Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges.

34 thoughts on “BPD and emptiness

  1. That’s a beautifully written post, thank you. I can identify with so much of it.

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    • Thank you SO much – you’ve made me smile 🙂 I’m glad you can identify – it’s an amazing feeling when you read something that describes what you’re going through, and I’m so grateful to other bloggers for the times when that has happened to me. It’s humbling to know others identify with what I write. Keep in touch and take care…

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  2. Pit of need, anger in withdrawal, being left so alone in my emotions….I could just relate to this entire post. Thank You ❤

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    • Thank YOU! I really appreciate receiving comments, and I can only apologise for being so slow at responding! I’m so glad you liked the post, and that it struck a chord. I have received so much from other bloggers, so much insight and support, both in terms of their posts and comments, and it’s a privilege to be able to add or give something in return. Thank you 🙂

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  3. This is a great post, but I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy at just how little I know about BPD, beyond the basics. What I am realising while reading this is that I don’t relate BPD symptoms to my own difficulties. Take last week, full of intense emotion over my Therapist and yesterday and today, I feel completely empty, dissociated. What you describe here about feeling too much or empty, describes it perfectly.

    In many ways, I think feeling empty is a lot easier than feeling the intensity, of anything, really. By remaining empty, involvement in anything is benign whereas intensity leads to much more risk taking and maybe disappointment. In some ways, this probably contributes to my urge to isolate.

    As always, very thought provoking.

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    • Hi Cat,
      As usual, your comments have really made me think, and put another spin on things…I hadn’t thought about intensity leading to risk taking and possibly disappointment, but I think that that’s true. I’m certainly more ‘daring’ in terms of my openness with my therapist and the extent to which I tell her how I feel about her, when I’m feeling intensely. A couple of friends have commented on the degree to which I’m sometimes very honest with my therapist (for example, a few months ago I told her that I loved her), and I think that what drives that is both my immense desire to be understood and cared for (perhaps I think such declarations will ‘elicit’ something from her?), but also, I think you’re right that intense feelings make me take more risks. So, my ‘declaration of love’, as it were (and yes, it makes me cringe to think about it!), came right off the back of my therapist letting me show her my self-harm (on my hips, so not it was definitely a case of deciding to show her/her accepting to see, as it is not obvious). It was such an amazing and intimate moment, and so intense, I think that was what allowed me to take such a risk.
      Although intense emotions over our Therapists are very painful, it’s good to be able to have them and talk about them, and so from that point of view, I’m glad that you were able to feel them, although I know absolutely, how excruciating they can be. And that emptiness and dissociation often follows, as a way of protection from the hurt. I was in that cycle for a long time since Christmas, with almost every session oscillating between intensity and disconnection. For the last few sessions (since my events described in ‘Intensity’, I think, or just before), things have been much more settled. I think in some ways it’s a function of having got into a topic/area that has just proved immensely fruitful and keeping the continuity between sessions has been easier. I literally go in with about 9 things written on my hand to talk about, cover about three of them, and have an even longer list next time! But I know that we will come to a halt at some point, certainly after the Easter break if not before, and I will be back to that emptiness again, and my own urge to isolate…..
      Thank you again for continuing to read and comment and provide such helpful and insightful comments. Despite my terrible tardiness at replying, I’m so grateful to you for continuing to feed back to me, and to read – you’re a treasure 🙂

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      • I’m not sure if I’ll ever tell my T I love him 🙂 Your bravery and your willingness to face the vulnerability are inspirational! I do feel as though Paul and I are beginning to connect and, at times, it does feel a little weird. There is not much I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing, so that must be a good thing. Going back to face him when I wasn’t happy AND talk about the problem HE was causing, was a pivotal moment and Paul made it so easy… for the first time in my life, someone listened to my side without any adverse reactions…pew, just as well because it might have ruined the relationship, but at Dr Gerald says, we need to continue to go back and repair the torn fibres. It still feels a little weird to conduct therapy on the relationship with your T, although I trust it will reap the rewards.
        Thankfully, my Easter break only cuts out group that week… I can live with that 🙂 Paul is on holiday the week after next, but I am okay with that. I use the time to reflect, however, maybe it might feel different this time because I am closer to him…mmm…we’ll see

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  4. I don’t have BPD, but as a dissociator, I really relate especially to Feeling Cut Off – I know the emotions are there, on the other side of a wall, but I can’t feel anything. It’s a horribly uncomfortable feeling, and I’d rather just have the bad feelings, but sometimes, that’s not possible. The other one I relate to is ‘Immense Longing’ – a loneliness so intense, I feel as if everyone on the planet has died, leaving me behind. That hasn’t happened so much to me lately, but it’s very painful to go through when it does.

    Thanks for explaining so clearly about BPD. I like the names you give these states. I mean, I find them helpful.

