A Letter To The Therapist Who Threw Gasoline On The Fire That Is My Borderline Personality Disorder

Dear therapist,

You know I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. In fact, you helped me recover from it eight years ago. You know, for me, it manifests itself as an extreme, irrational fear of abandonment, and frantic attempts to avoid said abandonment. You have worked through these issues with me before.

Alongside my borderline, you know I am the most anxious fuck. No one needs to bother warning me about the sky falling, because I am already well-prepared for all the potential ways the sky could fall.

Tied into both my anxiety disorder and my BPD, you know that one of my greatest flaws is how I struggle to let go of intrusive thoughts and pull myself out of obsessive thought loops.

To put it simply: my mind often feels like a prison, a prison I have no escape from. Sometimes, if I catch the trigger early enough, and if the right supports are in place, I manage to crawl out of the thought loop. But when things get really bad, I often feel as though the only thing that can save me from my own mind is time.

These loops do end. Something might interrupt them—maybe work or a social obligation. More often, I exhaust myself so much with all this anxiety, with all the cortisol flooding my brain, that I eventually stumble back into rationality.

Sometimes, however, these loops feel eternal; as though I am stuck in this labyrinth of suffering, with no means of escape. When this happens, when it goes on long enough, I start to feel the only option is, well, to end my life; for, if consciousness has become a prison, then the only way out is to not be conscious.

In essence, my irrational but persistent, obsessive fear of abandonment—the toxic, negative thought loops I fall victim to that stem from my borderline—can be a real threat to, obviously my health and happiness, but to my safety as well—and you know this. You know how I have struggled with suicide.

In our recent sessions, I stressed that nothing even remotely close to abandonment is occurring. It was my intention to ensure I was a reliable narrator and a good advocate on my partner’s behalf, partially for his sake, but also to adequately communicate the problem to you, the real problem. I stressed to you that there is no external threat, that the only threat is my borderline. In my logical mind, I know my partner is dedicated and loyal. If I honestly thought my partner was dangerous, I would not bother doing the emotional labour of opening myself up to him—particularly labourious for a person with borderline.

Despite my trust in my partner, my brain still plays tricks on me, still tortures me—and that was why I hired you—to help me with my mental illness.

Yes, you helped me recover from borderline when I was twenty-one. Now I am almost twenty-nine years old. For a long time, my borderline was relatively dormant. But a new relationship is triggering for me. Despite how happy my partner makes me, despite how much I love him, despite how much I want to be with him, my BPD has flared up. Thus, I decided it was time to book more sessions with you, time to get some more help managing my health issue, to help my relationship and to help myself.

You had been helpful before, when I was a twenty-one year old punk, going into recovery for borderline personality disorder and bulimia nervosa, among other issues. At the time, seeing you, someone I could talk to about the intense feelings I was experiencing it was essential—and it proved to be worth its while.

Just over the course of six months, I had already made progress like night and day with my borderline, to the point where I, altogether, stopped ‘splitting’ on the partner I was with at the time. Within two years, I had recovered from my eating disorder. I unpacked trauma from the past; through this, I gained a great understanding of myself and my story. For the first time, I had what I never thought was possible for me: a relatively normal life. A healthy relationship with my partner, a healthy relationship with food, and, above all, a healthy relationship with myself.

You helped me transform myself and create that, and I am grateful. I kept seeing you on and off, as needed—up until now. Now I will no longer see you. Not after these last three sessions.

Perhaps, I put too much faith in you; you are only a human being, after all. All-the-same, you have helped me through so many difficult, challenging, near-impossible things, and I trust you. I trusted you, I mean.

I trusted you; and, when I went to you and told you my borderline had been triggered, I expected you to help me cope with my mental illness. That was what you did when I was twenty-one: helped me deal with my toxic, negative thought spirals, intense emotions and general reactivity. The focus had always been on me—the person with borderline—helping myself manage my symptoms. Symptoms, because I have a health issue, you know? Like diabetes, but in my brain.

Your response, however, was quite the opposite of what I expected, quite the opposite of what I needed…

I told you about the trigger—the trigger causing me a great deal of emotional distress—and I was a reliable narrator. I did not want to turn you against my partner; as I said, my logical mind does not actually think anything external is wrong. My partner is on my team; I have chosen him. If I actually had a problem with his lifestyle, then I have chosen poorly.

But I do not have a problem with anything going on externally. I have a problem with what is going on internally, with what is going on inside of me. Yes, this situation has, unjustifiably, triggered me—but my triggers are my responsibility to manage. This is why I hired you at the rate of $141.75 an hour. For the sake of my relationship and for the sake of my mental health, I needed your help managing my triggers. I needed you to make an enemy of my borderline, not an enemy of my partner.

