Advice

On having borderline personality disorder

First off thank you. I’ve been feeling more actively suicidal lately, as opposed to my typical passive approach, and I just received your book a couple days ago, which has been a god send (don’t worry I am also working with my therapist and psychiatrist). I have a feeling your book will be my go-to when these terrible invasive thoughts creep in uninvitingly. I am curious if you have ever known anyone with Borderline Personality Disorder that wasn’t completely terrible?

After years of resisting this label, I have finally succumb to the fact that I am sick. Being borderline can be complete hell, I feel everything so intensely; any perceived rejection or “abandonment”, no matter how slight, results in me collapsing to the floor, alone in my apartment, sobbing and hyperventilating. Some times this is accompanied by cutting up my legs and punching my arms and head so hard that it results in huge bruises and bumps. It feels like absolute hell. I never do this in front of people and almost all of my friends know nothing about this side of me (it is not an attention thing or manipulation tool, but more of a release). I am trying to learn how to embrace my “crazy”. I often feel hopeless, but I also know I am a unique individual who has a lot of great qualities. I am smart as hell and am working on great and important research in grad school. I am very intuitive and possess a great ability to understand others. I am extremely dedicated, giving, and loyal. I know how to have a great time and have always embraced a work hard, play hard mentality. But this doesn’t change the fact that I am bat shit crazy and have very problematic behavior patterns.

At this point I have basically been single for a year (the longest since I have been 17), besides for the few guys that I’ve dated that think they fall in love with me within the first couple of weeks of knowing me, only to quickly find out that I am way too much work. My earliest memories all have to do with realizing how alone and separate I felt, so it makes sense that I prize intimate connection so much. Is there any chance that I am ever going to find some one that kinda gets me (or at least wants to), that sees the ugliness in me, but also the beauty? How do I find people that understand craziness, or mental illness does not automatically equate dumb or worthless?

Is my diagnosis as hopeless and terrible as it is portrayed? Am I a manipulative piece of shit that everyone should steer clear of? Are all these pathetic men that write on the internet about their horror story with a borderline girlfriend actually right? My mind tells me no to all of these questions, but then again my mind is sick and not to be trusted. But if borderlines are the absolute worst than how come so many people are trying to save us from committing suicide?

 

First off, let’s dispense with the self-stigma. You are not batshit crazy. Hell, you’re not even mentally ill. You have a personality disorder. You exhibit a few maladaptive patterns of behavior that meet a certain set of criteria. That’s it. That’s all. Big fucking deal.

While we’re at it, fuck this whole “being borderline” bullshit. You are not borderline. You have borderline personality disorder. Huge difference. Would you say “I’m irritable bowel syndrome?” Fuck no. Then why would you go around saying “I’m borderline?” Stop identifying with your disorder.

Now, to be clear, I have known many people with BPD, and none of them are terrible. Actually, most of them are lovely people and a shit ton of fun. Sure, they can get emotionally dysregulated as all hell, and their abandonment issues make dating a nightmare, but generally speaking, folks with BPD are just fucking up their own lives rather than actively fucking up anyone else’s. Y’all are your own worst enemies, and the pain you’re experiencing internally is an order of magnitude worse than any pain you might be inflicting on the people around you. That’s kinda what makes BPD different from the other cluster B personality disorders. People with narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders tend to fuck up other people’s lives, which is why I’ll take someone with BPD over a narcissist or a sociopath any day of the fucking week. (Trust me, I’ve dated all three.)

As you can well imagine, I’ve been in a serious relationship with someone with BPD. It was someone I loved very much, someone who in our best days I actually considered marrying. I say this to point out that your romantic situation isn’t hopeless. You are worth being loved as much as the next person. Having BPD will be a struggle, but it doesn’t spell certain doom. While we’re on the subject of relationships, there’s a book you should run out and get called Loving Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder. This book really will help, and not just the person you’re dating. It’s an incredibly useful book to read if you actually have BPD.

In the meantime, quit it with all this suicide shit. You’re not going to kill yourself. You’re gonna have some of those feelings from time to time, but you’re not gonna act on them. It’s good that you recognize that they’re just invasive thoughts and that you don’t actually want to die. You just want the pain to stop, and it’s okay to acknowledge that, but it isn’t okay to think that being dead is a fucking solution. It’s not.

