The world is constantly split in the eyes of someone like me who has borderline personality disorder (BPD). We only see things in extremes, one end of the spectrum or the other, black or white with no other shades in between. Everything is polarized. I’m high or I’m low; you love me, or you hate me.
The time it takes to travel from one end to the other isn’t much at all; I can be dancing and having the time of my life, then suddenly a thought can cross my mind and I’m ready to end it all right then and there. Relationships can go from fabulous to over in a matter of minutes. All it takes is one small thing to throw the world out of balance and force me to unleash all of my pain.
They say that most of the time, splitting is almost like a “fight or flight reaction” within someone with BPD. It’s a defense mechanism; it’s the armor we wear in hopes of protecting ourselves from the shattering heartache we feel each and every day.
Here’s the thing about splitting, though: it doesn’t always look the same. Just like there can be many differences in how someone with depression acts or feels, the same is true for how someone with BPD can begin to unravel and split. I’ve seen even in my own reactions to the world around me that I don’t always commit my “splitting infractions” in the same way. There are, however, some patterns and a few ways I tend to split in regards to people when I’m feeling that desire to break away.
1. I split in silence.
Sometimes, the path of least resistance is to simply say nothing at all, and this is definitely the case when I feel those urges to split but have the self-control to prevent it from happening completely. This splitting tends to simply be a radio silence: I may go from talking your ear off to suddenly responding in short, choppy words and phrases, or I may stop speaking at all. The danger here is actually all the thoughts that are racing through my head — all the emotions that are shooting through my veins and eating away at my heart.
This form of splitting is the hardest for those around me to recognize, and it often goes unnoticed whatsoever. Over time, if my feelings fester, I’ll start pulling away from the person more and more, going to extreme lengths to avoid any interaction with them at all.
2. I split with rage.
Probably the most common way people imagine splitting — “I hate you; don’t leave me!”
Rage is a frequent form of splitting for me… and often the most destructive. The best way I can describe it is a volcano: the feelings are always there, dormant, until the catalyst begins to heat all the things and they have nowhere to go but out. It’s in that moment I explode. I use words like weaponry, wielding them without care and determined to throw the final blow. I stomp, I shout, I slam myself into things. This rage can also turn internal, leaving me to self-destruct through all those unhealthy means that people like me use. These moments are the ones which instantly push people away and leave me drowning in the shame of my behaviors once the storm subsides.
3. I split in the past.
Sometimes when I split, I drag myself back to all the memories I have of splitting, which only further pushes me to think the world is ending. I will start projecting the past onto the present and use past scenarios to fuel into the splitting battles I find myself in. These are the times I say things like, “You hate me because everyone always hates me,” or “Well, when I did this, she left, so you’re just going to leave me, too.” When I split in this way, it is never really about the person who receives the regurgitation of my mind, but rather the pain I still feel from the original infraction. These actions are also never helpful or healthy, as they tend to make people feel lousy when I compare them to someone else (usually someone they know I hate).
4. I split with myself.
This may not make sense to everyone, but it’s a connection I’ve recently made as I fight to understand myself and spend time analyzing nearly every moment in my day. Sometimes, though, instead of pushing those thoughts and feelings I may be having onto someone else, I store them up to use on myself. I nitpick every tiny flaw, even every breath I take, and try to actually turn on myself. I purposely make decisions to further harm myself, or I seek attention by outwardly using my words against my own body and mind. These can be the times where I dissociate, or spiral into a complete delirium, frequently pushing myself to some extreme limits and life-threatening places.
I’m learning, though, that splitting doesn’t have to end in shouting matches or even reach that point of escalation at all. As I work toward a life worth living, I am developing skillful means through dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) that can help me push through those moments when the magnitude of pain reaches breaking points.
When we split, it’s important to always try to harness our wise mind to help us check the facts. Often, those feelings that trigger our “fight or flight” response aren’t based in any form of reality whatsoever. It’s important to realize when we are reaching critical mass and use distress tolerance skills to combat the dysregulation and emotion regulation skills to find the middle path. Although I find myself still frequently splitting on my favorite person or my partner, I know I am making progress toward recovery, and every small step makes my explosive reactions happen a little less. It’s all about learning to cope healthily and gain control over an illness that, at times, seems all-consuming.