Fear of distance…and closeness
One of the most typical fears that borderliners have all the time is that of losing an important person, in most cases this is focused on the partner. As borderliners do not have a stable self-image, it is extremely important to have a “mirror” and the partner is exactly that. Sometimes, I feel as if I wasn’t there if I don’t have somebody else to focus on and interact with. This might sound quite confusing as I am perfectly able to do things on my own and people tend to think of me as very independent. That is true for things such as work, handling my every-day routine and so on. It is not at all true for my emotional life.
I first encountered this extreme fear of losing someone when I was about nine years old. The fear was focused on my mother then, I had to call her all the time to hear she was well and I really panicked when I couldn’t talk to her. It felt as though my life would end if she left me, or worse, something happened to her.
Today, I am afraid of losing important people in general, but the fear of losing my partner is the worst. I honestly have no idea if I could cope with losing him if it ever happened. Just thinking about it makes me physically sick. That leads to funny behaviour: Let’s say I am in the supermarket with my partner and each of us goes looking for something different. As long as I am searching for what I want, everything is fine but as soon as I’m finished and can’t find him immediately, I start to panic. My thoughts go from “Where is he?” to “He will never come back, he probably left me or died…” in an instant. I know it is completely baseless but I am unable to stop it.
That was just one example but I guess it illustrates how bad it is just every single day. I feel stupid because of it and I try to distract myself from those thoughts. The fear stays, though.
Funny thing is, after being seperated from somebody for some time, I get used to being on my own and then it is difficult for me to get used to that person’s presence again. So if I was at home on my own and my partner comes back, it can feel as if he consumes just everything, I can’t stand being hugged and I just feel overwhelmed by his very existence. That was the way I felt towards most of my previous partners. It probably sounds completely illogical that I am afraid of losing somebody and can’t stand that very person’s presence at the same time but that’s the way it is.
So the flow between closeness and distance doesn’t work – it is black and white. No shades of grey (sorry, I had to do that :D). It reminds of a child who doesn’t want to go to kindergarten in the morning. Contrastly, the same child will probably protest against being picked up in the afternoon – that’s how I feel. Constantly.
In my case, panic attacks accompany BPD, so they are a comorbidity. They are not a symptom of BPD!
Panic attacks are annoying for me. I’ve had them since I was nine years old, sometimes more, sometimes less of them but I had plenty of time to get used to them.
Most people ask me what a panic attack feels like, so I’ll try to explain:
If you ever where in a situation where you nearly died of suffocation, you know the feeling – an acute fear of death combined with the physical feeling of not getting enough air. The heart is beating way too fast, you can’t focus on anything but that all-consuming fear. And you fall…
There are short and intense attacks where I don’t even notice if somebody is talking to me. Sometimes, the attacks last longer than a few minutes, but usually the symptoms are not as strong then – I feel scared but I can still manage opening the window, giving short anwers and try to breathe more slowly.
The first attacks when I was nine were recognized as a problem and I was taken to a psychologist who was specialised in fears that children have. She actually helped me by what felt like playing with dolls and painting…guess she was really good at what she was doing.
After that, the attacks stopped for a while, only to come back when I was about fifteen. At that point, I was unable to access any of my emotions due to BPD emptiness, so I could just utter what it felt like. I was taken to a respiratory physician several times – he found nothing. But damn it, I knew that I nearly suffocated every second day – what the hell was wrong? It had to be asthma…
Today I know, those were panic attacks, desperate tries of my body to tell me that something was really, really wrong. What is tricky is that the attacks come out of nothing: If I panic because of a distressing situation, I’m cool with that. But sometimes, the panic comes when I’m just sitting and reading or talking to somebody. In contrast to most BPD-symptoms, I just can’t find triggers for the panic which is frustrating.
After an attack, I usually cry and feel extremely tired. Hyperventilating for minutes on end is quite exhausting. I got used to the attacks more or less. I am able to do breathing exercises to keep them under control sometimes. They are really more annoying than distressing for me by now.