My First Tattoo


So this happened yesterday.

I’ve been considering getting one for close to a year now, and I guess recent events coupled with BPD impulsivity made me think, what the hell, I’m going to do it. I’ve been so desperate for change these days, and most of all, for control.

I know most of my problems arise from my simple desire for permanence in an impermanent world. I want to know that the Boyfriend will love me forever and never leave me, that his feelings for me will be as constant as the daily rising of the sun. This lack of certainty leaves me terrified every day… and I don’t want to be terrified. I never asked for this. I never asked for my brain to be this way.

Part of committing to recovery in BPD is giving up the idea of trying to control the people I love. To give them the space to live their own life, be their own person, instead of attempting to clip their wings so I know they will never fly away from me. I never wanted to be a control freak, but every time I force myself to let things go, it feels like my world is stuck in a never-ending spiral. I can’t control people, I can’t control my brain or my thoughts… what, then, can I do to make things better?

I guess this was an attempt at making myself feel marginally more in control. A fuck you to the universe, of sorts.

I wanted an incorporation of a wave and a semicolon, two things undeniably meaningful to me.

wave is one of the most common metaphors that pop up in dealing with BPD. The analogy goes: emotions are like waves — they come and go, ebb and flow. Sometimes the tides are high; sometimes they’re low. They’re out of my control, yes, but that’s the way they should be. And they change, all the time. Just because I am drowning now doesn’t mean I will drown forever. The tides will recede. I will breathe again.

A semicolon because of what The Semicolon Project means (here is a great post written on it): “A semi-colon is a place in a sentence where the author has the decision to stop with a period, but chooses not to. A semi-colon is a reminder to pause and then keep going. I got this tattoo as a promise to myself that I would never willingly end my sentence. I got it as a reminder to take this summer as a pause, and then to keep going strong next year.”

A sentence — I thought of the double meaning behind that. BPD is a life sentence, of sorts. There are so, so many days that exhaust me more than I know how to put into words. But there are also days I am okay with accepting that. I wanted the semicolon as a reminder to myself, when times get tough, that those days exist.

And most importantly, the pause. I wanted to remind myself that when I am exhausted, it is sometimes okay to pause, and that taking the time to pause doesn’t mean I am a failure, or that I am not trying hard enough. That it is okay to rest. That I deserve to rest, when I need it.

I chose to incorporate both of them together because it felt more personalized (I haven’t come across anyone with this design), and also because it felt fitting that the semicolon ‘broke’ the wave, of sorts. “In fluid dynamics, a breaking wave is a wave whose amplitude reaches a critical level at which some process can suddenly start to occur that causes large amounts of wave energy to be transformed into turbulent kinetic energy.”

I break, all the time — I spill, and plunge, and collapse, and surge. But I am doing something. I am moving forward, I am transforming, and most importantly? I’m alive.

3 years later

Tonight I came across something I’d typed up all the way back in 2013, pre-diagnosis:

Here is my confession: I am an addict. I am seventeen again, lit on fire from the inside. Punch-drunk. Giddy. There is more of you running through my veins than blood. I shatter a little whenever you disappear on me.

This is stupid. I don’t want to be seventeen again. Seventeen is vulnerability, fragility. Seventeen is sinking underwater, lost at sea. This is stupid. But what can I say? I’ve always had foolishness written along my very bones.

I don’t want to be in love with you. I think too much and you think too little, and maybe that’s why I always wind up being the broken one. I feel too much. I take one step into a river and it turns abruptly into an ocean. I don’t so much fall in love as plunge headfirst into it. My thoughts skitter. I want to find the switch that can shut my brain off. There is a little voice in my head saying I told you so, I told you so. I always knew you’d be my undoing. I think too much I feel too much I miss you. Clock ticks, clock breaks. My thoughts are running wild — I can picture them, scattering across a great African plain. I am strung out. I am a knot you unravel carelessly. I am waiting for something that doesn’t come. This is stupid. I was never lonely before I met you. What am I waiting for?

I see the ghost of you everywhere. It was stupid of me to ever consider the possibility of getting away from you, I see that now. You are the kind of boy people write songs about, the kind that comes into your life just to rewrite everything you thought you knew. To draw a simple line separating before and after. Before you. After you. Nothing else really matters. Nobody else really matters. Nobody else will come close.

