SHELL-SHOCKED!
Clearing the Fallout from a Borderline Break-up

By Shari Schreiber, M.A.
www.GettinBetter.com

 

When you've been dumped by a Borderline, it's a lot like coming down with a deadly, exotic disease from a foreign land--you're not certain you're going to survive it. A part of you may want to die because you're in such tremendous discomfort, the thought of even one more day in this agony, seems beyond anything you can endure.

It's difficult to imagine what it means to survive a Blitz by Borderline, unless you've been there. You might as well try to describe the worst pain you've ever felt to a friend, and expect him or her to relate. Forget about it.

Family members and friends haven't a clue--or any frame of reference for the trauma you're experiencing, so their simple solutions of; "just get over it" or "leave him/her, and find someone new" never work. In fact, they can make you feel irritated, or even more ashamed, sad or overwhelmed.

A borderline disordered individual is like a computer virus that starts out as benign or innocuous, and then damages your entire system. Internet worms can show up in a harmless email--but when you open it, you're infected. This malicious virus screws with your PC's functions and programs, to where you can barely navigate--and ultimately crashes your hard drive. This is literally what happens to your mind, body and spirit when you've had exposure to the Borderline's toxicity for any length of time; you risk a system melt-down.

A break-up of this kind goes far beyond missing the Borderline, and the good times you've shared. It's excruciating, because toxic shame from childhood abandonment issues, is being stirred up right now. It's as if this person has ripped the scabs off old ego injuries you've worked really hard to surmount. You've been pretty successful with all that up until now, which triggers even more shame--as how in the world could you let yourself be so vulnerable?

People have told me that they just want to return to the 'good life' they had before they met their Borderline. Whether you've been involved in an extra-marital affair, or you simply craved some excitement in your life prior to this association--if your existence had actually felt rich and fulfilling before, you would not have been susceptible to putting that at risk, with a Borderline!

Do I hate borderline disordered people? Absolutely not--what I hate, is the fact that most of them will not seek therapeutic help. Instead, they continue destroying the lives of their lovers/spouses, children and family members. If they're aware of this disorder, their attitude usually reflects a victim, martyr or waif mentality, which basically asserts; "Oh well, poor me, I'm broken--so deal with it." There's no remorse for the destruction and havoc they wreak.

PROXIMAL INSANITY (OR CRAZY BY ASSOCIATION)

Perhaps the most disturbing element in this relationship with your Borderline and the one that keeps you ensnared, is that he/she is the quintessence of projection and paradox. When the Borderline says; "I love you so much, and all I want, is for you to be happy!" what he/she really means is, this is what I'm wanting to hear from you--and what I'm desperately needing for myself. That's right--it's not about You! If it were, their behaviors and words would match, and you've had far too many contradictory instances that have made you doubt and distrust their expressions of caring or affection. Add to this, as you love them more--paradoxically, they love you less.

How is it then, that after all these dramatic ups and downs, you've still held the fantasy that this individual can actually meet your needs, and respond to you lovingly on a reasonably consistent basis? Wishful thinking my dear--and the likelihood, that you learned to combine/confuse love with pain early in your life. You've clung to hopes that the Borderline might eventually love you, because you haven't had a chance to form a Self-view that isn't heavily biased and distorted by those who raised you--yet you're hard on yourself, for all their failings (and the Borderline revives this reflex in you).

Speaking of distortions--the Borderline can set you up for disgrace in public. He/she may say something to you or act-out in ways they sense will provoke you into reacting. Unfortunately, nobody else in that restaurant or mall has been privy to the nasty catalyst that has prompted your strong response--so guess what? You end up looking like the crazy one! Needless to say, even your friends and family might see your partner as charismatic, adorable, kind and generous--and you're viewed as the nut, who can't appreciate him/her.

This person's false-self mask is well developed--it's typically the only part of them that is. What this means is, stuff goes on behind closed doors (with you), that others in their social or professional life never see. Their therapist isn't even aware of their obnoxious behaviors. A Borderline's public persona can increase your confusion, because you've observed a degree of normalcy at times, which runs contrary to your private experiences with them!

A high-functioning Borderline may act respectable/responsible in their outer world, but physically volatile at home. The mask they wear outside their life with you, has them suppressing difficult feelings, to keep up appearances. Repression always magnifies emotions, and acting-out behaviors are greatly amplified under these conditions; little earth tremors actually save us from destructive earthquakes. Any type of upset will have your Borderline taking their frustrations, anger and disappointments out on you--regardless of who triggered them! Unfortunately, you've become the scapegoat for their rage.

