ok with the Amie. I didn’t need to ask questions that were none of my business.

10 days later I asked ICB questions that were none of my business.

It turns out that their fight had nothing to do with them fucking, and everything to do with worrisome self-destructive behaviour she was engaging in. Oh. No fucking? No fucking, why? Lalalala I didn’t hear your question, let’s move on. No fucking. Why?!

So I explained that the word Amie is forever tainted. My brain is aware of the Merriam-Webster definition of friend, but my body and my heart know the fuckboy version of friend. It’s a physical reaction. It’s an unfair one, but it’s the result of 5 years of gaslighting. I can’t fight it. But Vanilla, I’m not them. I’m me. ICB. I’m not them, you can’t react to them, you have to react to meBruh, you’re right. I’m trying.


It was bound to happen, I suppose.

Yesterday I noticed a girl commenting on one of ICB’s posts, using a term of endearment that just happens to be the same one I call him. So I clicked on her profile, and down the rabbit hole I went. Pretty: check. A model: check. Good at selfies: check. Professional pics where she looks beautiful: check. Pics with no makeup where she looks even better: check. Tasteful sideboob: check. ICB like every single one of them. I stopped checking when I got as far back as July.

Do I think they are fucking? No, not really. She isn’t all over his page, yet. But… ICB hasn’t liked a single one of my instagram pics. The funny ones. The sexy ones. The photography ones. Nada. I am pretty sure the last time he liked one of my Facebook posts was in July. I don’t think he has ever liked one of my blog posts, even tho he dutifully reads wtv I send him. But he had time to like 3 month’s worth of pics of some girl’s IG profile.


The hurt was nauseating. All the symptoms that were common with Hickster resurfaced. The shaking hands, the uncontrollable crying, the urge to howl away my pain, the dread of a coworker walking by and seeing my miserable anguished meltdown.


After my last fight with Hickster, a 45 minute screaming match during which I lost my voice from yelling in a busy downtown metro station in the middle of rush hour, I’ve cut all ties with him, completely. Deleted and blocked him and most of his friends from my social media and every possible means of communication. They do not exist. I cannot find them via search, nor they me. Every reminder of Hickster has been flushed from my life. All the unfinished and unresolved business issues? Too bad. I’ve cut my losses. Could I have pursued and maybe eventually won? Maybe, but it was killing me. Not a hyperbole. Frankly, I’ve really really blossomed in the weeks since I’ve cut him out of my life. I might have known before that drama and happiness are mutually exclusive, but peace? My god, the bliss. Not having to ignore that feeling of dread every time I checked my phone – what would I find? Another mean, belittling text? Silence? An impersonal business question? 7 missed calls and an angry voicemail? I am free from all of that.

But I am not healed. My peace is not coming from a place of forgiveness or love. It is coming from the ability to ignore both Hickster’s existence and any reminder of my unresolved wounds. My impulse upon discovering ICB’s IG liking spree was to ghost him. To just walk away. I didn’t want to have to work through the disappointment, or talk about this with him. Just too hard. Much easier to bounce and add him to the list of things I won’t ever think about again because they hurt and make me sad.

It’s great discovering one is a coward. Annoying too, because now that I am aware of my cowardice, I gotta knuckle down and face this situation properly.


But Vanilla, I’m not them. I’m me. ICB. I’m not them, you can’t react to them, you have to react to me. 

That is true. As far as hurtful things go, ICB’s IG like-bonanza was a small relatively harmless moment in time. His motivation was probably nothing more than an appreciation for a friend’s newly discovered and very well curated IG profile. He’s not a thirsty dude. He is respectful. He would never, EVER voluntarily hurt me. ICB is no asshole. But the fact of the matter is, the list of things that matter more than I do is a long one. Top of mind, I am not. And from there, it is a very small step till I am back in the overwhelming ache of “I am not enough.”

Now that I’ve mostly sorted through what is the ICB-specific hurt and the unhealed tsunami of wounds-past… mostly I am just tired. And sad. I feel so much sorrow for the permanent deep scars the men in my life have inflicted upon me. Men I loved. Deeply. My bad for having given them so much of myself when they didn’t deserve it… but damn. I gave them love, time, money, energy, health. They gave me back brokenness. To this day, I’ll defend them as not being all bad. But it makes me sad, so very sad, to accept that this happened to me… because I let it.

They treated me as not enough, because I let them. I did not believe I am enough. I hoped with each one that if I just stuck it out, tried harder to show them just how worthy I was, maybe, maybe, they would find me enough.

They didn’t.

Here I am, left with brokenness, baggage and non-existent coping techniques. Self-inflicted, through my desperation to be seen, acknowledged and loved.


Part of me feels very silly. Here I am writing a long post about the hurt I feel bc of some IG stalking I did, and imma post it because I can’t not get this off my chest. I’ll eventually bring this to ICB’s attention. Or I won’t. Either way, it’s passive aggressive AF, but I can’t do better. This is gonna be a fight that is gonna be so silly. A fight about Instagram likes. How petty can I be?

Well…

Petty enough to say “I won’t accept this. This is not enough.”