fail

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.

Advertisements

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.

Hulkette has been retired

I went for brunch with ICB this morning. His idea. It was the first time we saw each other since we ended things two weeks ago.

We’re trying to be friends. Of course we are. This is something I always do. Usually what happens is that the “friendship” turns into a breeding ground for hurt feelings, misunderstandings, resentment and the eventual mutual desire to never see each other ever again. But with ICB, I think we have a chance. Already, he tended to act more as a friend than as a lover when we were dating, so the transition might not be too hard. He’d asked that we stay in each other’s lives even if we no longer dated; I agreed as long as the effort came primarily from him. I had driven most of the dating phase, I was bruised and sore from my failed vulnerability exercise. Time for him to take the lead and turn this into whatever it could be. At the same time, I really did worry about trying to navigate the shit-storm I am living through at work without his calming presence to lean on occasionally. He really is a standup guy. I hoped this might be the answer to my worry.

It hasn’t been too bad. We’ve spoken 1-2 times about some of the stuff he’s working on, some of the progress he is making. We’ve spoken about one of disasters I’m undergoing at work. The odd text here and there. I’ve opted to not attend any of the social gatherings he has attended because I didn’t want to see him interact with other girls and get jealous or sad. Besides, I’ve been working 70-75 hours a week since September 1… I don’t have the energy to go out. My life is boring. While that doesn’t make me happy, it does make the choice of going out/facing my fears/getting out of my comfort zone pretty easy: nah. Nap-time instead.

So. Brunch.

It was really nice. We spoke a lot, listened to each other’s stories. Towards the end of our dating time together, he was very mono-focused on his projects and problems, sometimes to the point that I felt invisible. Not today. Today he was in the moment. It was really nice. I began to relax, to believe that maybe, carefully, we could one day salvage this into something mutually rewarding. Then. ICB referred to me as his Hulkette. My heart squeezed painfully, before continuing to beat harder than normal. I brushed off his comment and continued the conversation as though he hadn’t said that word. A few minutes later he went to the washroom. I felt like crying.

We left soon after. As I walked him to his car, I asked him to never call me Hulkette again, in the past or present tense. Why? Because it makes me sad. But no! You were my Hulkette, you still are, we went through so much together, that’s who you are to me. Hulkette. No, please. It was a term for a specific chapter, one that has ended. But Vanilla, it is a term of endearment. Just because you were faster than me to get to certain realizations and unable to wait for me, doesn’t mean that I don’t hold you in a lot of affection. I know but we agreed that the mismatch in our feelings and timing meant we couldn’t date and we were going to be friends. Friends do not have pet names for each other. To use one that reminds me of something I hoped for and cannot have is too confusing for me. Vanilla, you do realize I see you and I wish for a lot of things? Bruh. Stop. You needed space to sort through your stuff. You asked that we stay in each other’s lives. Ok. Don’t make this hard for me. I am dealing with my feelings about this because they are my problem, not yours. Go and deal with all that shit you needed to deal with. One day if you wake up and you realize you really do want to date ME, you know where to find me. But since that day might never come, and I find it hard enough being reminded of what might have been, no grey zones. We are friends. As we explore what this new chapter means, please do not bring up the failed previous chapter. I can’t sort through the confusing complex emotions. Of course, Vanilla, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.

And so, ladies and gents, the Hulkette has been retired. All that is left is Vanilla, with her poorly managed borderline personality disorder. It isn’t cute, it isn’t adorable. It is a problem, one that I will learn to get a handle on, I hope. All by myself, because it is no one else’s burden but my own.

And if I am lucky, and we are careful, I might end up with a friend.

Hulkette needs a hug

  1. a term to designate a large ship or building
    1. a heavy clumsy ship or the body of an old ship unfit for service
    2. a ship used as a prison usually used in plural e.g. every prisoner sent to the hulks
    3. an abandoned wreck or shell (as of a building or automobile)
  2. one that is bulky or unwieldy

ICB and I are done.

I wanted more. After 6 months, I knew that this was a man that I admired, respected, lusted after and deeply cared about. I wanted him to meet my family and my friends and to integrate my life, because when he was around he made everything better. The world stopped spinning as much and the overwhelming became more achievable. He made me feel grounded. Talking to him made me settled. I wanted more of this. I had reached the point where holding back on my emotions, restraining myself because I intuitively felt that he wasn’t ready was becoming an unmanageable burden (exhibit A). I was losing my battle against my brain that relentlessly tells me I am not enough for someone to love, and too much to handle (exhibit B and C).

ICB has his own shit to work through. Some of his wounds and fears remind me so very much of my own in 2014. And just like people told me – and were right – that I was strong enough to work through the stifling limits I imposed on myself, I know he is very close to breaking through his own traps and owning the brilliant, kind, talented man he is already is. But I also recognize from my own experiences how very hard and consuming that kind of personal growth is. He is in for a rough ride. A worthwhile one, but a hard one. Until he works through his shit, neither one of us can tell if his reluctance to let go and see where this lovely journey of ours can go is due to a lack of connection or due to his paralyzing fears and doubts. That is something only he can answer, and the longer I stick around, the more I am confirming to myself that I am not enough for him to break through his self-imposed barriers. Having spent years trapped by my brain and my fears, I know how awful it feels to see wondrous people come into my life, yearn to connect and be unable to do so. My continued presence would be harmful to myself, and an excruciating burden to ICB. He has enough on his plate.

We both cried.

I’m still crying.

