Since I saw the film ‘Shadowlands’ in 1993, I have loved this quote. I love it because the words are beautiful and the imagery is haunting and evocative. Give me anything else, “but not this nothing time, not this waiting room of the world”. I love it simply for what it is – a wonderful description of the anticipation of spring.
But these days, I also love it as a metaphor. A metaphor for love, for life, for BPD, for therapy. A metaphor for the emptiness between extremes of intense emotion. An emptiness that feels as though it will squeeze the life out of you, like drowning in mud.
Give me something to feel – I’m tired of waiting in the ante-chamber of my heart…..
March 4, 2015 at 8:39 am
I had thought one aspect of BPD was feeling too much.
March 4, 2015 at 8:13 pm
It is, but part of BPD is also experiencing opposites, sometimes with little ‘in between’, and ‘chronic feelings of emptiness’ is one of the DSM IV diagnostic criteria. It’s one that I have often wondered about – do I really experience it, is how I experience it the same as other people; empty in what sense etc.
As with a number of the DSM criteria, I think my initial interpretation of the criterion was too narrow – I think I was interpreting ’emptiness’ as ‘nothingness’, and they’re not the same. I thought that because I could still feel (albeit strangely, in some cases), I thought this couldn’t constitute ‘chronic emptiness’, but I no longer have that view. I think I experience ’emptiness’ in a few different ways.
Sometimes I can sense that I’m feeling something (or that there are emotions swirling around inside) but it seems I cannot feel them. I am cut off from them – it’s a very weird feeling because it’s hard to describe that sense of knowing you’re in pain but without being able to describe it as a ‘feeling‘ of pain. It’s there, but it’s almost as if it’s not yours. It’s incredibly frustrating and can be very hard to cope with. There is another sort of ’emptiness’ that I have heard described as ‘longing’. For me, it feels as though sometimes a giant ‘pit of need’ opens up inside me – a giant black hole of neediness that is just longing desperately to be filled and made whole. The immense longing associated with this feeling is what used to make me hesitate about describing it as ’emptiness’ – if I was feeling such longing, how could I be ’empty’? But it’s because I was feeling so very empty of what I needed, that I felt such immense longing.
Intensity is definitely a huge defining factor of BPD. I crave intensity, it’s like a drug. It fills me up – but as a consequence, when I’m not experiencing intense emotions, I miss the intensity. It feels as though there’s something missing. It’s almost as if my scale of emotions is all messed up – I’m so ‘attune’ to high intensity, that lower intensity doesn’t register very much. If I’m not feeling intensely, it’s almost as if I’m not feeling at all. It’s either hugely powerful – or it’s nothing. The psychiatrist that gave me my diagnosis said ‘at least you’re able to feel. Some people with BPD feel empty all the time’. Although I have no evidence one way or the other, I suspect that most people with BPD are familiar both with feeling too much, and feeling empty. Maybe, however, one mode dominates more than another, and perhaps that is person dependent, but that is purely speculation! I hope that is helpful, and thank you so much for commenting 🙂
March 4, 2015 at 10:35 pm
This is an amazingly good explanation – worthy of a post in itself! Thanks for taking the time.
March 4, 2015 at 10:48 pm
Thank you for your kind words! If you think it would be helpful, and if you’re happy for me to do so, I might just do that at some point, and reference your original question, if that’s okay?
March 5, 2015 at 9:32 am
Of course it is OK. I have quite a few files on BPD. If you want to check them out I could put them in a Dropbox folder then invite you to join it.
I have reservations about the DSM, but you may have also. DSM 2 listed homosexuality as a mental illness. This was changed in DSM 3 following a show of hands. How scientific can you get? And the ‘experts’ had a terminal falling out regarding BPD when trying to revise the entry for DSM 5.
March 5, 2015 at 7:56 pm
Thank you 🙂 And yes, it would be absolutely fantastic if you could share those files with me. Are you happy for me to use your email address to contact you with mine (unless you can see it when I reply to your comments?). I agree that there is a certain artificiality about something like the DSM, and a greyness – my own view is that everything falls, to some degree, on a spectrum, and whether it’s 5 out of 9 criteria, or 6 out of 9 criteria, in some ways it’s a fairly arbitrary distinction. At the same time, I do believe that being able to make a diagnosis, and to have a diagnosis, can be very helpful indeed. I’m not opposed to diagnoses in general, though I know some people are – I think they have their place, and for me at least, having a diagnosis has been very helpful. Although in some ways it would be nice to operate within a system where people aren’t ‘labelled’, ‘labels’ have a multitude of practical, as well as other benefits. I think you have to draw a diagnostic line somewhere, and define a threshold of clinical significance. Just because it’s difficult to do and exactly where you place it may be the subject of debate, doesn’t negate its usefulness as an exercise and a construct. The key in all of this has to be dealing with the individual and the unique manifestation of their difficulties, and seeing them as human beings – but I don’t think that needs to be incompatible giving them a diagnosis, or using a ‘label’ to describe what they struggle with. As long we don’t fall into the trap of treating people in a ‘generic’ fashion, just because the word ‘label’ is used in a way that often goes hand in hand with that sort of a connotation. Sorry, I’ll stop going off on one! That’s just a roundabout way of saying it’s all a bit of an art as well as a science, in my view. But that’s not a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’ve tried to keep up with the various manifestations of the DSM but haven’t had a lot of time for reading. I knew there was some debate over BPD in the DSM 5, with some sort of compromise being reached I think? Leave it the same but put in an Appendix with an alternative proposition? Or have I got it completely wrong? Have they gone down the route of the ISM 10 definition instead? Anyway, yes please to the files and if you can’t see my email address just let me know if you’d like me to send you an email so you have my details!
Pingback: BPD and emptiness | Life in a Bind - BPD and me