We all love a good romance. The story of boy meets girl, and how they fall hopelessly in love as they share their first kiss under the moonlight. It’s like catnip to us women. And, I don’t know about you, but Nicholas Sparks has a lot to answer for when it comes to my exceptionally high standards of ‘happily ever after’. The difference is, though, you have a greater chance of achieving this fairy tale ending than I do.
I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. This is the term used to describe the two per cent of people who balance on the razors edge between psychotic and neurotic – never quite enough to be one, but always too much of both to be neither – so we exist in the uncertain grey in between, which is ironic, because people with BPD are incapable of shades of grey. We live our whole lives in painful, and often damaging extremes.
The official diagnosis didn’t happen until I was 21, but I had known something was wrong with me for a long time prior to that. As a teenager, I was nothing like my peers; when they were dealing with angsty rebellion, I was struggling to find my own identity. Relationships were hard to form, and even harder to maintain, and I couldn’t control the overwhelming assault of emotions that attacked me from every side. By 15 I was regularly using self-harm as a way to control these feelings, and by 17 I tried to kill myself.
Thankfully, I’m still here, but so is the disorder, and everything that comes with it. I live in a constant state of heightened intensity, with everything permanently turned up to 11. Where you may feel happy, I feel a dizzying euphoria, or, where you might experience sadness, I am crushed by tidal waves of despair. Sometimes I will feel emotion with such force, it becomes a physical commodity, prickling its way across my skin, like electricity. And of all the emotions available to us, for me, anyway, love is the most crippling.
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My last serious relationship ended in February 2010 and, even though I have dated since then, I haven’t been able to settle with anyone in the seven years that followed. There is a pattern to it, you see. I get too attached, too quickly, and then the separation anxiety will set in. I will smother them with affection in an attempt to keep them from abandoning me; the uneasiness of feeling like I’m replaceable sends me into manic states of desperation to keep their attention, because why would they want me when they can have her, right? But that’s usually around about the time the words “You’re just too intense” echo the sound of another slamming door. So I came to accept that I was always “too”; too intense, too clingy, too needy. I was just too much
I fall hard and I fall fast, hitting me like a car crash on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And this time has been no different. This boy, this beautiful, messy, awe-inspiring boy, has come out of nowhere and ripped through my world like a hurricane, turning everything completely up-side down. The first time he touched me, he ignited my bones and set my soul ablaze. All the walls I had built up to keep me safe, came crashing down in a flurry of ash. I was exposed and vulnerable, and in that one moment, I felt more alive than I ever have before.
Suddenly, my BPD doesn’t matter anymore, and my duality makes sense. The desperate, unspoken words that clawed their way up my throat have turned to butterflies, and taken refuge in my stomach. The roaring white noise inside my head has settled to a dull hum, and I no longer need to try and explain the chaos within me, because he already knows. His hell has silenced my demons, and I am irrevocably and unequivocally enamored with him.
I would suffer a thousand heart breaks, just to feel him kiss me, but he doesn’t feel the same way. Instead, I have been placed firmly in the ‘friend zone’. There are no words to express the desolation this leaves within my chest. Paralysed in the silence of 4am, when every one of my nerves screams his name, as the madness sets in and I begin to over think everything. Why doesn’t he like me? Is it because I’m too short? Am I too fat? Is he getting bored of me? If I wait, maybe he’ll love me eventually? Is there someone else?
The tick tick ticking builds, and the all-consuming blackness devours me entirely, until I have exhausted every last one of my resources. The survivor in me says “run”, because we both know that this is going to end in tragedy, but the masochist within urges me to stay, because I would rather feel the exquisite torture of only being his friend, than face the devastation of not having him in my life at all.
Any normal person would take option one, they would quickly retreat and save themselves from getting hurt. But I’m not a normal person, I’m a hopeless romantic with a debilitating mental illness. The feelings I have for this boy will burn through me with all the ferocity of a wild fire, but the aftermath will leave me in ruins.
So thank you Nicholas Sparks, Your unobtainable standards of love and romance, while providing me with hours of literary pleasure, will only make my fall back down to earth that little bit more bittersweet.