Splitting in BPD (Or: A Guide To Loving Me When I Hate Your Guts)

Allow me to define “splitting”. It’s a behaviour often found in individuals with BPD, characterised by suddenly and intensely wanting or needing to detach from someone to whom you were previously attached. I can only compare it to those mad thoughts you have about going to live in some nearby woods when you’re 14 and arguing with your mum about your school uniform, but amplified to be inescapable, all of that adolescent rage attached to it alongside fear, hurt, revulsion, heartbreak and every other feeling you could attribute to a trauma response. It’s the brain’s way of protecting you from more unhealthy attachments, so it happens in response to a stimulus of some sort – but one of the cornerstones of BPD is hypersensitivity, so the stimulus that prompts us to split might not actually be as dangerous as it feels. Whether it’s a punch to the face or an ignored text message, it feels intensely dangerous, so much so that my brain then takes action, working to replace any fondness with anger or fear by creatively reinterpreting real-world evidence until it fits with the all-or-nothing, “this person is dead to me” narrative.

The first thing that you need to know about splitting is that it hurts me more than it hurts you. You will probably feel wounded, rejected, anxious, frustrated, and it will suck, but I am also having all of those emotions in BPD form, i.e. with the intensity of a thousand suns. I don’t just put you out of my mind entirely when I split on you; I agonise over it. My thumb hovers over block buttons until the muscles in my hand cramp whilst I try to weigh up how reasonable I’m being. I type and delete messages I will never send about what’s hurting me and what I need. Sometimes, I act like a dick, and I know as I’m doing it that I’m being dickish, but it feels like the only safe thing to do. My deep, reptile-brain impulse is to destroy the relationship beyond repair so that there’s never any danger of more hurt, and I spend hours with my stomach in knots, arguing with myself about how I can’t have normal human relationships and how selfish moving to the woods might actually be. I can identify when I’m splitting (though I couldn’t as a furious 14-year-old) but I don’t split for no reason. I can’t automatically reconnect with reality when my brain is twisting things, blowing them out of proportion and shoving them through traumatised lenses, but I can try and conduct myself in a way that Connected-to-Reality Morgan won’t deeply regret. This mostly involves distancing myself, not in any embarrassing noticeable ways like hitting that block button but just reaching out less, trying not to give my BPD any new ammo with which it can maintain the split. At this point, frustrating though it is, all you can do is leave me to my space and my thoughts. 

This brings me onto the second thing you need to know about splitting: unsplitting is hard work. Fighting my impulse to run is hard enough, but unsplitting requires you to walk directly towards the scary thing. There’s a principle in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) called “Opposite Action”, where you identify an irrational feeling or impulse and you act in the exact opposite way that your impulse wants you to. In splitting, for me, this looks like sending a message after a long period of quiet, trying to make plans or being openly affectionate towards you again. They are small acts that are too terrifying to commit whilst sober a lot of the time, so Stoned or Drunk Morgan picks up the slack while their fear and hurt are somewhat numbed. This opposite action can only happen, though, once I’ve identified why I’m splitting and whether this person is actually dangerous. The obvious piece of advice here, then, is to continually prove through your actions that you are not a danger to me. The other piece of advice I would like to give is that if you think I’m doing Opposite Action, or if I’ve been quiet for a while, or in general if you don’t know where you stand with me, just respond with enthusiasm. Make it clear that you’re glad to hear from me. Essentially, reward me for doing the hard scary thing, and leave the ball in my court when it comes to beginning a discussion about the splitting itself, because I’m probably too scared for that in this early stage of unsplitting.

Here is the third thing about splitting: it’s not about you. It’s really, really not. My brain, with its rigid little boxes, has tried to file you in the same cabinet as some other people who did some other things. If you get busy and don’t respond to my inane messages about memes and movies, my brain tries to put you into a cabinet with other people who stopped messaging me abruptly, which includes people who did that exact thing in order to manipulate me. If you said something on a rainy Monday morning which came off as irritable, my brain tries to put you into the same filing cabinet as the man who shoved me towards the top of the staircase when I was 15, because in that situation, irritability preceded abuse. Those filing cabinets are alarmed, and they were like that before your files showed up. I’m really stretching the filing metaphor here, but I want you to know that the majority of the time, a split is a function of my brain, not of our relationship – it’s usually only minimally connected to your behaviour, and has much more to do with the behaviour of cunts you’ve never even met. All I can say is try – and I know it’s fucking hard – not to take it personally when my brain links you to evil bastards and floods me with fear. If you do take it personally, mid-split or mid-unsplit is maybe not the most constructive time to ask me for reassurance, but if you understand splitting (due to blog posts like these), you have the opportunity and the vocabulary to talk to other loved ones about what’s going on with us, so you can at least process it a little before you and I start to discuss it.

