Following this post, the therapist and I talked about my relationship ideals and how dysfunctional they were.
Basically, my ideal relationship was one of enmeshment. I desired an enmeshed relationship because of my codependency — I needed to be intertwined with another human being in order to try and fulfil my needs and stave my sense of insecurity.
Where, then, did the codependency come from? There are a couple of reasons, and they’re all extremely interlinked, so I apologize in advance for how convoluted and confusing this may all sound.
I should also clarify that these are all things that I’ve become self-aware of after so many months of introspection and after reading many, many articles and posts by other people with BPD. These are not things that borderlines do consciously; we are largely driven by emotional cues and knee-jerk responses. These are fears and desires that work subconsciously in driving us to unhealthiness, or even at times, abusiveness.
Need to be Needed
As opposed to healthy dependency (defined here as interdependence), the codependent individual in such a relationship needs to be needed if they’re to feel okay about themselves. They simply can’t feel this way unless they’re giving themselves up, or “sacrificing,” themselves, for their partner. Sadly, without being depended upon (sometimes, virtually as a lifeline), they feel alone, inadequate, insecure, and unworthy. (x)
The thing about codependency as I experience it is that it’s not so much about wanting to have power and control over another person just for the fun of it. I don’t actually desire to be some evil overlord running the Boyfriend’s life; in fact, I’m often a pretty indecisive, submissive blob instead of a high-powered megalomaniac.
My control issues only flare up when I get the sense that I’m not needed. As sad and pathetic as it sounds… the truth is that all I want is to be needed.
a) Addiction and Dependency (+ Fear of Abandonment)
What I want is to be needed. What I need is to be indispensable to somebody. Who I need is somebody that will eat up all my free time, my ego, my attention. Somebody addicted to me. A mutual addiction. — Chuck Palahniuk
Simply put, I’m addicted to love and all its intensity because without it, I would be nothing. Emptiness, or ‘the void’ as it’s commonly termed, is such a huge part of BPD that it’s one of the 9 borderline traits, which is why it comes as no surprise that it’s such a huge motivating factor.
A metaphor I like to use (and have seen many other borderlines use as well) is that of a bucket with a hole in the bottom. The bucket needs to be filled, but the hole causes water to constantly leak out. It’s only when someone I love appears by my side to use his hands to cover up the hole that I feel fulfilled. Yet this requires constant presence; the moment the person leaves, all the water is drained out.
When I’m not around the Boyfriend, I feel… nothing. I’m a numb, hollow shell just watching the world go by and feeling completely empty inside. It’s a dull, black-and-white life as compared to the Technicolored joy I feel when I’m with the Boyfriend. Which is why when I’m in grayscale, I will do whatever is within my means to try and go back to Technicolor; when I’m in Technicolor, I will do anything possible to stay in it. And every time the Boyfriend leaves, I feel as if I’m being kicked out back into dreary reality.
And so the Boyfriend’s presence is my drug. Like an addict, I go through withdrawal when I’m separated from him for a long period of time. Like an addict, I am constantly terrified of losing my supply.
What is the best way to make sure you don’t lose your supply? If your drug is addicted to you as well. Which is probably why I freak the hell out whenever I am reminded of the fact that the Boyfriend, as a (somewhat) normal, healthy human being, isn’t addicted to me. Whenever he wants to hang out with someone else, or doesn’t see the need to be around me all the time, it terrifies me because that means… he can leave me anytime. And what would I do without him? Who would I be without him?
b) Lack of Self-identity and Purpose
I don’t want to live. I want to love first, and live incidentally. — Zelda Fitgzerald
I’ve always gotten a greater sense of security to hear someone say, “You’re mine,” as compared to, “I’m yours.” The truth is, I want to belong to someone. What need do I have for myself? Or maybe the greater question is, who am I if I am not someone else’s?
An unstable sense of self is yet another borderline trait, and it ties in here as well. Maybe it’s because I’m still in college, in a course I hate, and I’ve yet to step into the working world and start making something of myself… but as of now I basically see no other purpose in life apart from loving and being loved.
Somewhat related to the emptiness is the notion that I am nothing without being defined by someone else. I feel like a ghost that has to draw on someone’s life force in order to materialize.
The Velveteen Rabbit is something I’ve seen many borderlines quote, and it’s not difficult to see why:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Wasn’t I Real before?” asked the little Rabbit.
“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one.”
Like most people, I guess, I want to be Real. And when I’m around the Boyfriend or I can be certain in his love for me, I feel Real. I am Real when I am loved and needed.
The trouble is that the feelings of being Real don’t last, because I am only Real to the Boy. I am nothing and unreal when I am not with him.
The way I’ve always gone about that is to constantly find ways to feel the Boyfriend’s presence in order for me to feel Real. But I’m learning that that isn’t a long-term solution.
Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I must one day become Real to every one. I must become Real even when I am all alone, without love or another human being as a crutch.
“But once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.
And like the Rabbit, I wish I could become Real without having to go through all this constant fumbling. But I guess that’s not how becoming Real works.