Until 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 prepared. I was not even close to realizing I was suffering from a borderline personality disorder (BPD). Unfortunately, BPD ruins relationships. Especially long-distance relationships.
Possible triggers: suicide, abuse
The signs were 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 also desperate to have something meaningful. When we met in person in May 2018, I was hopeful that something great would come out of it. The chemistry was 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 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 Ph.D. 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 was a disaster, and I was still far too unstable emotionally to do it without compromising my mental health.
This situation was 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 at 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 would give it a shot with the internship and remain optimistic, at least on the surface.
I could not even make a long-distance relationship with both parties in the same country, so I was anxious about my decision. In fact, even during that month we spent apart, I felt 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 for. 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 empty and lacking motivation. I was miserable alone, even though she was just two and a 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. So BPD ruins relationships right from the start. 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 what triggered me or why they triggered me so much. My emotional fragility and instability were becoming toxic.
Spiraling into depression once again
In October, things became even worse. With every milestone that was getting me closer to finalizing my internship paperwork, my negativity increased. I started becoming hysterical. As usual, I started withdrawing from everyone else. My focus was solely on my Ph.D. 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 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 if it wasn't for the tension I was causing, my mental breakdowns that were multiplying along with 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 who has borderline personality disorder says will only feed their irrational thoughts and result in an endless circle of misery.
Halloween 2018 was a total disaster. I had a massive breakdown 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. 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. Finally, I found what I was looking for. Of course, I thought that I was looking for it with good intentions to understand us better. But it was my insecurity and wounds of my own past that was 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 leads to too 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 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 it 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, which 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 thoroughly depressed, continually 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 for her to apply to Erasmus in 2019 – that's a student exchange program for those unfamiliar with it. Eventually, she did use it, and that meant another six months of long-distance. Of course, it was only fair that both sides get to experience something different. For me, though, extending six 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 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 before leaving for Australia. Sort of. My mood swung 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 radical views and severe 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 explain why they feel that way. I only expressed my concerns most stupidly, making my girlfriend feel insecure and inadequate.
What an oxymoron! Making people feel precisely the way you never want them to make you think. The way I talked made me sound exactly like the type of man I never wanted to be.
Welcome to Brisbane – You are in for a treat.
The airplane landed in Brisbane on Saturday the 9th of February, 2019, at around 21:00. I was full of excitement that night. On Sunday the 10th, I woke up feeling 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 started 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 incredibly 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 neither 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 daily. I was arguing with a person half a hemisphere away about things utterly irrelevant to my situation. At the same time, I had nothing negative to say about her and our relationship with 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 wholly devastated. I didn't go out with people more than five times during my first two and a 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 and wanted all this and everything else to end. I lived my life being a shell of myself, wanting to do nothing – at least nothing that I would consider normal. Of course, suicide was on the back of my mind once again; only this time, I had an apparent reason to get through this.
Everybody annoyed me, and I kept making negative remarks about them to myself and 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 uncovered that I was terrified of airplanes once again to an even worse degree. A clear sign that I was relapsing heavily.
Her departure meant to me that I had to 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 were bisexual, I would have no problem admitting it. I can stand any stigma.
In my mind, everything would be expected after the end of my internship. It somehow made sense. My final week in Brisbane was terrific. 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 wish to another six 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 have 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 relationship – 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 needs 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 see a psychiatrist was impossible. My BPD was ruining my relationship because I was feeling abandoned no matter where I was. It clearly out of control.
All I could do was sit in front of my computer, either work, play video games, get 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 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 me of my younger self that would tolerate anything to be with the one he wanted.
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 lacked something. She didn't tell me to break up, which unraveled even more extreme sexual thoughts and discussions, but thankfully no actions. I was looking forward to her coming back for a 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 self, let alone her presence. I was now actively trying to anger her and make her miserable as some 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 – Yes, BPD ruins relationships and much, much more.
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 before 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 a beautiful country and the most beautiful city I have visited, and a fantastic 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 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 limitations sooner. Even that might not have been enough, though, as it might not have exposed the actual problem.
DID all this 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 the people close to them. I could not understand how a person's mind can drive 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 in that direction 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 those I love 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 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 time when we don't understand someone, it's because we don't understand ourselves.
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 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.