The fourth thing, for everyone to know about splitting, is: it passes. It’s hard work, and sometimes it’s not worth it. I split on celebrities after one transphobic joke and I don’t care enough about them to work through all my DBT techniques in order to forgive them and move on. I split on people who, with distance, I end up seeing are legitimately dangerous. But I also split on people who are patient and loving towards me, who accept that sometimes I need space and sometimes I need attention and sometimes I need help figuring out which one I need. I split on people who are beloved by my support network and said support network helps me to unsplit, safe in the knowledge that this time, it’s definitely just my BPD and not a real threat to my wellbeing. I split on people regularly, in smaller ways and bigger ones, but I conquer it when I realise it’s worth conquering. My brain has this extremely strong mechanism by which to keep me safe, but I’m stronger even than that, because I have learned and am learning how to shut the filing cabinets and say hi. The fact that people with BPD have relationships like the ones I now have, characterised by love and mutual support and trust, is a testament to the ferocity with which we fight, every day, to be good people despite our pain. And again, let me reiterate, splitting is painful, but us people with BPD know that, and knowingly take on that risk when they form and keep relationships, every single day. Therefore, my final piece of advice is to remember that people with BPD are working hard to stay in your life, on purpose, every day, because we have decided that you’re worth it. Remember that we’re people, and we’re often great people, and for that reason alone we’re worth the hard work, too.

A Sex-Repulsed Sex Blogger

Morgan’s vulva with an “out of order” sticker super-imposed upon it

Content note: this post refers to both self-harm and sexual abuse, but doesn’t go into excruciating detail about either, and of course deals with being sex-repulsed as a result of sexual trauma. If that’s gonna be hard for you, give today’s post a miss – as always, your wellbeing comes first! 💙


I don’t exactly keep it a secret that I’ve experienced sexual abuse. There’s no shame in having been subjected to that, and I try to be vocal about the importance of consent and the devastating effects its absence can have. I talk about struggling to masturbate and about PTSD symptoms like anxiety, hypervigilance and self-hatred, both on and offline. But one thing I feel vulnerable and frightened to post about is the sex repulsion that so often accompanies sexual abuse.

Among my friends, I am the sex nerd. I am known for loving sex – having it, learning about it, celebrating its importance and beauty. I started a sex blog because I love to think about and write about sex. The fact that I sometimes experience severe sex repulsion is not exactly in line with this branding; even though “sex-positive” and “sex-repulsed” don’t have to be mutually exclusive, it feels incongruent and, frankly, embarrassing. My personal branding aside, I’m a human adult in 2021 and to admit that there are times I find even hints of sexual activity decidedly icky kind of makes me cringe. I’m also worried about lending credence to the perception of all promiscuous people as traumatised individuals who secretly hate sex, and themselves for having it, because there are people who have a lot of sex simply because they really like it. Typically, I am one of those people.

Except when I’m not.

There is nothing about experiencing trauma-related sex repulsion that makes you less sex positive. Our brains are great at finding and remembering patterns; the traumatised brain will link various sensory experiences to memories of abuse, so that the same suffering can be avoided in the future. Fear of, or being grossed out by, sex in response to trauma is common and it’s your brain trying to keep you safe, regardless of your values regarding sexual freedom that exist separately from all that. Going through this doesn’t mean you’re weak and it doesn’t mean you’re permanently doomed to be afraid of sex, either; time as well as counselling and other mental health support can help you to tackle that, if it’s something you’d like to work on. With work, you can decouple the sensory experiences of sex from the abject terror and ickiness associated with your trauma, so you can return to enjoying sex (when and if you want to). I know all of this, and I say it to you compassionately, but I struggle to believe it when I say it to myself.

It sneaks up on me. I find my interest in sex education-y content waning, but chalk it up to unusually-limited processing power, and wanting to “save that for when I’ll actually absorb the information”. When my fiancée, who I live with, suggests sex or kink things, I end up giving her a thousand reasons why “not tonight” – I’m tired, my joints hurt, I just ate and my stomach is still full, anything that makes it clear it’s nothing to do with her or my attraction to her. I kind of convince myself that the reason I give her is the only reason, because I don’t want to dig into why sex and kink seem unappealing. I ignore porn on my Twitter timeline and assume it’s because, you know, there’s a lot of porn around and I’m looking for news. Eventually, though, I run out of excuses, or get tired of making them, and I acknowledge that I am experiencing a problem. It becomes apparent that the thought of sex makes me increasingly anxious, and that my own arousal in particular triggers a desire to just turn inside out, escape my own body somehow. Trying to engage with sex and kink when I’m in this state is likely to give rise to thoughts of self-harm, and/or dissociation. And then I have to ask myself: do I care?

Once I’m sufficiently sex-repulsed, usually through a refusal to address whatever is triggering me, sex is scary and gross on an animal level, and it takes effort to walk my brain back to a state of neutrality around it. I realised recently that one of the reasons I typically immerse myself in sex ed materials and kinky communities is so that I can’t reach the level of disconnect I’m currently at, and can instead maintain near-constant contact with the bit of my brain that actually likes and is not scared of sex. Once I’m this far out to sea, though, I’m well aware of how much effort it will take me to swim back, and I’m too disconnected from the liking-sex part of me to actually want to put that effort in, because I can only understand on the most abstract of levels that I will enjoy sex again, but that the longer I wait the harder it is. The more often I’m triggered by sex or kink things, the more closely my brain links sex and suffering, as is always the case with encountering triggers outside of a very purposeful interaction with them. It’s therefore necessary for me to find ways to encounter sex/kink things without spending the whole interaction in fight/flight/freeze/fawn mode, if I can actually find the motivation to arrange those encounters.