DOUBLE DIPPING AND THE DOUBLE STANDARD

In the middle of a battle or break-up, your Borderline could flirt with, bait and bed a whole lot of folks. This leaves you open to contracting all sorts of STD's--but his/her attitude if You venture out during one of your separations and date another, is tantamount to provoking a ten point earthquake on the Richter Scale! Ironically, it's perfectly acceptable for them to do the Mattress Mambo with as many casual partners as they wish--but heaven help you, if you draw outside the lines just one tiny bit; the seismic reaction will be one you'll never live down. It makes no difference how many times you point out his/her massive indiscretions during this hiatus by the way--they've now got a 'dealbreaker' to clobber you with, each time you try to reconcile.

Don't presume they're telling the truth about their sexual history or health. You may want to believe it when he/she says they're "clean," or just got an aids test--but in reality, they're used to lying, and embellishing/fabricating facts to get what they want, and you honestly can't know who you're dealing with, when you've started dating. No matter what your instincts are saying about this person, use protection!!! Not doing so, could easily result in an unintended pregnancy, a death sentence or living with a painful virus like herpes or genital warts, they conveniently "forgot" to tell you about.

LIFE WITH A BORDERLINE, IS ALWAYS A POWER STRUGGLE.

If you'd finally succumbed to her constant nagging about marriage, the issue of a having a baby was on the table. If you gave into that, a home remodel or new house became the point of contention--and on and on it went, until you finally started to 'get' that she or he just needed something to hold over you, and bitch about. A former female friend years ago, had an affair with a successful (married) director. She wouldn't rest, until she got him to leave his wife and family--and then made his life miserable, until he married her. After that, she continuously harangued him about having a baby. It wasn't that she ever wanted a kid--it was that she had to break his balls for taking a stand against it, and exercising any desires/needs of his own! I'm betting that Lance Armstrong's new book on his relationship struggles with Sheryl Crow will shed more light on this topic--but given his current romance, could it be that he's jumped from the frying pan into the fire?

You could have bent over backwards to please her--but it was never enough. No matter how luxurious the vacations or how lavish the jewelry, she always found some way to diminish the gifts you gave, and use them against you. A few men have reported that the Borderline asked them to cut open an artery as proof of their devotion/love, and be willing to die for them! If you're ever asked to bring harm to yourself or anyone else--or do something that goes against your moral code, you're with somebody who's deeply dysfunctional. Take this hint from Daryl Hall and John Oates (I Can't Go For That), and run like hell.

WHILE YOU SEEK QUIET AND CALM, THE BORDERLINE SEEKS MAYHEM.

Truth be told, Borderlines can't live with a real sense of peace and harmony. They've learned to shut-down feelings (or dissociate) during childhood--so it takes an enormous amount of stimulation in the form of chaos and drama in adulthood, to break through their non-feeling bubble, and relieve their sense of emptiness and deadness. To put this plainly; they thrive on conflict, for it helps them feel alive--and you just keep searching for a foxhole that feels relatively safe and sane! This is why you've come to fear that the other shoe is gonna drop, when things have been 'good' between you.

The Borderline's abandonment terror is entrenched--and usually implacable. Archaic primal wounds can have them remaining with even the most difficult or abusive partnerships, to escape their core void. Stunted emotional growth forms the basis of their inner emptiness or deadness. The terrible discomfort that arises when nobody's around to push against, is avoided at all costs--and frequently spawns rebound relationships. A Borderline couldn't develop object constancy during infancy--so when he/she is alone, they can literally feel invisible, or like they've ceased to exist.

A Borderline grew up with so much instability and pain, the only way he/she learned how to survive, was to block out that pain--or take control of it. This is why they'll pick fights with you, and disrupt any loving/positive time you spend together. For a child who's basically grown up in a war zone, life never felt stable for very long--and as soon as it did, the rug was pulled out from under them again. This has lead to an adaptive reflex of always anticipating disaster; it's the only thing that brings them comfort, and eases the horrible anxiety of impending disappointment or trauma that surely awaits, after the calm. For the Borderline, pain is always around the corner--no matter what. Being the one to initiate that pain rather than being at the effect of it, gives them a semblance of control (which is their payoff for instigating turmoil). It's also why they must abandon you, before you can do it to them!

Needing to be in control of the pain, is what actually prompts self-mutilation in Borderlines. Cutting and burning (skin) or voraciously digging at blemishes until there's significant damage to adjacent tissue, provides distraction and transient relief from their (uncontrollable) emotional anguish. Watching their physical wounds heal, gives them a glimmer of hope that other trauma may ultimately subside as well. These behaviors are automatic/reflexive; none of this is consciously driven or held.

