Personality disorders are real. They should be understood by everyone. Those who suffer from them need support and love. Sufferers are not to blame for their disorders. In no way should anyone be shamed for having a personality disorder. They cannot be cured. The victims–families and friends–of those who hold the disorder require exceptional support.
This essay is an observation of one author’s writing describing what I suspect to be borderline and narcissistic personality disorders. As a victim of the disorders, I feel compelled to write about what I see and experience as B/NPD signs. As far as I know, or others, experts or otherwise, have reported about me, I do not suffer from either disorder. If I suffer from NPD, only you might be able to see it.
These disorders must be understood, feared, and respected in order to be survived.
Borderline personality disorder is invisible. It is terribly difficult to identify and understand. Those who suffer from it look and behave just like healthy people. Narcissistic personality disorder is the same, but its sufferers are completely blind to their disorder and will refuse to admit to it. When combined together they pose a terrible threat to the people they occupy and everyone who loves them.
My life has been filled with trauma inflicted by these disorders. People I love and hold as family, dear friends, colleagues, and even bosses have hurt me beyond what I believed possible. Their betrayal and abuse shattered my identity and world-views repeatedly. I suffer from PTSD due to this. Yet, I see their own suffering, and I always engage to help them because I love them. It always costs me dearly.
I believe only a small percentage of people I know can recognize these disorders–less than one percent. Everyone can feel the pain they cause, but almost no one I know can see BPD as the cause. I only know one person who can consistently see BPD in others.
Therapists are ill equipped to identify it. Families are destroyed because it often goes undiagnosed and untreated for decades. Identifying BPD requires involvement of family and friends to verify. It wants to be invisible. It requires to not be recognized in order for it to exist. This is why the disorder is so insidious.
I routinely encounter articles that catch my attention because their titles or content subtly project ambiguity. I’ve become hyper-vigilant in identifying these disorders. On encountering behavior resembling B/NPD, I sometimes struggle to remain focused on healthy interactions like unrelated intellectual conversations or engagement in work.
Without their authors realizing it, these ambiguous articles describe specific behavior often demonstrated by those who suffer from BPD. I immediately consume their content for analysis.
My body reacts to signs of BPD. I’ve learned to listen to my body to help me identify behaviors and evidence of the disorder. My heart rate will increase dramatically. I begin to itch and sweat. This is my unconscious screaming something is wrong. My conscious self always struggles to identify what my unconscious can clearly see. My unconscious is almost always right.
Websites today have become adept at enabling writers and publishing content that catches my attention with ambiguity. Sites like Quora, WordPress, Medium, Blogger, Tumbler, and Svbtle are good examples. Recently, a specific article caused me significant alarm because of the explicit ambiguity of its title: “It Was Only a Matter of Time Before I Cheated on My Husband”
The title implies that the author maintains no accountability for her infidelity. It is this implication that makes the title ambiguous. Is it really only a matter of time before we all cheat on our partners?
No doubt I received the spam containing the article because I’m being targeted by a search engine and social media advertising bot that knows more about me than I do. I’m always searching for and connecting with support to help me deal with B/NPD trauma. The machines know what we will click on better than ourselves.
My experiences with a boss who suffered from NPD caused me incredible trauma. I lost the job I loved due to her betrayal. B/NPD sufferers are exceptionally prone to use deception and betrayal as tools for self-promotion. They lack empathy. The use ambiguity as weapons. Ambiguous statements and gaslighting are routinely employed to eliminate those who have identified their deception.
Ambiguous controversial statements relating to family and relationships cause me significant alarm because betrayal by parents and life partners can destroy a person’s identity beyond repair. It is also the process, I suspect, by which B/NPD propagates during early childhood, finding a new host.
Tara Blair Ball’s book, The Beginning of The End: A Memoir gives us an excellent example of ambiguity to analyze publicly. The memoir is the source of the online article which was an excerpt from its main text. I bought the Kindle version after reading her article. I did this because I wanted to understand how someone could make such an ambiguous statement as a title of an article. I was hoping it was just controversial click-bait. Unfortunately, I suspect that’s not the case.
Since she published these items of her own free will and sells her book on Amazon, I believe it’s ethical to analyze it publicly. I want to stress that this is not an indictment against her. I see her as a victim of her parents’ abuse.
I write to analyze and understand. I pull things apart with words and explore the meanings and implications of statements. I’m not a clinical psychologist. I’ve found writing things down is the best way track my thoughts and observations and hold myself accountable because B/NPD is so tricky to spot.