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    • Thank you so much for your comments, which I really appreciate. I completely agree, I’d rather have the awful feeling itself, then the horrible sense of being cut off from myself. Yes, the longing is definitely very painful – I’ve had a lot of it over the last couple of weeks, and your mention of death struck really me. Part of what really gets to me about the longing is the fact that I long for what I cannot have and the hopelessness of the longing and the fact I can’t change anything, is horrendous – just as longing for someone who has died is futile because nothing will bring them back. I’m glad you found the naming of the states helpful, and thank you again for reading, it’s good to hear from you!

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  5. Reblogged this on Marci, Mental Health, & More and commented:
    She explains emptiness as feeling cut off, lack of identity, craving intensity, immense longing and a feeling of hollowness. I would like to add a lack of direction and purpose as if everything were meaningless and feeling like you don’t know what you want and even if you did it would never come true for you. Great post to read an in depth perspective of the criteria of chronic emptiness.

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    • Thank you so much for the reblog, I’m glad you liked the post! Thank you too for the excellent and very helpful comment. Yes, I completely agree with your addition of lack of direction and purpose as part of what emptiness can mean…thank you again!

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  6. Oh man. Relate to this whole post. I can’t wait to see my psychiatrist to talk about all the things.

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  7. Wow, your post and the one you linked to “Hollow” describe exactly what I feel although I do not think I have BPD – empty. I once described to my therapist that it’s like there’s a needy, black hole void inside of me. Like I’m hollow, an empty shell.

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    • Exactly, and the strange thing is I have only been able to really see it and describe it since I’ve been in therapy, whereas I’m absolutely sure it’s been there for a very long time, but I just never thought of it in that way ….I’m glad the post struck a chord with you, thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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  8. Oh how I have missed your writing! Feverishly devouring all the posts I’ve been missing… hope you are doing well and that we can catch up sometime soon? xxxxx

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    • It’s so good to hear from you – and to read your latest post! 🙂 Thank you for the wonderful words, and yes, I would absolutely love to catch up soon. Do you want to email me when might be good for you? Looking forward to chatting soon xxx

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  9. As I read this, it made me wonder if what BPDs seek is something that none of us really have. I hadn’t thought of this till now. But as I read your post, I thought, do any of us truly have a core? What is that core made of? I have no idea. I’m not BPD but I have family members who are and an ex, and I know I have many of the same feelings you describe but not to the same extreme. But when you talk about a core or identity, I wonder what is inside any of us.

    What would it look like inside a seemingly healthy person? What IS their core? You’re a good writer after all. You express yourself well, something many people can’t do. You probably have other talents, maybe a sense of humor, certain values, particular preferences that define you. But maybe you also change your mind a lot, maybe you haven’t found your “thing.” But most of us haven’t. This isn’t a “you should feel lucky” comment. It’s more of a philosophical question.

    What makes up a core? I have no clue. We are just here. I don’t know that there’s anything to figure out. Sometimes I wonder if we’d all be better off to stop trying. You even ask that question, what if there’s nothing there when I actual get there? But maybe we’re all nothing and everything at the same time. I really don’t think there’s a there, there. So if you get there and find nothing, maybe that’s okay.

    I don’t know if this makes sense.

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    • Hi and thank you so much for your comment and many many apologies it has taken me so long to respond. I tend to want to respond fully to people’s comments because I love interacting with those who read my posts, but as a result, it sometimes does take me a while to be able to respond. I often think I should just approve comments and then reply later, but I find it hard to ‘let myself off the hook’ in that way! I am so very grateful for your thoughts, particularly as a reader without BPD, but who has family members with the diagnosis. I love to connect with others with BPD, but would also love to be able to do more and chat more with those who encounter it in those they love.
      I completely agree (and other non-BPD friends have said the same) that many people with BPD have the same sorts of feelings as those without the diagnosis, but to a much greater extent. I tend to think that the difficulty with BPD is that: on the one hand, we have the same feelings, but much more intensely and to a greater extreme, but if someone tell us our feelings are ‘normal’ in that sense, we risk feeling invalidated; but on the other hand, some aspects of BPD lead to us having a world-view that is diametrically opposed to that of other people, and in those cases we risk feeling completely misunderstood. For example, having a world-view that assumes by default that one is not understood, valued, wanted or cared for, unless there is proof otherwise.
      I agree that the nature and form of this thing we call ‘I’ is a major and centuries-long debated philosophical question! 🙂 And for many people, there is indeed no such entity. This ‘I’ is simply a kind of illusion that is so much more than the sum of its parts – but there is no one thing that forms our core. And yes, it is very tempting to think that there is no question here to figure out. I am a big fan of Wittgenstein, who thought that philosophy wasn’t about finding answers to perplexing questions, but about showing why certain questions were nonsense, or showing why we found them perplexing (generally because ‘language’ was misleading us into thinking about something in the wrong way, and comparing apples with pears, as it were). We all know what we mean when we talk about ‘I’ – perhaps the idea of a ‘core’ and an internal object is simply a false one, drawn by comparison with the external world, where everything is discrete. I think I tend to take a similar approach with free will – if I feel that I have it, then I do, and that is all that it consists of.
      I wonder if talk about a ‘core’ and about ‘identity’ is about something else – not about something ‘hidden inside’ but something about experience and about how I relate to the world, and how I see myself in it. If I feel I don’t know who I am, perhaps what I’m saying is not that I cannot describe one set of qualities that together make up ‘me’; but that I do not have a sense of what I like or don’t like; that I’m not quite sure what is important to me or what I believe; that I don’t feel I have a consistent and enduring sense of myself or others; that I may not know what I want but that doesn’t feel ok or like a feature of me, it feels like a gap and a hole in my fabric…..
      Sorry, this is all getting even more philosophical and I’m definitely feeling like I’m not making much sense now!
      Thank you so much for your comment and for starting off this train of thought – do keep in touch!

