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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How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.
When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.

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