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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Whenever the brain registers threat, it organises the body to fight the danger, flee from it, or hide from it. 

Here’s the rub. ‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually dangerous, but about what the brain perceives. It also isn’t always obvious. For a strong, powerful, magnificent, protective brain, ‘threat’ might count as anything that comes with even the teeniest potential of making a mistake, failure, humiliation, judgement, shame, separation from important adults, exclusion, unfamiliarity, unpredictability. They’re the things that can make any of us feel vulnerable.

Once the brain registers threat the body will respond. This can drive all sorts of behaviour. Some will be obvious and some won’t be. The responses can be ones that make them bigger (aggression, tantrums) or ones that make them smaller (going quiet or still, shrinking, withdrawing). All are attempts to get the body to safety. None are about misbehaviour, misintent, or disrespect. 

One of the ways bodies stay safe is by hiding, or by getting small. When children are in distress, they might look calm, but unless there is a felt sense of safety, the body will be surging with neurochemicals that make it impossible for that young brain to learn or connect. 

We all have our things that can send us there. These things are different for all of us, and often below our awareness. The responses to these ‘things’ are automatic and instinctive, and we won’t always know what has sent us there. 

We just need to be mindful that sometimes it’s when children seem like no trouble at all that they need our help the most. The signs can include a wilted body, sad or distant eyes, making the body smaller, wriggly bodies, a heavy head. 

It can also look as though they are ignoring you or being quietly defiant. They aren’t - their bodies are trying to keep them safe. A  body in flight or flight can’t hear words as well as it can when it’s calm.

What they need (what all kids need) are big signs of safety from the adult in the room - loving, warm, voices and faces that are communicating clear intent: ‘I’m here, I see you and I’ve got you. You are safe, and you can do this. I’m with you.’♥️
I’d love to invite you to an online webinar:
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As we emerge from the pandemic, stressors are heightened, and anxiety is an ever more common experience. We know from research that the important adults in the life of a child or teen have enormous capacity to help their world feel again, and to bring a felt sense of calm and safety to those young ones. This felt sense of security is essential for learning, regulation, and general well-being. 

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So much of what our kids and teens are going through isn’t normal - online school, extended separation from their loved people, lockdowns, masks. Even if what they are going through isn’t ‘normal’, their response will be completely understandable. Not all children will respond the same way if course, but whatever they feel will be understandable, relatable, and ‘normal’. 

Whether they feel anxious, confused, frustrated, angry, or nothing at all, it’s important that their response is normalised. Research has found that children are more likely to struggle with traumatic events if they believe their response isn’t normal. This is because they tend to be more likely to interpret their response as a sign of breakage. 

Try, ‘What’s happening is scary. There’s no ‘right’ way to feel and different people will feel different things. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel.’

Any message you can give them that you can handle all their feelings and all their words will help them feel safer, and their world feel steadier.♥️
We need to change the way we think about discipline. It’s true that traditional ‘discipline’ (separation, shame, consequences/punishment that don’t make sense) might bring compliant children, but what happens when the fear of punishment or separation isn’t there? Or when they learn that the best way to avoid punishment is to keep you out of the loop?

Our greatest parenting ‘tool’ is our use of self - our wisdom, modelling, conversations, but for any of this to have influence we need access to their ‘thinking’ brain - the prefrontal cortex - the part that can learn, think through consequences, plan, make deliberate decisions. During stress this part switches off. It is this way for all of us. None of us are up for lectures or learning (or adorable behaviour) when we’re stressed.

The greatest stress for young brains is a felt sense of separation from their important people. It’s why time-outs, shame, calm down corners/chairs/spaces which insist on separation just don’t work. They create compliance, but a compliant child doesn’t mean a calm child. As long as a child doesn’t feel calm and safe, we have no access to the part of the brain that can learn and be influenced by us.

Behind all behaviour is a need - power,  influence, independence, attention (connection), to belong, sleep - to name a few). The need will be valid. Children are still figuring out the world (aren’t we all) and their way of meeting a need won’t always make sense. Sometimes it will make us furious. (And sometimes because of that we’ll also lose our thinking brains and say or do things that aren’t great.)

So what do we do when they get it wrong? The same thing we hope our people will do when we get things wrong. First, we recognise that the behaviour is not a sign of a bad child or a bad parent, but their best attempt to meet a need with limited available resources. Then we collect them - we calm ourselves so we can bring calm to them. Breathe, be with. Then we connect through validation. Finally, when their bodies are calm and their thinking brain is back, talk about what’s happened, what they can do differently next time, and how they can put things right. Collect, connect, redirect.
Our nervous systems are talking to each other every minute of every day. We will catch what our children are feeling and they will catch ours. We feel their distress, and this can feed their distress. Our capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

Children create their distress in us as a way to recruit support to help them carry the emotional load. It’s how it’s meant to be. Whatever you are feeling is likely to be a reflection what your children are feeling. If you are frustrated, angry, helpless, scared, it’s likely that they are feeling that way too. Every response in you and in them is relevant. 

You don’t need to fix their feelings. Let their feelings come, so they can go. The healing is in the happening. 

In that moment of big feelings it’s more about who you are than what you do. Feel what they feel with a strong, steady heart. They will feel you there with them. They will feel it in you that you get them, that you can handle whatever they are feeling, and that you are there. This will help calm them more than anything. We feel safest when we are ‘with’. Feel the feeling, breathe, and be with - and you don’t need to do more than that. 
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