I am turning into someone I don’t like. I am an empty house. I wouldn’t love me, either; I really don’t know why I would expect anyone else to. Too broken. Too needy, desperate; too goddamn clingy. I have no in between, no neutrality. I feel all or nothing. I feel everything. Neediness — so unattractive. I scowl at myself in the mirror. Stop it. I take refuge behind my armor of sharp, cool words. I play the part of an ice-cold bitch: act like it long enough, and you can become it. I lock my vulnerability up, wish away the key. I do not need you. I do not want you. I set fire to the bridge and watch it burn.

Swallow. I am a house of cards. Smile. I can pretend. How long will it take before you figure out that there is a hole inside of me? I run from good things in my life. I destroy them before they can destroy me. Nothing gold can stay. Nothing good can stay. I am leaving before I can be left. How long will it take before you figure that out? How long will it take before you leave?

It’s strange, checking all the boxes: the all-or-nothing, the clinginess, the sickening feeling of being empty, the self-hatred, the obsession with being left. All signs that had been laid out in front of me right from the very beginning, before I’d managed to see them clearly.

It does feel a little fatalistic, though. That 3 years on, I can picture myself writing the exact same thing. Scratch that, I am still constantly writing similar things. I haven’t changed that much, I guess.

Still, on the bright side — I did get away from him. And I found someone else who, thankfully, doesn’t come close. I suppose that’s a nice reminder that feelings are not always facts.

How My Boyfriend Teaches Me to Be Kind to Myself

The notion of being kind to ourselves is a concept most borderlines find foreign. So many of us have internalized the harsh, critical voices of our parents; the little voice in the back of my mind is often my mother’s, pointing out my mistakes, telling me I am being unreasonable or weak or overemotional.

Part of this, I believe, stems ironically from our fear of abandonment. We figure, if we’re perfect, then the people will love will want us and love us and stay with us forever. Whenever we slip up, that part of ourselves (the ‘manage-atrix’, as Kiera Van Gelder called it in The Buddha and the Borderline) berates us harshly because it is scared, as well. The manage-atrix is convinced that perfection can fend off abandonment. And so whenever we prove to be imperfect, it lashes out.

How do you be kind to yourself when there’s a very large part of you that thinks, first of all, that you don’t deserve to be treated kindly? Logically, I realize that this is a silly opinion to have — everyone deserves to be treated kindly. But emotionally, I find myself obsessing over the times I’ve ever been unkind, and I become convinced that someone so selfish, so self-centred doesn’t deserve kindness.

Second of all, the manage-atrix dislikes self-love. Being kind to yourself, it figures, means being careless. It means forgiving yourself for mistakes, which is unacceptable to the manage-atrix because it thinks that punishment is the best way to prevent slip-ups from being repeated again. The manage-atrix’s line of thought is this: if you’re kind to yourself, you will wind up letting yourself deteriorate, and obviously nobody will want you and you’ll be abandoned.

Last, but perhaps the most important of all… how do you be kind to yourself when you have absolutely no idea how to go about doing that? I’ve lived like this for so long that I have no clue how it works any other way.

This, I guess, is where the Boyfriend comes in.

Some time back the Boyfriend and I had a fight. It was one of those ‘perfect storm’ arguments — an awful combination of things that lit the powder barrel, so to speak.

What happened was that when I was over at his place, I saw him reply one of his friends on his phone. This was a friend that I disliked, mostly because I felt that she behaved a little too indiscriminately, being all touchy-feely with the Boyfriend even in front of me.

I didn’t snap immediately. What I did was pout and ask, in a somewhat whiny tone, why he was talking to her. He, on the other hand, saw through my passive-aggressiveness (ha) and reacted defensively.

“What’s wrong with me doing that?” He asked.

What’s wrong?

Of course, I rationally and logically knew there was nothing wrong with him doing what he did. It was perfectly reasonable for him to talk to his friend (maybe a little insensitive to do it while he was spending time with me, but eh)… and deep down, I knew that.

