One of the consequences of being moved 19 times in your first 18 years of life is learning to very quickly let go of people. Add to that the primary Rule of Isolation in an abusive household, and you have an adult who at the least does not truly understand the nature of friendship and at worst is suspicious of it.
To make it just a wee bit more complicated, consider the fact that the central thesis of BPD is an intense fear of abandonment based on experience. Most people categorized as BPD were abandoned as children, either literally or emotionally (and I'm pretty sure there is really no difference there considering how the brain works).
These abandonment experiences are not simply to be "let go of," as they penetrate the body and remain entwined in the shadows of our very fibers...and they change the brain physiologically in ways we are just beginning to understand.
My brain is different from yours, unless you are lucky enough to share much in common with my past. If you had a fairly safe and secure and predictable childhood, you have no idea. If you experienced abuse as an adult, even, you have only a fraction of an idea, as these later experiences will not change nearly as significantly (or in as many areas) what is already set as neurological pattern in your brain.
My essential, base experience of life is that it is unsafe, that people are pain, and that death lurks everywhere so be on constant vigil.
As I work with dialectical behavior therapy, I am learning the value of things like distraction. When my brain is acting extra wonky, for example, to the point of creating elevated levels of fear and anxiety, it's good to do something for distraction's sake.
I've never thought that was good. All the new age spiritual types tell you to dive in and face your fears, but that is oversimplification to the point of malpractice, because some of us could easily drown. I think a lot of people who spew this stuff don't have a clue (lucky them) about the severity of some of our pain.
Once you are distracted from all the adrenaline producing brain activity, you can then move onto the next step, soothing. After that, you can deal with the issue from a different place. See? No avoidance or repression, but rather, temporary distraction to calm down and soothing to take care of yourself.
This is working pretty well for me.
But my hardest times are still the...hardest, and this is where the abandonment stuff intermingles with the misunderstanding/no understanding that surrounds friendship.
Marcy loves people. She is a people person. She is extroverted. She had a safe upbringing. Our brains are radically different. (Thank God!)
It is her nature, therefore, to have lots of friends.
This frightens me. The story my brain generates around this is that she needs friends because I am not enough. I was not enough of a child for my parents and now I am never enough for anyone else.
I have friends, but they tend to be friends that Marcy and I share. I also tend not to do things alone with others because of my big time need for down time.
We are working really hard on this. Negotiating between my need for gentleness and boundaries and feelings of safety and her need to be herself and to be trusted (which she is completely worthy of).
We often wonder how many couples out there have this problem and don't understand where it comes from enough to work their way through it?
Though we work on this together, I have to do a lot of the work myself, internally, watching my brain for its Giant Pain in the Ass Propensity for Making Shit Up. Then I tell it to just STOP. I present this as if it is easy and it is anything but. This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
When you are raised in an environment of fear, one of the main coping mechanisms is storytelling. You tell yourself stories to soothe yourself; you tell yourself stories to ward off evil, thinking you can control the future by contemplating every possible thing that could happen; you tell yourself stories simply because it is better than living in your current reality.
Now, as an adult, this storytelling mechanism is great for writing but not for living. It damages my life, rather than protects it.
After I notice that the storytelling is happening and after I tell it to STOP, I still have steps to follow through on or it will just continue in the back of mind until it gets strong enough to break through and then I get caught up in emotional re-actions. So, STOP and then I tell Marcy the story. This is a key part of the process. She reminds me that it is not real and then I move onto a distraction method and through the rest of the process.
Because of this process, my life is already different today than it was merely weeks ago. I feel the pain more intensely now as I work with it, but it is good pain -- like after a workout when you feel all proud of yourself for sore thighs. It's a sign of how hard you are working.