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Advice

On another bunch of books

Your book recommendations reignited my love of reading. Thank you. Will you be posting any more recommendations soon? It is September, after all.

 

Yes, yes. I love our September booklist tradition, especially in a month when I have a book of my own hitting the shelves. Here’s the latest snapshot of what I’ve been reading lately. As always, it’s a mixed bag. There should be a little something here for everyone:

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Change Your Story, Change Your Life by Carl Greer

The Red Book (Liber Novus) by Carl Jung

The Highest State of Consciousness edited by John White

The Divine Within by Aldous Huxley

Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Dreams from Bunker Hill by John Fante

Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Zen Master Sueng Sahn

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

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Advice

On keeping your kidneys

I want to altruistically donate my kidney. What do you think I should consider? I want to question the shit out of my motives. I’m obviously going to think further about this, let it simmer in the back of my mind for a while… I want to give this to the world, I’m scared no one will take care of me (I’ve had to take care of my parents and I don’t have many close friends). I’m worried guys won’t find me attractive with the scar. I want to do this. I don’t completely get why. I’m scared it won’t be okay.

 

Yeah, no. I doubt you would pass the psychological evaluation anyway, but please do not attempt to donate a kidney under your current circumstances.

I looked you up. (It wasn’t difficult with your college email address and a name as unique as yours.) You are a brilliant and accomplished young woman. Since childhood, you’ve been living under the kind of academic and socio-cultural pressures that would crush the average person. Every school you’ve attended has been among the very best in the world, and you’ve been among the highest achieving students every step along the way.

That’s all changing. You’ve finally graduated, and for the first time in your life, you aren’t tethered to any regimen or program. You’re in a phase of life now where you have to forge your own path forward rather than follow a path that has always been laid out for you, and as much as you try not to admit it, the future is absolutely terrifying. That’s why you’re entertaining fantasies about donating a kidney. It solves so many problems for you.

You’ve been taking care of everyone else all this time, and if you donate a kidney, then for once in your life, people will finally have to take care of you. (That desire doesn’t make you selfish, by the way. It makes you human.) If you donate a kidney and guys don’t find you attractive, you will always have the scar to blame, and if you donate a kidney and then never find a suitable husband, your health will always be a convenient excuse. (And we both know why I used the word suitable, don’t we? Donating your kidney is also a deliberate “fuck you” to that aspect of your culture.) Of course, the biggest problem this solves is that if you donate a kidney, you won’t have to begin your life.

Most kids fantasize about taking a year off after college to go backpacking through Europe, but that kind of shit never even crossed your mind. You’re such an amazing human being that you’d rather take a year off after college and donate a kidney instead. I respect your altruism. I really do, but the whole idea is fucking nuts. Self-sacrifice can be a noble impulse, but it can also be a pathological one. For you in this moment, it’s both.

If you need to take a little break right now, then take a little break. It’s okay to do that. Really. I’m not saying you should go backpacking through Europe or anything, but keep your fucking kidneys, kid. It will be okay.

I promise, you are going to give many gifts to the world. I also promise, you will find your place in it. You will find your way. You will build your own career. You will build your own family. You will build your own life. It all just takes time, and there are no shortcuts, especially to the kind of emotional and spiritual fulfillment you’re so desperate to find.

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Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

BRANGELINA???
Shut up.

Existential crisis over Trump becoming president. Help. Anything. Answers… please? Even a “Trump will win” truth will help calm me down because at least I don’t have to strain on the mystery.
You need to work on getting comfortable with uncertainty. Never forget, the entire human experiment is conducted on a knife edge. Security is an illusion, and the thin veneer of civilization could dissolve at any moment.

If you still think about your ex every day, do you think it means you’re not over him? Or is it just curiosity on how someone’s doing that once meant so much to you?
Passing thoughts are fine, but if emotions of any significance are still attached to those thoughts, you’re not over him.

Are we doomed to repeat the roles of our parents in relationships?
Patterns, not roles. And yes, you are doomed to repeat them. That doesn’t mean you have to keep repeating them all your life. You can always unlearn the patterns, but some repetition is inevitable.

