Borderline Personality Disorder and Relationships

Image is a selfie of Morgan, a white blue-haired nonbinary person with multiple facial piercings, who appears to have been crying very recently: their nose is pink, their face is damp and their mouth is sort of pulled off to one side because they are too sad to smile. They're holding two fingers up to the camera in the peace sign and their face is framed by the fluffy hood of their coat.

I’m going to have to start this post with a disclaimer. I was referred to a psychiatrist for an assessment as to whether I had BPD in 2017, and their conclusion was that I had borderline personality traits but didn’t meet the criteria for an actual diagnosis. My theory is that this decision was reached in part because my existing diagnosis of autism accounted for some of my symptoms and my trauma-related stuff means that I suppress or downplay some others. Regardless, I don’t want to position myself as an expert on BPD, and I’m using it as a piece of vocabulary which explains my experiences whilst trying not to attribute everything and anything to a diagnosis I don’t actually have.

With that out of the way, here’s the post proper:

I sometimes refer to my BPD as “Big Emotions Disorder”.

If you’ve seen Disney’s Peter Pan, you might recall that Tinkerbell, like other fairies, is so small that she can only experience one emotion at a time, and she experiences it so intensely that it clouds her judgement and she seems to forget anything that she has felt or experienced in the past, as well as forgetting the possibility that she might feel or experience anything different in the future. That’s how I feel emotions.

It fucking sucks.

It doesn’t always suck, of course: when I’m happy, I’m Big Happy, and that can be really pleasant, as can other Big Emotions such as Big NRE, Big Stoned and Big Inspired and Determined. But even those have their pitfalls. Big NRE can cause me to lose all sense of perspective, ignore or misread red flags and rush into relationships that are, at best, not well-suited to me and my circumstances (and are, at worst and alarmingly often, abusive). Even plain ol’ Big Happy can be detrimental in that it causes me to forget that I am, in fact, mentally ill, meaning that I over-commit to things, insist to medical practitioners that I’m doing fantastically and am horrified when I plummet back into depression and/or anxiety. This doesn’t just occur if I’ve been Big Happy for a number of days or weeks; a few hours of Big Happy is all it takes for me to become convinced that I was faking the depression, anxiety and PTSD all along.

And then, of course, there are the “bad” Big Emotions. Big Sad feels like an all-consuming tidal wave of despair and can be brought about from something as simple as Tesco running out of my favourite cookies. Big Scared triggers my fight-or-flight response in mundane situations such as visiting a new restaurant. Imagine every unpleasant emotion a human can feel multiplied by ten and made much, much easier to trigger – that’s my constant, day-to-day, exhausting experience of emotion. The one that seems to have the biggest impact on my relationships, though, is Big Insecure (and its cousin, Big Self-Hatred).

When I’m Big Insecure, I cannot see anything good in myself. Even the things I’m usually proud of, like knitting tiny hats for premature babies, are warped beyond recognition in my mind until I convince myself I’m only doing those things to earn praise or to hide my true (disgusting) nature. I grow to firmly believe that my partners only stay with me out of fear of the consequences our break-up might have, even though I’ve tried hard to make clear that they’re not responsible for my mental health or safety, or that they stay with me because I’ve manipulated them, taking advantage of trauma-bonding and their individual insecurities and sometimes-low self-esteem to ensnare them, so they can’t even see how despicable I truly am.

On average, I attempt to break up with at least one partner at least once a month. I explain that it’s for their own good, that I love them so much I could burst but that’s why I have to turn them loose from my machinations, that I never meant to manipulate them but I know that I have done so and that soon, once freed from me, they’ll realise exactly how awful I was and be unspeakably glad to have escaped. And my partners, every single time, have to spend hours reminding me that they are autonomous adults, that they love me, that I am not all that my brain says I am and that I do this all the time. They promise me that if I ever want to break up with them for my own reasons I’m welcome to do so, but firmly remind me that I can’t just break up with myself on their behalf: that’s their call. If I continue to spiral, sometimes they get me to take the PRN medication I keep on my person for acute episodes of anxiety, and sometimes they prompt me to phone my mum or get another partner’s opinion on the situation.

They do all this knowing that in three hours’ time I’ll be right as rain, planning my next sixty blog posts or an entirely new project that will most likely never see the light of day.

