Possible triggers: suicide, abuse
There comes a time when the stars align and you finally meet the right person for you. Most people have experienced it at some point in their life and sometimes it’s also true that you know it right from the start. That was the case for me in April 2018. It didn’t matter that I met her online, it didn’t matter that she didn’t know what she was looking for right from the start. Her aura was just unique to me. So when the time comes you better be ready. In my case I was not even close to being ready. I was not even close to realizing I was suffering from borderline personality disorder.
The signs where there right from the start. While our interaction was still solely online I was already too intense and invested in a total stranger. She was nine years younger than me so of course all this was too much for her. But I was too desperate to have something meaningful. When we met in person in May I was hopeful that something great will come out of it. The chemistry was definitely there, at least in my mind.
The actual circumstances were more complicated. She wasn’t even sure she wanted a relationship with me. Furthermore, she was studying in a different city and at the same time I was living by myself with a dog and without means of transportation. The logistics were an inconvenience. Also, my psychiatrists had advised me against any kind of long-distance relationship in the past.
To make things even more complicated the opportunity came up for me to get an internship at Oracle Labs Australia in Brisbane at some point during late 2018 or early 2019. Such opportunities are hard to come by and as a PhD student you cannot ignore them. On the other hand, whether in a relationship or single I knew I was not ready for the challenge of living abroad once again. The first time was a disaster and I was still far too unstable emotionally to do it without compromising my mental health.
This whole situation was very stressful for me and caused me to be even more pressing right from the start. We decided to pause our communication in June and once again I started desperately looking for someone else.
Summer of optimism
We met in the end of June in Athens, without clearing things out entirely though for me to stop being distrusting-I don’t even know if that was possible. Then we had to spend a month apart in July. I decided that I will give it a shot with the internship and tried to remain optimistic, at least on the surface.
I could not even make a long-distance relationship work with both parties in the same country so I was very worried about my decision. In fact even during that one month we spent apart I was feeling completely empty, lonely and lacking motivation. I repeated past mistakes and I wasn’t even honest about it. She was very supportive about this, but she had no idea what we were signing up to. Neither did I to be honest.
In August we became a couple, I accepted the internship, things were great when we were together but I was already showing extreme signs of dependence. I went on vacation with friends for five days and during these five days I was full of negativity, anger and selfishness. When this was over the rest of the summer was amazing as I spent it with the only person I wanted to be around. For the first time in my life it felt like I had found what I was looking for in a person. Even then I still made remarks that eventually she would leave me.
AUTUMN of DEPRESSION
Then September came and it was time for exams for undergraduate students so we had to spend two weeks away. It took me just a couple of hours to once again feel completely empty and lacking motivation. I was miserable alone, even though she was just two and half hours away. From there on more and more problems started emerging. My behavior showed signs of what people suffering from borderline personality disorder are susceptible to in the early stages of a relationship. I started having doubts, losing trust, lashing out at her for minor remarks that I felt diminished me and my feelings. Within a few days I started having problems with both her appearance and behavior. So initially you put a person on a pedestal and then you start tearing them down.
At the time I thought I was right about most things and everything I did was what I felt like doing, there was no strategy or any rational defense mechanism. I had the luxury of having a very patient person across me though, so I really tried to calm down and it worked temporarily. Sadly, I had no idea how to control the things that triggered me, or why they triggered me so much. My emotional fragility and instability were becoming toxic.
Spiraling down once again
In October things became even worse. With every milestone that was getting me closer to finalizing the paperwork for my internship my negativity increased. I started becoming hysterical. As usual I started withdrawing from everyone else. My focus was solely on my PhD and my relationship. In my mind I was trying to establish a deep connection before leaving so that the relationship would endure. But our lives were losing balance and especially in my case the lack of balance could be disastrous. We were moving between cities all the time, being together as much as possible.
All this in just two months of being together and it was like we were living together. I barely remember going to the office or going out with friends during that period, I wasn’t even in Athens most of the time. I quit my hobbies but at the same time I started singing because she sings too. It felt like it was something I really wanted at the time and maybe I did but the decision to start was impulsive. It was a typical effort to become what I thought my significant other might have wanted.