The theme of her memoir is betrayal. There are other elements like dealing with miscarriages, but betrayal seems to be the primary element.
Cheating is anything that involves lying and betrayal. Consensual sex, even that outside of a monogamous relationship, if agreed to by both, is not cheating. She seems to agree with this definition.
Betrayal is a choice, even if not admitted to. But the title she chose for her article, which is extracted from her book, implies that infidelity is not a choice. I do not believe that to be true. Avoiding infidelity requires impulse control. One has to choose to not follow an impulse.
For this reason, I immediately suspected the author was writing about someone who suffers from borderline or narcissistic personality disorders. Her book is a memoir. We cannot ignore the implications.
The book, 142 pages, is a quick read. About 45 minutes. This may only be true for survivors of borderline and narcissistic abuse.
A summary of B/NPD indicators in the book: It contains clear signs of splitting, emotional lability, and fear of abandonment. There are descriptions of her suffering extreme and violent child abuse by her parents . She socially isolates her husband. She outlines a clear history of many previous traumatic relationships: Drug abuse (beyond cannabis), waking up with strangers, and physically abusive partners. She describes chronic emptiness with extreme ups and downs. Her marriage is a demonstration of a push-pull relationship. She expresses suicidal tendencies. She struggles with violent anger. Finally, it is her lack of impulse control that finally destroys her marriage.
To be fair, there’s no sign of physical self-harm; however, I doubt the author would admit to such things publicly. Types of self-harm I usually suspect are cutting, banging one’s own head into a wall, and hitting one’s self in the face. There are passages which describe a psychological form of self-harm by ruminating over specific episodes of arguing with her husband:
That day and the next and the next. Hurting myself with what he later told me tearfully he’d never meant because I wanted to hurt, because I wanted to scrape myself out emotionally just like the doctor had scraped the remnants of my baby out of me.
And then there’s this:
…a dog would end up in my path and I’d kick it and then go kick the other one for good measure, and I’d feel a sense of relief, like I’d gotten something out.
For the entire book she quickly shifts from idealizing her first husband as a good father and partner who was by her side throughout her pregnancies and all of the trauma associated with infertility and miscarriages to demonizing him as a liar and criminal because of hiding cannabis use and stealing on the corporate card. He does not relapse from cocaine addiction, which is not what I expected from the claim of drug addiction in the description.
She describes an episode where he decides to sleep in a different room:
I wondered if this was what we should do: live apart until things were easier. Live apart until he figured some shit out. But I didn’t feel married. I felt like I had a roommate, and I was fucking mad about it. I thought, but didn’t say, If you won’t sleep in my bed, I’ll find someone who will. I wore dresses every day. I put on make-up. I did my hair. I put my body before men wherever I went and let them assess it, let them approve. I felt some comfort in this. I’ve still got it. I got angrier and it spilled into every one of our interactions.
“Why would I sleep next to someone who hates me?” He told me.
“Why would I sleep next to someone who only wants to fucking run away from me?” I snapped, but I took note. I needed to do something with my anger..
But, really all she expressed wanting is to have him next to her:
“I slept more deeply when he was next to me. I felt safer when he was next to me.”
Safe from what? Him abandoning her? Why the lack of self-confidence? Later on we will see her carry through with her threat to find someone else to sleep in her bed.
Her husband seems to want to, and does, engage with her. He faithfully attends marriage counseling throughout their marriage. He always expresses a strong desire to be with her even though she has frequent emotional rages with her being physically violent. He even protects his kids from her violent outbursts.
There’s lots and lots of sex. She even says that’s how she was covering up all of their problems.
In between beginning to try in 2013 and the conception of our twins in 2015, we would have sex until we were doing it without any intimacy…
She complains of arguing throughout their entire marriage but does not once explain what it was all about throughout the left-out seven years. The reader is left thinking her husband is walking on eggshells typical in relationships with borderlines. It’s only at the very end of their marriage that she discovers and complains about him lying about cannabis use and theft–the only valid complaints mentioned, physical violence by both excluded.
Many partners and victims of BPD/NPD suffers use cannabis to deal with PTSD symptoms associated with the disorders–they need it, and it works.
The physical abuse seems to be usually instigated by her in frequent rages throughout the entire marriage. Eventually, in front of their children she throws and hits him with an object, and he immediately begins protecting the children–rightly so! He demands she leave. She does, only to impulsively run into the arms of someone she idealizes and fantasizes about, an affair that quickly disintegrates–destroying the marriage she fears losing throughout the entire book.