So the destruction of Libya is of no account? Hillary’s support for catastrophic wars – or military intervention – in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria is of no consequence? Sorry, but Hillary Clinton is no better than her predecessors or Donald Trump. The US is ill-served by both main parties, by both candidates. How can you not see this? Or is it all about having a female President for you, no matter what her history or beliefs?
You are a fucking child.

Betty Shelby deserves those charges and I hope she is found guilty. But am I in the wrong to feel slightly annoyed that they were so quick to charge a white female cop but failed to do the same for all those other countless dumbfuck white male cops?
It’s okay for you to notice how eager the police are to disavow a female officer. Betty Shelby will go to prison for shooting Terence Crutcher, as well she fucking should, but your instincts are correct. She’ll end up being as much an example of institutional misogyny as she is of institutional racism.

Can you install a random advice button, please?
Um, look up at the menu. It’s literally been there the whole time.

What do you think of those of us who still think of you as Coke Talk? Sweet big sister nostalgia or irritating inability to grow up along with you?
Call me whatever you like. I don’t mind a bit.

My pre-order arrived. Only 8 pages in, and all I have to say is THANK YOU. I started reading the blog 4 years ago, and just like in the intro, I felt I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only nutjob questioning everything, and you told me just what I needed to hear. Thank you for existing, dear dear Coquette. Thank you for this book. Thank you.
This makes me so fucking happy I can’t even stand it.

I am so grateful to be alive at the same as you. It means everything.
It’s not me. It’s the internet.

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Advice

On holy fucking matrimony

I’m a white woman married to a black man. He goes to a black church. A year into our marriage, he still won’t bring me to his church or any church functions because he says it “might make black folks uncomfortable if they think they’re going to be in their community but someone starts bringing white people around.” I thought that was reasonable, but my friends are saying I’m “blinded by white guilt” and that he’s ashamed of me. Are they right?

 

Your husband won’t take you to his church. One more time now. Your husband won’t take you to his church.

Are you fucking kidding me? Your husband is a gigantic asshole for excluding you from that aspect of his life, and you are a fucking doormat for putting up with that level of outrageous disrespect.

If you want to go to church with your husband, then go to church with your husband. If he refuses to take you, then tell him he can choose between one of two options: Either find a new church, or find a new wife.

Despite my own personal opinions about organized religion and the institution of marriage, this kind of shit is a dealbreaker. I’m not kidding. He doesn’t get to make this about black and white. You are his wife. Matrimony is holy. If he won’t even let you stand by his side and worship together, then he is a dirtbag husband and the worst kind of hypocrite.

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Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

You’ve mentioned skipping boys and dating men before. What makes a man and not a boy?
Accountability.

Do all dudes cheat?
No.

I think for my birthday, as a gift to myself, I will give up on being loved. How do I put a ribbon on that?
No. Happy Birthday, but no. Do not give up on being loved. That is not a gift. Letting go is a gift. Acceptance is a gift. Giving up is not. There is a difference.

I can sleep with her again. As long as her husband gets to watch. It will make me nervous but I think I’m okay with this?
Yeah, I’ve been there. It can be a little weird if all he does is watch, so make sure it’s clear ahead of time if, how, and what the husband gets to touch. Also, make sure he knows the cardinal rule: this is about pleasure for you and his wife. His pleasure is a distant third. (I’m assuming you’re a woman, but if you’re a man and her husband is into the whole cuckolding thing, then I suppose the same rules apply.)

I am not fond of Amy Schumer. A lot of my friends love her but I just really don’t like her. What am I missing?
You’re not missing a thing. Her sketches were genuinely funny and culturally on point for a hot minute in 2014, but that kind of thing isn’t sustainable, and she’s still trying to cash in on the same basic joke about white girl mediocrity, which has grown both problematic and stale as fuck.

Would love to hear your thoughts on Tony Robbins. Was surprisingly moved by the documentary, but something didn’t quite sit right with me. Maybe it was just his outdated views on masculinity?
Yeah, it was a great documentary. What bothered you was all the brainwashing. Tony Robbins is basically a charismatic cult leader who uses pop psychology to achieve prosocial results rather than religion to achieve antisocial results. He’s using his powers for good instead of evil, but it’s still kinda creepy.

