How To Think About Dating When You Have Borderline Personality Disorder

by Abii Hilton-Dunne

I'm going to be real with you for a second: I'm single. In fact, I've been single for what seems like ages.

Now, it may just be that I haven't met my match yet, or it may be because I'm actually completely insufferable and no one likes me (which is starting to seem like the most likely option these days).

But either way, dating can be an absolute minefield when you're in your 20s. It's even harder when you're in your 20s and have a serious and potentially unstable mental illness.

Perfecting the art of Tinder small talk, speaking to and texting a potential date, surviving the actual date and then dealing with the inevitable "ghosting" that seems to happen more often than not these days -- not to mention the whirlwind of emotions you experience when you do actually snare someone -- can be exhausting for anyone, to say the least.

If you don't know what borderline personality disorder (BDP) is, it's a mental illness that is characterized by unstable moods, behaviors and relationships. While there are several characteristics, the two I'm going to narrow in on are the “frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment” and “a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships, characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.”

You can see why dating when you have BPD can be a tad difficult. Say you swiped right on a hot guy (or lady) on Tinder, and the two of you match. You start talking, realize you have a few things in common, exchange numbers, talk for a few days and finally arrange to meet in person.

You have all of the usual pre and post-date feelings, such as excitement, nerves and a small sense of hope that this could be the one. You wonder if this person will look anything like his or her profile picture. You wonder if he or she will like you as much in person. You wonder if you'll finally get laid.

Except the problem is, alongside all of these normal feelings are the not-so-normal attachment issues, an innate crippling sense of self, the feeling of attachment for someone who's basically a stranger and a whole bunch of other confusing and exaggerated emotions that come with having borderline personality disorder.

It's fine when you meet the person in question and realize you don't find him or her that attractive, or that the two of you don't quite hit it off. You can immediately turn off the attachment switch, go as cold as ice and move on with your life, without ever having a second thought about that person. I know I can.

But what about when you realize you kind of like this person, and start spending more and more time with him or her? That's a whole different story. Things can get intense too soon and too quickly. You can find yourself feeling as though you're madly in love, even though you've only known this person for two minutes.

You inevitably become attached to this person, and can't imagine your life without him or her. After date three, you're picking out your wedding dress and thinking up names for your future children. (No, really.) Coupled with these intense emotions of "love" are the equally intense emotions of fear and self-doubt.

You fear you'll be abandoned for someone else, and that this person doesn't like you as much as he or she claims. If this person takes too long to reply to a text or doesn't answer the phone, self-doubt eats away at you like cancer.

You think this person is cheating on you. You go from idolizing this person to hating him or her over the course of a day.

If things don't work out or you're "ghosted," it can feel like the end of the world. You think you'll never find love again, and you think you're destined to be alone.

You think, "What did I do wrong? What's wrong with me?" It can feel as though someone has actually died, and you cry and sob and sulk before downloading Tinder once again. Thus, the cycle continues.

I've been on a fair number of dates, and I wish I could say things get easier. But so far, dating is still a whirlwind of intense emotions for me.

Sometimes, I want to give up and pack it all up. I say I should just accept my single status. Sometimes, that seems easier than putting myself through the same old sh*t time and time again.

But then, I remind myself there are millions of people who suffer from BPD. They are in successful, loving and stable relationships. That's when I realize there is someone out there for me.

Someone will return the love and affection I have, support me and accept me for who I am. He or she will think I'm f*cking awesome, and won't give a sh*t about my mental illness. That's why I keep on dating.