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No one likes being abandoned. When you consider what you want to do over the weekend, you usually don’t think, “You know what would be super fun? Being abandoned.”
But being abandoned when you have BPD hurts to such an extreme degree, it’s incomprehensible. So many of my triggers are tied to the deep-rooted fear that my loved ones will leave me. Sure, everything we feel when we have BPD is more extreme, but why is fear of abandonment so particularly intense that it’s one of the diagnostic criteria?
I have a theory.
thatPart of it involves the identity disturbance that so many of us struggle with. We’re desperate to define who were are. We cling to labels, we reinvent ourselves in the hope that other people will like us, We mirror the people around us. We don’t feel confident enough to have our own identity because a) we often hate ourselves, and b) no matter what identity we settle on, someone out there will not like us. Universal approval is kind of my goal since the sheer thought of someone not liking me terrifies me.
So when we have a relationship with someone, we cling to them, and that relationship becomes an integral part of our identity. I don’t know if I’m extroverted, introverted, serious, or a dorkasaurus rex, but I for sure know that I’m definitely so-and-so’s friend. We define ourselves by our relationships: we belong in this particular group of friends, we’re that person’s partner, etc., and so we frantically monitor everything we do and say in these relationships in order to ensure that they don’t come to an end. When we lose a friendship or relationship, we lose part of ourselves. If you have a bad falling out with a friend/partner, you can still “come back to yourself,” still have a sense of who you are that is not defined by their presence. But if you have BPD? You don’t have any identity to go back to. You may feel lost, distraught, as if there’s absolutely no way to go on.
So we freak out. We constantly ask for reassurance that our loved ones won’t up and leave us. We act desperately to ensure that the relationship is intact. We cannot imagine how we would live without that relationship. Abandonment is more than abandonment: it’s a crisis of identity.
Tequila Mockingbird is an undercover correspondent for Painted Brain News and a member of UCLA’s Active Minds program.
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