I feel grief, because this guy helped me see the colors after almost 12 months of being color blind. He accepted me in ways I’ve rarely felt accepted, turning my shameful inability to manage my emotions into something charming. No matter what ugly side of myself I showed him, he never wavered. Always there. Seeing me, and focusing on that which is good and admirable in me, which made me want to be more of that. He helped balance out how I saw myself and my place in the world. In the 6 months that I’ve known him, my life has frequently been turned upside down (coming out of a depression, the never ending aftershocks of Hickster, a diagnosis of borderline, and a promotion that is completely kicking my ass). Knowing he was there, a stable presence, has given me hope and courage.

I feel grief, because I could not give the same gift to ICB. I feel grief for the trapped pain he is in, for his fears that get in the way of him being his best self – if his unbest self is anything to go by, the world is missing out on greatness. I feel sorrow for the hard times that await him as he struggles through some of the challenges that have been thrown across his path, and the vulnerability that he has yet to embrace. I mourn the loss of all the moments that might have been. The possibilities of joy. The comfort of intimacy. Being a witness to each other’s transformation and growth.

I feel scared. This promotion is stretching me to the limit, my shadow is doing cartwheels and starting the countdown to the moment where I snap back into depression. The next 3 months are going to be very challenging. The wave of hysterical panic is gaining momentum now that I face it alone, without ICB to smile and kiss me on the forehead and tell me, “you got this, my little Hulkette“.

I feel shame at how selfish my reaction is.

I feel tired at the stretch of loneliness that awaits me.

And I can’t help but wonder,

Am I enough?

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?!

Little adorable Hulk

I’ve been really struggling with this BPD diagnosis. But that’s a whole series of posts.

I was worried about sharing my diagnosis with ICB. In general, ICB rejects the idea that I have any “problems” be they ADD, depression or anything else. His theory? That I am just too fucking smart, and I concentrate on and care about that which I find interesting and everything else – including but not limited to: abiding to social norms and typical adulting concepts like cooking, driving, cleaning, and taking care of my appearance – just fall to the wayside. To him, that is just who I am and it is both a huge part of my charm as well as the source of my occasionally irritating traits. He doesn’t like these pejorative labels and thinks I refuse to see my potential or believe in myself. He might be right, at least partially.

All this to say, I wasn’t sure how he’d take this diagnosis, since it comes with a whole lot of stigma – its the catch-all diagnosis for “the crazy”. He took it pretty well, more concerned about how I was handling it. I had found some resources and was reading up on it? Good. It was giving me a frame of reference to understand myself and some of my very painful interactions? Excellent. I felt it explained a lot, and with time I could work to better coping mechanisms? Well then, get cracking!

I bring the guy evidence that I am crazy, and he doesn’t flinch, just wants me to find the tools to be happy.

Dont Get It Jonah Hill GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Last week, I was talking to ICB about work, and he asked me how the new guy on my team was finding it. I wanted to pick ICB’s brain about some weaknesses in my management style that I don’t yet know how to overcome, but I didn’t get further than, “Well, I know I am difficult but…” ICB cut me off, laughing. “Really?! I hadn’t noticed.” What do you mean, bro? I’ve been going out of my way to hide the crazy from you. “Vanilla, I can tell when you are pissed every single time you text me. You try SO HARD to hide it, but you really aren’t as subtle as you think you are.”

ICB began to imitate me, stomping around like the Hulk, exclaiming in a gruff falsetto voice:

Grrrrrr, Fine, ICB, I get you are busy, have a good day ICB.

Grrrrr, It’s ok ICB, you already made plans, it’s alright.

Grrrrr, No, I am not mad you took too long to answer me, no everything is fine. I mean, I prefer if you answer me quickly or call me, but I get it, you were busy. I’m fine.

I stood there, dismayed, because he was 100% right, but I really thought I’d been doing a good job at shielding him from my insecurities and unfair thoughts. ICB laughed, kissed me on the forehead, “Yeah, I am right. I know my Vanilla.”

Hulk GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Wednesday night, ICB responded to one of my snarkier texts ALL IN CAPS. Huh?! Fine, I hadn’t been messaging the sweetest of thoughts, but in no way did I think it warranted such a strong response. I tried calling him to see wassup, but he was driving, and told me he’d call me back. I fell asleep waiting. I woke up thursday morning, to no response. Remorseful, I texted him an apology, explaining that I did not mean to hurt his feelings, but could he please explain what part of my message had triggered such a strong response? An hour later, he laughingly responded – the caps meant nothing at all, he had a new cell phone and had been trying out the new features, like the verbal dictation. I’d tormented myself for nothing. As I tried to gather my thoughts to express my frustrated roller coaster of emotion, the multiple emoticons of ICB laughing came in, followed by “Have a good day my little adorable Hulk”.

Cue my brain:

He said “my”. I like that. I haven’t been a “my” to anyone in a while. And he finds me adorable?! I think he likes me. I mean, I hope he does. I like him so that works out nicely. I’m not little tho, didn’t he notice by now? But still. Awwwww. Now I feel all feminine and pretty. Can the Hulk be feminine and pretty?! I don’t think most people want to have sex with the Hulk. What an annoying nickname. How dare he be so on point?? Little fucker. I wish ICB could see me rolling my eyes right now. Screw him for being so perceptive. He did say “my”, tho. And “adorable”. Most of that sentence makes me happy. I can handle being an adorable Hulk. I think. But FFS, can the dude learn to communicate like a human??! ALL CAPS IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE THING EVER. Sheesh.

How did I handle feeling gratified and annoyed at the same time? By sitting with a goofy smile at my desk and drafting and erasing 17 different responses before giving up and getting back to work.

Just call me “Hulkette” from here on out.