One of the most afflicting symptoms of BPD is the extreme emptiness that can last for hours, days, or even weeks. I know that it is difficult to make a healthy person understand that because other things like the fear and the cutting seem to be much worse. For me, being empty is the most difficult symptom to deal with. It makes getting up in the morning extremely hard, and not in the same way as being depressed does: When I am depressed, I just want to hide in my bed, see nobody, start crying at the thought of having to dress and shower and that is really bad. BUT: It is possible to get me out of this extreme desparation, if my partner takes my hand and coaxes me, I will at least manage a weak smile.
When I’m empty, that doesn’t work because I won’t even feel his hands taking mine. Also, eating breakfast doesn’t make sense because everything tastes like styrofoam. Going to work is exhausting and I don’t know what I’m making the effort for. The hours go by and when I go home in the evening, I remember nothing about the day. It all just rolls past me as if I wasn’t even there. That can go as far as feeling invisible, which is not a good feeling at all.
The problem is: nothing can stop the emptiness, if I feel as if nothing at all makes any sense and I just think that it will all be over in about sixty years anyway, I really don’t see any reason to struggle any more. Even people I love dearly cannot make any difference in such a situation – it isn’t even possible to focus visually on anything, let alone emotionally. I know that the occasions where I was really close to ending my life all came up when I was empty. Never, when I was depressed – too much fear and self-pity involved. Never when I was scared – there is no running away from fear. But this complete numbness just makes me feel as if it didn’t matter at all if I die today, tomorrow or in sixty years. So why stay…?
There is a difference between depression and emptiness, I guess it is hard to understand, but when I am depressed, I know that I am not just a zombie – everything might seem hopeless and sad and scaring, but at least I am alive. When I am empty, I am not sure whether I deserve being called a human being.
And then there is dissociation and depersonalisation. Apparently, only people with a severe BPD have that symptom, so jackpot…there are lots of scientific explanations for those two words, but for me they mean watching myself from the outside on many occasions: When I am really stressed, or can’t cope with a situation, I might suddenly watch the event from just behind my back. It is like watching a movie and normally doesn’t last longer than a few minutes (if it does, that really is a problem). I function quite well under these circumstances, at least I think so as only one single person in my life seems to realize when it happens. My partner says “Stay with me.” then. I think, my responses are rather monosyllabically and my eyes not focused. Interestingly, I make no mistakes when it happens during work or a maths test, it is like an autopilot mode.
Another thing that occasionally happens and really scares the hell out of me is that I can’t feel my hands anymore.That is the last and worst alarm sign before I shut off completely.
Nothing of this is a scientific explanation, if you want to know more, you might refer to articles about BPD emptiness, depression and dissociative symptoms. They don’t have anything to do with one another necessarily but for me they are very similar things that can happen to me and that my surroundings might confuse.