My BPD can put a strain on my relationships because I experience my lows so intensely and require so much reassurance to dig myself out of them, but I work hard to make sure my partners aren’t walking on eggshells around me. I remind them that even if they’ve done something that sparked a Big Emotion, it’s not their fault that the emotion is so Big. I tell them often that I want to be told when I’ve upset them, done something inconsiderate or otherwise could change my behaviour, but I also provide them with templates for how to convey that information to me in a way that minimises my unhelpful Big Emotional response. I go to therapy and I do my best to implement CBT techniques in my self-talk as well as teach my partners how they can help me to use them: they often ask me what evidence I have that I’m a terrible person, remind me of evidence that suggests I’m not, and gently suggest I may be misinterpreting evidence so it better fits my schematic beliefs. I also find healthy outlets for my Big Emotions, like baking bread (which is a constructive way to beat the shit out of something for ten-plus minutes), singing loudly, ugly-crying at documentaries or films, long walks, bad sketches and, when all else fails, screaming into cushions until my throat hurts.

It’s a lot of work and it’s never-ending, for both me and my partners, but I like to look on the bright side. My engagement with therapy coupled with my determination not to become the self-centred delicate monster I fear I might be means that I have a huge amount of insight into my emotions and my thought patterns, as well as some sophisticated ways to communicate about them. My Big Emotions make me fiercely loyal, unreservedly affectionate and as emotionally available as it is possible to be. My disordered personality isn’t a bad personality, or even an especially difficult one: having BPD as part of my vocabulary means that I know what challenges I face in relationships and can come prepared with reading material and my own bread flour, which puts me at an advantage over neurotypicals who haven’t done such intense introspection and research. It doesn’t make me a better partner, but it does help me be a more prepared one.

I wanted to write this because so much media regarding BPD and relationships is about how to be a good partner to people with BPD, except for the truly unkind stuff which argues that people with BPD cannot be good partners at all. I wanted to put into the world something from the perspective of a borderline person who is doing their fucking best and who does, whatever Big Insecure says, have a number of fantastic qualities that make them an excellent friend, partner, family member, employee and whatever else they want to be. I wanted to be a voice that says, “I’m borderline and it’s hard as hell but it’s worth it, it’s so worth it to pursue relationships and love people in the unabashed, unreserved and totally unconquerable way that us borderlines do.”

I’m Big Hopeful that I’ve achieved that.

Thoughts On Being Groomed (Yes, That Kind)

Content note: This post refers to my experiences of being groomed sexually online by an adult whilst I was a minor, and the knock-on effects those experiences had on my psyche. The hyperlinks included in this post also deal with topics relating to grooming, assault and CSA. Please make the decision that’s best for you with regards to reading this post, and if its content is too heavy or triggering, next week’s update will be a hot Smut Saturdays post that (hopefully) anyone can enjoy.

When I was fifteen, an adult I trusted got me to do Sex Stuff™ on Skype.

I’ve discussed this publicly before, and I did go to the police over it. I’m always unsure which and how many details I’m legally allowed to share about it, especially after police involvement, but what matters to this post is: the whole affair fucked me up.

It fucked me up for the, y’know, predictable reasons: I thought I was mature and that this person really loved me, so when I realised that I was a fifteen-year-old child and that the adult involved saw me as such, I felt betrayed and used. My understanding of boundaries was fucked, as was my understanding of consent – specifically, of the importance of my consent. You know, classic CSA-survivor stuff.

However, it wasn’t just sex stuff. Like, I’m sure, a lot of predators, this person was toying with power exchange in ways I was too young, autistic and naïve to grasp. In this instance, this means that the adult involved introduced kink stuff.

I didn’t know why he wanted me to call him kink honorifics like “Master”, although I thought I did. I had brushed up against power exchange in fanfic, and I thought it was a hot thing you threw out in the moment, akin to a gasped “Harder!”, and then sort of forgot about. And sometimes, terms like “Sir” and “Master” can be that – but I can only intuit that he meant for them to be more significant. He liked me calling him “Master” because he knew that he held power over me that I wasn’t even aware of. I have to guess at these things, because we never had a conversation about any of it.