So what now? Well, tonight I’m going to a very familiar kink event populated by very familiar people, with the option of hiding or leaving if needs be. Things which are specifically sex-related are really challenging for me to engage with, but the biggest challenge is engaging with my own arousal, so I think a good first step for me is to engage with educational media rather than strictly erotic media. Hopefully, the familiar educators whose content I follow will reassure my brain that sex is not a faraway scary thing, but a familiar and safe part of my life. From there, I also have to, at some point, try to actually do sex things with my actual body. I can’t even contemplate having solo sex yet, so I imagine I’ll end up doing some kink things with my fiancée that maybe do or maybe don’t escalate into sex-and-kink things, since she is also very familiar and safe-feeling. Eventually I’ll be back up to my neck in sex ed stuff, kink plans and orgasms, but I am going to try and take it slowly to avoid reinforcing the stress response.

Wish me luck!

Am I A Victim Or A Survivor?

Note: this blog post discusses, but doesn’t go into detail about, trauma resulting from being the victim and/or survivor of abuse. If that’s tricky for you, ignore this blog post but watch my Twitter for other, sexier posts in the future!


Originally, this blog post was going to be one word long, and that single word was going to be “yes”. But that seemed a tad bit brief for a blog post, so I thought I’d go into a little more detail.

Y’all know I dislike binaries. The victim/survivor binary might not look so much like a binary, but it is one, because it’s a pair of uncomfortable, mutually exclusive boxes, neither of which I can cram my traumatised little self into – and I’m sure that’s the case for other people, too.

A lot of people who have survived things want to call themselves survivors, and I personally have very little interest in policing the language that individuals use to describe their experiences of the world. I also understand the impulse to reframe trauma so that instead of being something that happened to you, it’s something you actively engaged with and survived. That puts you in more control of the world around you, and highlights how vicious of a fight it can be to make it through trauma alive. I get it.

What I don’t get is the insistence that survivors of trauma are only that, and not also victims of it. People shy away from the word “victim” as though it’s contagious, and I know that they’re trying not to step on the autonomy of already-traumatised individuals by using language they disprefer or by implying that they simply passively endured their trauma. The problem comes when someone wants to describe themselves as a victim and then they’re contradicted by people who think that the word “victim” is disempowering.

Listen, for other people, I’m sure it is disempowering, and it’s not the word I default to for referring to every individual survivor (I usually tend to refer to them with their names). But for me, personally, it’s not disempowering. It feels accurate. I don’t feel like I passively endured my trauma – I feel like I fought with it, and I do feel like I survived – but I do feel like I have been a victim. I have been intentionally selected from a world full of people by abusers looking for the easiest target within arms’ reach. I have been victimised repeatedly, assigned the experience of the victim by people who had more power than me to decide our roles. For me, the word “victim” is helpful.

The thing is, I survived my trauma, sure. I fought against it wherever I had the strength. But I also survived by doing things I’m not proud of, lying and screaming and hiding, and through unique combinations of privilege and sheer luck. There are plenty of people who wouldn’t have survived my trauma, and that’s no fault of their own. I don’t want to imply that I’m stronger than people who die at the hands of their abusers by celebrating my feat of survival. I do want to celebrate my survival, don’t get me wrong, but that usually involves a sarcastic toast to people who’ve wanted me dead every birthday and graduation, rather than any particular label I give myself.

The other thing that gets under my skin about victim discourse is the notion of “playing the victim”. This is a sort of vague and nebulous concept that seems to be applied at random to people who are having a whine, people who are rebelling against legitimate injustice, people who are disagreeing with you, etc., etc. Someone who is “playing the victim” is implied to be illegitimately casting themselves in the role of victim when in fact they are the antagonist, but it’s a very convenient trio of words to apply to someone you are in the process of abusing. The way that “playing the victim” gets thrown around creates an even more hostile environment for people recovering from trauma to discuss their experiences, because we already do enough second-guessing ourselves about who the true aggressor was (hint: it wasn’t the traumatised person) and we already convince ourselves that our feelings of hurt, mistrust, fear, injustice, anger, grief, etc., are a melodramatic response to a situation in which we weren’t really the victim.

“Victim” is a helpful word for me because it helps me to understand my role as someone who was victimised, who was harmed by inescapable power dynamics and choices made by human beings. “Survivor” is a helpful word for me because it reminds me that I fought, that I didn’t just allow my trauma to happen to me but that I actively survived the process of victimisation. I think we need both words! I just also think that if you ever correct someone’s self-description from “victim” to “survivor”, you’re being a dick, because while both of those words can be accurate, it’s polite to use the one that a person actually supplies to you – kinda like pronouns, and names, and most other principles of addressing or referring to someone politely. 

(That’s pretty much the only politeness rule I know, on account of being an autistic gremlin with little interest in social niceties but some interest in communicating compassionately and effectively with other humans. Just… believe people when they tell you who they are.)