If I had a breakdown at 17, does that mean I’m exempt from a mid life crisis? Or have I got that to look forward to too?
A breakdown isn’t the same as an existential crisis, and having one doesn’t exempt you from the other.

Can you please tell me that everything will be okay?
Nope. Everything is okay. Right now. That’s all that exists. There is no will be.

We’ve been together 2 years and he still seems “too good to be true”, should I “listen to my gut” or is this just love? My brain is so fucky I side-eye anything remotely positive these days.
That’s not your gut talking. It’s your anxiety. Chill the fuck out and enjoy your boyfriend.

I’m dating a jerk. I know he’s a jerk, but I’m lonely and don’t know many people in this city. At least, that’s how I justify it. What’s wrong with me?
Nothing is wrong with you. You’re lonely, so you’re dating a jerk. It happens. I suggest you dump his ass and put some energy into meeting new people. Go ahead. Do it. You’ll be much happier.

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Advice

On externalizing distrust

My boyfriend of 5 years cheated on me. I found out because he video taped the whole ordeal. We’ve decided to try and work it out, and he’s agreed to do whatever it takes to regain my trust.

But here’s the thing, all of the ‘cheating experts’ on the internet recommend full access to passwords and phones as a way to help rebuild trust, and that shit is not working for me. I know my boyfriend is technologically savvy enough to keep a secret email or google voice number. Checking his Facebook messages just stokes my anxiety that he is just keeping it squeaky clean for my eyes. And to be completely honest, I don’t have the energy for all of the (condoned) snooping and the worry that accompanies it.

What can I do to start trusting him again?

 

Yeah, the password access thing is bullshit. It doesn’t rebuild trust. It’s an emergency stopgap measure to keep the relationship from exploding in the immediate aftermath of infidelity. If you’re already past that initial “should I stay or should I go” moment, give him back all his passwords. You will feel better, and honestly, you won’t trust him any less than you already do.

As for the process of beginning to trust him more, that will simply take time. There’s no quick fix when it comes to trust. That shit has to be rebuilt brick by brick, and it’s different for every couple.

What I recommend for you right now is to first accept the fact that you don’t trust him. (It’s pretty clear that you don’t.) That’s okay. You’re entitled not to trust him. I know it sucks to be in a relationship without any trust, but you’ve chosen to stay, so now it’s your burden to bear. Make that burden a shared experience. He should feel it too, but try and make it so that he feels it with you instead of from you.

Start by separating yourselves from the distrust. Let the distrust become a third party in your relationship, one that the two of you team up against to defeat. Recognize that you both experience the distrust in different ways, and do your best not to identify with it.

In other words, you are not “untrusting,” and he is not “untrustworthy.” Instead, you experience negative emotions as a result of the distrust, and he experiences negative consequences as a result of the distrust. You both acknowledge the distrust as a source of negativity, but you don’t let it define either of you.

Once you’ve both successfully externalized the distrust, you can start chipping away at it together. You can be on the same side, which in itself will help rebuild trust. After that, it’s really just a waiting game made of time and good behavior.

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Advice

On a necessary breakdown

I was the one raped by a cop a year ago. Besides some dude that was on and off again before and after that, I haven’t really been physical with anyone. I’ve felt asexual for so long… Until last night I was with a guy I’ve been dating. It got physical for the first time last night and I had a physical reaction- there’s no better way to describe it besides straight PTSD. I was so scared I’d ask him to stop and he wouldn’t be one of the outliers that stops on the first hand push away or “no.” But he did. But I still cried and had to explain. He held me and was amazingly sweet, even told me he’d sit in the waiting room at therapy when I mentioned I definitely need to go back, but I still feel torn up inside. I didn’t think it still had a hold of me, but now I feel like it will always creep back into me when with someone new. How do I accept and live with that? How do I live with this? I got so angry last night because I had convinced myself I cleansed myself of it months ago, but now it feels like such a major part of my story forever.

 

It will not always creep back into you. You will get better. It will always be a part of your story, but you will not always have to live with it.

There was a part of you that didn’t think the rape still had a hold on you, and there was a part of you that manifested all of that asexuality you felt. One was a coping method of the thinking part of you, and the other was a coping method of the feeling part of you. Both parts were doing their best to protect you from pain, but they weren’t reconcilable, and they certainly weren’t sustainable.

