One of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder is high emotional reactivity: people with BPD feel more, harder, and longer (bow chicka wow wow). Oftentimes this is a serious struggle: it makes it hard to react to things appropriately, it can lead to serious fears of abandonment, flashes of anger, and major depression. I have heard it described as having no emotional skin: everything is raw and immediate.
This is one of the traits of BPD that I fall quite classically into. In the past, it has been almost exclusively a negative force in my life. The past few weeks I’ve been trying some new things in terms of riding extreme emotional highs. Ever since I began to identify as asexual, the concept of loving in ways other than romantic or sexual has appealed greatly to me. I have always felt strongly about my friends, but I suddenly felt this huge rush of validation for all the ways that I care for people, along with the realization that I can make those relationships as important as I so choose.
As part of this I have been experimenting with letting myself love as hard as I have always wanted to. One of the downsides of having a culture that emphasizes sexual and romantic relationships above all others is that you are expected to have one primary relationship that serves all your needs. Unfortunately this can put a great deal of pressure on the one person you pick, and loving too much is “clingy”. In all reality, this is an unhealthy relationship model and putting all your love and emotional needs on one person is not good for either of you.
While a healthy way to react to this might be to add more relationships into your life, find healthy coping mechanisms, and take responsibility for your emotions, what more often tends to happen is that people learn the message that they shouldn’t love too much. Love becomes something dangerous, something that puts you in a vulnerable, dependent position, something that drives others away when it is too strong.
And so I have spent a great deal of my life pulling back when I care a lot about someone. Oh sure, there were a few youthful relationships that involved passionate declarations of love, but those bit me in the butt pretty quickly and I learned. I learned not to love as hard as I can love.
Unconsciously, I’ve been challenging this for quite some time. I’ve been more open with my feelings. I’ve been letting myself care about more people. I’ve been working to do kind things for others and find ways to express my love other than telling people “you’re super awesome”. I tried a Facebook experiment in which I told my friends exactly what I loved about each of them, uniquely and individually.
The conclusion you’d never expect? It has been fantastic. So far no one has told me “wow that’s creepy, stop telling me how much you like me”. People are flattered and like the attention and get a boost. No one has blocked me or stopped speaking to me. Even my newer friends have appreciated when I tell them what I like about them. It has been one of the best weeks I’ve had in years because I am not asking myself to deny my emotions.
Now of course this does mean I’ve made myself vulnerable a number of times. I’ve asked people to accept me, to accept my emotions. Bad things do happen sometimes, and I’ve had a few moments of serious and crippling self doubt and fear. But the experiment in loving wasn’t in loving one person and being vulnerable with one person. It was in letting myself feel all sorts of love for all sorts of people. Even when I was terrified that I was going to be hurt by one individual I had relied on or opened up to, I had someone else who would listen to me and prop me up a bit. That’s a lie. I usually had three or four people who would ask me to spend time with them or laugh with me or distract me or give me hugs.
This isn’t simply an experiment in telling your crush that you like them (although that’s certainly part of it). It’s in taking the time to identify what you feel and then act on it (if and when appropriate).
Try experimenting. Try letting yourself feel a little high off of how cool someone is. Try daydreaming about someone you wish you saw more often. And then tell them just how much you miss them. Maybe it won’t work for you, but man, even feeling this much love is enough of a reward for me. It’s so easy to be afraid of big emotions. For now, I’d rather do the work to just feel them. I’d rather experiment with who I am when I love. I have a feeling I’m kind of a badass.
Featured pic is of why I love my friends so much.