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  10. Pingback: Never enough? BPD and the need for connection | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

  11. The “craving intensity” portion hit home to me so deeply. I have never read or heard anyone describe that before and yet it’s something that is a huge part of my personality. I too refuse medication for fear of becoming someone who doesn’t feel much. I need to feel, to feel a lot or I am nothing. I have not been diagnosed as bpd but firmly believe that I am. I’ve always known I was somehow different from others, less emotionally able to face the world and didn’t discover bpd till my late 20s I believe.

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  12. Hi, I just posted a blog on how I experience emptiness and then I came across your beautifully written post. For me it is like being in a desert, sometimes I liken it to being injured in a desert because I feel in pain and all alone. For me being empty isn´t being without emotion it is being alone with sadness, rejection, abandonment. I loved reading your blog and can´t wait to read some more

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    • Thank you so much for reading, and for your comment, and it’s good to ‘meet’ you! I read your great post, and I’m so sorry you have this experience too – I can really relate to those feelings of sadness and rejection. I like the desert analogy – I have always tended to think in terms of a bottomless pit, but your image has made me think it’s also like an unquenchable thirst…thank you for this way of thinking of things!

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      • Thank you for helping me see my thoughts can actually help others. I used to just think of it as shadows entering, then one day I just felt literally like i was in a desert and writing the analogy helped me make sense of not only that, but all the other states of mind I experience. Sometimes I feel like I am at the bottom of a mountai, others I feel I am climbing to great heights. Sometimes I feel I am just drowning. It all changes so quickly. Thanks for your kind words about my blog

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  13. I can definitely relate to the unquenchable craving for intensity, and the feeling you mentioned of being cut off from emotions just reinforces this craving. At ‘baseline’, all my emotional distress is muffled and unreachable, as if I can sense its presence but not its actual content. But I know it’s there, which is scary and unpredictable, so there’s a nagging desire to disclose my inner life in the hope of being understood. Then I start to think 1) what words would I even use?; 2) even if I found the right words, it’s not like they’d understand; 3) since I’m not actively feeling the distress yet, I shouldn’t tell anyone about it, because we all know what happened to the boy who cried wolf; and the one felt most intently, 4) I shouldn’t smear my pain on others. So I don’t say anything to anyone.

    Now I’m just waiting for the next catastrophe to happen — an unpleasant conversation, a poor grade, a breakup — so that all the anger/guilt/shame will actually flare. Finally, my frustration about the muffled, unreachable distress is satisfied; now it’s clearly heard, very reachable. And it’s extremely painful, but also extremely intoxicating. Because suddenly, I don’t care about smearing my pain on others anymore. I just want it gone, and in this hypo-hypomanic state, I’m miraculously able to find the words for it. Best case scenario: some unlucky acquaintance gets to hear my thoughts and respond with concerned bemusement, I get to “flush the toilet” so to speak. Worst case scenario: I threaten suicide, test relationships, abuse others’ goodwill, maybe lose a significant other or two. Slowly, over the next few days, then I float back down to baseline. And the cycle starts all over again.

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  14. Hadn’t felt this way in a long while,but today I do. It started by more frequent infatuations with my escorting clients. As I asked myself why, I realized that it’s because of a hidden need of love, since my family could not provide that. This realization is painful, and the only coping method I can think of is continuing my routine, practicing self love and accepting the childhood losses. I won’t make the mistake of my younger years of trying to find love from others. Nowadays it’s incredibly difficult to find true friendship or love. Id end up in worse shape than now. I have to be independent and strong, I do have that in me.

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  15. Pingback: BPD Symptome erklärt | N°7 - Traveling | the | Borderline

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