It really is okay that you had a breakdown. The physical reaction you had was a good thing, one that quite frankly was inevitable. You needed to have it. You needed to feel all of that pain you’ve been avoiding. I know it didn’t feel like anything positive, but it was. It was progress.

You’re absolutely right to want to go back to therapy. You’ve still got some work to do, and this is the perfect time to do it. On a practical note, I highly recommend you find a therapist who specializes in EMDR. It really works, and it’s exactly what you need for the kind of trauma you experienced.

I know you aren’t feeling it at the moment, but this is you healing. You’re ready to move forward now in a way that you weren’t before, and things will be different. It won’t be an act of cleansing this time. It will be an act of acceptance, and you will get better.

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Advice

On your mental health

The person I’m sleeping with is convinced that my mother is a monster. He’s never met her. All he knows is that at the age of twelve, I was taking paxil, lamictal, Ritalin and 200 mg of trazodone to sleep.

All of those drugs were prescribed by a psychiatrist and I don’t believe my mother wanted to hurt me, but I’m starting to think my boyfriend has a point when he says she “poisoned” me to make me easier to deal with.

He’s convinced that this “abuse,” which lasted for years, has permanently altered my brain. I have been mostly unhappy since I was 12, so I wonder if he’s right: I have a lot of trouble with my emotions and relationships; although I’ve never done anything intentionally cruel, I am not an easy person to know. I’m sure I meet the criteria for being a toxic person.

He thinks I should find a doctor that will help me detox and deal with underlying problems. I agree. I had been thinking about that exact thing for years before I met him. But I actually don’t know how to live without drugs. When I’ve tried coming off them before, I was overcome with despair and self hatred. I have been hospitalized twice, both times after coming off the meds. (Mental hospitals, by the way, are incredibly dehumanizing and abusive, as you probably know)

So I’m not sure what to do. On some level I’m choosing between my loyalty to my mother and my trust in this man, right?

 

I’ve got a bad feeling about this guy. He sounds awfully controlling, especially for someone who rises to the level of “the person I’m sleeping with.” As a general rule, I don’t let dudes I’m regularly fucking have any kind of opinion about my mental health. Who is this guy you hesitate to call your boyfriend? Where the hell does he get off telling you jack shit about your medication or your mother? Seriously, if he’s making you feel like you have to choose loyalties between him and a family member (particularly one he’s never even met) then stop sleeping with him and run.

Also, we need to talk about how you use the word toxic. Stop referring to yourself like that. You have a mental disorder that causes emotional dysregulation, and yeah, it’s probably wreaked havoc on your past relationships, but that doesn’t mean you’re toxic. It means you’ve got some problems with your neurochemistry, some of which might best be solved with medication. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with being on mood stabilizers. It doesn’t mean you’ve been poisoned. It doesn’t mean you need to detox. (Again with the idea that you’re somehow toxic.) Clearly, you’re someone who benefits from the meds, and again, you shouldn’t be made to feel bad about that. Quite frankly, this guy is kind of an asshole for thinking he knows better than your treatment team.

I understand the desire to live life without the drugs, but you have to consider what that has meant for you in the past and what that might mean in the future. If you spent the next couple months slowly coming off your medication under the strict supervision of your doctor while concurrently starting some kind of behavioral therapy, that might prove to be a worthy endeavor. At the same time, you might have another episode and have to go right back on the medication, perhaps even involuntarily. You have to be in the mindset where that isn’t failure, where it’s okay to need a little medicine to live your best life.

Oh, and one final note. Your mother was not an abusive monster for taking you to a psychiatrist at age twelve. That was her taking care of you. That was her loving you. That was her dealing with a difficult situation as best she knew how. I’m not hearing that she whacked you upside the head with a bunch of chemicals just to make you docile. I’m hearing that you have a genuine disorder that bears significant consequences if left untreated, one that has continued into adulthood. Again, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or toxic or somehow less worthy of leading a normal life. It just means you were dealt a shitty hand, and you have to take care of yourself thoughtfully, responsibly, and without the input of douchebags who think that sharing your bed somehow grants them a medical license.

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