THE BAITING GAME

A Borderline can make you behave in ways that you never dreamed possible. He/she will bait you in a way that first seems innocent/innocuous, by asking questions or making statements about your relatives, friends or co-workers, and before you know it, you'll be having to defend those other attachments, and trying to reason with this person (which we've learned, never works).

You're probably a People Pleaser who harshly judges your darker emotions, like anger. Nevertheless, the Borderline easily triggers rageful reactions from you, because they're Master Baiters (you should pardon the expression). They'll continually make disparaging comments about your kids, your favorite uncle, your best buddy, etc., that cannot help but fire you up! They do this, in effort to cull you from the herd so to speak, and exercise more power over you. The Borderline must systematically destroy other ties so that you have no alternate reality or frame of reference for normal behavior. If you resist these tactical maneuvers, another battle ensues--and quite suddenly, you're actually screaming out of a sense of sheer exasperation!

When this darker side of your nature gets activated, you'll feel ashamed and guilty afterwards. The Borderline might even add to this, by telling you how deeply you've hurt them (but they're the one who's lit that flame!). Still, this facet of you could have gotten drowned and discarded in childhood, because God knows, you never wanted to be like your abusive parent, who took their anger out on You. No in fact, you wanted to be just the opposite of that.

So you're damned if you take a stand for yourself--and damned if you don't. Sitting with that debilitating guilt you feel after one of those bouts, and the ways you punish yourself for these outbursts, is more painful than numbing- out with booze or pot, giving in--and just not making waves. And that's the rub that keeps you with this twisted, tormenting individual.

STILL CRAZY, AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

You and I have a need to make sense of our life experiences. This need gets our attention and holds it, until we can figure out where we stand, and get a handle on interpreting the uncomfortable/bad feelings that a person or event triggers in us! This normal reflex helps us determine how we feel about what we've perceived. When a lover's emotional responses to various situations are incongruent (they don't make sense), it has us questioning our reality, and feeling like we're on shaky ground.

With the Borderline, our sense of congruency is constantly being challenged. A Borderline's selective memory and distorted thinking convincingly make us doubt our perceptions, and have us believing that black is really white--thus we're always floundering in chaos (this is called gaslighting). There comes a point, at which we can't decipher which end is up or down--sort of like being trapped beneath tons of snow, in an avalanche.

We're now obsessively focused on trying to dig our way out of this disaster, by making sense of something that's utterly nonsensical. We feel so crazy, we keep attempting to fix it, or right the wrong! This alone is often the hook that keeps us going back for more (it's part of our control issue). Even after years of separation, you might be inclined to think that things can be normal between you and your ex--but you're mistaken. Listen to Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years, for confirmation.

Perhaps you're holding yourself "responsible" for staying in this relationship too long--especially if you're left with serious physical ailments. Owning your part in any dynamic is important--but only if it serves as a learning tool, to keep you from stepping into that same hole in the road again. Would you continue to scold a little child every day, for having made a costly mistake? Of course not! It's time to let yourself off the mat. If you could have done it differently, you would have. Use this experience to learn, heal and grow.

THE PAST IS PRELUDE TO THE PRESENT.

You've become attracted to the Borderline--and remained far longer than you should, because there's a forgotten imprint or template from childhood, that gives this guy or gal special powers over you. In simple terms, your early life experiences conditioned you for these kinds of relational dynamics, and they feel normal or natural--because on some level, they're familiar.

Think of it this way; the chicken pox virus is a precursor for shingles. If you didn't have chicken pox as a kid (or later on), you couldn't contract shingles when stressors in adulthood became highly elevated--you simply wouldn't be vulnerable/susceptible to them! In short, lack of exposure to that childhood virus gave you automatic immunity to its excruciating viral spin-off.

Longing and yearning for something (practically anything) are uncomfortable and distressing feelings. If we're having these difficult sensations, it means the person or object we need/want most is beyond our reach, or unavailable. From this, we experience a sense of lack, which triggers frustration, anger, sadness, and a whole lot of other emotions that just feel bad--but we keep striving for tiny bits of relief along the way, that don't. In relationships, this craving for that which we cannot have, is referred to as Unrequited Love.

An old friend once said, in reference to his borderline disordered ex-wife; "If she'd just thrown me a bone now and then, I'd still be there!" My response, was that he'd likely be battling some serious illnesses, if he'd stuck around.