He was also super interested in butt stuff, and he got me trying that on cam to him without discussing, or even suggesting I research, best practices and risks involved. I trusted him blindly, not considering that tearing could be a Thing, or that I might want to use barriers and lube. I didn’t really consider anything that he instructed me to do, I just did it, hoping that it’d make him proud enough of me that he might actually express some affection once his dick was back in his pants.

I am a person who fucking loves silver linings. It’s not because I’m optimistic, it’s because I’m spiteful and petty and I will wring every last drop of joy and positivity from a sour memory or bad breakup just to spit in the face of whoever hurt me. I keep clothes that exes gave me because I’m going to look good as fuck in them, regardless of my heartbreak; I listen to bands that former friends introduced me to even if the friendship went to shit, because I deserve good music in my life, and fuck them.

So I’ve been searching for the silver linings on the heavy cloud of trauma that this whole grooming thing left me with.

The first is that it has lead me to become a huge sex/kink nerd. I refuse to be in any situation ever again where I’m in the dark about a sex act, only realising its significance and implications after fucking doing it – so I do my research. I listen to podcasts, read articles, consume all the information about sex and kink that I can get my grabby little paws on. I share this information, too, so that nobody I care about goes through the same – I’m “the sex friend”, the one that people come to with their awkward, mumbled questions. I blog, I tweet, I never shut up about sex and kink. And I’m always hungry to learn more.

It’s pretty cool.

The only other tangible upside to getting groomed that I can point to is that I know my angles now. My predator lived in another country, which meant hours-long Skype calls, which meant cam sex. Not only do I know how to light my face to look fucking angelic, but I know how to position myself so that I look like a damn hourglass. I know where to wedge a laptop or phone camera so that you can see both my vulva and my face, and only one chin.

I also know very well what my bits look like, which is great for being aware of and maintaining my vulvovaginal health.

On the downside: I don’t wank.

I should clarify: I don’t wank independently. If my Daddy orders me to, with the intention of receiving a video or photos, then I can do that (though I can’t always orgasm). If I’m in a room with somebody, and they want to see me get off, I can do that.

Wanking just because I fancy an orgasm? No chance.

When I was living with a boyfriend, that wasn’t an issue, because I could get laid whenever. When he made me a very tiny bit homeless and I ended up back at my mum’s place, it also wasn’t an issue, because I was living in a haze of depression and probably couldn’t have found my clit under all the hoodies and empty energy drink cans. I didn’t notice I couldn’t wank until I went to uni.

And then it drove me crazy.

Recently, my Daddy was away, seeing his parents – so not in the ideal situation to sext me. My girlfriend was also not available for sexting, and I didn’t have anybody else to ask for encouragement (or, let’s be real, permission) to enjoy myself. So, I complained on Twitter and I tried to ignore my sex drive nagging at me, even as my period pains stabbed at my womb and my subconscious fed me dreams about getting eaten out and creampied. It fucking sucked.

I’m working on it, but I’m full of anger and resentment. In coaching me through my first ever orgasm, and dozens after that, the motherfucker who groomed me rewired my brain to think that orgasms were for him, or at least, for someone. I get five minutes into wanking alone and I feel crushingly self-conscious, I get distracted, and I can’t find the motivation to follow it through, no matter how badly I want to cum. I stare at my junk and whatever toys or hands I’ve got on it, and I think, fuck this, there’s no point. Not to sound like a petulant child, but it’s not fair.

My relationship with my sexuality is improving, albeit slowly. I’m able to tell my Daddy when I’m horny, or in need of a beating, or desperate to enter little space. And, usually, he’s able to meet my needs, or help me to meet them myself.

The thing about kink is that, when done right, fully informed and consenting, it can be super empowering. I’ve explained to my therapist that taking a beating is meditative, that it grounds me, that I feel like I’m inside my body more strongly than I ever would in normal life. (I highly recommend you find an accepting, willing-to-learn therapist if you’re kinky and need therapy. Mine is amazing.)

More than that, in deep subspace, I feel like I’m handing myself over to my top (usually, my Daddy) in body and soul. Which, I realised recently, is incredible. It’s a huge step.

Because, dear reader, in order to hand my body and soul to somebody I trust, it had to be in my hands to start with.

It’s gonna be a long, cloudy journey to recovery. Being groomed fucks you up. But goddamn it, I’m gonna heal, and I’m gonna wank alone.

One day.