A Letter to My Husband Who Understood My BPD Like No-one Else Ever Did

A Letter to My Husband Who Understood My BPD Like No-one Else Ever Did

It’s been almost 12 years since you left me and this world. In that time I have had more than my fill of time to think about our life together and process where everything went wrong and what was right about it. After you first died, the house rang with emptiness and I was consumed with loneliness and fear. You know I had never been on my own — always with you and that I didn’t really know how to be alone and I was very afraid of the idea of being on my own. True to my BPD diagnosis, the fear of abandonment was excruciating for me. For the first six months I struggled to sleep at night because I was so afraid of the quietness of the house.

My fear became almost palpable. I soon stopped being able to go out of the house except to go to the grocery store or the bank. My world shrank to just the walls inside which I lived. My only companion  became the television set in front of which I spent all my time from the moment I woke up in the morning until I crawled back into bed. I became isolated and my social connections dried up entirely. This happened I think because my BPD had tended to make me cut off people. You were my link to friends and friendships, my connection to the world of other people.

During those first three terrible years as I struggled to make sense of things I didn’t really have time to miss you except in terms of the practical ways described above. I did, however, spend a lot of time thinking about our marriage and all the ways in which it both fulfilled me and stifled me. I have come to appreciate you in ways I never would have had you not died and left me behind.

You understood my BPD in ways that no one else ever could. You understood my need for acceptance and as much “unconditional love” as possible. You understood the raging, destructive anger and where it came from even though you didn’t condone it. You understood the vulnerability that hid behind the fear of the world at large and you had the soothing balm to calm it — something no one else ever had.

So, now what do I want to say to you?

I want to tell you how sorry I am that I was not able to appreciate and accept the love you had for me when you gave it. I want to tell you how sorry I am for all the ways I rejected you and belittled you when I was raging. I want to apologize for the ways I screamed and yelled at you all night sometimes, the way I would call you in a panic in the middle of the day and beg you to come home to take care of me. I want to apologize for the way my BPD did not allow me to be soft and gentle with your love and instead always flung it back in your face like a dagger when you reached out to caress me.

Even though I know you know I want to tell you that I chose you for a very specific reason, because I knew you would never leave me. And you never did until I made things so terrible that you  had no choice and you packed your bags and left the house. You didn’t storm out of the house in anger, though, rather you left in a sort of quiet resignation that something you had always known would come to pass had finally occurred. I want you to know that I understand why you did that and I forgive you for it because I realize now that I was the one at fault. I want to tell you that I forgive you for all the ways I thought you failed me because now I see that I held you to an impossibly high standard and I know that it was so unfair of me to do so.

And mostly I want to tell you that I miss you. Even though I could never tell you when you were living, I loved you more than words could express. My BPD made it impossible for me to accept your love and return it in any kind of meaningful way. I’m sorry for all of that. But I know that you alone realized and understood how sick I was.

[irp posts=”9431″ name=”Anger and Borderline Personality Disorder – Why it Happens & How to Manage It (by Dee Chan)”]


About the Author: Dee Chan

Dee Chan was diagnosed with BPD more than 35 years ago back when the diagnosis was still fairly new and not very well understood. She has been living with it and coping with it ever since and finding ways to thrive despite it. She has been able to put it into complete remission and turned her life around completely through the practices of gratitude, forgiveness and accountability. Find out more about Dee’s work on her website bpdnomore.com.

5 Comments

Amanda

Thanks for sharing. I’m suffering from BPD too, and my husband just left me since last month, and we are in the process of divorce. I can feel you when you wrote down all the apologies for your husband. My behaviors were totally like yours. He has been together with me 3 years, he has an anxiety issue before he met me. He told me due to his own issue he cannot continue this marriage anymore. This marriage is killing him inside. We have told to each other “you are the love of my life”. I thought we will be together forever. He is still the love of my life, but I can feel his pain and hate myself so much. Your article comforts me at this difficult time Thank you

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Sharon Hutchinson

Thank you for having the courage to tell your story. Very insightful and moving.

Reply
Bruce

This is a mirror version of where I currently find myself.
My wife has moved 800 miles away and got a job on a one year contract mainly because all we ever did was bicker from the minute the sun rose to long after it set over absolute rubbish. She has been gone for two months and the loneliness I experience is verbatim to what you have described.
I used to be terribly OCD before she left and have got to the stage where I have stopped cleaning the house almost altogether and developed a terrible no-care attitude but after reading about what you had and him never coming home again to the chance of my love coming home one day has given me new hope.
I realise that change starts within and that that within is me.
Thank you for such a lovely article and may you grow stronger on a daily basis.
On the brighter side of things I am very lucky to have 3 dogs who are very patient with me and are slowly learning to talk “human” because believe you me they are all I have as company at the moment

Reply
JACQUIE ATHERSMITH

Hello Bruce,
I hear that you feel lonely, and I am no stranger to those feelings, but may I offer some thoughts ?

I don’t think your wife has abandoned you, more that she has taken this opportunity to preserve her sanity and independence, and to afford you the opportunity of a little space to get a new perspective, and to grow.

When we busy ourselves with repetitive tasks (OCD) it can be a physical way of us not allowing ourselves time to deal with the real issues, and the “bickering” can just be a smoke screen to prevent us, or others, from seeing what the real problems are.

My late husband and I argued almost on a daily basis for 28 years, but he was the love of my life and still is.

We made a point every day, of never going to bed angry. Even in the middle of a heated row, one of us would say to the other “Just remember, I am your best friend in this world !” Then at some point, one of us would start laughing, seeing the futility of the argument.

If there is love, there is hope, if there is hope there is the potentiality for EVERYTHING !

So choose to be the person you want to be (you don’t have to keep being the person you were), and choose the quality of love you want to give, and to receive.

What you focus on, you get more of.
This is really important to note :
What you focus on you get more of !!!

So why not focus on what you actually want and need, rather than on what you don’t want and don’t need ? Focus on what is good and magical in your marriage, rather than what is not so great, and be grateful that you still have time together to celebrate your love for each other.

Easter is a time that reminds us of ultimate sacrifice, of death and re-birth. May this season fill you with inspiration, peace and deep joy.

Kind Regards Jacquie Athersmith

Reply
JACQUIE ATHERSMITH

Dee, my heart goes out to you.
I lost my Husband in 2013, after 28 amazing years together, so I do understand how you feel.

The wonderful thing about your account, is that it validates your marriage. The good, the bad and the ugly. But most importantly, through forgiveness and understanding, you are showing the deepest love and respect, for your late Husband, and for yourself.

No one gets to be together forever, in this life and in this form. We share a journey, that can help us to grow, emotionally and spiritually. And however long or short that journey is, it should be celebrated and appreciated, because it is the greatest of gifts.

Love, is the greatest gift, and it’s the only one that really matters. Though your Husband is no longer here physically, the love you have for him, and the love he has for you, still is.
Death might take our lover, but it can never take our love.

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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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