She would have been happy the way I was but for the tension I was causing, my mental breakdowns which started multiplying along with my negative remarks about more and more things. She could not handle them and she could confront me to have me stop. Accepting whatever a person suffering from borderline personality disorder says will only feed their irrational thoughts and can result in an endless circle of misery.
Halloween 2018 was a total disaster. I had a massive breakdown just because I felt that she was not as invested in spending enough time together. The trigger was her decision to invite a friend to spend the weekend with us. Things that shouldn’t matter had become massive obstacles for me. I was making life miserable for both of us, people were noticing and I was becoming negative towards them too. That weekend I was annoyed with everyone, I was behaving like a narcissist in front of her friends and I could not let anything go without causing a conflict.
When you dig deeper and deeper to find something that will cause complete distrust and ruin everything, you eventually find it. I could not let go of things that belonged to the past. Eventually I found what I was looking for. Of course I thought that I was looking for it with good intent to achieve a better understanding between us. But it was my insecurity and wounds of my own past that were the driving force. So all my good intent went into the drain and I crashed.
I spent the first two weeks of November in a zombified and indifferent state and that was when I started admitting to close friends that I felt no pleasure being around people. I was unhappy with everything and I couldn’t find a solution. It’s worth noting that my parents were taking care of my dog all the time and my father insisted on giving her away. This once again lead to extremely intense arguments that were borderline violent – pun intended. There were even arguments over the phone that lead to the loudest screams that have ever come out of my mouth. I’m talking about glass-shattering volume levels. I was losing my mind but I don’t think anyone realized it. I could not stand all this uncertainty and I started having more and more doubts.
There was a glimpse of a happiness for ten days after the mid of November that I spent with my girlfriend. She could still soothe me and calm me down when I was paranoid. I moved back to my parents house on the 29th of November. My dog was still there at the time.
back with the parents
From that point on my memory falters. My mood was so bad that I never even bothered to take my dog for a walk as if I didn’t care anymore. My productivity was virtually zero. I also remember telling my mother that going to Australia will ruin everything but I was too late to turn the internship down. Also, I was too worried about what people were thinking of me, that they were painting me in a negative light and that would cost me my relationship. I was looking for understanding and support in the most confusing ways.
Eventually we gave my dog to another family. By that time I was fully depressed, constantly sleeping and doing nothing in my life when I was awake. A familiar pattern for me, but I did not take any action. It felt like I was paralyzed with fear.
At some point during that time we decided that it was a good idea to apply to go for Erasmus in 2019 – that’s a student exchange program for those unfamiliar with it. Eventually she did apply and that meant another 6 months of long distance. Of course it was only fair that both sides get to experience something different. For me though, extending 6 months of separation to a year crushed all my hopes. Piling up impulsive decisions is clearly a terrible idea and if I had known beforehand I would have never accepted the internship. Mentally it would have been a great call both for me and our relationship. As things stood this decision just added to my misery and depression. At the time though all that mattered was for me to be equally supportive.
my first and last moments of bliss in 2019
I sparked back into life about three weeks prior to leaving for Australia. Sort of. My mood was swinging all the time but I felt the need to have fun with people I cared about. I manage to gather the energy to do it and things seemed great on the surface.
But there were always negative thoughts lingering in my mind. I knew that extreme loneliness made me have extreme thoughts and extreme needs. In the past I had harmed people with my words and actions under such circumstances, but I did not address my concerns openly. It’s not the stuff people are open about with their significant others, especially when not knowing they suffer from BPD to at least have an explanation about why they feel that way. I only expressed my concerns in the stupidest way making my girlfriend feel insecure and inadequate.
What an oxymoron! Making people feel exactly the way you never want them to make you feel. The way I talked made me sound exactly like the type of man I never wanted to be.
