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.

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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

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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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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