Aside from these awful setbacks you've suffered due to the Borderline's lack of empathy or emotional response-ability, the extreme stress with this lover could have left you with some physical ailments as well. Yep, you're feeling tired, run-down and ill--yet you've courageously hung on, and tried to make sense of your experiences, and why this guy/gal is unlike the others you've been able to walk away from--at least, in your adulthood. All these intense feelings have you leaning toward magical thinking, like; "I'm supposed to be with this person" but you're not (past the learning phase, anyway)--and this tormenting dilemma can be resolved.

THE GHOST OF BORDERLINES PAST

In the aftermath of this break-up, you could be needing some sort of closure to help you come to grips with his/her sudden departure. You may have tried to initiate dialogues to help you gain some understanding about their swift exit, and mitigate the shame you're feeling after being abruptly discarded. It makes no sense whatsoever, that only hours ago, your Borderline professed their undying love for you--and now you're abandoned and alone!

Unfinished business of this type haunts us, like nothing else can--especially when mass confusion is a part of the mix. If our ex-lover agrees to speak to us, they'll make us believe that we're at fault for their leaving. While it may be true that we made contributions to the relationship upsets--a Borderline has to make it sound as if it was all our doing! They'll typically pick one or two things you did (or didn't do), that forced them to jump ship. This is their trump card, which puts the blame back on you, whenever you confront their mixed messages, infidelities, lies, broken promises/commitments, etc.

This blame-game is actually a transference issue. Their unresolved childhood rage is directed at you--because you're the safer/more convenient target for it. Don't take this stuff personally. It really hasn't much to do with you, even when it sounds perfectly plausible.

Never will a Borderline take ownership of their failings/flaws. Never. Closure allows a meeting of souls, a healing acknowledgment of each person's part in the demise of the relationship, and an opportunity for both to learn from their mistakes. No such thing will ever exist for the Borderline. Oh, you may receive a perfunctory "I'm sorry," but there is never genuine remorse. So why is this, do you think?

Closure equals Ego Death to a Borderline. They're so fractured/fragile, they really can't manage any hint of abandonment or loss. They're so full of self-loathing, they can't handle anyone being aware of their shortcomings. Their defenses are deeply entrenched, automatic and reflexive--because they need them to survive. Point out your Borderline's weaknesses, and you might as well drive a stake through their heart--if they can take it in. Most cannot, so their denial remains. For you this can mean no harm, no foul.

WERE YOU EXPECTED TO BE A MIND READER OR MOMMY?

A Borderline's difficulties began within the first year of life. His/her maternal misattunements during infancy, left them with self-worth injuries that have driven all their acting-out behaviors and defenses. There's a desperate need in every Borderline to find and experience the symbiotic attachment that he or she missed out on, during their earliest phase of development. A healthy mother can intuit her baby's needs, and understand what his cries mean. But a woman who's disconnected from her own feelings and needs can't do that.

The Borderline expects you to intuit his or her needs and desires. If you fail to do this, there's hell to pay! Even when your generous and kind gestures aren't exactly as your Borderline thinks they should be, you're criticized and shamed for being a bad friend, lover, relative, etc. You may literally begin to feel, that no good deed goes unpunished.

A partner who is at first perceived as nurturing and good, can trigger comfort for the Borderline--in that he/she might finally get early primal needs met. The only problem is, there's no core trust or frame of reference to back it up, or give any sense that this will be lasting--which spawns intolerable anxiety over potential loss! Again, this represents uncontrollable pain, which triggers acting-out defenses. Always playing in the background, is unresolved primal rage over abandonment by their mother. If you've wondered why no amount of care, devotion or affection makes any difference for your Borderline, this is at the baseline of it. They're broken. And you cannot fix it.

The Borderline's incapacity to tolerate rejection (of their grandiose false-self or ego), drives obsessive attempts to get you back--or get back at you, with incessant phone calls, texting, stalking, etc., long after your relationship has ended. Hitting this ball back across the net, only prolongs your suffering and theirs, as well. Try getting acquainted with your own feelings--without trying to analyze or judge them. It'll help you become stronger and more whole.

In the rare event you've actually accomplished any sort of friendly exchange that approximates closure and feels gratifying or wholesome, it reactivates intense longing that took you months or years to get over last time! All of a sudden, you're going through that horrendous withdrawal again--and wishing you'd never reached out. You're texting--and she's silent. The pain is back.

