Breakups are tough regardless of who you are. However, having borderline personality disorder (BPD) can make the situation exponentially harder.
I know this because I have lived with BPD for the majority of my adult life, and possibly longer.
You see, for the borderline, the feeling of separation or abandonment from someone that we truly care about can feel like the end of the world. Even short separations from a loved one can wreak a cycle of havoc that no one could ever prepare for, and a breakup is even worse. Marsha Linehan, a leading BPD expert accurately explained that, “People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.”
And while the slightest upset can cause a world of trouble for the borderline and those around them, you can only imagine what a legitimately devastating event can do. BPD is commonly referred to as an Emotional Intensity disorder due to the extremely deep emotions encountered by those who suffer from the disorder.
The reasoning behind the intense reaction to a breakup experienced by the borderline can be explained through a number of personality quirks that cause emotional disruption, unhealthy interpersonal relationships, and rollercoaster like mood shifts. Those diagnosed typically have abandonment issues, poor impulse control, and engage in unhealthy acts of self-harm and suicidal ideation.
Furthermore, many BPD sufferers also have issues with their identity, which causes them to latch on to their partner in an unhealthy way. To us, our existence isn’t valid without someone to hold on to. Being alone can be terrifying when you have BPD because being alone means more thinking. Sadly, the more we think the more we have to relive painful situations, which we couldn’t handle, to begin with.
And to complicate matters even more, coping with overwhelming emotions when you suffer from BPD can seem to be a nearly impossible feat. Instead of truly coping with it, as many others would do, the borderline may engage in self-destructive, and impulsive behaviors to numb the pain. Some may even engage in unsafe physcial acts with random partners in an attempt to fill the void.
Others will attempt to bottle their emotions and act as though they don’t care because even thinking about the true nature of breaking up is enough to shake them to their core. Instead, they will cycle through and an endless list of emotional ups and downs, including anger, depression, and anxiety as they attempt to find a replacement for their partner.
Of course, as many of us know, when you are still in love with your ex, and attempting to move past them, others may fall short of filling their shoes, even if our ex was terrible. And as we cycle through yet another typical symptom of BPD, which is splitting, our world is become a mess. Splitting is a phenomenon that takes place within the mind of a borderline, where someone they hold high and mighty on a pedestal can quickly become the biggest monster in the world.
They are able to cycle between feelings of love and hate quickly, especially during a breakup. Unable to see a gray area, which would be that our partner is human, with both good and bad traits, we can only see them as god’s gift to mankind, or public enemy number one. And this can be quite confusing when you are in the stages of a breakup. Imagine, you recently broke up with your partner, and you feel nothing but anger towards them. Suddenly, they are evil and wrong and have been that way the whole time, so good riddance. Unfortunately, as our minds spin incontrovertibly, we can’t help to cycle through our memories with them.
Now, suddenly, maybe they aren’t evil. In fact, they were actually the best thing we ever had (which is usually NOT true.) We may begin sending texts to our ex at this point, just to communicate with them. Finding any excuse to talk to them becomes our obsession. Yet, we aren’t through yet, and soon they are back to being evil, especially if they don’t respond to our tactics.
This is where our explosive bouts of anger can really mess things up, as we may blow up on our ex at random for the pain and devastation we are currently feeling.
As we cycle through love, hate, love, and hate, we can’t help but to be confused and feel crazy. Obviously, being borderline doesn’t mean you are crazy. But our exes may feel differently, without understanding where our reactions are coming from. Some borderlines may even resort to drastic measures, and begin self-harming, or fantasizing about suicide. Others may even attempt it, or threaten to.
And if you don’t understand much about this disorder, this breakup cycle may seem extreme, outlandish, or even childish. But what you must understand is that BPD is typically acquired by those who have endured situations which reprogrammed their minds to cope differently than those who have a healthy mentality. However, I am not excusing my behavior at all, especially when I am truly acting crazy.
Yet, I am not crazy. I am seemingly normal for much of the time, however, certain triggers like abandonment and overwhelming stressors can send me over the edge. If you are borderline and reading this, please don’t take what I am saying wrong. I am trying to explain how the various traits of our disorder can play a part in the immensely painful situation that is a breakup.
But, I have said all of this to explain that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are healthy skills that borderlines can adapt to effectively handle emotionally overwhelming situations. Actually, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy was designed to thwart many of the painful symptoms of BPD, and by using the skills learned in DBT to tackle your breakup, it becomes much easier. You must remember that your relationship has ended for a reason, and now that they are gone, it is time to move on. Surround yourself with people who are supportive, helpful and understanding. Your disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, instead, it is an opportunity to grow and to evolve into an improved version of your beautiful self.
Watch the following video, YouTuber Kati Morton explains how you can use radical acceptance DBT skills to guide you through any breakup.