Yet you demonized my partner and the other person involved in the situation. You convinced me that there is a real threat—that if I am experiencing anxiety, it is for a justified reason, not because I have a disorder that causes me to feel irrationally anxious.

Your words were not helpful: “I think this other person is dangerous and is a threat to you and your relationship—if you feel they are, then they are.” “I actually don’t think you’re paying your discomfort and anxiety enough attention.” “If your partner really loves and values you, he will end his friendship with this person who triggers you, to protect your emotional well-being.” What terrible fucking ideas!

Now, of course, it is important for a partner to be sensitive to your feelings and to your needs. There are graceful ways of navigating triggering situations—and my partner is very empathetic towards my mental health issues. He is very accommodating.

But the idea that he should cut ties with his friend because it, unjustifiably, triggers me? That shit is toxic as fuck! With that kind of thinking, you can get away with treating your partner like absolute dog shit; with demanding anything, because ‘if they really love you, they will comply’.

No, if my partner really loves me, he will prove himself trustworthy by remaining loyal and faithful—and, if I really love him, I will give him a chance to prove his loyalty, rather than keep him in a cage.

Unfortunately, because you were my therapist—a professional I hired to help me with my mental health challenges—at first, I did not question your ideas. Instead, I took them as though they are fact, as though they are law. And, unfortunately, when you told me that the thing I was already so insanely anxious about was something I was not ‘paying enough attention to’, that sent me into an even worse panic.

My session with you ended at 11:15 AM on Monday, August 22nd, 2022—and I spent the rest of that Monday exceptionally triggered. I ‘split’ on my partner multiple times that day—very unpleasant. I said things I regret and am now plagued with guilt over. Things that echoed what you told me: “There is a real threat here and you have been lying to me about it!” and “If you really loved me, you will end this friendship altogether!”

Now that I have, finally, come out of the ‘split’, I am not proud of these words, and do not agree with either of these statements. I do not think my partner is hiding anything from me. And I do not think he should have to end a friendship. I think I have borderline. And that I have to learn to manage my triggers. Which is what you, my therapist, were supposed to help me do—rather than throw gasoline on this fire inside me.

Seeking control over others is never the answer. If my partner cut a friend out of his life to prevent me from being triggered, he would actually be enabling my mental illness, giving it more power than it already has. And him cutting ties with a friend wouldn’t make me happy anyway, as I know attempting to control other people is wrong and have no desire to do so.

The bottom line: I have to trust my partner. If they betray my trust, then that is their fault, not mine. If they are going to cheat on me, they are going to cheat on me. And no amount of anxiety, obsessive thinking or attempts to control my partner will dissuade them.

Best to assume they will be faithful. If they prove otherwise, the relationship was never going to work anyway. But, in the case of a relationship that was going to work, accusing them of being unfaithful, attempting to control their behaviour—this can, and likely will, sabotage things.

Of course, while I agree with the couple paragraphs above whole-heartedly, implementing this wisdom, for a person with borderline, is easier said than done. I am neurodivergant, after all. But it is best to practise reframing the situation as ‘me vs. my BPD’, rather than ‘me vs. my partner’. It is important to remember that this is a health issue. When my triggers are framed this way, I feel much more empowered to take care of myself and manage my mental health, and much more capable of being a good, supportive partner.

And this is why I will not see you again. I have had three sessions with you in recent times. After all three, I have been more triggered than I was going in. Not because I was processing, not because we dug up some trauma from my past; but because you threw gasoline on the fire that is my borderline personality disorder. I told you about my triggers, about how I have been ‘splitting’ on my partner, and you convinced me my anxiety was justified. This enabled bad behaviour on my part. You made it ‘me vs. my boyfriend’, instead of ‘me vs. my BPD’. This was totally unhelpful. It sent me spiralling and spiralling—until, eventually, I was fortunate enough to realize you had misguided me.

In fact, while you referred to this situation with my partner and his friend as ‘dangerous’, I actually think that you are the one who is dangerous for me. You know I am addicted to rumination; you know I can get so trapped in my own thoughts that I start to feel as though the only way out is to kill myself. You know this because you have helped me deal with suicidal urges many times before.

When giving me therapy, this should have been kept in mind: how my anxiety can overwhelm me to the point of suicide. And how you, my therapist, have a certain power over me. I saw you as an authority on the issue. When you told me there must be justification for my intrusive thoughts, and that is why I am having them, I believed you. And I got locked in some of the worst thought loops I have ever experienced. And I almost committed suicide.

So, yes, in actuality, you are the danger—and if this other situation proves to be dangerous, no amount of anxiety will prevent it from being so. Until it is proven dangerous, I will give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt. You, however, have already proven to be dangerous for me, and I will not see you again.

I will, instead, be looking for another therapist—someone who can help me with my health issue—rather than demonize my partner, the person I have chosen to love.

Thank you for the help you have given me in the past, and I wish you well.