The sign of physical violence from her husband is when he picks up something she throws at him and he throws it right back at her. Usually, she describes, instead of abusing her physically, he will punch the wall or smash the table. There is absolutely no excuse for physical violence by either partner in any marriage. Why is their marriage fraught with physical violence by both of them?
The most intriguing evidence suggesting there might be borderline personality disorder involved: Her mother was an extremely violent child abuser. She slammed her daughter’s head into a wall because of bad grades. Other times she beat her with a metal broomstick. Her father ignored the life-long physical abuse (they never divorced) even with her asking him for help.
I’ve tried to tell him before. I would tell him after it happened when I was a child and then teenager, but he rarely believed me. My mother always made me out to be the instigator. “Tara the Terrorist,” I was often called. My mother would always spin it somehow that she had only acted in self-defense …
…for many of those events, when I was little, when I was helpless, like the time she pulled my hair and slammed my head into a wall when I was ten years old because I’d gotten a B on my report card. I was innocent.
sometimes [my father] would whisk me away to a hotel for a night and tell me he was going to leave her, but he never did. They are still married.
This kind of emotional trauma–a father failing to save the child from the abuser–is total abandonment of a child’s safety. This is the ultimate form of betrayal. This leads directly to the child later suffering from B/NPD as an adult, going on to abuse a life partner and their own children.
They were only married for eight or so years, and she has sex constantly with her husband (which is likely why he put up with her emotional and physical abuse so long) throughout the entire book but then claims that he wasn’t interest in her. She cites this as one of the reasons for leaving him.
To her therapist’s chagrin, she talks repeatedly about fantasizing about other men while with her husband in their sessions. From this reader’s perspective, he appeared to be all over her, especially throughout the miscarriages.
“My husband rarely touched me now. I kept thinking about how often his hands were on me after the last miscarriage, but he barely came near me this time. … I thought he’s forgotten about me just like I want to forget about me.”
It had only been six days since the miscarriage. What’s strange is that she admits to him being all over her after the last miscarriage, but then says that he isn’t. Then she is clearly projecting: “…just like I want to forget about me.”
She worries about him having an affair, but he isn’t. Then she goes on to have an affair herself.
She admits to isolating her husband from her friends and coworkers instead of integrating them into their relationship enabling others to witness their interactions and giving him an opportunity to be a part of her social life. She describes him in negative ways while he isn’t around. This is typical of a borderline smear campaign and social isolation effort. Borderlines use smear campaigns and isolation of their partners to find external relationships. They make it happen. Partners of BPD individuals see this all the time, and it can be extremely abusive.
She emphasizes risky sex as the sex she enjoys the most (there’s nothing wrong with these fantasies; I note them here only as evidence of her suffering from BPD; Risky promiscuous sex–which she clearly describes herself doing before and after her marriage–is one sign of the disorder):
“When we finally did have sex, it was with a condom and it was boring. He was too cautious. I closed my mind and imagined other men. … Men who’d bruise me. Men who’d draw a little blood. But my husband made love to me softly, running his hands through my hair and cupping my face. I didn’t cum.”
She admits to enjoying these fantasies because of her fear of dealing with her difficult-to-process emotions. Here is another example of emotional lability, this time associated with splitting and black-and-white thinking:
“Do I think my once husband and I would still be married if he hadn’t used drugs/embezzled, I don’t know but I assume yes. Do I think I and/or my children would have been better for it? Of course not. I hope both my once husband and I get what we deserve, and I hope what I deserve is joy. Some days I want the same for him. I hope that will turn into all days I want it for me.”
Some days she wants joy for her now ex-husband. Other days she doesn’t. Then she does. Remember that her ex-husband is no longer around now and isn’t influencing how she feels. These are up-and-down emotions she is experiencing on her own.
In chapter two:
After our first date, my husband had told me he wouldn’t continue to date me if I was going to date other men. After our third date, had told me he wouldn’t date me if I didn’t want to have kids someday. The prospect of losing an ovary made me think he would leave me if I wasn’t able to have children, and this fear opened in me like a gash that split its stitches.
I picked a fight with him. I slammed a door and screamed, “I don’t want to be married anymore.” My husband held his hands up in surrender while I sobbed. He asked me what I wanted him to do.
Somehow, I said, “I want you to hold me.”