Welcome to brisbane
The airplane landed in Brisbane on Saturday the 9th of February, 2018 at around 21:00. I was full of excitement that night. On Sunday the 10th I woke up feeling completely empty and lonely. It only took half a day… All the people I had left behind were a memory and not a comforting one. I was numb to anything positive. I stared pushing everyone away and decided to brute force my time in Australia. “If I/we survive this, everything will be great once again” was my rationalization.
I was barely sleeping for the first month in Australia. I was in a hypomanic state, intense at times, agitated at other times and feeling extremely hypersexual. At the same time I was extremely lonely and in need of company. I avoided talking to people in Greece except for my girlfriend as it was pointless and caused me irritation. She was the sole recipient of all my frustration, sadness and misery. And she could not do anything about it but none of us was ready to give up.
I was disgusted by myself, my behavior and the things that were on my mind and I took it out on her on a daily basis. I was arguing with a person half a hemisphere away about things completely irrelevant to my situation. At the same time I had nothing negative to say about her and our relationship to other people. All this was on me, I was the problem but I could not find the solution. I am not even sure I was looking. Helplessness was the feeling that overcame me, I could not see a way out of what was happening to me.
I avoided contact with other people as much as possible as I was rightfully worried that an act of impulse would ruin my relationship. Making such a mistake would leave both of us completely devastated. I didn’t go out with people more than five times during my first two and half months in Brisbane.
Fake it till you make it does not always work
Meanwhile I did not admit to my supervisors that I was miserable, that I wanted all this and at times everything else to end. I was living my life being a shell of myself, wanting to do nothing – at least nothing that I would consider normal. And of course suicide was on the back of my mind once again, only this time I had a really clear reason to get through this.
Everybody annoyed me and I kept making negative remarks about them to myself and to other people. I knew I needed to see a psychiatrist but I considered it a good idea to postpone it until I got back.
an entirely different person
By the time my girlfriend visited in late April I had turned into a beast living in a cave of a room. While I was glad she was there for me I could not stop being awful to her. The three weeks we spent together in Australia were a rollercoaster of emotions – but way too many moments were negative ones. Our visits to Sydney and Melbourne also uncovered that I was terrified of airplanes once again at an even worse degree. A clear sign that I was relapsing heavily.
Her departure meant for me that I had to just endure for just two more months. During that period there were crazy moments at which I questioned even my sexual orientation. My mind was trying to bend the rules of what was considered cheating. For the record, if I was bisexual I would have no problem admitting it. It’s clear that I can stand any sort of stigma.
In my mind everything would be normal after the end of my internship. It somehow made sense. My final week in Brisbane was amazing. Knowing that I was about to return made me enjoy the last few days in full. The one thing that drove me insane and kept freaking me out were the 20 hours I would have to spend in airplanes to get back home. Even Xanax and Valium did not make the experience any less terrifying.
I returned to Athens on July the 16th and the first two or three days were great. It was not sustainable though, I was way too damaged. Soon I was not in the mood to do anything and I was ready to vent out on others all the time. Anticipating my girlfriend’s imminent departure for Erasmus in the Netherlands only made things worse. I did not want to break up but I did not want another 6 months of this hell.
I was about to self-destruct. Negativity was a constant and I kept accusing her of every little thing. I had given up for good. Eventually, during one of our fights she told me that she wanted to break up. She took it back after less than an hour. That’s all it took for me to open Pandora’s box. All the crazy thoughts – sexual or not – I had in Australia along with the possibility of me wanting someone else even when she was next to me. And I could not stop expressing all this madness to her trying to make it make sense.
The rest of the summer was a disaster. We were together all the time but we did virtually nothing. Either we would be having fights or we would be miserable together and we kept talking about potentially breaking up. I wanted to do things but I was just exhausted and lacking motivation all the time.
long distance – Part 2
We decided to keep trying and the last few days were positive. When she left though I fell apart. I did not want to see anyone, I kept having the same thoughts and the same needs I had in Australia. The worst part was that they resurfaced the minute I was alone once again. My memories of that time are also foggy but I have no doubt I was unbearable and I would start a fight over every little thing. I thought that being in Greece would make things easier but it didn’t. And for some reason finding the strength to go see a psychiatrist was impossible.