SITTING IN RUBBLE AFTER THE GRENADES HAVE STOPPED FLYING

The Borderline can turn your entire world upside-down--no matter how stable or secure it was, before you met him/her! In general, our relationship upsets throw us off-kilter--and demand our time, focus and problem-solving efforts. We have a hard time giving our energy/attention to various other demands, while there's discord with our lover. Within a healthy relational dynamic, we can work through our misunderstandings, rebalance with our partner and go on from there. But with the Borderline, as soon as you've surmounted one speed-bump, another comes up almost immediately! Hence, there's virtually no down time, or opportunity to reunite in a way that restores warmth, trust and emotional safety--and tension becomes your constant companion.

The upshot? Before too long, you're getting fired from your job--or your own business is in the toilet. You're now scrambling to make ends meet, but still having to give the lion's share of your attention to relationship issues, which take priority--'cause how can you function effectively, without a stable base? Dozens of men and women have shared their devastating financial ruin with me, but to make matters worse, they now need considerable assistance to rebalance from the emotional fallout they're left with, after these affairs.

A POTPOURRI OF PATHOLOGIES

Borderline Personality Disorder houses a panoply of other diagnosable issues that disrupt and demolish relationships. Borderlines are often misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, because their temperament and moods may fluctuate wildly. Some individuals should be dual-diagnosed, as mood and personality disorders frequently coexist. In my opinion, BPD is the broad umbrella under which other issues usually sit; Attachment Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Eating Disorders, etc. Even Anxiety and Panic Disorders can be part of the Borderline's symptomology. The hallmarks of BPD include; desperate attempts to gain attention, intense/irrational abandonment fears, lack of empathy, lying, extreme jealousy, poor impulse control, extramarital affairs, drug/alcohol abuse, hypersexuality, 'crazy-making' interactions, low self-esteem, rebound relationships, passive-aggression, cognitive distortion, suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviors, splitting (love you/hate you), etc.

So why don't we just put all these under a Borderline diagnosis, and be done with it? Damned if I know. It probably has a lot to do with the paperwork for insurance companies--and how they treat various diagnostic codes, in terms of determining our coverage. And besides, the DSM-IV would be considerably skinnier without all of it! (God forbid.)

ON THE ROAD TO GETTIN' BETTER . . .

Maybe you've managed to terminate this relationship, and broken away--but you've had doubts about this decision, because you only remember the good times; painful memories are usually like that--or women wouldn't sign up for childbirth more than once! Regardless, it could be tempting to return when the pain has eased up a bit, you've had time to regroup, and you're thinking of trying again. Do everything humanly possible, to fight that urge!

This is when you must take inventory of all the chaos and torment you were subjected to during the last go-round. You might have changed and grown a bit--but the Borderline hasn't! Make a list of their torturous, confusing, ugly behaviors and stick it on your bathroom mirror and refrigerator, so you'll read it at least once a day.

Resuming your relationship with a Borderline--no matter how much distance you've gotten, or how well you think you've recovered, affects you just like a relapse of a bad flu virus! Suddenly, you're feeling very sick again, and trying to survive. The confusion you're feeling from her constant contradictions, lies and manipulations are just as they were before. The education and insights you've gained haven't made a dent, in terms of your inner experience of this relationship, and how it erodes your stability, sanity and self-worth.

You've had these difficult/painful sensations before, and this is like a rerun of a bad movie. You can't remember these feelings from childhood, because you blocked them out in order to survive, when you were too young or scared to do anything about 'em (like leave home)--but they're certainly back in full force now.

You may be feeling as if you need unequivocal proof that your guy or gal is indeed, borderline disordered. This is a universal concern for nearly everyone who contacts me for help. If the material you've read on this site has been resonating for you, try and trust that it wouldn't, if you were with someone more healthy and whole!

Your disbelief about the BPD issues is understandable. It's tough to accept that you could want someone who's so damaged, that he/she has psychotic traits--and of course, it challenges how you regard yourself.

As I've explained in my other articles about BPD, it's not that you're needing this person back--it's that you're needing to get rid of these horrible feelings of inadequacy and shame you're left with, after they've dropped you on your head. The Borderline pulls the scabs off archaic wounds from when you were a child. You might have become wildly successful in your professional life to compensate for self-worth issues--but now they're smacking you in the face, and you feel discarded and broken. This isn't the end for you--it's really just the beginning of building a more rewarding life, and relationship experience.

 

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COULD MY BPD LOVER BE RIGHT ABOUT ME?

OUTGROWING YOUR ADDICTION

THE LESBIAN BORDERLINE

Borderline Personality Disorder is an equal opportunity problem. Learn about males with borderline traits, and how this issue is acquired.

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