Everyone likes a pat on the back when they know they’ve done well. Everyone appreciates a genuine “Well Done!” when their hard work pays off. Everyone gets that tiny little adrenaline rush; that hit of feel-good chemicals coursing through their body when someone commends their good work.
Most people can comprehend that this can’t be a constant state. Most people can accept the fact that the ‘high’ will end. That eventually, people will have to stop patting you on the back and get on with their own lives bringing up their kids, or filling up their tank with petrol, or making themselves a damn good cheesy toasty.
However those with personality disorders, particularly people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, find it very difficult or impossible to understand this.
Once again, Object Constancy comes into play a bit here, and the emotional responses to a lack of validation in the lives of those with BPD can seem very distorted or confusing to those who do not personally have BPD.
For instance, there may be a constant drive for perfectionism, or a need to be accepted by everyone they come in to contact with. Exhausting. This insatiable need for acknowledgement or validation may stem from problems that arose during the developmental stage of life.
Someone may find that an emotionally neglectful parental figure has left them with a strong desire to please others no matter what the cost. Or they may find that a lack of acknowledgement when they achieved something at a young age means they now suffer with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy later in life.
Perhaps being bullied when younger means that they developed the need to prove to others that they are worth something.
Whatever the case, those with BPD will be highly sensitive to any perceived rejection (real or imagined), such as over-analysing the micro facial expressions, body language or tone of voice in someone they are talking to. Or feeling slighted or wronged at the few minutes delay in a text response from another person, particularly someone they feel is important in their life.
This hyper-sensitivity can manifest in a number of unhealthy thinking styles or coping behaviours; such as disproportional anger, self-injury, depressive episodes, binge-eating or starving, dissociative periods, suicidal ideation and extreme feelings of inadequacy.
For some it can also lead to dangerous and reckless behaviours as an emotional response like careless driving, abusing drugs or alcohol, or unsafe sex in a frantic bid to quell these overwhelming feelings of self-doubt.
It can be a truly terrifying aspect of BPD to live with, as it can affect all areas of your interpersonal relationships, life and work. It can be exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally – as the whole world is perceived as untrustworthy or dangerous – and the conflicting and confusing thoughts in your own head make you question if you can even trust yourself.
I guess if I was to personify this aspect of Borderline Personality Disorder, it would be a small, paper thin and fragile creature crunched up into a ball in a blank, wide-open expanse in my head. As I go about my day this creature screeches and retches horribly at every interaction, every word I say, every move I make, everything I see… You get the point. It opens its mouth and lets out a foul, blood-curdling scream and I can’t see the danger it sees, but I can feel the terror.
The only time it stops filling my head with its death-screams is when I feel validated, or adequate, or needed, or wanted, or noticed, or acknowledged. Which due to the creature is not often at all.
So I go about in a chaotic tangle of internal conflict. Overly vigilant for rejection because of the screaming creature, but at the same time in a constant, desperate search to find validation to make the creature stop.
–Artwork is my own