All I could do was sit in front of my computer either working, playing video games, getting out of my room as little as possible and spend the nights watching NFL games and staying up until the wee hours. It felt like I had turned my brain into a soup and I would sleep three or four times a day.
She visited twice that semester, the second time was even a surprise for me. But my anger towards her for not being there -probably- along with the guilt and shame for my behavior had taken full control. I kept doing more and more damage, projecting my own problems to her. I had the most resilient person I could have by my side though. She endured all this alone, she fought back as little as possible. She reminded of my younger self that would tolerate anything to be with the one he wanted.
Just before Christmas during a period of extreme hypersexuality and loneliness I told her I wanted to have sex with someone else. Once again the way I said it made her feel it was her fault, like she was lacking something. She didn’t tell me to break up so this unraveled even more extreme sexual thoughts and discussions, but thankfully no actions. I was looking forward to her coming back for the holiday and she did too. So she returned, we were together all the time once again, we even went on two trips.
However, I could not even stand my own self, let alone her presence. I was now actively trying to anger her and make her miserable as some sort of punishment for still being around me. Reminder: I was doing all this out of impulse, I could not control myself. Only now that I’m looking back I realize what I was doing. There was too much verbal abuse and twice I crossed the line and things got physical. There was no turning back after that point. Even after that she was still trying and I just was not there.
the inevitable end
She left on the 8th of January of 2020 and that’s the last time I saw her in person. The next two days were terrible, I could not stand feeling like this anymore let alone treat someone I loved this way. I told her I wanted to break up on the 10th, one month prior to her return on the 9th of February which would mark one full year of us being away from each other.
For one year and a half I had exactly what I thought I wanted in life. An amazing girlfriend, six months in an amazing country and the most beautiful city I have visited and a great 6-month internship. The timing was disastrous though and I did not want all these things to happen together. What I was missing was control of my own self and emotions. All my positive traits were getting consumed by the negative feelings that had taken control due to my inability to rise up to the occasion.
More importantly I stopped enjoying life. And that’s how I ruined the best thing that happened to me, something that started full of optimism and with the best intentions from both sides. And traumatized one more person that made the mistake of being close to me. Only this time I was not dealing with a toxic person, but a person who deserved much much better.
I did not want all this. Not everybody is meant to be incredibly successful at what they do. So I would give up everything but the girl. That was the only thing that mattered to me, but instead I decided to risk losing everything and I did. I wish I would not give in to the expectations and accept my own limitations sooner. Even that might have not been enough though, as it might have not exposed the actual problem.
DID all this really happen?
Looking back all this seems like a terrible nightmare. Unfortunately, it’s the grim reality of what a person with mental illness can do to themselves and to the people close to them. I could not understand how a person’s mind can drift that far away from sanity and without realizing it, without others realizing it.
But the reality is that for the past 15 years I’ve been moving towards that direction without slowly but steadily, thinking everything was normal at times. I had accepted a version of myself that had nothing to do with who I originally was and what I wanted from my life. I could not and still can’t justify my behavior towards so many people, especially the ones I love so deeply. But at least now I know what is wrong with me. I am borderline. And it’s the worst thing that has happened to me.
“I get the feeling like, I can see forty and it’s like I’m the coyote in the cartoons, like I’m running off a cliff, and if I don’t look down and keep running, I might be fine. But I think I’m all fucked up.” – Detective Marty Hart – True Detective
I wish people could try to understand what someone else is going through before judging them and calling them names. I’ve made that mistake in the past and I have come to realize that plenty of the times when we don’t understand someone it’s because we don’t understand our own selves.
Thank you for standing by my side. I wish I could take all the things I said and did back and do right by you. I’ll keep trying to bring out the best of me once more.
PS: Any person exposed to constant trauma for such an extended period of time should seek help. Sometimes you don’t realize the consequences of such harmful experiences until it’s too late. Take it from someone who has been both on the receiving and giving end.
PS1: The title of this post is a combination of two of my favorite movies. Her and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.