One of the major issues surrounding pwBPD and the way we love is how quickly it can shift in an instant. Everything is judged as it is in that very moment; a loved one, in that sense, cannot hope to ‘collect’ good moments for a rainy day. A storm is a storm. No amount of sunny days can change that.
Love, like so many things, is taught. What my mother taught me was that love needed, in some sense, to be earned. And even then, it could be lost in a heartbeat.
I don’t think my mother suffers from BPD (or any other mental illness, for that matter). She doesn’t seem to suffer from narcissism or fear of abandonment issues. However, she does show a great deal of emotional lability—displayed most often in rage episodes.
Growing up, I never knew what to expect from my mother. How she treated my sister and I was incredibly dependent on her mood of the day. If she’d had a bad day at work, she would come home and take her anger out on us. Nothing we did would be seen as ‘right’ in her eyes, and we often got thrown out of the house for misbehaving. (She has mellowed out with age, although her weapon of choice these days is to engage in a cold war and refuse to speak to me until I apologize.)
My mother told me that no love was unconditional, even hers.
I don’t think I will ever forget that.
The other day, I was standing in line with the Boyfriend. He had his hands full, and he wanted me to help him secure the clasp on his bag. I fumbled at it, and he let out a tsk of annoyance. In response, I literally flinched and took a step back. I thought, “He hates me! I’m such a failure that I can’t even do one thing right, and now he hates me!”
What nons like to do is turn the question back on us. They ask, “Why would you think that? Would you hate me if I did the same thing to you?” They figure that the way we view someone else’s reactions speaks volumes about the way we would react ourselves.
It’s a chicken or egg question. I learned that how my mother treated me on a daily basis was dependent on her moods, and that I had no control over it (expect try my best to keep out of her way). When you factor in BPD hypersensitivity into the equation, I’m guessing that my younger self, did, in fact, view her as ‘hating’ me whenever she yelled at or punished me. I don’t think she did actually hate me (she is my mother, after all) — but it’s how I saw it. And it’s something I’ve internalized, and so it’s shaped the way I view the world.
Do I hate the Boyfriend whenever he does something I don’t like? Do I stop loving him?
It’s a question I’ve given a lot of careful thought to, but I think I would say: No.
I would think it’s logically impossible to be able to turn your feelings for someone on and off so rapidly. I don’t think we immediately throw away all the love we have for you at the drop of a hat, and pick it up equally easily.
Ultimately, it isn’t so much that any feelings or love for him evaporate into thin air. It’s more of the fact that when I’m triggered, my emotions are so loud and intense and distracting that they sweep over everything else. You know when it’s raining so hard you can barely see what’s in front of you? Or when it’s a snowstorm so strong that you can’t even see the ground? That’s what it feels like. The ground still exists; it’s just that I temporarily can’t see it. The love is still there. It’s simply that my feelings are so overpowering in that moment that I can’t get a hold on it just yet.
I don’t know how it feels like to be the other end. But all I can say is that we still love you, somewhere in the back of our minds. The agony is just so acute that we have no emotional space for that love to stand its ground, and so it gets shoved in a dusty corner out of sight.
All storms end eventually. You just need to decide if the rainbow is worth the wait.