My first BPD episode, I was 12 and wore a white turtleneck. I was the only girl of three brothers–I slept in bed with my mother at night as my father was deployed. In the kitchen, my mother confided to me that she wanted to adopt another girl. Despair thick enough to carve traveled from my throat to my toes and never left. My mother is a determined vixen when she wants something bad enough, and so my perception after those words left her lips: I was being replaced.
My sister was adopted when she was two. My brothers were dispassionate to the transition, my mother adored being a new mother again, my father immediately attached to her playful nature, and I fluctuated between jealously, desolation, and poker-face happiness for holiday photos. We fought, my mother and I, about things like leaving the lights on or the chores I stopped doing. Things happened: my 13th birthday was cancelled because I flushed her jewelry down the toilet for revenge; I didn’t want her at my dance recitals; during family meals I kept my focus on the floor; unprocessed grief continued to bloat me. At 14, after one of our fights, my father walked in on me trying to jump out the window in my room.
I went to my school counselor and told her I was suicidal, not because I was, but because I wanted out. The year that pursued I lived with a retired couple that watched Fox News on Friday nights, an all-blonde family of four that let me have the entire basement to myself, and my aunt and uncle on the East Coast. That year away was supposed to heal me, but instead I experienced severe dissociation, though at the time I just thought it was my identity.
On the East Coast, my father, uncle, and I shared a telephone call together to try and work through the disconnect. When I spoke, it came out as envy towards my sister, but really I didn’t know how explain to them that I had a viable tumor of anger and sadness inside me.
“You’ve to just get over it,” my uncle told me before the call ended. That’s when I felt shame stronger than acid; I couldn’t.
After I moved back home, I went into high school, and became numb in the four years that followed.
Just get over it. To a person with BPD, that’s like asking them to load a gun with Rice Krispies Treats instead of bullets. Our precarious emotional aptitude is so sensitive, it comes across as manipulative, self-absorbed, or wily dramatics. We aren’t.
Untreated, we don’t have the interpersonal skills to get what we need in an unassuming way. Our actions are about desperately trying to feel safe and ok again. If you were to poke a burn victim on the arm with a chopstick that is what emotion feels like to us. We would amputate a limb to just get over it. That’s why many of us develop a co-occurring mental disorder; it’s why one out of ten of us die by suicide Even after recovery, I see the emotional reactions of friends and family to things like a breakup, disappointing a co-worker, being yelled at in traffic, their emotive synthesis to these life events, I feel like I’m watching a scientist build a rocket ship from postal stamps.
I was replaced, and it’s ok. I’m still being replaced, and it’s ok. What I’ve learned through the divine intervention of age is that replacement is a primary function in life. It’s a relentless process of uncertainty, but it’s necessary to grow into passion. Some try to find control in that process to create certainty, others lose willpower, many become stuck trying to wish things back to before they were replaced, several find insight that leads to innovation, some like me just feel it and it’s ok.