But if he wasn’t in the wrong, then why was I still upset? If I was upset about him doing something perfectly alright, then wouldn’t that make me the one in the wrong? Predictably, this train of thought pulled into its station with me falling apart and sobbing, desperately asking him if I was crazy for blowing things out of proportion.

And he ended up responding in the kindest way possible.

“You’re not crazy,” he said gently but firmly. “You’re just scared.”


My first instinct was to harshly label and berate myself. The Boyfriend’s, instead, was to perceive my actions in the kindest, gentlest, most loving way.

Once, I asked him what kind of person he thought I was.

This is what he said: “Your actions are just, at its core, a bid for and reassurance for love. You’re most generally easygoing and happy to spend time doing whatever it is someone else chooses to do. Yet this easygoingness extends itself sometimes to a fault where whatever it is I choose or want to do upsets you, but you’re actually upset at the very fact of your contention. In other words, you’re so easygoing that you get displeased when you’re not as easygoing as you’d like to be.”

I was honestly surprised that that was the way he saw me. What he saw as ‘a bid for and reassurance for love’, I saw as ‘clingy’, ‘needy’, ‘demanding’ and ‘annoying’. Instead of focusing on my overreactions, my anger or my demands, he saw through all of it and recognized my core driving forces: fear and desire for love. He even spotted something I hadn’t even noticed — my pained confusion whenever my actual behavior detracted from what I longed to be.

There are always two sides to everything. I always pick the worst one to look at. He, on the other hand, always picks the best.

He doesn’t give in to my (unreasonable) demands, but even as he stands his ground, he still chooses to look at me with love.

I wish I had his eyes. I wish I knew how to refrain from acting on my impulses, yet still be kind towards myself for having those impulses in the first place. For now, I must learn to look through his.

Want or Need?

“Don’t get me wrong. I know that you want me. Or at least, I think I do.” (Because, of course, no borderline conversation comes without a qualification, an escape route, an allowance for departure)

There was a beat of silence, punctuated mostly only by my own short gasps for breath in between sobs.

“I just,” I said, voice hitching. “I don’t think you really need me.”

“And is that really so bad?” He asked. “Isn’t that better? To know that someone has other choices, but they still choose you anyway?”

I thought about it. Turned the question over in my head. “I guess,” I admitted. “I don’t know.”

The answer, I think, comes typically Borderline: I want both, or I want none of it.

A relationship with want but without need keeps my fear of abandonment alarms on a constant standby. I hear it in every trickle of laughter he breaks into when I’m not around, in every text he sends that isn’t directed to me: he doesn’t need you, he doesn’t need you, he can leave you at any moment.

And why is that scary?

Maybe because I don’t believe anyone would want me. Not for long, anyway. Even before the BPD diagnosis I was well aware of the fact that I was clingy and needy and insecure — traits so unattractive that no amount of my looks or wit or sense of humor could ever hope to compensate for. Post-diagnosis, I’ve been made even more well aware that I am disordered and flawed and there are hundreds of articles out there screaming for the Boyfriend to cut and run before I destroy his life.

Even if I don’t do anything quite as dramatic as ruining his entire life, I suppose I crack it in small little ways. He has to participate in innumerable fights and disagreements with me, has to tolerate my rage/sadness/helplessness over the smallest of things, has to constantly clothe himself in patience and kindness and forbearance.

Don’t you think, possibly, that’s why we borderlines idealize our loved ones? Subconsciously we figure, only a perfect person could love us for who we are. Only a saint could willingly spend their lives with us. And if our partner isn’t perfect, isn’t a saint, surely it’s only a matter of time before they realize they can’t stand it anymore and leave.

Because I figure he won’t want me forever, a part of me wants the assurance that he will still need me enough to stick around.

And sure, maybe that’s straightforward enough.

But there is another part of me that resists this. Need, without want, suggests that I am not loved, not desired, not hoped for. That I am a burden — worthless, unlovable, awful. All things that I do not ever want to associate with who I am.

Both, or none of it.

Yet, ironically, it is my own confirmation biases getting in the way of allowing myself to receive anything. I refuse to recognize that I am wanted; I decide the other person must be deluded, or that it will never last. I am scared to acknowledge that I am needed because I am afraid of being nothing but an obligation.

And if I keep this up, I guess I will end up with nothing.