In her first marriage she talks of taking antidepressants, doubles up on the dosage and then expresses with self-talk:
“…lets cloud you [herself] with impenetrable indifference so you can get through what promises to be a shit storm today…
But she never says exactly what causes these emotional storms. She goes on:
“I want to be able to feel, to create, to be. Most days. Other days, I saw a twin mom [referring to herself] with a baby bump, and I wanted to put a gun in my mouth.”
Most days she feels good, but what about the rest of the days? Why the ups and downs? Most important: Here we have a clear expression of suicide. Maybe it’s not really important? Maybe it is? It’s ambivalent, and both are indicative of borderline. Meanwhile, the husband is having to deal with all of this.
There’s plenty examples of the push-pull nature of their relationship. She writes a half-page paragraph which repeats the same two sentences over and over again:
“I decided to stay with him. I decided to divorce him. I decided to stay with him. I decided to divorce him. I decided to stay with him. I decided to divorce him. ….”
The epilog contains the most evidence of emotional lability, unfortunately now with her new husband which she describes as wonderful:
“My grief still comes, and I’m never sure when it will, but its duration, intensity, and frequency much less each time…”
The reader is left wondering if what she says is actually true. Are the problems really subsiding? It sounds just like the previous marriage.
About her new husband:
My feelings can be so…unreasonable and irrational. Here I am, getting exactly what I’ve always wanted, and I couldn’t stand it. … I had to one day say, `You’re being too nice to me. I can’t take it right now. Please change the subject.'”
He then asks her, “Do you… want me to be mean to you?” This is more push-pull. By this time, the reader is really starting to fear for the new husband.
“I could `should’ myself to death over this. You [speaking of herself] should be grateful. You should be happy. You should be eating this shit up after everything that happened before.”
She seems to be implying that she is experiencing many of the same emotional ups and downs of her previous marriage again.
Early in the book, with her first husband she mentions and worries about after-women, a concept used to describe women with whom her current partner enters into a relationship after their own fails. In the epilogue, just like with her previous husband, we see the same use of the ‘after-women’ concept while fearing what appears to be a subtype of abandonment:
“Sometimes when I’m with my current husband, I imagine the women that might come after me, the after-women … I have wondered about myself and what little thing he would use to describe me to the after-women. … He thinks this is ridiculous. `Are you expecting us to get divorced?’ … ‘No!’ I say … But I imagine these after-women even when I don’t believe there will ever be any…”
She then discusses her ex-husband with her new husband, and he replies, “Do we really need to talk about him again?” He’s clearly being impacted by her inability to resolve the issues with her previous marriage. Then she is back to worrying about losing her new husband due to her talking about her ex.
“I wondered if this was something [my new husband] would tell an after-woman.”
I think the reason I found this a quick read was because my borderline sensor’s needle was pegged. She even mentions a moment when she projects borderline and narcissism onto her husband but then dismisses it. To describe the feeling I got when reading her book, I will use the words she uses to describe when she senses her husband is lying to her:
“I felt in my gut again that not-rightness like when an animal senses a predator is nearby.”
Why suspect narcissistic personality disorder? She refuses any accountability or insight into her behavior even though she claims to know what B/NPD is. When she describes going to individual therapy we see:
“I scheduled it to commit to a process of bettering myself, but there I discussed only the spending and his lies. She suggested I look more deeply into the money, not allow him to hide these things in the dark, and to speak with a lawyer about what to do if he kept bleeding money, money that could have gone into a savings account for our children… She handed me a rip of paper from her yellow legal pad with a divorce attorney’s name and number on it.”
This is a perfect example demonstrating how therapists are ill equipped to identify and treat borderlines and their families. The therapist doesn’t focus on her patient’s psychological assessment and needs. Instead she recommends a divorce lawyer. I suspect there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Borderlines often use therapists as tools to reinforce social smear campaigns and once the therapist catches on, the therapist is dropped and the borderline will move on to the next therapist. This only enhances the damage being done by the disorder rather than helping everyone involved in the emotional trauma.
Her subject matter is painful, but she’s not necessarily courageous. The reader is left wondering what, exactly, she is leaving out that supports the first husband being the true hero of her story. Is this book the manifestation of a borderline narcissist making up excuses for impulsive infidelity? Just like her mother would spin things to redirect blame?
I was relieved to find no support for her implication that infidelity is inevitable. It was just an ambiguous assertion deployed to capture attention.