He walks away… off to leave on business…or to visit his family… something that will take him away for a few days. I’m distraught. I’m not sure how I will manage. Alone.
As the days go by, I dread his inevitable departure. There’s nothing I can say or do to convince him to stay. He’s going, and I have to somehow deal with it — but I have no idea how. My anxiety level is through the roof. My appetite has vanished. I’m waking up all hours of the night. Panic and anxiety attacks plague me. I can’t seem to console myself.
Now he’s left, and I feel completely unanchored. Unsupported. Drifting. The deep cavernous feelings of emptiness left by him not being here seems limitless and unbearable.
I’m terrified to be alone. I do the only thing I know how to do to “take care of myself”: I have a complete and total meltdown. I fall apart. I express my mental anguish and seek out emergency crisis services. Being alone is unbearable.
That he could leave me knowing that this would be the result, as it is every time, this thought causes me to feel more distraught.
Off to the crisis center I go… I just can’t do this on my own…
Anyone who suffers from one or more the following possible criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder*:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- Identity disturbance: Markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
- Emotional instability in reaction to day-to-day events (e.g., intense episodic sadness, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
can probably relate to (or once could relate to), the account above. Fortunately, this is no longer where I am at, but at one time, just a few years ago, this was my story indeed. I was able to tap into what it used to feel like, a few years ago, when my partner at the time would need to leave on business or to visit his family overseas. It was emotionally devastating, exhausting, and gut wrenching, but I knew no other way at the time.
I want you to know that if this scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone, and if I could possibly have healed from the place I once was to be able to handle loved ones leaving for periods of time, I believe this can be possible for you, too.
This isn’t a process that happened overnight. I worked with a therapist and a clinical team. I began to learn DBT, which allowed me gain skills I never before had in my life — skills that helped me, as an emotionally sensitive, easily dysregulated, woman with deep wounds from past traumas and hurts.
I began to get to know myself better — who I really was apart from others — and a sense of my own identity began to develop. This was something new to me. I’d always thought I was simply a “people pleaser,” but I came to realize that I actually was much more chameleon-like, suffering from the BPD symptom of identity disturbance. I became so much like whoever I was with, which then made sense that I felt empty and unanchored when people left — I felt like I had left, too, which was a very difficult thought to process.
I worked on realizing that when people left, it was not a rejection of me, and it didn’t mean they weren’t coming back. Those were fears based on old, terrible experiences from the past. My brain was trying to protect me from further hurt by going on the defense and expecting to be hurt and rejected by people that loved me. I learned to work through this and to consult my Wise Mind rather than believe every thought or feeling that arose within me willy nilly. This took a lot of Mindfulness skills and practice. I still use these skills to this day when such thoughts arise.
If you have difficulty bearing loved ones leaving, even for a short time, please be encouraged. There is “cause” our your concerns and distress, even if we can’t readily identify them (although it’s often very identifiable, i.e., a past traumatic incidence of abandonment or rejection). The most important thing is that we can get stronger, learn skills that can help us to better handle our emotions and manage our thoughts, and we can overcome this often debilitating aspect of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Thank you for reading.
* There are other possible criteria. See BPD criteria for more information.